Banks report substantial growth of online shopping

The undoubted joys of online shopping from the comfort of home, away from jostling crowds, has sparked a surge in credit card spending.

OCBC Bank, for one, says it has seen a substantial growth in online spending.

Ms Renee Ker, its head of core cards and lifestyle usage, told The Sunday Times: "For the first six months of 2013, the number of online transactions was 41 per cent higher than the same period last year. The number of customers transacting online grew by 16 per cent as well."

Online spending via debit cards rose by about 40 per cent at DBS this year over last year while United Overseas Bank says one in five of its card purchases is made online.

It adds that about one-third of these online purchases are made on overseas portals, with US-based sites the most popular, followed by those in Britain, then Australia.

OCBC and Citibank say the most popular overseas sites tend to be travel-based, such as Agoda and Expedia, and retailers like Amazon and fashion store Asos.

During the Great Singapore Sale from May 31 to July 28, online spending on MasterCard plastic grew 25.6 per cent to US$326.7 million (S$410 million) over a similar period last year.

Mr Harmander Mahal, head of customer value management at HSBC Singapore, notes: "With the Christmas season fast approaching, we will typically see higher volumes of online spending among our credit card holders, especially among young working professionals and executives who are very comfortable with shopping online."

Being able to ship in your favourite brands from all corners of the globe has led to banks offering rebates and promotions for the festive season.

OCBC has increased its number of online merchant partners by 50 per cent, and offers a 6 per cent cash rebate scheme for online purchases on its Frank Credit Card.

Citibank's Citi Rewards Card offers a 5 per cent cash rebate on freight when you use the shipping service that the bank offers in conjunction with partners, for all online purchases on overseas websites.

UOB sweetens the deal with its UOB American Express Virtual Pay service. This allows cardholders to buy directly from overseas online retailers that do not accept Singapore-issued credit cards.

It involves UOB issuing a special 15-digit credit card number that can be used on US and other overseas sites that accept American Express. Customers using the service enjoy a 1 per cent cash rebate on all purchases.