Credit can often be the first thing we think of at Christmas, whether it’s taking out a personal loan, credit card or simply the extension of an overdraft. However, saving money at Christmas isn’t just a matter of searching for the best personal finance product. This article gives you a few tips on how to make the most of the internet for your Christmas shopping.
Tip number one: get your credit sorted first
Most of us will borrow money this Christmas – whether that’s through a personal loan, credit card or simply moving further into our overdraft. However, as you may be aware – personal finance products vary enormously and it’s worth making sure you have the best personal loan before you start spending it, likewise when you conduct a credit card search, you want to ensure that what you’ve offered is the best deal. Bear in mind that even internet promotions bear geographical significance. For example – if you live in the UK – the search term “Credit Card UK” is likely to give a much more relevant result than simply “Credit Card”, which will take your search out to global credit card sites – the same applies to a personal loan search.
Tip number two:
Use the search engines and price comparison sites. Search engines can be very helpful, but they function on technical sorting – rather than human sorting. Sometimes websites such as moneynet ( http://www.moneynet.co.uk )and lowermybills can save you the time of sifting through lots of irrelevant sites – as they have dedicated teams which comb the financial press and short list the best consumer deals.
Tip number three:
Set yourself up with online bank accounts. There has been lots of press about consumer concern of online security, yet the reality is that 1) online security for shopping and banking is extremely robust and 2) your money is as safe online as it is anywhere else – fraud exists at all transaction points – not just those on the internet. Online bank accounts can save you bank charges when you’re transferring money and you can track your finances throughout the Christmas period, regardless of whether the banks are open or not. With online banking, your finances are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Tip number four:
Make a list of what you intend to buy people and then conduct some price comparison research online. Websites such as Kelkoo ( http://www.kelkoo.co.uk/ ), Ciao and PriceRunner can help you source the lowest price for what you’re looking for, but you may find that some online retailers can beat their bricks and mortar counterparts anyway. For example, Amazon and eBay have gained huge popularity because they’re easy to buy from and they give significant discounts over the High Street.
When you buy online – you also have more choice than what’s available in your high street. Online specialists such as CCL - a computer specialist ( http://www.cclonline.com/ ), Stand & Deliver - audio visual furniture ( http://www.standanddeliver.com/ ), Crave – a maternity fashion site ( http://www.cravematernity.co.uk/ ), The Christmas Hamper Store and headSpun – an online music merchandise store ( http://www.headspun.co.uk/ ) allow you shop for your entire family, without you leaving the house. This saves you shoe leather, shopping queues, car park fees, heavy bags and you don’t have to be sneaky about buying things when the kids aren’t looking!
The diversity of online retail stores takes the emotional strain out of Christmas shopping. Even traditional high-street favourites, such as H Samuel, have their own online store, as traditional gifts such as watches and collectibles remain popular, despite the emergence of techno-gifts like the iPod or latest Sony Ericsson multimedia mobile phone.
A lot of sites have very modest delivery charges and sometimes these are waived completely under special conditions. In addition, providing you’re not doing your online shopping on Christmas Eve – delivery services are usually very quick. For example, Justtoys.com pledges to despatch toys on the same day as the order, providing the order is placed before 3pm. This site in particular has enjoyed the benefits of adults returning to their youth, with increased sales of retro-toys such as the New Series Radio Controlled Dalek ( http://www.justtoys.com/ ).
If you have any concerns about (or problems with) an online retailer, the vast majority have customer help lines – which are either free or charged at local rate, or there is an e-mail address for sales queries. In essence – online retailing has become so secure and sophisticated now, why isn’t everyone doing their Christmas shopping online?
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Rachel writes about financial and retail consumer issues for a variety of online publications, including her own personal finance blog Cashzilla.
Credit information for Christmas: