Credit card usage surges as more shoppers buy presents online


Debit and credit cards are assuming greater importance in Britons' shopping plans, new figures produced by the Payments Council show. Experts say that the lure of bargains on the internet is leading a larger number of consumers to become less reliant on cash and cheques and more dependent on credit cards to buy presents.


Bargain-hunting Britons turn to credit cards to shop online, particularly during the holidays
According to Sandra Quinn, director of communications at the Payments Council, the internet has changed the way the nation shops during Christmas. Where once people would leave it until the last minute before rushing to the high street to buy presents, the latest research shows that they are now choosing to go online and secure their gifts weeks in advance. One of the reasons for this is a determination to avoid long high street queues. However, consumers are also driven by an eye for a bargain, with cheaper deals available online as long as they are spotted early enough. Christmas purchases are also increasingly likely to be made in November rather than in December, say researchers.

Card usage surges
This trend has also manifested itself in an increase in card usage of £100bn from 2006 to 2010, the Payments Council figures show. Conversely, cheque usage declined by 5% in 2010 alone, with cash payments falling by a similar amount. Meanwhile, debit and credit card spending in November 2010 was 84% of the total seen in December. This compares with an equivalent figure of 80% in 2009 and 69% in 2008, illustrating the growing preference for earlier holiday spending.

The ONS recognises the influence of online spending
The growing tendency of consumers to shop online with their credit card is further emphasised by the news that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has moved to account for Britain's burgeoning digital economy when it measures inflation. Apps and online dating agency fees have both been added to the ONS' basket of goods, with the fluctuating cost of these items reflected in the Consumer Prices Index.

See related: Avoid holiday debt regret in 2011; Online credit spending averages £192 a month

Published: 23 March 2011