Black Friday 2015: Christmas shopping Q&A

Black Friday
Mid-November may seem like too early a time to be discussing Christmas, but the thriftier among you will already be looking for bargains ahead of the holiday. What's more, we figure that if John Lewis, Burberry, Debenhams, Asda and others have released their Christmas advertising campaigns, there's no shame in us writing about the festive season in November.
Savvy shoppers will also be aware that Black Friday - the biggest shopping day of the year - is looming ever closer. For those of you who have no idea what it is or how it works, here’s our Q&A guide to help ensure you don’t miss out on bargains galore.

What is it?

A US tradition, it refers to the first Friday after Thanksgiving, when lots of people have the day off - and what do Americans like to do on a day off? Go shopping, of course. With that in mind, retailers slash the prices of hundreds of thousands of items in the hope they will attract customers through their doors.

The most committed shoppers queue up outside their favourite stores and malls for hours to make sure they snap up the best deals; but these days the deals have also moved online.

Why is it called Black Friday?

Most people think it's because retailers finally move into the black by that day – after 11 months of trading! But Wikipedia notes that it was coined in Philadelphia, in response to the nightmare traffic that the shopping day routinely caused.

When is it?

This year it falls on 27 November, though some retailers such as Argos are already discounting many items. Argos has launched ‘Red, White and Blue’ Fridays leading up to Black Friday as part of its Christmas campaign, including '3 for 2' offers and five-day deals. Many will also discount on Monday 30 November – also known in the UK as Cyber Monday, another heavy shopping day.

Is it only a US thing?

Nope. Brits have really got into Black Friday in the last few years. In 2013, Amazon received 4 million orders on Black Friday - its biggest ever day in the UK.

This year, the average shopper is expected to spend £176 on Black Friday, according to Nationwide, while more than £120 million was piled onto debit cards last year – surpassing the amount spent on the Friday before Christmas (19 December). Peak Black Friday hours are usually between 7pm and 8pm.

Are all retailers taking part?

It depends on the retailer, to be honest, but certainly the large retailers are all taking part. For example, the following have all launched their own dedicated Black Friday discount pages online: Amazon, Argos, Currys,, and John Lewis.

Notably Asda has decided to drop out of this year's Black Friday entirely, claiming its customers do not like all the sales to be concenteated on one or two big sale days; instead preferring year-round discounts and bargains.

What are some of the best deals?

It depends what you want to buy, of course. Click on our special Black Friday deals page for more.

If the Black Friday deals are better there, can I buy from the US and get items sent to me in the UK?

It depends on the retailer. Some will let you order online from the UK and charge you international postage; others won't.

However, to get around this problem, some tech companies have sprung up to offer international shoppers a helping hand. For example, gives its users a personal US parcel forwarding address they can use when ordering online. So no matter where they live they can shop from any US website, using the BundleBox delivery address. Fees vary.

Do I have to pay tax on anything I buy from the US?

Yes but exactly what type and how much varies considerably. Sales tax has to be paid on purchases (around 8% or 9%). Plus, you might also have to pay import tax (also known as Customs Duty, which applies to goods over a certain value produced from outside the EU) if you exceed your duty free allowance - another 8% or 9% of the purchase price. Websites such as can give you a good idea of what you'll pay.

Protect yourself

You could consider using a credit card for items that cost more than £100 as this will give you added protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Section 75 means that your credit card company is jointly responsible with the retailer for the services or goods you have paid for. So, if you are unable to get a refund for something you have bought you may be able to claim from your credit card company.

Any other financial tips?

Yup - credit cards don't necessarily mean you have to pay interest:

  • First off, as long as you pay the balance on your credit card in full every month, you won't be charged interest on the purchases you've made (so you could use a credit card for protection, then immediately pay it off).
  • A 0% purchase credit card will not charge you interest on purchases for a period of time. However, if you don't have one already, it may be too late to obtain a new card.
  • Think about a cashback card. If you have one of these, it might be worth using it for some of your Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping in order to obtain a reward. However, cashback cards may charge a slightly higher level of interest on purchases, so it's probably best to clear your balance by the end of the month.
  • Spend wisely. Don't spend more than you can afford.

Staying safe online

You should always be vigilant when entering your card details online, especially at a time when many retailers will be offering mouth-watering discounts - a time when fraudsters will try and dupe people into using unsecured or fraudulent websites.

Before entering your card details, make sure you trust the site. Look for a padlock symbol in your browser window when you're entering your payment details and always check the address bar matches the site that you're expecting.

Also watch out for ‘phishing' emails promising Black Friday discounts. Never click on a link. Instead, find any retailer's real website and search for the deal there – just in case.

Transfer your balance after Christmas

If you have made purchases on a credit card that charges interest, look to move it to one that has a 0% deal on balance transfers - ideally for as long a time frame as possible. This will, for a fee, allow you to manage your repayments without incurring interest.

There are usually a lot of 0% balance transfer deals around in January. However, it's important to remember that if you do not pay off the balance in full by the end of the 0% period, you will be charged interest on the remainder of the balance on the card.

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Your Comments

No Shopping for me this year after Nationwide stole all my money and closed my account, I can't get my money back even though I have a letter from another bank proving they refused to give me my money I placed 2 orders online for delivery to but my home address on 12 Oct. This was cleared for payment. On Monday 14th, at around 10 am I received an email saying one payment had been declined. I have since learned tha the block was placed on my account at 08.09 but I was able to use my card for other services during that day. The company has approved a payment and then cancelled it two dys later, which indicates a fraud on their part, as the delivery was to my address and there is no reason for any delivery being cancelled It was not until Wednesday evening that anyone from Nationwide told me that there was a block on my card, by which time another deliver, for a partial order that I had placed with another company a month before, had also been retroactively blocked. Nationwide have never called me, nor returned a call or email, nor have they sent me a replacement card - my card is still working for in store transaction, even though they claim it is blocked because of fraud - they are unable to tell me anything about the alleged fraud. I now have around £300 worth of unpaid debts on my card, with a bad credit reputation looming, along with a phone bill for 7 hours to Nationwide - they always take at least 20 minutes to answer the phone and pass me around Nationwide have refused to call me, refused to explain why my card was stopped, refused to explain hy they have not paid outstanding bills, despite twice promising that they would do so They have refused to explain their procedures, let me have copies of thei revidence - they began blocking my account in 2006 and have done so three times this year. Although they claim to have written to me and sent a replacement card, neither has been received and no date is available for dispatch from Nationwide