Around 23 million people have left some of their festive shopping until the last minute and will be hitting the shops on Christmas Eve, according to latest research from Sainsbury’s Bank Credit Cards.

Based on interviews with people regarding their Christmas week spending habits, the Bank estimates that a staggering £832 million could be spent on Christmas Eve.

The 23 million who are expected to shop on Christmas Eve is significantly higher than in 2013, when a similar poll estimated 17.5 million people would be leaving their festive shopping until the very last minute.

According to the results, Christmas Eve shopping in 2014 is more likely to be a case of picking up the last few items, rather than attempting a frantic dash to do everything in a day.

The findings show that consumers have taken careful consideration about how they will fund this year’s Christmas presents, with four in ten saying they planned to  use money they have saved over the course of the year. More than one fifth (22%) say they planned to use a credit card that they would either pay off in full, or switch to a 0% balance transfer card. A further 4% said they will buy gifts using a 0% purchase credit card.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s Bank said: “It appears that fewer people are leaving all of their shopping to the last minute however our research shows there could be a rising number who are hitting the shops for one or two further gifts or last minute items.”

According to the latest research, £223m worth of unwanted Christmas gifts are set to be returned this year .

As a result comparison site is urging people to check retailer’s returns policies before heading to the shops, as 45% of Brits who have tried to return gifts in the past said they had been unsuccessful.

The survey revealed that just under one in ten (9%) of Brits returned presents last year, worth on average £50.

Over the years, 29% of shoppers say they have attempted to return a Christmas present.  While the main reasons for returning presents was to exchange them for a better fit or colour (45%) or simply because the recipient didn’t like what they had been given (40%), 12% said that they had returned a gift because they wanted the cash.

When questioned about their experience in returning an unwanted gift:

  • 45% said that they have been unsuccessful;
  • 44% said that they have always been successful when returning presents;
  • A quarter said that they were told by the retailer that they couldn’t get a refund or exchange without a receipt;
  • 12% said that the retailer had told them they were beyond the time limit for returns;
  • 11% said that the shop had refused the return claiming that the item had been used or was damaged;
  • One in ten had been told that the retailer didn’t accept returns.

In addition, 38% of those surveyed said they have kept an unwanted Christmas present because they didn’t want to upset the person who gave it to them, while 17% did so because they didn’t think they could get a refund or exchange without a receipt.

Only 16% of those surveyed said that they were always honest with the giver about returning gifts, 14% said that they tend to avoid the subject of unwanted presents while 9% admitted to lying to the giver about returning a gift.

A Gocompare spokesman said: “As a goodwill gesture, many high-street stores operate a ‘returns policy’ which allow you to exchange, or receive a refund, credit note or gift voucher for unwanted presents.  These policies typically require items to be in unused, perfect condition and sealed in their original packaging and exclude perishable items such as food and drink and specially commissioned or personalised gifts.

Debit and credit card spending reached £47.8 billion in October but the annual growth rate is slowing, according to the latest figures from The UK Cards Association.

Card spending grew by 6.5 per cent in the year to October, down from a peak of 7.4 per cent in May this year. Figures show that debit cards are the preferred option, with the annual growth rate for debit card spending at 7.5 per cent, almost double that of credit cards at 3.9 per cent.

At the same time the total number of card transactions is growing at the fastest rate since February 2005, with 1.025 billion purchases in October.

With transaction growth once again outstripping spending, the average value of a retail card transaction has dropped to a record low of £33.30. This is a reflection of the continuing migration of low value cash payments to cards, along with the increasing use of contactless cards.

Richard Koch, Head of Policy at The UK Cards Association, said: ”While the lowest inflation rate for 12 years and falling petrol prices appear to be slowing the growth in the overall value of  card spending, consumers are actually using their cards more frequently than ever. Over three quarters of retail spending is now made via cards, with people opting for their debit cards for smaller payments in particular. ”

New research from Friends Life suggests that one in three Brits will choose to give money rather than presents this Christmas.

The average cash sum will be around £110, although a generous one in twenty will give between £200 and £500, according to the findings from the UK pensions and insurance giant.

Over thirty per cent of people in the UK prefer to give money so that people can make their own choice as to what to buy, while a quarter believe that cold hard cash is appreciated more. Apparently, one in 10 men say they would opt for money over a Christmas gift just so they don’t have to go shopping.

More than a quarter of people give their children a cash gift, while 14% give their nieces and nephews money instead of a present.

Lindsay Forster, consumer marketing director at Friends Life, said: “Christmas is a time for giving and our research shows that increasingly, people are opting to give money so the recipient can make a choice on how they use it. It’s a great opportunity to help your loved ones think about how they manage their money, giving cash can help people to save towards things they really need.”

A new report has found that one in three consumers who checked their credit report in the last two years have found errors on their file.

The most common mistakes according to the findings from uSwitch included the wrong personal finance products, such as credit cards, listed, the wrong address and even the wrong name of the bank or company providing credit.

The worrying issue for individuals is that errors on a credit report can see them being charged higher rates of interest on their borrowing and in some circumstances being turned down completely.

Consumers are also unaware of how credit decisions are made. Only one in four said the lender had explained to them why they were refused credit, while a third of people who were turned down were given no explanation at all.

A spokesman for uSwitch, said: “If your report contains errors, you can quickly find yourself rejected for credit. As a result, the research shows many consumers are turning to more costly forms of obtaining credit and can end up with debt that’s difficult to manage.

A leading price comparison website has warned that consumers could see their energy bills jump by up to £145 in the January if they fail to switch to a new tariff.

Gocompare research has highlighted that more than a dozen fixed-term energy tariffs – including 10 from some of the UK’s Big Six suppliers expire on 31st December.

If customers don’t take decisive action, they will be charged according their suppliers standard tariff, which could cost them almost £80 extra over the course of a year.

EDF Energy, M&S Energy, Npower and Scottish Power all have tariffs that expire on New Year’s Eve.

Customers facing the biggest increases are those living in East Anglia and Greater London as well as those on Scottish Power’s Online Fixed Energy December tariff , with an annual hike of almost £145 if they default to the supplier’s standard tariff.

A spokesman for Gocompare said: “Despite a mild autumn, temperatures have really plummeted this week, and with colder weather forecast British households will be using more energy to heat their homes. As such, it’s important that people make sure they are on the right gas and electricity tariffs so they can help reduce their big winter bills.”

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported some good news for consumers today when it revealed that UK inflation figures were stronger than expected for November as the index reached its lowest level since 2002.

The ONS said today that CPI inflation dropped back from 1.3 per cent in October to a better than predicted 1 per cent in November, a 12-year low.

The statistics provider suggested that the falling oil price is in part responsible for the drop: and that transport costs, for motor fuels and air transport – as well as a fall in second-hand car costs – were the main reasons for the monthly slowdown.

Economic analysts are now predicting that inflation could fall “significantly below” 1 per cent in the coming months, as lower fuel and energy costs continue to suppress the headline rate.

It’s thought that the recent 25 per cent fall in oil prices to below $60 per barrel from down from $79 in November may see CPI inflation drop below 0.8% in the coming months.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has hit out at the pensions industry, claiming that some providers have questionable sales practices whilst others failing to tell customers about the better value deals.

The regulator says that as a result, less than half of people end up with the deal that’s best for them, and points to evidence of “mis-selling”.

According to the FCA, customers receiving product updates from pension companies when they are nearing retirement are sometimes put off from shopping around, by highlighting the cost of commission charges.

The regulator agreed that costs have to be taken into consideration; however the money saved by shopping around frequently more than covers the additional cost.

A further issue that concerned the FCA is customers are not being made aware of enhanced annuities on offer from competitors which offer better deals to people with heath issues.

Since the government announced changes to the pension rules that mean savers no longer need to buy an annuity, there’s been a big decline in annuity sales. But the FCA said that for people with average-sized pension pots, they can still provide good value.

People aged 65 and over will be able to save up to £20,000 at market-beating interest rates from January 2015 under plans for pensioner bonds confirmed by George Osborne.

National Savings and Investments (NS&I) will issue the one-year bonds paying annual interest of 2.8 per cent and three-year bonds which will be paying four per cent, with a maximum deposit of £10,000 each permitted per saver.

The aim of these bonds is to enable older people earn the best interest available on the savings they rely upon after more than five years of having to endure record low Bank of England rates at 0.5 per cent.

Whilst the rates and competitive, experts expressed some misgivings about the bonds. Andrew Hagger, personal finance expert from Moneycomms said; “Pensioners will be disappointed that the bonds don’t pay a monthly income and an even bugbear is that the NS&I Bonds are paid net of basic rate tax and because it isn’t part of the R85 scheme it means that pensioners who don’t pay tax will have to go through the rigmarole of claiming the taxed element back from HMRC.”

Latest research from The Debt Advisory Centre suggests that one in five credit card customers only paid the minimum payment from their monthly card statement in October and that one in twenty failed to pay anything.

The Debt Advisory Centre said that the figures were worrying as its research was carried out before the costly Christmas period when people are more likely to spend on their plastic.

It said that younger borrowers (18-24) found it hardest when it came to paying their credit card debt, with only a quarter managing to meet the minimum payment in October and 13% admitting they missed it completely, leaving them facing a bigger interest bill plus a £12 fee for non-payment.

A customer paying the minimum payment off a £2,500 balance on a typical credit card with an APR of 18.9% will take more than 25 years to clear the debt, , and pay more than £3,000 in interest during that time.

Customers that fail to make the minimum payment will suffer in the longer term as any late or missed payments are recorded on the customer’s credit history, potentially making it more difficult for them to obtain credit at a later date.

On a more positive note the Debt Advisory Centre also found that half of cardholders did pay off their entire balance every month, and one fifth of respondents said they paid off more than the minimum payment but less than the full balance.