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How to shop safely online at Christmas

This Christmas may seem a little different compared to past years. And we may be even more reliant on shopping online during the festive season.

Whether you’re new to it or a seasoned pro, here are some tips to help you shop safely online and make the most of your money this Christmas. 

How to shop safely online

There’s no shortage of trustworthy retailers online, but unfortunately it is possible to fall victim to scams. No matter what you’re buying, it’s important to make sure you’re protected.

There are a number of ways to help keep yourself safe when online shopping. You can:

  • avoid clicking on links and visit the website directly instead
  • check the returns policy and that the company has contact information
  • check if the website has been reviewed on a review site
  • make sure your connection is secure (look for a padlock icon in the search bar) and research online retailers to check authenticity and make sure their website is safe and genuine 
  • avoid shopping on public unsecured WiFi
  • make sure your antivirus protection and operating system, such as Windows, Android or iOS, is up to date
  • make sure you’re using a genuine and up-to-date web browser, as they often have tools to identify hoax or spoof websites
  • create strong passwords and use a different one for each website that asks for your personal or financial information
  • avoid giving out personal information unnecessarily
  • stay alert and focused to help you spot a website or offer that doesn’t seem right   

Explore more: Fraud guide

If you’re feeling pressured by a seller to make a purchase and you haven’t seen the goods yet, this may be a scam. Fraudsters can trick you into making a decision before you have time to think it through. Try talking to a family member or friend for a second opinion. If you’ve given out any personal information or payment details, contact the bank who will be able to help.

If you’re an HSBC customer and you’ve given out your security details to someone, call our security team on: 03456 002 290.

For any other concerns around fraud, call us on: 03457 404 404.

Explore more: Cyber security: how to bank safely

How to pay safely when shopping online

Different websites will offer different ways to pay. Think about which payment method works best for you.

Paying by debit card

Using a debit card to buy your goods may be useful if you’re working to a budget. You’ll be spending money directly from your current account – meaning you won’t be charged interest, as long as you’re not using your overdraft.

However, if you’re using a debit card, you may not be protected in the same way you are when using a credit card. 

Paying by credit card

Paying by credit card can offer more protection on your purchases. If the item you’re buying costs between £100 and £30,000 and you’re paying by credit card, even partially, it may be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

If you’re using a credit card for your Christmas shopping, the key thing is to keep track of how much you’re spending and make a plan for how and when you’ll pay it off.

Avoid the temptation to overspend on a credit card, as it could leave you in debt and you may be charged interest if you’re not able to pay it off in full each month.

Explore more: How to avoid credit card charges

Paying using a third party provider

If you’re using a third party provider, such as PayPal, to make a payment, make sure you’ve read their terms and conditions to see what protection you have over your purchases. They may differ between provider too, so it’s important to know this.

Some third party providers like PayPal, Klarna, Clearpay and Laybuy also offer ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) schemes. These schemes allow you to spread the cost of a purchase over a set number of instalments, which are often interest-free.

Remember, BNPL schemes are a form of borrowing that you’ll need to pay back, so it’s important you can afford the repayments. You could be charged for late or missed payments, which can harm your credit score. 

Paying by bank transfer

If you’re asked by a seller to pay for an online purchase using a bank transfer, this may be a scam. You should be very suspicious and avoid paying for online goods in this way.

If you’re an HSBC customer and you’ve given out your security details to someone, call our security team on: 03456 002 290

Keeping financially fit when Christmas shopping

Plan a Christmas budget

Making a Christmas budget is a good way to avoid overspending. By looking at your income – plus any savings you might have put aside – and your expenses, you can see how much you have available for gifts and other Christmas spending.

If you have the HSBC UK Mobile Banking app, you can use the Balance After Bills feature. This shows how much you could have left in your bank account once regular standing orders and Direct Debits have been paid. 

Track your spending

Once you’ve created your budget, it’s important to keep on top of it. You could use mobile or online banking to regularly review what you’ve spent (on either your credit or debit card) and see if there are any areas where you’re spending more than you’d like. You could then look to adjust your budget accordingly.

If you can, consider setting up notifications to alert you when you’ve made a payment to help you keep track of your spending. 

Make a plan to pay off debt

If you’re using credit to cover some of your Christmas costs, make a plan to pay it off. This can help reduce the amount of interest you may have to pay and relieve stress.

If you’ve created a budget, you could include any credit card repayments, for example. 

Get your finances in order

If you want to gain more control of your finances over Christmas and into 2021, checking your financial fitness score is a great place to start. Based on the information you tell us, we’ll give you a score and show you where you’re doing well with your money and where you could improve.

You’ll then be able to take steps to improve your financial fitness. 

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