Tips and tricks to save money on your Christmas shopping

Ruth Jackson-Kirby has some tips on how to keep a lid on your festive expenditure this year.

With much of the UK in lockdown many of us will be doing our Christmas shopping online this year. A third of all festive spending is expected to take place online, says the Centre for Retail Research. That is a rise of 25%, or £5.6bn, on 2019. If you plan to settle down with your laptop and your Christmas list, here are some points to bear in mind. 

Scammers are ready to take advantage of people in the Christmas shopping rush, so think about how you’re paying. “The safest way to pay for things online is by card,” says Paul Davis, retail fraud director at Lloyds Bank. “Paying by bank transfer is just like handing over cash, so think before you do that – and remember that any offer that seems too good to be true probably is.”

Pay with a credit card and you are protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. If your purchase doesn’t arrive, is faulty or not as described you can request a refund from your credit-card provider if the retailer lets you down. The item needs to cost at least £100, however. Note that if you pay via a third party – PayPal, for example – then Section 75 doesn’t apply.

If you’ve paid for something worth less than £100 and there has been a problem, you may still be able to get your money back via your card. This occurs with chargeback, whereby your bank asks for the money back from the supplier’s bank. There is no minimum amount with chargeback, and it applies to debit and prepaid cards as well as credit cards. Chargeback isn’t legally binding, but Visa, Mastercard and American Express are all signed up to the voluntary code. 

If you are unhappy with a purchase and the retailer isn’t being helpful, then approach your card provider using Section 75 or chargeback to try to get your money back through them.

Also consider how you can save – or even make money – while you shop. “Many retailers give you 10% off simply for being a new customer… and many also have promotional codes on their websites,” says Katherine Denham in The Sunday Times. Look for discount codes “on websites such as vouchercodes.co.uk or myvouchercodes.co.uk to see if they have deals for your favourite shops – most have partnerships with thousands of brands.” 

You can earn money from your online shopping by using cashback websites such as Quidco or TopCashBack. These sites pay you when you click through to well-known retailers – brands ranging from Marks & Spencer to Currys are signed up with them – and go on to buy something. The sites use affiliate links, so Currys, for example, can track when someone comes to their site from Quidco. Currys then pays Quidco for sending a customer their way and Quidco shares that payment with you. Those payments can add up: many users make hundreds of pounds a year.

Finally, think about returns policies. With many high street shops closed returns aren’t as straightforward as normal, but many retailers are extending their return periods to allow you time to give back items in store once lockdown ends. Some have brought their Christmas returns policies in early, so you have until the end of January to send items back.

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