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03rd Aug 2016
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03 August 2016
22 last-min holiday cost-cutting tricks
Santander 123 dropping interest?
NO interest on 27mths' 0% spending
Home insurance double-whammy
'I haggled 600+/yr off Sky bill'
WARNING: PPI time-bar coming
New free 300 daily cash draw
Hot Sim: Unltd mins, texts, 16GB data 20/mth + 90 Amzn vch
How to mute self-service checkouts
115 free or cheap family fun tips
24 'lucky dip' mini plants 5
Ikea 'free prize with purchase' ending
Hi-Tec 50% code, eg, 18 trainers
Free 500ml Coke Zero Sugar
Superdry 20 prescription specs
Master's student loans have started

22 last-min holiday cost-cutting tricks

Incl near-perfect euro/dollar rates, free sat-nav, hotel re-book trick, train secrets, 9 travel insurance & mile-high picnics

The great summer getaway is underway, but many leave it till August, especially later in the month, when it's cheaper. Whether staying in the UK or heading overseas, we've a series of savvy tricks to bag you a suitcase-load of savings if you're about to head off. All aboard...

1. The re-book your hotel trick - save 100s. If the price drops after booking, you may be able to re-book for less. Alison tweeted: "Saved 200 when price dropped 2 days pre-travel." Full how to re-book tips.
2. Get near-perfect rates worldwide this summer and beyond. The pound's weak, so here's how to lessen the blow. A specialist travel spending credit card gets you the same exchange rate banks get, and avoids the 3%-ish 'non-sterling exchange fee' other plastic adds. Always set up a direct debit to repay IN FULL every month to minimise interest. Cards take 1-2 weeks to arrive, yet even if you're set to jet off shortly, bag 'em for future trips. Our top picks are...

- Long-term winner: Halifax Clarity (eligibility calc / apply*) has good feedback & a) it's a Mastercard, which usually gives the best exchange rate, & b) it has low charges for cash withdrawals.

- Slightly cheaper at ATMs:
Creation (apply*) is similar, with withdrawals cheaper. We've little feedback though (tell us).

- Easy-to-get card, bad for ATMs:
Aqua (eligibility calc / apply*) has no exchange fee, pays 0.5% cashback & accepts some with past CCJs/defaults. But ATM withdrawals are pricey.

These aren't the only specialists. See our full list - if you have one, it's not worth shifting. Check the three overseas debit cards too. Or, if you prefer them, see Prepaid Travel Cards.

The Golden Rules. Full info: Top Travel Cards (APR Examples).
1) Pay on the card - it's cheaper than withdrawing cash.
2) Clear IN FULL or these cards are 18.9%, 12.9% & 34.9% rep APR.
3) You usually pay interest on ATM withdrawals (not spending) even if you clear in full. Halifax and Creation still beat most bureaux.
3. Find the cheap tickets train firms hide - two tix for one trip can save s. We've been shouting about it for years and recently it's been all over the news - how split-ticketing makes no sense but can slash costs. Train firms have finally said they'll start talks with the Govt to reform fares but you needn't wait for them to save - do it NOW using our free Tickety Split tool.

We found a single from Manchester to St Ives at 144, but the train stops at Cheltenham Spa. So on that journey it was 32 Manc to C. Spa, then 58 from there to St Ives - 90 all-in. Same train, same time, possibly even same seat. Loads more cost-cutting tips in Cheap Train Tix, incl that advance fares are usually cheaper, yet few realise you can buy 'em last minute.
4. Beat hefty mobile roaming fees using a UK tariff abroad. A trick allows you to use mins, texts and data in 18 countries incl France, Spain and the US for the same price as in the UK. See Roam free.

PS: Got questions about using your phone abroad? MSE Steve & Nick are doing a Twitter Q&A at 1-1.30pm on Fri. Send questions to @MoneySavingExp using #MSEMobile.
5. Find best rates from 30+ bureaux in secs. If you need cash or can't wait for a specialist card, our TravelMoneyMax holiday money comparison tool finds the cheapest travel cash near you. The app (iPhone or Android) does the same plus has added functions such as storing your plastic to show your cheapest way to pay.
6. Play the Easyjet refund trick. If you've booked an Easyjet flight, check its price now - if it's dropped, use our Easyjet refund trick to get the difference back. Maria emailed: "Thanks to MSE, I got a 450 Easyjet refund. Its price promise works."
7. 9 a year travel insurance (if you've booked, you need it NOW). If you don't have it once you've booked a trip, and you or a family member get ill or need to cancel, you've no recourse.

Cheapest annual policies (under-65s): Go away 2+ times a year and annual policies usually win. A year's Europe cover for a 32-yr-old costs from 9; for a family worldwide, from 44. The cheapest no-frills cover is usually Holidaysafe Lite*, but also check Coverwise* and Leisure Guard Lite*, as they beat it sometimes.

Full help in Cheap Annual Travel Insurance. Also see Cheap one-off & Over-65s insurance + cover if you've a medical condition.
8. No comprende? Free app translates into 52 languages offline. Just download the app before you go.
9. Don't delay car hire booking - get it for 7/day. There's still time to rent a cheap set of wheels. We found 7/day for the last week of Aug in Malaga, though it can be 20+ on the day, plus there are fewer vehicles available the later you leave it. Full help in Cheap Holiday Car Hire, but at speed...

- Use comparison sites. Try Skyscanner*, Kayak*, TravelSup*, Carrentals* - as many as you've time. Once booked, check details with the car firm.

- Beware stealth fuel charges. Some make you pay for a full tank & return it empty - adding 80ish if you don't drive far. Most sites let you filter by fuel policy though. See Fuel charges help.
10. Don't be fear-sold car hire excess - get it 90% cheaper BEFORE you go. Hire firms charge up to 20/day to cover the cost of the excess if you claim - usually with dire warnings if you don't. But you can get standalone cheap excess insurance for 2/day, as Neil tweeted: "@MartinSLewis excess insurance 12 for 3 weeks - was 120 from rental firm".

To do it, use the Moneymaxim* comparison. Then compare to Leisure Guard* with 20% off code MSE20, Reduce My Excess* with 20% code MSE03, Questor* with 20% code MSE2097 and Direct Car Excess Insurance* with 15% code MSE2101.
11. Nifty tool finds cheapest UK fuel. Prices vary widely, so use a cheap forecourt finder tool to track down your nearest and not-so-dearest, eg, in central Manchester we found the cheapest petrol at 1.08/L & most expensive 1.14/L. In central London the pricing swung from 1.07/L to a whopping 1.65/L. And don't fall foul of the great service station fuel rip-off.
12. Have a 35,000ft picnic. Liquids are restricted through airport security, not food - avoid paying 5 for a stale sarnie. See What you can take.
13. The rip-off to prove you should ALWAYS pay in euros, if asked. Shops and ATMs overseas often ask if you want to pay in pounds or local currency. We found a Greek cash machine adding a 20%-ish charge to pay in pounds. Plus see full tips on why you should always pay in local currency.
14. Slash airport parking costs from 160 to 40/wk. Early booking tends to win. Use our discounted links to comparison sites...

APH 20% off* (London, Manc, Birm, Edin) | Holiday Extras 10%-30%* | SkyParkSecure up to 30%* | FHR 12%-25%* | Airparks 12%-25%*

We found 40/week at Stansted when we could have paid 160. MSE user Martin tweeted: "Thanks, quoted 160, got it down to 70-odd through your site." See Cheap airport parking for more.
15. Always turn your sun cream bottles around. For why, see how to make sun cream last (plus see 1 sun cream deals).
16. Turn your smartphone into a free sat-nav worldwide. If it's got GPS, convert it into a free sat-nav for 187 countries. Download before going abroad to avoid pricey data.
17. How to master the art of hand luggage packing. Restrictions are often about size, not weight, so check out our packing masterclass video - and for more extreme ways, see how to wear baggage.
18. Over 5m EHICs are invalid - is yours? The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives access to local GPs or state-run hospitals at the same price locals pay - if it's free for them, it's free for you. See Check, get and renew EHICs for FREE. PS: If any site tries to charge for one, it's a scam.
19. Pack a child's car seat for free. Whether you're hiring a car or not, if you travel in one, kids should be in a car seat. These can cost 5+/day for a week (more from a taxi firm), but many airlines let you take 'em free. See Child seat tricks.
20. Bag a 58 Eurostar day return to Paris or Brussels this August. If you can leave it to the last minute, these tickets (norm up to 309) are a bon prix, though booking conditions & availability are tight. See 58 Eurostar (plus 29 Cheap Paris Tips if that's where you're going).
21. Free app to instantly plan your holiday itinerary. Forward your confirmation emails (for flight, hotel, car hire) and a clever free app instantly organises them into an itinerary. See Travel planning apps.
22. Beat the voicemail roaming trap. In some countries you can be charged a whopping 2.50/min just to receive voicemail, and another 1.50/min to listen. Don't get stung like forumite Chris11: "Back from South Africa to find 50 bill for 10 roaming voicemails, even though I did not retrieve them." Turn it off.

PS from Martin: After 13yrs writing this email, I'm taking a month's sabbatical - to have fun and be a husband & daddy. So this August the email's in the very talented hands of the MSE team.

Saved cash? Shout it from the rooftops.

If this email's ever helped you, please forward it to friends and suggest they get it via

Pay NO interest on credit card purchases for up to 27mths

If you need to borrow, cut your costs with a 0% spending card - six cards offer more than two years at 0%

Last week we gave you a masterclass in slashing existing debt costs, but we know lots of you want to borrow cheaply too. Done right, 0% credit cards are by far the cheapest way to borrow for a planned, budgeted-for purchase (eg, new sofa, car insurance). The danger is when they're used willy-nilly to fill unaffordable gaps in your income.

This time last year just one card offered 25+ 0% mths - now SIX do. And as different lenders have different criteria, that may mean you've better odds of acceptance (our pre-application eligibility calc shows your odds for all top 0% cards).

Top new-cardholder 0% spending credit cards
Card Purchase deal Rep APR after (1)
Sainsbury's Bank (eligibility calc / apply*) - joint-longest 0% card & you get Nectar pts 27mths 0% 18.9%
Post Office (eligibility calc / apply*) - joint-longest 0% card 27mths 0% (2) 18.9%
Clydesdale Bank (eligibility calc / apply*) - joint next-longest 0% 26mths 0% 18.9%
Yorkshire Bank (eligibility calc / apply*) - joint next-longest 0% 26mths 0% 18.9%
The AA (eligibility calc / apply*) - joint next-longest 0% 26mths 0% 18.9%
Barclaycard (eligibility calc / apply*) - longest 0% on spending AND shifted debt (3) Up to 25mths 0% 18.9%
Aqua (eligibility calc / apply*) - longest 0% for poor credit scorers (see safety warnings) 4mths 0% 34.9%
(1) Only 51% of accepted applicants need get this rate. (2) You must spend on it in first 3mths or it's 16mths 0%. (3) Balance transfers have a fee of 2.5% of amount transferred. Full info: 0% Cards & APR Examples.

  • Tip 1: Find which you're most likely to get. Applying leaves a mark on your credit file, even if you're rejected. Our 0% Eligibility Calc lets you home in on the cards you've best odds of getting, protecting your credit file.

  • Tip 2: Fix repayments to clear within the 0% time. If doing a big one-off payment and effectively using this as a 0% loan, best practice is simply divide what you borrow by the 0% months and repay that by direct debit or standing order; eg, spend 3,000, and if you've 27mths' 0%, pay 112 a month to clear it in time.

  • 0% Spending Card Golden Rules. Full help & ALL best buys in 0% Spending Cards (APR Examples) - in brief:
    a) Never miss or be late paying the monthly min, or you can lose the 0% (never exceed the credit limit either).
    b) Plan to clear the card before the 0% ends (or do a balance transfer) or the rate jumps to the rep APR.
    c) These cards are usually ONLY cheap for spending, not balance transfers or cash withdrawals - so avoid those.

WARNING: PPI claims time-bar will happen - DON'T WAIT. While there's still a final consultation to iron out the finer detail, this is our CLARION call... If there's a chance you're owed, check Reclaim PPI for free now.

FREE daily cash draw upped to 300. It's legit and the main prize has just risen from 250. Forumite Raindaisy was a rollover winner: "500 in my account within 2 days." Free Postcode Lottery. Related: More free lotteries

Is Santander 123 dropping interest to 2%? If so, is it still worth it? See Martin's Santander 12 analysis.

HOT Sim: Unlimited mins & texts, 16GB 4G data 20/mth + 90 Amazon vch. MSE Blagged. From Wed, a 12mth contract for EE* newbies + 6mths' free BT Sport, incl live Premier League, via the BT Sport app. The vch should be auto-added - if not, enter code AWMSE90. It should come within 3mths. It's a corker if you're a high data user. Need less data? iD Mobile offers 500 mins, 5,000 texts, 4GB 4G data for 10/mth. Full info & options: Top Sims.

How to mute self-service checkouts. 'Unexpected item in bagging area' - never again. Watch MSE Jordon's demo.

Updated - 115 free or cheap things to do with kids in summer. Mega popular last week so we've added more crackers. Top deals incl 1 for 100-day Kids Pass, free pet & craft workshops, free sports & kids eat free. Cheap treats


- 24 'lucky dip' mini plug plants bundle 5 all-in Ends Fri

- Superdry 20 prescription specs & 30 sunnies Ends 21 Aug

- 50 BBQ meat bundle 29 delivered Ends 16 Aug


- Pokmon Go: What parents need to know (check insurance)

- Malaga/Marbs. 43 Costa-cutting tips for the Costa del Sol

- New Santander 123 Lite - any good?

- Lowcostholidays refunds - your rights and successes

Home insurance double-whammy warning

Many pay high auto-renew prices already, and now costs are rising too. Our system hits back

Latest AA figures show the avg buildings & contents policy cost is up almost 5% on last year, yet many vastly overpay anyway by blindly auto-renewing or by choosing pricey cover from their bank or mortgage lender. Our Cheap Home Insurance system helps slash costs, as Eoin discovered: "Renewal quote for 645 via my mortgage provider. Found new cover at 180, saving almost 500." Here are our top tips:

  • COMBINE comparison sites to search 100s of insurers in minutes. They don't search identical insurers, nor give identical prices - so combine 'em. Our current order's*, CTM, Gocompare*, MoneySup* (see full order & why).

  • Next check HOT deals comparisons miss, eg, 75 M&S vch. Comparisons are great but they don't list every insurer or deal. So combine with biggies missed:

    - 75 M&S voucher:
    Via MSE Blagged Together Mutual* link.
    - Amazon Fire Stick (worth 35, limited availability): Via MSE Blagged Tesco* link.
    - 50 Co-op food voucher: With cover direct from Co-op*.
    - Plus check large insurers Aviva* and Direct Line*, which aren't on comparison sites.

    Freebies/vouchers are on combined building & contents cover only & can take up to 120 days to arrive.

  • Know the right amount to cover. a) BUILDINGS - usually only needed by freeholders. Many wrongly insure their home's value. Instead use a rebuild calc to see the cost of rebuilding if it were knocked down. b) CONTENTS - for all. Don't under-insure, thinking you'll never claim the full amount - if you cover 10k, have 20k of stuff & your 1,000 TV smashes, you may only get 500. Use a contents calc to check you're properly covered.

24 'lucky dip' mini plug plants bundle 5 all-in (norm 34ish). MSE Blagged. Eg, lavender & poppy. Ends Fri

Last chance. Ikea's 'free prize with any purchase'. Ends Sun. From hot dogs to Sweden holidays, EVERYONE gets something. Dig out old receipts as it's valid on purchases since May. Claim Ikea freebies

Hi-Tec 50% off code, eg, 18 trainers delivered. MSE Blagged. On 33 footwear items. Hi-Tec

Free 500ml Coke Zero Sugar voucher. Print or show voucher on phone at Asda. Coke, for zero

Superdry 20 prescription specs & 30 sunnies code. MSE Blagged. Norm 99-109. Via SpeckyFourEyes

Master's student loans have started. For what it means for you, see Martin's 15 postgrad loan need-to-knows.

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'I saved 600+/yr on my Sky bill' - how to HAGGLE

The AA, BT, RAC, Sky etc usually reserve their best deals for newbies, but haggling can unlock a world of savings

Haggling's an art, and when done with charm and know-how can save 100s on all sorts of services, from broadband to breakdown cover. So loosen that British stiff upper lip and give it a go. Our Haggle with Sky, AA & more guide has top tricks, plus we've a host of company- and industry-specific guides (below) to show you how. Here's some inspiration...

  • SkySlash b'band, phone & TV bills, incl BT, Sky & Virgin. These are among the easiest to haggle with - in our most recent poll, a huge 88% of Sky customers who tried haggling succeeded. See our dedicated BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet, Virgin & Broadband haggling guides. Rhys followed our tips: "Sky bill increased to 92/mth. I called and got 50% off, plus an HD discount & 50 credit - 600+/yr saved."

  • Drive down AA, RAC and other breakdown cover costs. Another sector where haggling's powerful - 88% of AA customers & 86% with the RAC report success, eg, Corriene: "Got AA renewal reduced from 215 to 149. Thanks - I always check with MSE before making these decisions." Full help in Breakdown Cover Haggling.

  • Cut your mobile bill - particularly after price hikes. If a firm says it's upping prices, as Vodafone did last month, that's valuable haggling ammunition. Julian said: "Three sent out price hike letters, but a 10min haggle slashed 30/mth down to 16." See full Mobile Haggling Help.

  • Haggle on insurance (with care). You can haggle better deals at car & home insurance renewal, though always compare with top new customer deals using our Car & Home insurance guides. Diana emailed:"Home insurance was 85/mth, saw your tips & got it to 33. Thanks so much." See Insurance Haggling.

  • It works on the high street too... Haggling when shopping isn't the preserve of back-street bazaars, as MSE Guy found out: "Got 100 off a TV at Currys and a free HDMI cable as it was a clearance item so I knew they wanted to shift it". Top tips in our High Street Haggling guide, incl the best stores to haggle in.

2for1 for 2ish at Alton Towers, Legoland, Thorpe Park etc. Via promo Cadbury choc packs. Merlin deals

50 BBQ meat bundle 29 delivered. MSE Blagged. Incl chicken, steak, burgers & sausages. Muscle Food

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"My wife and I were delayed by five hours flying to Rhodes. I claimed for flight delay compensation using the Resolver complaint site and have just got 800. So easy to use, thanks."

We're hiring - four jobs available. Incl press manager & senior digital analyst. All London-based. MSE Jobs


How do you rate your bank account's service? Please vote based on CUSTOMER SERVICE for your main CURRENT account over the last SIX MONTHS. Please ignore rates or other products or service 6+ months ago.

Bank of Scotland | Barclays | Cahoot | Clydesdale | Co-op | First Direct | Halifax | HSBC
Lloyds | M&S | Metro | Nationwide | NatWest | Norwich & Peterborough
RBS | Santander | Smile | Tesco Bank | Think Money | TSB | Ulster | Virgin | Yorkshire Bank

Who wants to be a millionaire? In last week's poll asking whether you had a net worth or net debt, 86% of you were in the black, with those aged 65+ most likely to be, and those aged 25 to 34 least likely. Aspiring millionaire? Seven per cent of you have already made it. See the full results of the net worth poll.


Top story: Cheaper train fares on the way with planned ticket overhaul

- ParentPay promises to fix school payments chaos - what to expect from the latest revamp

- SSE under investigation over switching vulnerable customers to prepay meters

- Three unveils 'no frills' Sim-only and contract tariffs - but are they good value?


Should I share my restaurant voucher? I'm going to a restaurant with a group of friends and I've exchanged some loyalty points for vouchers that I plan on using - is it stingy of me not to share the savings with the rest of the group? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I share my restaurant voucher? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: No more buying DVDs
- Competitions thread of the week: Win a trip to Naples in Italy to see where Gomorrah is set
- Old-style board thread of the week: What made me laugh
- Discussion of the week: Do I need to buy a graduation gift?


Martin's on sabbatical in August so here are some of his best blogs from the archive:

- My Top Ten Summer Reads: Shardlake, Genghis, Sharpe and more

- No it isn't a PIN number - the 10 worst acronyms if you're a pedant

- How much is a blank really worth at Scrabble?


Wed 3 Aug - Share Radio, 11.20am
Thu 4 Aug - BBC Radio Manchester, 4.50pm
Tue 9 Aug - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, 2.20pm


Q: Can I get a refund for unused childcare vouchers, as I'm unlikely to use mine? Richard, via Twitter.

MSE Maeve's A: It's at your employer's discretion, as there's no official refund system. If allowed, refunds will have tax and National Insurance deducted as they're treated like wages. You wouldn't have paid tax or NI when you first got the vouchers, because that's the perk of taking them.

Bear in mind you may be able to save the vouchers and use them in future as they don't expire until the September after your youngest child's 15th birthday (16 if your child's disabled). For more, see our Childcare Vouchers guide.

Please suggest a question of the week (we can't reply to individual emails).


That's it for this week, but before we go, check out this video in the forum: Orrrff with her head. This week, Martin celebrated 10 years on ITV breakfast telly by, er, eating the Queen's head. Don't lock him up in the Tower of London just yet though - watch the video to find out more.

We hope you save some money,
Martin & the MSE team

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