Oct
21
2020

MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

21 October 2020

THIS WEEK: Over 50 ways to save, incl... free Christmas £125, 1yr tax-relief if you work one day at home, cheap iPhone, last chance payment hol, BT b'band deal, 50% off Tesco toys, 'free' £100 Amazon, 'free' personalised calendar

Plus... 50% off Tesco toys, 'free' £100 Amazon, 'free' personalised calendar
                                                           
 


 

FREE £125 in time for Christmas. Banks are (legally) bribing you to switch again, so snaffle it ASAP if you need the cash

Free bank switching cash was pulled in the pandemic, but now it's back. Four banks currently pay, and two of them pay quickly enough for you to get it in plenty of time to boost your Christmas coffers.

The switching process, via banks' dedicated switching services, is very easy these days. It only takes seven working days and the banks do it all - switching your direct debit and standing orders over, closing your old account, and making sure any payments are forwarded. The bonuses are usually available to anyone who's not an existing customer. Full eligibility details in our Best Bank Accounts guide, here are the top deals...

CURRENT FREE BANK SWITCH BONUSES
All accounts below do a not-so-harsh credit check
ACCOUNT
Min pay-in for all perks
PERKS GET FREE CASH BY (1)
HSBC Advance*
Min pay-in £1,750/mth - equiv £25,600/yr salary
FREE £125
Linked 2.75% regular saver
30 Nov
New. NatWest Reward
Min pay-in £1,250/mth - equiv £17,000/yr salary
FREE £125
£3/mth cashback (pay £2/mth, get £5 back)
12 Feb
Club Lloyds
Min pay-in £1,500/mth - equiv £21,200/yr salary (2)
FREE £100
Choice of freebies, eg, cinema tickets
31 Oct
RBS Reward
Min pay-in £1,250/mth - equiv £17,000/yr salary
FREE £100
£3/mth cashback (pay £2/mth, get £5 back)
 29 Jan
(1) Where banks specify payment a set time after switching, we've added 7 working days to that from today (21 Oct) to get the date. (2) £3/mth fee if you don't pay in this much. 


  • Don't earn enough to meet the minimum pay-in? First remember if you've a joint account it's the combined pay-in that matters. If not, there's usually a way to cheat it. Say the pay-in is £1,250, but you only have £850 coming in, then pay in the £850, withdraw £400 to an account at another bank (or in cash) and then pay it back in, and BINGO - you'd qualify.

  • Not sure which to pick? Here's a quick rundown. Want the biggest upfront cash in time for Christmas? HSBC is your winner (though you'll need to switch 2+ direct debits or standing orders to get it). Plus, you won't be eligible if you've had an HSBC account or opened a First Direct or M&S Bank account since Jan 2017. See our HSBC review.

    For the max total cash, if time isn't key, NatWest Reward gives the same £125 upfront cash. Then it has cashback on top - bizarrely, it charges a £2/mth fee but pays £4/mth cashback if you've 2+ direct debits going out, and £1 each month you log in to mobile banking. So qualify it all and that's £5/mth minus the £2/mth, or an extra £36/yr. RBS Reward is similar. See NatWest Reward and RBS Reward for full info.

    You can also get also get the £125/£100 bribe by switching to the fee-free NatWest Select or RBS Select accounts, but there's no monthly cashback.

  • None of these are close to table-topping for customer service. They're not dire, but are far from top (one of the reasons they likely pay bribes for your custom), though Lloyds just pips the others. If it's service you want, see our latest banking customer service poll.

  • Struggling with your overdraft? Get help. Until 31 Oct, if your finances are stretched due to coronavirus, you can ask for overdraft help and many will get up to £500 interest free. Plus if you're looking to pay down your debt, our Cut Overdraft Costs guide will take you through how to do this, step by step.

The top perks you DON'T need to switch for

All of the accounts above require you to use their switching services to get the cash, meaning your old account is closed down. Yet there are other perks available without needing to do that, which means these can be great not just as primary accounts, but as secondary ones too.

1) Get PAID to pay your bills. Santander 123 Lite* pays you cashback on bills you pay from it via direct debit, inc 1% on council tax, 2% on energy etc.

It has a £2/mth fee, but those with mid-to-large household bills can still make around £40-£90/yr from this account after the fee. You'll also need to pay in £500/mth to qualify. For other cashback options, see Best Bank Accounts.

- Santander 123 main account (not Lite) customer? Your interest dropped (again) in August, so read our Ditch Santander 123? guide for what to do now.

2) Got a strong APP-etite? The deals above are all about the free cash and perks - if you're looking for the bank accounts with the highest-rated apps, see our Digital Banking guide.

3) £500+ of annual travel, phone and breakdown insurance for £156 with a packaged bank account. If you need insurance, packaged bank accounts - where you pay a monthly fee and lots of cover is thrown in - can be a big winner.

Our top pick is Nationwide FlexPlus at £13/mth. Its biggest perk for many is covering all the family's mobiles, which could be £100/yr per phone done separately, plus it gives worldwide family travel insurance and UK & Europe breakdown cover. See more options in Packaged Bank Accounts.

4) Current accounts that pay more interest than top savings. Top easy-access savings now pay just 0.96% interest. Yet you can double that in a bank account, though only on smaller sums. Our top picks...

- Virgin Money* pays 2.02% AER variable on up to £1,000.
- Nationwide pays 2% AER fixed on up to £1,500 in year 1, 0.25% after. Yet you need to pay in £1,000+/mth to get the interest.

Don't put more in than the max, as that won't earn any interest. More options and full eligibility criteria in interest-paying current accounts.

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How to add £100s to your pocket 
The Martin Lewis Money Show LIVE, 8.30pm Thu, ITV


"This week, I'll be focusing on putting cash in your pockets, incl the new big working-from-home tax back news, free cash switching as above and lots more. Frankly, as we're live even I don't know what's in it yet - as it's up to the very second news-you-can-use. And of course, you can tweet suggested questions to @MartinSLewis, but you must use the show's hashtag #MartinLewis. Do tune in or get a friend to transcribe it."

 
 

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.

 

 
 

Martin's warning: 'If you've a mortgage, credit card, car finance or loan, or you pay insurance monthly, you've only 10 days left to apply for a 3mth payment holiday - don't delay if you need it'

Four key personal finance support pillars were put in place during lockdown - furlough, self-employment grants, a universal credit boost and the right to take 3mth payment holidays on most debts. While as a nation we're far from out of the pandemic's clutches, these schemes are gradually being dismantled. With most, there's little you can do to alter that. Yet with payment holidays, if you get in before they shut, they last 3mths. So everyone should evaluate ASAP if they need one...

  • Apply for a payment holiday before 31 Oct and it lasts 3mths. If your finances are impacted due to Covid-19, apply for a payment holiday - meaning you needn't make repayments - by the end of the month and you'll get 3mths almost automatically. My What payment holidays can I take? blog has full help, but briefly, holidays are available on... mortgages, overdrafts, credit cards, personal loans, insurance, car finance, buy-now-pay-later, rent-to-own and pawnbroker loans.

    Though if you've already had two 3mth holidays on a single product, if you apply for another on that same product you'll be put on to the post-31 Oct regime (see below). There's also a month's payment and interest holiday for payday loans.

  • If you NEED one (or will need one), take it, but ONLY if you really need it. A payment holiday is far better than missing payments without an agreement. Yet be aware there are two major consequences:

    - Interest racks up. Many wrongly assume interest is frozen if you take a payment holiday. It's not. It still accrues, and the fact you're not repaying results in a higher balance, meaning more interest will rack up. Eg, someone paying £600/mth on a mortgage with a 12yr term remaining who takes a 3mth holiday will typically have 11yrs and 9mths to repay at £616/mth. The shorter the remaining term, the bigger the impact (see Mortgage Payment Hols Calc).

    - It can impact your ability to get future credit. Currently these specific Covid-19 payment holidays don't go on your credit file but, as we revealed in May, lenders can factor them in to lending decisions after spotting it via application forms, Open Banking or your payment history. Yet so far, once the payment holiday is over and you've made a few repayments, we've not seen too great an impact.

    So if you don't really need a 3mth holiday, don't do it, or take a shorter break or make some voluntary repayments if you can. Yet if you're struggling, do apply now and get the help you need. And with the deadline looming, my standard 'only take it if you NEED it' needs the addition of 'or think you may really need it soon', as future help is diminishing and these payment holidays are for most better than what will be available after 31 Oct.

  • Limited help will be available after 31 Oct, but then it'll go on your credit file. On 1 Nov, we'll move from blanket one-size-fits-all payment hols to 'tailored support', which will depend on your circumstances. It could be payment holidays, reduced payments, lower interest or a different product. And that help WILL go on credit files, likely having a more substantial impact on your ability to get future credit than the current help. See full 'future help' updates for mortgages | loans, credit cards & other consumer credit | car finance | overdrafts | insurance.

As always, all the latest coronavirus support info is in our constantly updated, in-depth guides on... Travel rights | Employees | Self-employed & ltd co | Finance & bills | Benefits | Lockdown life

 

New. Required to work from home, even for ONE DAY, since 6 Apr? You can claim tax relief for the WHOLE YEAR. It may sound too good to be true, but it's new and rock-solid info, and it's worth £124 to some. Full info in Martin's updated Claim tax back for working from home blog.  

Up to 50% off ALL toys at Tesco, incl Lego, Paw Patrol and Fisher-Price. This is a biggie MoneySavers look forward to every year, and you get something off EVERY item, unlike other big toy sales now on from the likes of Aldi, Morrisons and Sainsbury's. See toy sales round-up and analysis.

New. Cheapest iPhone 11 contract we've ever seen: 64GB handset and 40GB/mth O2 data. MSE Blagged. With the iPhone 12 on sale from Fri, this is usually the sweet spot to get cheap iPhone 11 deals - though due to the pandemic, shops have less stock so we're not sure how long good, widely-available deals will be around. Currently, we've blagged you this cracker, whereby O2 newbies can get the iPhone 11 64GB model* (via this MobilePhonesDirect link) with unlimited mins, texts and 40GB/mth data for £150 upfront, then £26/mth. The £774 cost over the 24mth contract is only £175 more than buying the phone outright without a Sim (so the huge data package is effectively just £8/mth). More in Cheap iPhones and Samsungs.

Are you one of 700,000+ who overpaid a combined £100m+ on student loans last year? You can reclaim. We've done a Freedom of Information request to uncover the full extent, yet the good news is many can reclaim student loan overpayments.

New. FREE £100+ of M&S or Amazon vouchers just for spending on a credit card. Accepted Amex Preferred Rewards Gold* custs (or better still, use our eligibility calc to apply) who spend £3,000 on it within the first 3mths now get 20,000 (usually 10,000) bonus reward pts, convertible into £100 of vchs (usually £50), on top of the usual 1pt per £1. That's provided you've not had a personal Amex in the last 2yrs. Use it for all normal spending, and as long as you average £1,000/mth, you get this boost. Yet always repay it IN FULL each month, preferably by direct debit, to avoid the 22.2% interest on purchases. There's a £140/yr fee from year two, so most should cancel before.

'Free' £20 personalised 2021 calendar (if you pay £5 postage). One per customer. Photobox

PayPal to charge a £12 'inactivity fee' from Dec - how to avoid it. Our warning last week was enormously well read, so for those who missed it, see our full PayPal fee warning.

 
 

Ends Thu. BT's '£25/mth' deal is its cheapest superfast home broadband & line in 2020, though Vodafone's just '£20' - HALF what many pay now

BT rarely launches hot deals, but we know many like it as a brand, and as it's offering superfast broadband at its cheapest rate this year if you sign up in the next couple of days, it's worth pointing out. However, if you're willing to go elsewhere - as you should do - you can undercut BT. As always, the deals below are short-lived, via special links and only available for those who aren't an existing customer of that firm, or who haven't been in the last year. 

Top broadband & line deals for newbies
Links go via our b'band comparison which shows your postcode eligibility (all below avail to 95%+ of homes)
DEAL EQUIV COST (1) NEED-TO-KNOWS
What most, sadly, pay now
(Eg, on BT, TalkTalk etc's standard 10Mb deals)
£30-£45/mth Terrible value. 9m+ are out of contract and could slash costs. Even if you don't want to switch, use prices below to haggle with your provider.
Ends Thu. BT
67Mb fibre (superfast) b'band & line
'£25.41/mth'
BT's cheapest SUPERFAST deal this year. Apply via this BT link and it's £9.99 upfront, then £29.99/mth, but you can CLAIM £120 to spend on a prepaid Mastercard. Factor that in over the 2yr contract and it's equiv to £25.41/mth. It's cheap, but easily beaten by the similar speed deal below.
Ends Thu. Vodafone
63Mb fibre (superfast) b'band & line
'£20.38/mth' Cheapest SUPERFAST fibre broadband & line. Apply via this Vodafone link and it's £23.50/mth, but you can CLAIM a £75 Amazon voucher. For those who'd have spent that there anyway, factor it in and the cost is equiv to £20.38/mth over the 2yr contract.
Shell Energy
MSE Blagged
35Mb fibre (fast) b'band & line
'£17.74/mth' Cheapest FAST fibre broadband & line. Apply via this Shell Energy link and it's £23.99/mth, plus you get an AUTO £75 bill credit within 3mths. So over the 1yr contract, it's equiv to £17.74/mth.
Plusnet
10Mb (basic) b'band & line
'£14.83/mth' Cheapest broadband and line. Apply via this Plusnet link and it's £18.99/mth over the 18mth contract, but you can CLAIM £75 to spend on a prepaid Mastercard. Factor that in and it's equiv to £14.83/mth. That's still very cheap, and for many the speed is enough.
(1) To compare, we use 'equivalent costs' - adding all fixed costs, deducting promo cash or vouchers and averaging over the contract. Yet most firms increase prices in line with inflation annually. Eg, BT and Plusnet say they'll raise 'em by a bit more than inflation in Mar. As the hikes are unknown we can't show you true total costs, so all prices are based on today's rates.


  • Advertised speeds are more reliable than in past years. Rules have been tightened so now more than 50% of customers must get the advertised speed at peak times. And there are other protections in place too. See how to check your current speed and 8 speed-boosters.

    - Most firms, incl all those above, tell you the estimated max speed you're likely to get before applying.
    - BT and Plusnet let you cancel if your speed doesn't match this for 3 consecutive days and it isn't resolved within 30 days.
    - Vodafone will give a 15% discount on your monthly bill if it's slow, eg, under 55Mb for superfast fibre at any time. Just run a test via the app.

  • Usually there's no need for an engineer to visit when switching (apart from some ditching Virgin). Most firms require you to have a BT Openreach line, which is the underlying tech for most non-cable broadband that millions already have. Though if you're leaving Virgin's cable broadband, an engineer may need to come round to install a line.

  • Switching often means 2hrs-ish of downtime. You're told the switch time in advance and it's often quick. Occasionally the outage is longer, so consider the risk, but hopefully your mobile data can cover any gap.

 

Deal extended: £40 cashback on £400 invested. MSE Blagged. If you plan to 'robo-invest' - where investments are selected based on your attitude to risk - then, after fees, this Wealthify cashback deal is equiv to a 9.5% head start, though you'll need to keep the investment for a min 6-7mths. (Including this deal doesn't mean we recommend Wealthify, as we don't do investment tips - it's more that if you're going to sign up anyway, go for the cashback.) We covered it last week, and had 1,000 codes avail. It was so popular, Wealthify has added another 1,000. Robo-investing cashback

Free or cheap half-term and Halloween kids' activities, incl free books, comics + baking with simple ingredients. It's harder than normal to keep the littl'uns entertained, but we've put together some lockdown-friendly half-term and Halloween activities.

Green Homes Grant 'a flop' - as just 1 in 6 who try can find installers. See Martin's snapshot poll.

Nov is Will Aid month - BOOK NOW for cheap solicitor-drafted wills. This scheme, where solicitors draft wills in return for a charity donation, gets booked up quickly, so sort it soon. See Will Aid for more.

Boots new star gifts, incl £25 Yankee Candle bundle (norm £52) and £35 Too Faced make-up set (norm £77ish). The next round of star gifts starts today (Wed) online & in stores. Boots star gifts

£30 HelloFresh recipe box for £15 - gets you 6 meals (marketed as 3 meals for 2 people). It's actually a rolling subscription where you sign up for a box of ingredients every week, but you can cancel any time, so you could just use it the once. If you want to keep going, you also get £15 off the next three too. Newbies only, 1,000 avail. HelloFresh

 
 

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

Longest 0%: TSB up to 29mths 0%, 2.95% fee* (19.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: 
Santander 18mths 0% (check eligibility / apply*) (18.9% rep APR)

Cheapest 1yr fix: Utility Point 1yr fix, save £195/yr
Cheapest Big 6: E.on 1yr fix, save £183/yr
Want us to help you pick a tariff and switch you yearly? Try MSE Autoswitch

Savings incl £25 MSE cashback if avail. Assumes typical use vs price cap. Links go via Cheap Energy Club.

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

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

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Tesco Bank (check eligibility / apply*), 3.4% rep APR (1-3yrs)
Cheapest for £7.5k-£15k:
 
Cahoot (check eligibility / apply*) or TSB (check eligibility / apply*), both 2.8% rep APR

Standard b'band & line rent: Plusnet equiv £14.83/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £17.74/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: Vodafone equiv £20.38/mth

New. £125 to switch + £3/mth: NatWest Reward 
Free £125 for switching: HSBC Advance

 

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK:
"Took your guidance and didn't auto-renew my car insurance. Managed to save £820 by looking around for new quotes, and guess who it was with... the same provider I had before."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

UK half-term holiday refund rights amid tougher lockdown restrictions. Many ARE entitled to refunds if trips are no longer allowed. See half-term holiday help.

 

THIS WEEK'S POLL

The MoneySavingExpert.com Annual Census. So who are MoneySavers? For the seventh year running, rather than data mining, we reckon the politest way to find out is just to ask. Plus we think you may like to find out a little bit more about who else uses this site (or more accurately, who uses this site and answers the polls). So please fill in the seventh annual MSE census.

Amazon Prime members are much less likely to shop elsewhere when buying online. Last week, we asked whether you compare prices when shopping online or mostly head straight to Amazon - more than 5,500 people responded. Overall, around a third defaulted to Amazon, but Prime membership is a big factor - a huge 52% of those with Prime go straight to Amazon, compared with just 14% of those without. See full online shopping poll results.

 
 

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should my housemate repay me for looking after her cat? She adopted an older cat a while back and I didn't agree to it originally as we're both busy, and told her I wouldn't be responsible for its care. But I ended up looking after it while she was away, and began buying it food, toys etc. I bonded with the cat and, now my housemate's moving out, I've taken over formal ownership, paying to have its microchip updated etc. With vet bills and other costs, I've spent over £1,000. Should I ask my housemate to contribute, considering the cat was supposed to be her cat? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should my housemate repay me for looking after her cat? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

 

Tesco - 'Up to 50% off' ALL toys, plus more toy sales
Photobox - 'Free' £20 personalised calendar (just pay £5 del)
Boots 'Star Gifts' - Incl £25 Yankee Candle bundle (norm £52)
HelloFresh - Get a £30 meal box for £15
Free or cheap half-term activities - Incl baking and Halloween fun

Languages - Incl Duolingo and 'Coffee Break Spanish' podcast
Musical instruments - Incl Casio Music UK Facebook videos
How to draw - Learn from Disney animators
OU qualifications - Incl MSE's Academy of Money
Coding - Online courses to teach HTML, Javascript etc

Bella Italia - £10 eat-as-much-as-you-like pizza
Burger King - £1 Whopper burgers on Wed
Clarks - 'Up to 50% off' sale
Dusk - 20% off everything, incl sale items
Tesco - 25% off six bottles of wine

Easy, fast and cheap ways to fix a fridge door. Brrr-illiant ideas
Top tricks for DIY chimney sweeping. If it soots you
Simple ways to recycle or reuse old feather pillows. Plump it up

 
 

MARTIN'S APPEARANCES (WED 21 OCT ONWARDS)

Thu 22 Oct - This Morning, phone-in, ITV, 10.55am
Thu 22 Oct - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8.30pm

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES (MOST SUBJECTS TBC)

Wed 21 Oct - BBC Radio Humberside, Afternoons with Andy Comfort, from 5pm, Helen Saxon on credit/debit card refunds
Mon 26 Oct - BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 2.25pm
Tue 27 Oct 
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Mid-morning with Jeremy Sallis, from 12.25pm

 

KNITTING, PUZZLES AND PAINTING: YOUR LOCKDOWN FUN IDEAS

That's all for this week, but before we go... as restrictions tighten again and we're back to spending more time at home, you've been sharing your top tips to keep entertained. While it seems virtual pub quizzes are back with a bang, that's not all, as decorating, knitting, doing puzzles, painting by numbers, roller skating and learning new languages all featured. So if you need some inspiration or have ideas to share, see our lockdown fun at home Facebook post.

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