Four tips for keeping the Christmas bills down
By Emily Hohler, Dec 09, 2005

Christmas is fast approaching, and with it big bills. It’s expected that every adult in the country will spend at least £800 over Christmas, £320 of that on presents.

While the popularity of debit cards is rising, two-thirds of us will use our credit or store cards to buy goods, and, according to Equifax, more than a fifth of us will still be paying that debt off a year from now. So how can you make Christmas as painless as possible?

The basics, of course, still apply, so take advantage of 0% credit-card deals. There are still around 20 0% offers around and, if you’re quick, you’ll still get your card in time, says Isabelle Kassam in The Independent on Sunday. Mint is offering 0% on purchases and balance transfers until September 2006 and HSBC offers the same deal for nine months from the date of issue. If you’re disciplined about clearing your balance, American Express’s Blue card returns 2% of your spending for three months and 0.5% up to £2,000.

If, on the other hand, you’d rather not use a credit card at all, why not snap up one of the tempting new debit-card offers, suggests Sam Dunn, elsewhere in the paper. Halifax, for instance, now has a current account offering 1% cashback on all spending with its debit card (up to a maximum of £100).

One of the most effective ways of saving money is to use the internet – particularly if you use the right credit cards and the right shops, says David Prosser in The Independent. Firstly, consult the three biggest shopping robots for the best price (, and Then, once you’ve identified a cheap price, try to find the retailer offering the deal on a cashback site. Cashback sites act as a conduit between shoppers and most of the big retailers and will pay you to shop. Typically, you’ll get 2% back, but you can get up to 10%. Rpoints ( pays you a fiver just for registering, while is likely to be “more lucrative over the longer term”.

Finally, it’s well worth using the price-protection promise on a handful of credit cards, which lets you claim a refund if you subsequently find the item somewhere else for less, says Liz Philips in the Daily Mail. RBS, HSBC and Citibank all offer this feature, but RBS’s deal is by far the best because it includes sales goods. That means there is nothing to stop you from buying all your presents on an RBS credit card, and then, if those items become available at knockdown prices during the January sales, asking RBS to refund the difference.
There are some exclusions, so be sure to read the small print, but even so this is an “excellent deal” that could save you a small fortune on popular presents, such as toys, DVDs and electrical goods. The fee for the price promise is £19.95 a year, but it costs just £1 to try it for three months – perfect for Christmas shoppers.