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Will you pile on the pounds this Christmas?

Will you pile on the pounds this Christmas?

Category: Credit cards

Updated: 11/12/2014
First Published: 11/12/2014

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Christmas is a time for over-indulgence of just about every kind, and a growing number of people choose to fund their festive excess with credit cards. And, if last year's figures are anything to go by, the next few weeks will see a sharp rise in credit card spending, as people fill up their trolleys in preparation for the big day.

The December blowout

Figures from Nationwide Building Society suggest that a seasonal surge in credit card usage is definitely on its way, after last December saw a steady rise in card spending that built towards a crescendo on the 23rd as everyone rushed to finalise the Christmas feast. Customers put more than £4.2m onto their cards in this single day, averaging £56.50, suggesting that people tend to leave their bulk shopping until the final few days before Christmas.

Overall, Nationwide's customer data reveals that the average shopper spent £170 on their cards in supermarkets during December, with 26% more people reaching for the plastic than during the quietest month of February. And, despite December's transaction numbers only being 33% higher than February's, shoppers piled a whopping 60% more on their cards during the month, totalling £63.5m instead of £39m.

John Crossley, Nationwide's head of credit cards, commented on the findings: "We all know how easy it is to spend more than we really need to at Christmas, with a range of tempting offers that are hard to resist during the festive season. As we near the big day we invariably end up in a mad dash to the shops, getting everything we might, or might not, actually need! As such, many of us reach for the credit card to cover any excess costs. Already we are seeing high levels of spending for this time of year, so we expect the pattern to continue."

While spending more than usual on the all-important Christmas dinner is perhaps expected, it's still important to stick to a budget and live within your means. It's even more important to not reach for the plastic to cover spending on unnecessary items, as additional research from TopCashback found that 24% of Brits surveyed used credit to purchase luxury or designer goods, 28% admitted to maxing out their cards, and more than a quarter regretted a spontaneous purchase shortly afterwards.

Be credit savvy

This, really, is why it's so important to be savvy when it comes to credit card spending. By all means, use plastic to help spread the cost of Christmas, but don't pile on so many pounds that the bills become unbearable in the New Year. Don't overspend unnecessarily, and consider using cards that offer 0% interest on purchases for a set period to ensure you can pay off the balance without incurring additional debt.

You may like to opt for a card that has the same 0% interest deal on balance transfers if you've already built up a balance elsewhere, or alternatively, put your Christmas spend on a card that offers cashback or rewards, giving you something back as you shop. Whatever you do, make sure to do it wisely, and you can cover your festive spend without feeling financially bloated in the New Year.

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