Students heading home from university for the summer could be able to claim a £36 refund for the unused part of their TV licence. They should also diarise to close or switch any energy or broadband accounts.
With the end of term in sight for the majority of students, MoneySavingExpert.com has compiled what you need to know when it comes to cancelling bills and saving cash when you leave for the summer.
Act NOW to claim a £36 TV licence refund
A TV licence is needed to watch, record or stream programmes at the same time they are being shown live on TV – see our Do I need a TV licence? guide to check if you need one. Recent research by TV Licensing, the company which sells the licences, shows the average student owns three devices that are capable of streaming live TV.
But you can get a refund on any unused amount. Here's how:
- Paid upfront? To get a refund, you must have paid for an annual colour permit, which costs £145.50, and have three full calendar months left, as you can only get refunds in quarter-years. So if you bought your licence in September, you only have until the end of May to get a refund of just over £36.
- Pay by monthly direct debit? You may also be eligible to claim back any full quarters you have paid for in advance. This is because you usually pay for your first's year licence within six months, in instalments of about £24/month. After the first six months, the cost drops to just over £12/month. So if you took out a direct debit last September and cancel it this May, you could be in line for a £72 refund because you will have already paid for 15 months.
To claim, complete an online form on the TV Licensing website, or call it on 0300 790 6113. You can cancel your TV licence up to 14 days before you no longer need it, and a refund should be sent to you within 14 days.
Diarise to cancel or switch phone, TV and broadband contracts
If you – and not a landlord or letting agency – are responsible for the bills, check if there are any early-exit fees before cancelling your contract mid-term.
Most minimum contract lengths for home phone, broadband and digital TV are at least 12 months, and hefty penalties can often mean it's not worth cancelling before they end.
BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin also say there are no special clauses enabling students to cancel free of charge before their minimum terms ends – although Virgin Media's student broadband package does come with a nine-month contract to coincide with term time.
- Mid-contract? Check if you can move it to another address. If you're happy with your provider and the amount you're paying, and you know the exit fees make cancelling impractical, see if you can move your existing deal to a new address. Be warned, though, you might not be allowed to do this if the names listed on the bill change.
- Out of contract? Cancel and switch to a cheaper deal. Cancelling your contract after the minimum term ensures that it won't roll over and that you don't end up paying for something you can't use – particularly as prices can jump dramatically when you reach the end of your contract. If you are returning to university after the summer, use our Cheap Broadband and Cheap TV guides to find the best new deal.
Close or switch your energy contract and take a final meter reading
As well as broadband, home phone and TV contracts, it's likely you'll also have a gas and/or electricity contract, so here's what to do when you head back home for the summer. This information applies only to those who are directly responsible for paying the bills, as opposed to those whose bills are paid for by a landlord or letting agency.
- Going back to uni for another year?
If you're heading back to uni after the summer, you have a few options, but as always, with each one you should always check if you can save by switching to a cheaper deal using our free Cheap Energy Club.
- If you're staying in the same home and are happy with your provider's service and what you pay, take a meter reading when you leave for the summer and again when you go back. This will ensure you can be billed correctly for the low summer usage.
- If you're moving to a different residence, some suppliers will let you move your tariff to your new home (the big six providers don't charge for doing this and it's likely smaller providers don't charge either). Ensure you take a meter reading before you leave so you'll be only be charged for the energy you've actually used.
- Alternatively, cancel your contract when you leave for the summer – early-exit fees may be charged in this scenario, so check first, although it's unlikely – and when you move to your new home, check which provider supplies the house and see if you can save by switching to a cheaper deal.
- Leaving uni for good?
If you're leaving university for good, make sure you contact your supplier to close your account – some will let you do this online. Early-exit fees may be charged in this scenario, so check first, although it's unlikely.
You will need to give your provider your final meter reading, as this ensures it charges you only for the energy you've actually used up until you move out, rather than making an estimate.
Once you've ended your contract, your supplier will send through your final bill. If you've overpaid throughout the year, ensure you ask your provider for a refund – see our Reclaim energy bills refund guide for how to do this.
Additional reporting by Fraser Balaam.