NUMBER crunchers at Barclays are predicting that Thursday, December 23, will be the busiest day for debit card spending across the UK.
The bank is forecasting that about eight per cent more will be spent over this festive period compared with last year.
Despite high streets being quieter because of the snow, the bankers say this simply means the days closer to Christmas will be busier as consumers cram in their shopping.
Barclays has looked at data from 11.4 million current accounts and 3,343 ATMs and predicts that hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent across the eastern region, including Hemel Hempstead, Milton Keynes and Luton during the month.
Hemel Hempstead is sixth on the regional list of 15 towns and cities, with a forecast December spend of £456.3 million, with £285.5 million of that on debit cards, £170.8 million on cash withdrawals. The bank has not issued figures for credit cards.
Milton Keynes is seventh on the regional list with a total of £456.3 million and Luton 15th with £219 million.
Barclays predicts that ATMs across the country will be busiest on Christmas Eve, peaking between 11am and 12pm lunchtime with customers withdrawing £88 million - a rate of over £24,000 per second.
Despite the inclement weather, most spending will still be done on the high street with online shopping only accounting for just over a quarter of this debit card spend.
The majority of debit card spending will be in supermarkets (£6.4 billion) as people stock up on sprouts and Christmas puddings for their festive feasts.
Petrol stations will account for £1.6 billion fuelling the great Christmas getaway.
The December figures are also likely to be boosted by post-Christmas spending.
Many bargain hunters are likely to make the most of the sales on the extra bank holiday days and may be encouraged to splash out on larger purchases before the end of the year to avoid paying extra when VAT increases to 20 per cent in January.
It will come as no surprise that London will be the number one city for spending in the UK.
Paula Quintana, Barclays Retail regional director, eastern said: “The early snow falls this month meant that the start of December was a little quieter on the high street than expected. This is likely to put even greater pressure on retailers as we draw to the end of the Christmas countdown, with customers being forced to do their shopping at the last minute.
“We urge customers to stay safe in busy areas and encourage them to use their debit cards rather than carrying large amounts of cash. Nearly all shops, restaurants, bars and online companies accept debit cards so it is the easiest way to get your Christmas spending done quickly and securely. We would remind customers to be careful to take care of their card and their PIN, especially when using their PIN in crowded places.”