Mar
03
2021

MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

03 March 2021

THIS WEEK: Over 50 ways to save, incl... beat bill hikes in Apr (BT, BG, 3, Sky, council tax etc), free £200 Nectar, NO-FEE 21mth 0%, NHS freebies, 75p Easter eggs, £39 Calvin Klein specs, free books, energy Big Switch

Plus... 75p Easter eggs, £39 Calvin Klein specs, free books, energy Big Switch and more
                                                           
 


 

Fight the great price hike
Council tax UP 5%, Sky UP £72/yr, energy bills UP 9%, TV licence UP £1.50/yr, Netflix UP £24/yr, BT UP 4.5%, water bills UP 2.4%, Vodafone UP 4.5%, prescriptions UP to £9.35... and many more
You needn't accept 'em - act now, save £100s


Can you steal a March on April's price hikes? Normally at this time, edging towards the end of the financial year, we note down a rash of public sector price rises and list tricks to beat them. Yet here, sad to say, as with owt else in society, this year is not a normal year.

This year's price hikes aren't a rash, but an infestation. Many big private sector utilities are pumping up prices too. In combination, this is a sucker punch to those whose finances are teetering. However, my clarion call is simple - take these bills on and many could even end up paying less, not more. Let me take you through it...

Broadband, mobiles & TV packages UP max £72/yr for many. Millions can HALVE costs switching or save £100s/yr haggling

Rises are rife at the month's end. Your options depend on whether the rise unlocks your contract or if you're already out of contract. In either case, big savings are possible, by ditching & switching or sticking & haggling.

  • Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. With the Sky 1 Apr, TalkTalk 1 Apr and Virgin Media 1 Mar price hikes, as the rises aren't contractual for some products (the links give details), you can leave your contract penalty-free within 30 days of it sending notification. And of course, there's always a right to leave any provider if, like many, your contract has lapsed.

    This is a perfect opportunity to challenge the cost. As Mark emailed us: "Thanks for the Sky price hikes heads-up. I got through to the retentions department, and managed to get a deal for £20/mth less. Very happy."

  • BT, EE, O2, Plusnet, Three and Vodafone. With these firms, the rise is a contractual annual inflationary uplift (often with a little added on top), so you can't leave mid-contract penalty-free. However, as across the sectors up to 20 million people are out of contract, and many more are near their contract's end, plenty still have room to save by switching or haggling.

    We've put details on each firm's rises here: BT (31 Mar) | EE (31 Mar) | O2 (1 Apr) | Plusnet (1 Jun) | Three (1 Apr) | Vodafone (1 Apr)

    Jennie's email to us is testament: "I saved about £1,000/yr for my parents. First a mobile switch away from O2, saving £5/mth. Then leaving BT for line and broadband. They've switched to Plusnet [which is owned by BT anyway - ML], paying £85/mth less for faster broadband and line."

How to slash costs by £100s (even if you want to stay). The ability to ditch a firm gives you huge leverage. Your existing supplier will be desperate to keep you, others similarly lusty to steal your custom. If so, see a price hike as an incentive for action. First benchmark the best prices, and compare it to what you pay now.

  • Broadband & phone line from '£14/mth'. Many are paying double this, so take two minutes on our Broadband Comparison tool to see what's available if you were to switch. This also includes TV deals.

  • Cheap mobiles, eg, '£5/mth' for 8GB data. Prices here have plummeted recently, but two minutes on our Cheap Mobile Finder shows what's available. (If you're locked in to one network's signal, the tool includes other firms that use the same signal and may be cheaper.)

If those deals look good, and you're free to leave, then ditch & switch. If not, and you're happy with what you've got, ask your existing firm to price match, and start the 'I'll have to consider leaving' dance (and genuinely do). Full help in our Top 10 firms to haggle with and Mobile Phone Haggling guides.

Council tax bills UP 5% (c. £90/yr) for many on 1 Apr. Are you due a discount or rebate of £1,000s?

While not all councils have announced their plans, 50%+ have already signalled they'll raise bills by the max 5% (6% in London) - adding a typical £90/yr for a band D property. While you can't stop this, there are many ways to check if you can reduce costs.

  • Is your home one of 100,000s in too high a band? Back in 2007, I came up with the council tax check-and-challenge, and I'm delighted to say that since then it's helped possibly 100,000s get their bands lowered, and backdated reductions worth £1,000s. Eg, Roy & Sharon emailed after my recent show: "Just received a £7,000 refund. Before your programme we did not realise we could contest our band. Grateful, thanks."

  • 25% reduction if you live alone (or just with under-18s / students). Those aged under 18 and full-time students are disregarded for council tax purposes, so a single parent would be entitled to the single person's discount.

  • Those with a 'severe mental impairment' (SMI) may be due £1,000s. If someone has a diagnosed SMI - which includes some with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, strokes and more - they can be 'disregarded' for council tax purposes. So if they live alone they pay nowt, live with one other person and they get a 25% reduction.

    I'm chuffed MSE and I have helped 1,000s in this situation get reductions and often backdated payouts of up to £10,000. It's complex though, so do read our SMI discount help.

  • On low incomes? Get pension credit? Full-time student? Have disabilities? Struggling due to Covid? Are you due a discount? Our full list of council tax discounts takes you through it - some get backdated discounts too. Mature student Patricia emailed: "Having watched Martin's TV show in Nov, I learnt students may be exempt. So I claimed for my 3yrs of study. I wasn't expecting success, but the council cleared my remaining tax account for the year and reimbursed me £2,600+."
Licence fee, Netflix and Disney+ all UP. Tips & tricks to cut the cost

Normally competition drives prices down, but it seems the opposite's happening in the TV content provider market. Choice is up, as is price...

  • TV licence fee UP £1.50 to £159/yr from 1 Apr, but do you need to pay? Depending on how you watch TV or your age, you may not need to pay for a licence. See Who needs (& who doesn't need) a TV licence?

  • Netflix UP £24/yr - 18 hacks to cut costs. The roll-out of rises began in Feb, but continues this month for others. Our 18 Netflix Hacks may help mitigate this, as Holly tweeted: "@MartinSLewis I never even knew there were differing plans. Swapped from premium to basic, saving £8/mth. For what we watch, there's no change bar the price. Thank you."

  • Disney+ subscriptions UP £24/yr. It's too late for existing custs to beat last week's hike, but newbies who plan to sign up (don't let this tempt you if not) can grab £10 off Disney+.
English prescription charges UP to £9.35 on 1 Apr. Can you save by buying prepay certificates now?

NHS prescriptions are free in Scot, Wales and N Ireland. In Eng, it rises on 1 Apr from £9.15 to £9.35 (check if you're eligible for free prescriptions, eg, pregnant / had baby in last year, or you receive the main element of pension credit).

If not, for regular prescription getters (ie, 12+ a year), check out an NHS prescription 'season ticket', where you pay a one-off fee for all prescriptions - 100,000s are wasting money by not using these. Their price is rising too (up 60p to £30.25 for 3mths, up £2.20 to £108.10 for a year), but get one before 1 Apr and you lock in today's price.

Energy prices UP £96/yr for most homes from 1 Apr. Switch and save £200+ a year

The big six energy firms are all hiking the price of standard tariffs (which 50%+ are on) to almost the max allowed under the new price cap, which rises in Apr. I won't write much here, as it's one of our main features below. So for how to beat this, jump down to our Big Switch 17 info.

Water bills UP 2.4% for some on 1 Apr. Could you save £100s/yr with a water meter?

In Eng and Wales, where you pay separately for water bills, thankfully on average prices are broadly flat this year. Yet there are huge regional variations, and six of the 20 water firms are raising prices by an avg 2.4%, or about £7 a year. If you pay a fixed bill, I've a simple rule of thumb...

If there are more or the same number of bedrooms in your home than people, check a  water meter calculator  to see if you'll save.


As Amanda emailed: "My water bill was previously just under £500/yr, and now with a meter it's looking as though it's going to be £200/yr, a £300/yr saving. Thanks." Even some who aren't able to get meters may save with an 'assessed charge'. This and far more help in our Cut Water Bills guide.

Rishi is coming to meet me (or actually me him)
8.30pm Thu, ITV: Martin's BUDGET Show Live


"Well, thousands have been calling for #RishiComeTalkToMartin, and now I'm delighted to say, at last, the Chancellor has agreed. On Thu morning, I'll be off to interview him on the back of Wed's Budget, asking him key questions from you and me about what he's doing (and possibly not doing).

"We'll show it that evening, at the same time as I give you all the practical (not political) consumer finance and Covid-related Budget news-you-can-use. To suggest questions for me or Mr Sunak (preferably post-Budget, so we know what he's saying), tweet via @MartinSLewis, and if possible, please use the show's hashtag #MartinLewis."

 
 

DON'T believe the fake 'Martin Lewis' or 'MSE' ads
Lots of scam ads litter social media and even newspaper websites - some of these lie that we or Martin promote Bitcoin, binary trading etc. See Fake ads warning.

 

 
 

MSE Big Energy Switch 17 - save £200+/yr

Beat Brit Gas, EDF & others' price hikes with our market-leading special deals... though they're running out fast. Plus E.on's new cheap tariff

All big energy firms - Brit Gas, EDF, E.on, Npower, Scot Power & SSE - have now announced price hikes for those on their standard tariffs (ie, most customers) to the max allowed under the new 1 April price cap. That's a 9% rise, up £96/yr for a typical home. To help, last week we launched our 17th Big Energy Switch where we use this email's huge reach to negotiate special deals. They've gone like hot cakes, so some may run out before the switch event closes on Fri 12 Mar. Here's the latest...

Find choosing confusing? Most people actually prefer to let us help them through it. The MSE Pick Me A Tariff tools are perfect for those unsure or nervous about switching or choosing. And don't worry - we include all tariffs across the market, including the deals below.


All savings are compared with the 1 April £1,138/yr price cap for someone with typical usage.

  • New cheapest. E.on 1yr fix (newbies only), avg price: £917/yr (save £221/yr) on typical use. But only a 3.0/5 customer service rating. As often happens as our Big Switch goes on, big players cut prices to undercut our deals a tad - a win-win. The E.on Fix Online Exclusive v63 tariff is for new dual-fuel and elec-only customers and with our £25 MSE dual-fuel cashback (£12.50 elec-only), it's the market's cheapest. Plus it has 100% renewable electricity (not gas).

  • MSE Big Switch winner: So Energy 1yr fix, TOP service - 4.5/5 rating. Avg price: £920/yr (save £218/yr) on typical use. 7,500 gone, only 4,500 switches left. So Energy was rated top in our last customer service poll, and even though E.on has just undercut it, we still think this So Energy So Carrot Essential v2 - Green tariff is a strong option for most.

    It's for new dual-fuel customers and is a version of its standard 1yr fix, but we've got it to add £57 bill credit on top of our usual £25 cashback. It's a mid-sized firm, with about 240,000 customers, and offers 100% renewable elec (not gas). At the current run rate, we're likely to run out of our quota soon.

  • MSE Big Switch winner: Pure Planet 1yr fix, strong green tariff - good 3.8/5 service. Avg price: £920/yr (save £218/yr) on typical use. 7,000 left. This Pure Planet 100% Green 12m Fixed Feb 21 v1 tariff provides 100% renewable elec and 100% offset-gas (see green tariffs explained). It has a good customer service rating and has agreed to 'MSE enhanced service', so if it hasn't helped you, contact us so we can escalate it. Even though the tariff is a few quid a year more than E.on on average, its green credentials still make it a good choice.

    The tariff is for new dual-fuel and elec-only customers and is a version of its standard 12mth fix, but we've got it to add £26 bill credit (£13 elec-only) on top of our usual £25 dual-fuel cashback (£12.50 elec-only). Pure Planet is a mid-sized firm with 200,000+ customers.

    As these are 'collective' tariffs, the rules require 'membership' to get them. We define that as wide as we can, by being a 'member' of either Cheap Energy Club or this weekly email by 4pm on Tue 23 Feb. If only the latter applies to you, please use the email address it's sent to when signing up.

  • Sadly, these deals aren't available for prepay or Northern Ireland. Instead, do a prepay comparison or see our Cheap NI Energy guide.

As your exact winner depends on where you live and what you'll use, all links go via Cheap Energy Club so you can compare. 

 

It's the most important Budget for years, so join us on Wed at 12.30pm. Normally Budgets are dry affairs focused on the wider economy. But this one is likely to fall slap bang into our consumer finance territory. So follow Martin's live Twitter explanations and MSE Twitter for formal updates. After it's over, MSE News will investigate what the Chancellor did (and didn't) say. Then on Thu, watch 'Martin meets Rishi' (ITV, 8.30pm) on his Budget special.

Martin: 'How to get £200's worth of free Nectar points.' Watch Martin's full Nectar boost explainer.

Two million employees have now claimed the working-from-home tax rebate. Have you? If you've been required to work from home for even a day since 6 April 2020, you can claim a year's tax rebate worth up to £125. It only takes a couple of minutes. For full info, incl who can claim, see Martin's WFH tax back blog.

Freebies for NHS workers - coffee, £15 car check, mobile data & more. Many, including us, want to thank the wonderful NHS staff. So we've updated our compendium of NHS and care worker freebies & discounts.

Ends Thu: £20 off top-service broadband & line. Zen's topped every service poll we've done since 2015, but it's pricier than the cheapest promos. Until 11.59pm on Thu, we've got it to waive the usual £20 set-up fee, so there's 35Mb fibre for £29.99/mth or 66Mb fibre for £34.99/mth. Or use our broadband comparison to find your cheapest.

Calvin Klein specs £39 delivered (norm £160). MSE Blagged. Via code at Low Cost Glasses.

Martin reveals the psychology behind 'a month's free trial' subscriptions (and it's NOT hoping you forget to cancel). Watch Martin's full explanation.

 
 

The top NO-FEE debt shift is now 21mths 0%

If you can't afford to clear your credit or store card debt, then you can't afford not to try to shift it to 0%

Balance transfers are the first thing anyone paying interest on credit or store cards should try. They save some £1,000s. It's where you get a new card that repays debts on old cards for you, so you owe it instead, but at 0% - so your repayments clear the actual debt rather than just the interest.

Choose the card with the lowest fee within the right 0% length. Take enough 0% time to ensure you can clear the debt. If you're unsure, go long. This week, we're highlighting the strong current range of (effectively) no-fee deals. 

Will you be accepted? Don't just apply. It's better to use our 0% Balance Transfer Eligibility Calc to find which cards you've the best chance of getting without hitting your credit score. It includes the best buys below...

TOP NEWBIES' 0% BALANCE TRANSFERS
CARD KEY INFO ON 0% & ONE-OFF FEE HOW GOOD IS IT?
No-fee (or effectively no-fee) 0% balance transfer credit cards
Barclaycard
Best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*.
- 21mths 0%.
- 0.9% fee, yet £30 cashback if shifting £2,500+ within first 60 days.
- After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
No fee or 'it pays you' if shifting £2.5k-£3.3k. All accepted get the full 21mths 0%. While not a no-fee card, on these specific amounts the cashback is actually bigger than the fee, so you're actually up. For other amounts, the two cards below are cheaper, but they've shorter 0% lengths.
Santander
Best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*.
- 18mths 0%.
- NO FEE.
- After the 0%, it's 18.9% rep APR.
Joint-longest straight no-fee 0%. All accepted get the full 0% length, and none pay a fee. So clear the debt within 18mths and there's no cost.
Existing custs only
NatWest, RBS or Ulster Bank
Best to check acceptance odds first: NatWest or RBS. Or apply: NatWest*, RBS* or Ulster Bank.
- 18mths 0%.
- NO FEE.
- After the 0%, it's 19.9% rep APR.
Joint-longest no-fee 0%, but must be an existing customer. All accepted get the full 18mths at 0%. To be eligible, you must have a savings, credit card, mortgage or current account with that bank.
Longest 0% cards (for more options, see Top Balance Transfers)
Sainsbury's Bank
Best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*.
- Up to 29mths 0%.
- 3% or 4% fee (min £3) for transfers at application.
- After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
Longest 0%, but it's an 'up to'. So some accepted may get 25mths or 21mths at 0% and/or the higher 4% fee.
Virgin Money
Best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*.
- 28mths 0%.
- 2.7% fee.
- After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
Longest definite 0% period. As the 0% length is definite, and the fee lower, if the eligibility calc shows you've a decent chance, this may be a better bet than Sainsbury's.


Getting a card? Always follow the Balance Transfer Golden Rules:

a) Never miss the min monthly repayment, or you could lose the 0% deal and it'll cost far more.
b) Clear the card (or balance-transfer again) before the 0% ends, or the rate rockets to the higher APR.
c) Don't spend/withdraw cash. It usually isn't at the cheap rate and withdrawals hit your creditworthiness.
d) The balance transfer must usually be done within 1-3mths to get the 0% and any cashback - check your card.
e) You can't balance-transfer between two cards from the same banking group.

Full help and info, incl options for poorer credit scorers, in Best Balance Transfers (and see APR Examples).

 

World Book Day: 16 free or cheap kids' book tricks, eg, hidden Apple freebies & free Kindle titles. See free or cheap kids' books.

36 craft beers for £39 delivered. MSE Blagged. Newbies only, 2,000 boxes avail. Flavourly (pls be Drinkaware).

Ends Sun. Free 4-week digital kids' newspaper subscription (norm £5.99/mth). MSE Blagged. First News compiles full-colour UK and international news, interviews, polls and puzzles for kids aged 7-14 - mini MSE (Martin's daughter) is a fan. First News digital sub (which you can cancel) for kids

STUDENT LOAN REFUND SUCCESS OF THE WEEK:
"I got a refund of over £2,000 from a student loan that I began repaying too early [as you shouldn't start to repay until the April after graduating]. Thanks for highlighting the issue."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

75p Mars, KitKat etc medium-sized Easter eggs via Tesco Clubcard (norm £1). See this egg-cellent deal.

School's back - reconfirm Tax-Free Childcare eligibility or risk missing up to £2,000/yr. It could help to pay for after-school clubs and more. For all the ins and outs, see our Tax-Free Childcare guide.

 
 

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

Longest 0%: Sainsbury's Bank up to 29mths 0%, 3% or 4% fee (check eligibility / apply*) (21.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: 
Santander 18mths 0%, no fee (check eligibility / apply*) (18.9% rep APR)

Cheapest deal: E.on, save £221/yr
Cheapest top-service deal: 
So Energy, save £218/yr
Cheapest green gas & elec deal: Pure Planet, save £218/yr
Want us to help you pick a tariff and switch you yearly? Try MSE Pick Me A Tariff Every Year

Savings include bill credits and £25 MSE cashback. Assumes typical use vs the new price cap from Apr. Links go via Cheap Energy Club

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  1. MoneySupermarket*
  2. Confused.com*
  3. Compare The Market*
  4. Gocompare*

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Ratesetter (check eligibility / apply*) (2.8% rep APR)
Cheapest for £7.5k-£15k:
 
Cahoot (check eligibility / apply*), TSB (check eligibility / apply*) or Ratesetter (check eligibility / apply*) (2.8% rep APR)

Standard b'band & line rent: Shell Energy equiv £13.83/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £17.83/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £20.83/mth

Free £125 for switching + 1% regular saver: HSBC
Free £100 for switchers + top service
: 
First Direct

 

THIS WEEK'S POLL

Will you be better off in a year's time? It's Budget week, when the Chancellor reviews the nation's finances and presents forecasts for the economy. So this week, we want to know your forecasts for your own finances over the coming year. Have the plans to emerge from lockdown given you confidence you'll be better off or do you think things will get worse?

Most MoneySavers want a higher contactless spending limit. Last week, we asked whether you thought the current contactless spending limit of £45 should be increased. More than 5,700 of you responded and 62% said you want a higher limit, while 35% said it should stay the same or be lowered. Since the last time we asked, the proportion of you who don't use contactless at all has fallen - from 8% in Sep 2019 to 3% today. See full contactless poll results.

 
 

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should I tell my cousin I can't afford to attend the hen weekend she's asked me to plan? My cousin had to cancel her hen weekend and her wedding because of the pandemic. We're now re-planning the hen-do but she wants to stay somewhere more expensive and invite more people. The whole thing's now out of my price range, but I'm racked with guilt about telling her I can't come, as she was so crushed when she had to cancel everything. What should I do? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I tell my cousin I can't afford her hen weekend? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

 
 

MARTIN'S APPEARANCES (WED 3 MAR ONWARDS)

Wed 3 Mar - Budget reaction with Shelagh Fogarty, LBC, 2.20pm
Wed 3 Mar - Budget reaction with Nihal Arthanayake, BBC Radio 5 Live, 3pm
Thu 4 Mar - Today programme, BBC Radio 4, between 6am and 9am
Thu 4 Mar - Good Morning Britain, ITV, between 7.30am and 8.30am
Thu 4 Mar - This Morning, ITV, 10.45am
Thu 4 Mar - The Martin Lewis Money Show Live, ITV, 8.30pm

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES (SUBJECTS TBC)

Thu 4 Mar - BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Ben Jackson, from 11.35am
Sat 6 Mar
- BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Summaya Mughal, from 11am
Mon 8 Mar 
- BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 2.20pm
Tue 9 Mar 
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Mid-morning with Jeremy Sallis, from 12.40pm

 

'LOOKING FORWARD MOST TO SEEING MY DAUGHTER. HAVEN'T HUGGED HER IN OVER A YEAR...'

That's all for this week, but before we go... now tentative routes out of lockdown have been proposed, lots of us at MSE are feeling excited about pencilling in real-life plans to our calendars. So we asked on social media whether you'd made any plans yet. Unsurprisingly, many people's first thought is to go and see family and friends. Others have yearned for the skilled hands of their hairdresser, and some have taken a punt on a summer holiday in the sun. But a decent chunk of you are taking a wait-and-see approach and not booking anything in yet. Let us know if you've made any plans in our Post-lockdown activities Facebook post. 

We hope you save some money, stay safe,
The MSE team