Money Insider: Shop safely when usingthe internet this Christmas

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The Independent Online

There were some mind-boggling numbers being quoted this week about people turning to the internet for Christmas shopping. It was predicted that £22m per hour was spent and there were 3.8 million card transactions on Monday alone.

So many of us are doing more of our Christmas shopping online. But staying safe online and knowing that the shops you're buying from are legitimate are important. Otherwise you could end up with no goods or, worse, find that fraudsters use your credit card. Here are some of the main questions I've been asked about online shopping:

How can you trust the site you're buying from?

If it's not a major brand or high street store check directories safebuy.org or shopsafe.co.uk. They have checked out shopping sites before listing them and tested them for site security and delivery.

If it's not listed you should carry out your own checks. Ensure that the company is VAT registered and that the site displays a UK phone number and contact address. Call the number to see if you get through to a person.

The importanceof security

For safe shopping retail websites should display the padlock symbol in the browser and the address should begin with "https" whenever you input payment information.

It's also wise to register your cards with Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode if you haven't done so already. It is quick and easy and offers another level of protection. You can sign up to Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode at the website of your bank or card company or when you are shopping online at participating merchants. When you use these cards to shop online you'll have to enter an additional password for your payment to be accepted, but it's a useful extra security layer.

Finally, remember that if you're buying something that costs over £100, pay by credit card and you'll get extra protection under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act in case things go wrong or if the retailer goes out of business.

Savings round up

Coventry Building Society has another competitive savings account. The mutual certainly means business at the moment with the new Family Saver following hot on the heels of the recent best-buy Poppy Bonds. Family Saver is an online easy access account paying 3 per cent gross, more than many one-year fixed-rate bonds at the moment.

Customers must pay their child benefit directly into the account to qualify. Child benefit is a topical subject with many families facing losing the benefit. However, anyone losing their entitlement won't lose out on the Family Saver. As long as they opened the account before losing benefits, and maintain their monthly commitment, they can keep it.

Sainsbury's Finance has launched an online saver paying 2.5 per cent gross variable, and while there is refreshingly no bonus element included in the rate, you do need to examine the terms and conditions. The minimum balance is £1,000 and you can only make three penalty-free withdrawals in 12 months. If you make more than that or your balance falls below £1,000 then your interest rate reverts to Bank of England Base rate, currently just 0.5 per cent.

In the fixed-rate savings market, there was good news from Northern Rock with new best-buy products being announced. There is a one year E-Bond paying a market leading 3.15 per ccent gross and a three year E-Bond offering 4 per cent gross. Both products are operated exclusively online and are available for balances between £1 and £250,000.



Andrew Hagger is a money analyst at Moneynet.co.uk

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