Time moves on so quickly and now here we are again - it’s the month when many people are focused on their Christmas shopping. So what better time for shoppers to brush up on their rights, be wary of scammers and consider the best credit card deals to make their cash go a little further.
Know your rights on returns
There may have been some impulse buys on Black Friday - and anyone can change their mind. So it’s good to know that shoppers will have around 30 days to return an item for a refund or store credit. It’s important to check the returns policy of the store at the point of purchase to make sure you don’t miss the deadline, or you could be wasting your cash when you think you snapped up a bargain.
Not everyone will be brave enough to approach their retailer for a refund but this could be because they were let down in the past. In fact, a recent study from Citizens Advice found that over half of consumers who approach a retailer for a refund, replacement or repair of a faulty electrical item are turned down. However, consumers are within their rights to complain to the seller. Consumers can return their goods within the first six months of purchase, as stated in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
In addition, the Consumer Contract Regulations give consumers the right to return any purchase for any reason if bought online or over the phone. In fact, they can cancel an order for goods up to 14 days from the moment the order is placed. There are only a few exemptions, such as CDs, DVDs and games where the packaging seal has been broken - but it’s always worthwhile checking the terms and conditions with the seller. These regulations are designed to make things fairer for consumers, so it’s important to be aware of the rules in place, particularly over the festive season.
Credit card protection
Credit card customers have added protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This states that a service or items costing over £100 can be refunded, as the card provider takes the same responsibility as a retailer would if things go wrong with the purchase. The act is meant specifically to cover a breach of contract (e.g. the supplier fails to send the goods to the purchaser) or misrepresentation (e.g. the description of the goods is misleading). If shoppers don’t use a credit card, they could still get a refund on their goods by approaching their bank under the chargeback scheme.
Gift cards are a common Christmas present, but they will cause disappointment if they expire before use. Anyone buying a gift card would be wise to find out exactly when it expires and make this clear to the recipient. As an example, Ticketmaster gift cards expire in one year, M&S gift cards are valid for two years and Amazon gift cards are valid for ten years after the date of issue. Not only this, but if a retailer collapes, it’s unlikely their branded gift card would be accepted anywhere else, turning it into wasted cash. Therefore, it might be simpler to give the gift of cash instead.
Be savvy when you spend
Shoppers would do well to avoid using expensive store cards for their Christmas spending as some charge as much as 29.9 per cent APR. Instead of using one of these cards, shoppers could consider a cashback card, such as the American Express Everyday Platinum Cashback card which pays 5 per cent for the first three months. In addition, TSB will pay Classic Plus customers 5 per cent cashback when they spend £100 until the end of December.
Exchanging card points for vouchers or using cashback sites such as TopCashback can also be beneficial to savvy shoppers who hope to pocket some extra cash each time they spend. And there is still time to switch current accounts before 2017, with some paying cashback upfront as a welcome bonus.
Have you gone overboard on your spending? Credit card companies are continuing to compete for balance transfer customers, so it’s worthwhile if you’re (planning to be) in debt for the holidays to take advantage of the best deals on offer. Halifax is offering the longest interest-free deal for balance transfers at 41 months with a 3.18 per cent fee, but borrowers who pay the debt back sooner could opt for a fee-free option instead, with Halifax offering 25 months interest-free without a fee.
Watch out for scammers
It’s the perfect time of year for scammers. With one in four of us falling victim to scams, according to a survey by Santander UK, it’s important to be vigilant when on the hunt for a bargain. Contactless payments are more popular than ever, with an estimated 98.9 million contactless cards in the UK, according to the UK Cards Association. Consumers concerned about card skimming could invest in a card blocker sleeve so they can have peace of mind that the card is protected from rogue devices. These are easy to find with a quick search online and cost very little to buy.
Above all else, consumers must be wary of giving away their details and should use their instincts to protect themselves against scammers. And don’t forget to have a happy holiday!
Rachel Springall is a Finance Expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk