Cyber Monday: Get ready for the busiest online shopping day

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Get ready for Cyber Monday. Britain's busiest online shopping day of the year is expected to be Monday 3 December. The annual shopping frenzy ahead of Christmas is set to reach its crescendo at 9.20pm.

This year's Cyber Monday is going to be busier than ever, Amazon believes. But the best time to bag a cheap deal is during Black Friday Deals Week.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Cyber Monday usually falls on the first Monday in December. Last year, on 5 December 2011, Amazon.co.uk received orders for more than 3 million items - which meant 35 items were ordered every second over the 24 hour period. On average, at its peak, a delivery truck was leaving an Amazon UK warehouse once every 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

"As people increasingly shop on mobile devices and benefit from fast broadband at home, we're seeing a move towards customers buying their Christmas gifts later in the evening when they are at home relaxing," said Christopher North, managing director of Amazon.co.uk.
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"Monday 3 December could be the busiest day in the history of Amazon.co.uk, and we're preparing for it by hiring more than 10,000 seasonal employees across our eight UK fulfilment centres."

Whilst Monday 3 December is set to be the biggest online shopping day, the best time to nab a cheap deal is during Black Friday Deals Week, which will return for a third year from Monday 19 November. Many items will be sold at knockdown prices that week, mirroring the post-Thanksgiving sales in the US.

Every year, towards the end of November, millions of shoppers on the other side of the Atlantic take advantage of the massive savings offered by retailers around 'Black Friday', the discount shopping day that follows Thanksgiving in America. 'Black Friday' signals the start of the Christmas shopping period in the US and last year more than $52.4 billion was spent by shoppers in America over Black Friday weekend. Amazon started bringing 'Black Friday Deals Week' to the UK in 2010.

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Hotels and other travel businesses have also started offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers. The @Cyber Monday Twitter feed will keep you informed about the latest deals. Facebook merchants are also getting ready to offer deals through the social media site - dubbed 'Facebook Monday'. But to what extent Cyber Monday is just PR spin - a marketing tool - is unclear as retail sales data are patchy.

"There were tens of thousands of items available during Black Friday Deals Week at Amazon.co.uk in 2011 and customers were quick to snap them up before the deals expired," said Xavier Garambois, vice president of EU retail at Amazon. "This year we will have even more items and even more deals than ever before but we still expect them to sell out quickly."

The Black Friday deals will run on Amazon's Today's Deals page from 19 to 25 November and feature so-called Lightning Deals - time and quantity limited offers. Find out more here.

Some of the most popular deals available during Black Friday Deals Week in 2011 included:
  • Signed One Direction 'Up All Night' CD – 50% off
  • Samsung 50" HD Television – 55% off
  • Decleor Beauty Products – 40% off
  • LOVEFiLM subscription – 70% off
  • Canon PowerShot A3300 IS Digital Camera – 38% off

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Cyber Monday: Get ready for the busiest online shopping day

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.
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