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04th Nov 2015
Warning! This info may be out of date. Read this week's email

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"Hi. This free, spam free weekly email is the key way to save. We put all the latest deals, guides and loopholes in, yet many close within hours. Don't miss out, join the 12m who get it each week."

04 November 2015
Martin's Briefing: Hidden Brit Gas 270 off. Is your energy firm screwing you?
New 22mth 0% NO FEE debt shift
111 for yr's Plusnet line & b'band
Urgent free 7 Amzn + 20 more tricks
Gap 40% off voucher & code
Take term-time holidays without fines?
8 champagne trick
M&S 20% off online FLASH discount
Free 30 carbon monoxide alarm
Totally FREE personalised Xmas card
First-time buyer? New Help2Buy ISA info & help
La Redoute 25 off 50 code
Eurostar 64rtn to Paris, Lille, etc
CODES: Banana Republic 40%, Brantano 40%, Boden 25% & more
Two pairs specs 19 code

Martin's Weekly Briefing: For more tips, alerts & puns, follow Martin on Twitter

New hidden British Gas 270-a-year saving

Whoever you use, just give me five minutes to check & fix it

British GasSlashing the amount you pay for energy really isn't difficult. It takes minutes to find your cheapest, then it's switched over in 17 days. Do it NOW and you'll be on a cheaper rate before the cold spell hits and usage rockets. And don't worry, there's no break in service - your energy won't be switched off.

I find it depressing 70% of the UK are still on a hideously costly big six standard tariff - overpaying by an average 290/yr. If that's you, please just do a comparison. I got four new(ish) members of the MSE team to, ahem, volunteer. On avg, they took 5m 52s saving 320/yr (max saving 550/yr). Here's the key info:

1. New. Hidden British Gas tariff - 270 cheaper than standard. It's rare to see the UK's biggest energy provider competing on price, but British Gas (BG) has a new market-leading 12-month dual fuel, direct debit fix (ie, the rate is guaranteed). It's not just for newbies, existing BG custs and those of its sub-brand Sainsbury's Energy can get it, so they can save without moving firm (and it won't charge exit fees).

For someone with typical use it's 805/yr, compared to 1,075/yr on BG standard or Fix & Fall. Leave it early and there's a 60 exit fee, though you can take it with you if you move home.

How to get it:
It's not available direct, it's a collective switch (where a trusted intermediary asks energy firms to provide a tariff for it) via MoneySupermarket.

As we're part of the same group, we've been able to add this British Gas 12mth fix to our Cheap Energy Club (link goes there). This way, we give 30 cashback which you won't get if you go via MoneySup. As your exact price depends on usage and location you need do a comparison to get it.

Are you overpaying? (varies by region, based on typical use)

Full top picks comparison to find YOUR actual price

Tariff Cost (1) Cashback (2)
Typical big six standard cost 1,095/yr -
British Gas 12mth fix (MoneySup) 805/yr 30
Cheapest variable 799/yr None
Cheapest open market year(ish) fix 831/yr 15/fuel
Cheapest two-winter fix (ends Nov 2017) 944/yr 15/fuel
(1) For dual fuel paying by direct debit. (2) Via Cheap Energy Club.

There is another cheap 12mth collective fix available, from E.on via iChoosr. On typical use it's an average 1/yr cheaper than BG, but you don't get the 30 cashback. You can't get it via Cheap Energy Club.
2. Electricity only? You can save too. While the BG deal's dual fuel, direct debit only, there are still HUGE savings available if you're on elec-only. Someone on a standard tariff paying 1,000/yr would pay about 750 with the cheapest. So do an electricity-only comparison. Also the iChoosr collective switch does allow electricity-only switches.
3. Prepay customers (key or card meter) can compare too. Someone with typical use on a standard prepay tariff pays 1,170/yr - the same on the cheapest deal is 1,050/yr. So do a prepay comparison and also check if you can move to a cheaper billed meter for free. Full help in Cheap Prepaid Energy.
4. New. UNLIMITED USE energy tariff. Green Star unlimited* is a 12mth dual fuel tariff where your cost is fixed regardless of use - while not that cheap, it's great for those, including many elderly people, who want peace of mind that they can turn the heat on constantly and not worry. To see how it stacks up, read my Green Star unlimited energy - any good? analysis.
5. Ensure your bills stay permanently low. I've mentioned our Cheap Energy Club above, but wanted to explain a bit more. To use it (not NI sadly), fill in your details based on where you live and usage. If you don't know that, don't let it stop you - it can estimate and that's better than inaction. Then it...

- Does a full market comparison to find YOUR cheapest.
- Gives 30 dual fuel cashback (15 elec-only). Any time we can switch you (suppliers pay switching sites 60-ish, we split it), this is sent roughly 60-90 days later.
- Monitors that it stays cheap. You set a trigger, eg, 150/yr, then we alert you if you can save this by switching again. Perfect for those on short-lived fixes.
6. Confused or worried about switching? A few points to make it easy. Our Cheap Gas & Electricity guide explains in detail, in brief...

- You WON'T lose supply during a switch or if a supplier goes bust.
- It's the same gas, the same electricity, the same safety.
- The only thing that changes is customer service and price.
- New firm tells old one, you just need to give a final meter read.
- A fix means the rate is fixed - payments still depend on your use.
- If in credit, it should pay you back. If not, see Get Credit Back.
- If in debt, you can switch, unless it's huge (eg, 500+ on prepay).
- Some firms do a credit check, including BG. To find out what this means and a full list of who does what, see energy credit check help.
- You can't be charged exit fees to switch in the last 49 days of a fix.
7. Customer service varies HUGELY - 80% great vs 65% poor. It's not just price that varies. In our most recent poll (May) over 9,400 voted and some firms, incl Ovo and Good Energy, got 80%+ of customers saying they were great. Co-op, Scottish Power, Npower & Extra were over 50% poor.

Vote with your feet. A mix of price and service is key, we show both in our top picks comparison. BG is mid-table: 41% great, 23% poor.
8. Is it worth switching now? The last year's seen a hidden price war - while standard tariffs haven't moved, the cheapest deals keep getting cheaper. And some think that'll keep happening (see energy price predictions news). Yet switch now and you save immediately. Even if prices do drop in future, the savings from doing it at the start of the high-use period should outweigh it.

As for whether to fix and lock in a price, the benefit is if things change (and the market has switched direction rapidly before) you've certainty your rate won't go up. And if worse comes to worst you can always leave and pay the exit fees - usually trivial compared to savings.
9. On a fix? Beware energy bills saying you can save - Ofgem tells suppliers to give you the WRONG answer. The regulator Ofgem says comparisons must be based on "personal projections", which averages your cost over the next year. Fine normally, but baloney for fixes. Take this example:

- Your current fix costs 800/yr and ends in four months.
- After it ends you'll pay 1,200/yr, as you'll move to a standard tariff.
- The personal projection averages your cost as 1,066 over the year.
- If the market's cheapest deal is 900/yr you'll be told to switch.

While correct if looking over a year, it's a bad move - switch now & you'll pay MORE for four months, so you should wait. Energy bills and most comparison sites work this way as Ofgem wants them to.

We think Ofgem is wrong, so our Cheap Energy Club lets those on fixes see savings against your current deal, and what it'll be after.
10. Struggling to pay? Get extra help this winter. Too many people need to choose between heating and eating. Yet there is help...

a) Winter fuel payments. If you were born on or before 5 Jan 1953, you're eligible for the up-to-300 winter fuel payment. Those on benefits often get it automatically, others need claim it. See Am I due Winter Fuel Payments?

b) Cold weather payments. Anyone on certain benefits, eg, jobseeker's allowance/pension credit, gets 25 for every 7 days it's sub-zero. It's paid automatically from 1 Nov this year. Cold Weather Payments

c) Really struggling to pay? You may be eligible for special tariffs/help. Try the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699 and see Housing & Energy Grants.

PS, for some light relief, you may enjoy the FT weekend magazine piece where I couldn't help but shout Go and do a bloody gas & electricity comparison at the great, and wry, Lucy Kellaway as she interviewed me.

Spread the (MoneySaving) love.

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

New. Shift debt to 22mths 0% NO FEE - longest ever

Save 100s or 1,000s on existing debt costs as a price-war sees FOUR new top balance transfer cards launch

If you've got existing credit or store card debts, sit up and take note. The key weapon is a balance transfer - where you get a new card that repays debts on old card(s) for you, so you owe it instead. This week we've seen FOUR new cards hit the best buy tables - better still, two are record-breaking deals without the usual one-off fee for shifting debts...

  • New. 22mths 0% NO FEE balance transfer. On Fri, the new AA card* launched, letting accepted new cardholders shift debt to it for 22mths 0% no fee. In response on Mon, Tesco* upped its deal from 19 to 21mths at 0%. Clear the debt within that time and these are totally no-cost. If you need longer, play safe and accept there'll be a fee - just go for the lowest-fee card within the time you are sure you can clear it.

    Don't just apply in hope, that hits your credit file. First, find odds of getting most top cards via our Eligibility Calc.

How do they compare? The top new cardholder 0% balance transfers
Card 0% length (REP APR AFTER 0%) ONE-OFF FEE
New. The AA* - Longest no-fee 0% 22mths 0% (19.9%) NONE
New. Tesco* - Next longest no-fee 0% 21mths 0% (20.6%) NONE
Post Office* - Long low-fee 0% Up to 26mths 0% (1) (18.9%) 0.4%
Lloyds Bank* - Long low-fee option Up to 32mths 0% (1) (18.9%) 1.39%
New. Virgin Money - Joint longest 0% 37mths 0% (18.9%) 2.59% but get 6 bottles of wine (2)
New. Halifax* - Joint longest 0% Up to 37mths 0% (1) (18.9%) 2.65% but 35 cashback (3)
1) 'Up to' 0%, some may get a shorter 0%. 2) For 1,000+ transfers. 3) For 1,500+ transfers. Full info/options: Top Balance Transfers (APR Examples).

  • How much can you save? With 3,000 owed on a typical 18.9% APR card, repay 137/mth and you'd still have about 600 to pay after 22mths. If you'd shifted to the AA, as there's no interest, you'd have cleared the card.

  • The Balance Transfer Golden Rules. It's not just about picking the right card, it's about using it the right way...

    a) Never miss the min monthly repayment or you can 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 rep APR.
    c) Don't spend/withdraw cash on these. It usually isn't at the cheap rate & cash withdrawals hit your credit file.
    d) Unsure what to pick? Use our Which Card Is Cheapest? tool. Full help & tips in Best Balance Transfers.

Gap 40% off voucher/code. Best we've seen for a year. In-store & online off most full-price items, excl sale. Gap

Take the kids on a term-time holiday WITHOUT being fined? One man recently fought the fine in court and won, so can you do the same? Read our School holiday fine rights briefing.

Urgent: 8 champagne trick (min 6 bottles). A way anyone can get Antoine De Clevecy bubbly for 10.50, or less if you're new to Sainsbury's. See our Deals Hunters' 8 champagne blog.

TODAY: M&S 20% off online flash discount. Off huge range, eg, women's, beauty, men's, kids' & home. Ends Thu. M&S discount

Free 30ish carbon monoxide alarm via Corgi. Protect yourself from the silent killer. See free CO alarm.


- Plusnet line & b'band 111 for a YEAR. Ends: Tue 24 Nov

- Totally free personalised card. 2,500 cards available

- Two pairs of specs 19 code. Ends: Wed 11 Nov

- 425 spring bulbs 10 all-in (norm 50). Ends: Friday

- Kickers 15% off. Ends: Sunday


- A year's 2for1 cinema for 2ish incl Spectre

- Double your Tesco points for Christmas

- Comping: How to win big

- New free TravelMoneyMax app

- Free 150 bank bribe

New. 111 for a YEAR's line & broadband - equiv 9.25/mth

Save 200/yr+ compared to typical costs with a cashback deal from top service provider Plusnet (part of BT)

After the recent TalkTalk debacle many want to jump ship (see can I leave TalkTalk?). Yet even if you're with BT, Sky, Virgin & others, with typical costs of 300+/yr, huge savings are possible via short-lived promos. Here's the latest...

  • Cheap broadbandPlusnet line & b'band 111 for a YEAR. MSE Blagged. It's a one-year contract with BT-owned Plusnet* for line rent and unlimited download, up-to-17Mb speed broadband. It's a strong performer in our customer service poll - 68% rate it 'great', only 9% 'poor'. The deal's available to 90% of the UK (based on postcode, you're told when applying), but you can't get it if you're already a Plusnet customer (or left in the last month). Here's how it works...

    1. Sign up. Go via this Plusnet link* from today (Wed) until Tue 24 Nov.
    2. Choose to pay line rent upfront if you can afford to. It's cheapest if you pay 185.88 for the year's line rent upfront - if not it's 16.99 monthly. You choose which option during the application.
    3. Broadband's included free during the year's contract.
    Whether you pay line rent upfront or monthly, the b'band is included. If you stay after the contract ends it's 9.99-17.49/mth depending where you live.
    4. You're sent a cheque for 75 cashback within 60 days of activation. This is the blagged bit. Ensure you use the link above and if you've ad or cookie-blocking software, turn it off or it mightn't track - see cookie blockers.
    5. Factoring in cashback, it's 110.88 for a year. That is the 185.88 line rent upfront minus 75. If you pay the line rent monthly it's 203.88 over the year, 128.88 after cashback (10.74/mth equiv).

    - What about calls? None included - calls to UK phones are mostly just cheaper than BT (see Plusnet costs).
    - No line/switching from cable (or in a few cases, Sky cust)? Installation's 49.99. You'll know before committing.
    - Need a router? There's an optional 'free' one available, though it charges 6.99 package & posting.

  • Cheapest super-fast fibre broadband deals. If you want something with more speed, the current leader is Virgin's fibre b'band & line rent 224 for 12mths. For our full best-buys see Cheap Broadband.

Totally FREE personalised greetings/Xmas card (norm 4-5). MSE Blagged. 2,500 available. Free card

First time buyer? New Help to Buy ISA info. It's a no-brainer for anyone who's eligible saving for a first property. For each 200 you put in, the Govt adds 50 (up to a max 3,000 bonus). It launches 1 Dec and we've just had new official info. Updated: Help to Buy ISAs guide.

La Redoute 25 off 50 or 50 off 100 code. It's added a 25 off option to the 50 one we told you last week. It's even valid on sale items - eg, 80 women's Levi's jeans 31, 70 men's shoes 27. La Redoute codes

Starts THU. Eurostar 64 rtn. Rare discount (rtns norm 72-309) for Paris, Lille, Brussels for 23 Nov-11 Feb (excl Xmas & NY). Eurostar

CODES & VCHS - eg, Banana Rep 40%, Brantano 40%, Boden 25%. This week, a Banana Republic 40% off in-store vch and blagged codes for Brantano 40% off + free del (incl school shoes & sale) or Kickers 15% off. There's also a Boden 25% off code (ends Thu), an F&F 10 off 50 code and a Debenhams 10% off code. ALL Codes & Vchs

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Two pairs of specs 19 code. MSE Blagged. Use 36 off code on 2for1 offer. Full details in Glasses Direct deals.

50% off beauty sets at Tesco. Eg, Disney's Frozen bath tints 1.50, Impulse tin 2.50, Nivea for Men 4.50. Tesco

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"Great newsletter last week @MartinSLewis. Already reduced mortgage repayments by over 10% per month, and just off to see Spectre on 2for1 tix."

Ends FRI: 425 spring bulbs 10 all-in (norm 50). MSE Blagged. 5 types incl hyacinth. Plant now for spring.

Ends Sat. Free 7 Amazon (& 20 other Amazin' tricks)

A not-too-taxing range of tricks & tips to slash costs at Amazon incl Prime refunds, free delivery & find lost music

Amazon's a beast in many ways. Oft criticised for how much UK tax it pays (or, rather, doesn't), it's still hugely dominant online. If you use it, we say cut costs too, with 21 Amazon Tricks. Here are a few to whet the appetite.

  1. AmazonEnds Sat. Amazon 'free' 7 for some. Quickly check if you've a free Amazon 7.

  2. 'I got 79 Amazon Prime subscription back.' Amazon tries to entice people via a month's free trial into its 79/year Prime service (gives 1-day delivery plus TV & film streaming). Many forget to cancel and some don't even remember signing up. Our Amazon Prime Refund guide helps, as Samantha's tweet said: "@MartinSLewis didn't even know I had Prime, cancelled it now & got 79 refunded - thanks."

  3. Free 'Amazon delivery trick' tool. You used to get free delivery if you spent 10. Now it's a minimum of 20, but a handy new tool provides a way around this - without paying for Prime. Free Amazon Delivery Tool

  4. 'I got 7,654 free music downloads.' Reclaim 16 years of lost music. If you bought CDs or vinyl from Amazon since 1999, you can get them as free downloads - see Amazon Music Reclaim. Can anyone beat Luke, who read about it and found 7,654 songs? Be prepared to discover you really did buy Aqua's Barbie Girl.

  5. Uncover 75%+ off secret bargains. Our Amazon Hidden Discount Finder uses web wizardry to manipulate its links to build bespoke pages, eg, beauty 70%+ off*, shoes 80%+ off*, watches 50%+ off* & TVs 25%+ off*.

PS. Also worth seeing Martin's blog on the hidden reason Amazon is paying Clarkson & co so much for Top Gear.

'Free' 8ish Clinique make-up in 2 mag. Choose from lipstick, mascara or moisturiser. Mag freebies

M&S loans 3.5% rep APR and get 40 gift card. M&S Bank* (eligibility calc) loans are in the best buys for 5k to 7.5k (4.5% rep APR, cheapest is 4.3%) and 7.5k to 15k (3.5% rep APR, cheapest is 3.4%). Currently it'll also give a 40 M&S gift card if you get a loan. Factor this in & it can just make it cheapest. Never borrow just for the card, only do it if it's needed, planned and affordable. Far better, read the full Cheap Loans guide for help & more options.

Overpaying on your mortgage? 1.15% 2-year fix. Full info & help to slash costs in our 14 remortgaging tips.

A few MSE personals... For the sake of transparency, last week Martin & some of the team's payout from the MSE sale final earnout was announced. On the back of this, Martin's donating 1m to Citizens Advice, 500k to fund financial triage at Trussell Trust food banks & 500k to PFEG to fund financial education. Updates in his What happened to my 10m to charity? blog.


Was cancelling your pay TV, broadband or phone a nightmare? The regulator Ofcom wants to hear if you recently cancelled a service - or tried. It knows it's not always easy and wants to change that. Take its online survey to tell it what happened and discuss it in the MSE Forum.


How smart's your smart meter? Have you had one installed? Was it voluntary? Have you found it to be a smart addition or clutter? We'd love to have your feedback. Share yours/read others': How smart is your smart meter? Past topics: View all


How many passwords do you have & are they the same? We want to find out how many password-controlled accounts you have - from banks to social media, streaming services and more. How often do you use the same one?

Which of these is closest to your situation?

Last week 26,199 voted on whether we should ditch 1p & 2p coins. It seems among grown-ups the older you are the more likely you are to be attached to the copper-plated coins. Some 63% of over-65s want to keep them, while just 40% of 25 to 34-year-olds feel the same. See the full results.


- Top story: Insurance premiums soar for millions: cut costs now

- Households to get second 12 electricity rebate

- LoveFilm users report price hikes of up to 500%

- British Gas leak exposes customer data: change your password now

- M&S suspends website after customer details exposed


Is it OK to let my rich friends pay for me? I've got friends who come from wealthy families. They often want to go to expensive bars and restaurants, but I'm not well off so can't afford it. They always offer to pay for me - is it OK to let them? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Is it OK to let rich friends pay for me? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Saving on my weekly shop
- Old-style board thread of the week: What can I make with this motley collection?
- Game of the week: Alpha Attack
- Discussion of the week: The ultimate MoneySaving list


- What happened to the 10m (now 20m) I promised to donate to charity?


- 8 champagne trick


Thu 5 Nov - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am. Watch previous
Fri 6 Nov - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am. Watch previous


Fri 6 Nov - BBC Radio Manchester, 4.50pm


Q: My fixed rate mortgage deal is due to expire in early February, and I see rates are really low so I'd rather not wait till then to remortgage just in case they rise in the meantime. Can I do it now? Sam, by email.

MSE Guys A: You should be able to take advantage of today's rates as long as you do it right. Be careful not to actually complete the switch before your term is up as most lenders charge hefty early repayment charges, possibly 1,000s.

The good news, though, is most lenders let you lock in a rate three months ahead. That means you can apply now, and at the point you're accepted (assuming you are), you've three months to complete. A few allow six months, though three is far more common.

There is a risk rates could drop further so you won't necessarily save money doing this, but it allows you to act now. For more, see our Remortgage printed PDF guide packed full of info incl how to apply, fixes vs trackers, how to boost your acceptance chances and much more.

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 thread from the forum: "We found love in a hopeless place". Where did you meet your partner? Did you swipe right for them? Or meet in a bar or at work? Read as our forumites discuss how they met their partners, including one heart-warming story of how two lovebirds met on the MSE Forum, then got married (it's more common than you think).

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

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