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The emails are lobbing into your inbox with increasing regularity. You may even be getting alerts on your phone. The flashing ads are all over websites. All of them promise you amazing deals and unprecedented discounts.

There is no escaping the fact we’re hurtling toward Black Friday. And peak spending season. This mad day of discounts traditionally marks the start of Christmas shopping in the United States, falling just after Thanksgiving.

We’re always on the hunt for a good deal, whether buying or selling, so it’s hardly surprising that online marketplaces such as Facebook and Gumtree have proved so popular.

But wherever there are bargain hunters, there are scammers. There have even been instances of criminals using marketplaces as a way into homes. Police in Brisbane warned of an alarming increase in offences targeting online sellers.

Ever wondered why your cup of coffee costs an extra 15 cents at one café and not another? Or why the service station advises that you will have to pay another 1.5 percent to use Visa or Mastercard?

It’s called a card surcharge - the amount a business charges to cover the cost of an electronic transaction, typically between 0.5 and 1.5 percent. While two-thirds of merchants absorbed this fee about five years ago, the use of debit and credit cards increased, and so has the number of businesses passing on the cost.

The panic rises as the clock ticks ever closer to Christmas Day. What happened to all our good intentions with gifts for our loved ones?

Every year, we promise ourselves that next year we’ll get organised earlier and start a present cupboard. We’ll make a list of the things our loved ones like and keep an eye out for the sales and pop those precious items in the cupboard ready to be wrapped when the time comes. It makes financial sense, too, because we’re spreading our spending over the year, rather than copping it one big hit.


Christmas shopping gifts online


Great idea in theory. But, every year, we’re staring down the barrel of another last-minute rush to fill those stockings and pop something extra under the Christmas tree. Will we ever learn?

If you’re a Black Friday veteran, you’ll know that you don’t have to wait until the designated day to snap up a bargain.

Retailers have been dropping their prices all month, and your inbox and social media have probably been inundated with offers for Black Friday steals because of your past purchases.

Wanting a night out with friends? Keen to try something new? Do a quick Google search and up comes a bunch of restaurants nearby, one with far more positive reviews than the rest. But are they real? Fake reviews for everything from bakeries to dental services are abundant on the internet, and separating them from the real deal can take time and effort.

It’s hard to know exactly how many aren’t genuine, with estimates varying from about 10 percent to a third of all online reviews. Google is home to six times as many reviews as any other portal, even it has trouble keeping up. Last year the search engine said it removed 95 million reviews that did not meet its guidelines.

Online payment has certainly made our lives easier. It's become more convenient for us to shop online, pay for bills and send money to family and friends.

So it’s probably no surprise that the FIS Global Payments Report predicts the use of cash will drop from 7 percent to 2 percent of all point-of-sale transactions by 2025.

FIS, a payments technology company, says the pandemic has only accelerated our move to digital wallets and other e-commerce, or online payment platforms.

The digital world has transformed the way we live, work and play. Transactions that used to take place in cash or with paper cheques are now completed online, using digital payment platforms.

In Australia, there are a number of different digital payment platforms available, each vying for a share of the market. In 2021, the industry processed about 55 million payments. That is worth about $650 billion each day, according to The Australian Financial Review. But behind this progress are growing concerns not only from banking institutions but governments.