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05th Apr 2017
Warning! This info may be out of date. Read this week's email

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05 April 2017
Lifetime ISAs launch on Thu - get up to £32,000 free
Cheapest-EVER loans at 2.8%
Overpaying £1,000s in council tax? Check NOW
Got the holi-wobbles? Avoid them with top euro, dollar etc rates
McDonald's hack: Big Mac & fries £2
New. Income Tax Calc 2017/18
FREE 100GB online storage
Shift debt to 28mths 0% NO FEE
Bank with Barclays? Easy free £55
'Free' £6 Amazon trick
Last chance for over-64s to boost state pension
La Redoute 40% off EVERYTHING
100+ tips for cheap Easter family fun
FREE Grand Designs London tix
Contactless card security flaw victory
'Great 0% Ads Scam' to be probed

New. Martin's 6 Lifetime ISA must-knows

LISAs launch this Thu - get up to £32,000 free

MartinThe launch tomorrow of the new LISA (Lifetime ISA) looks like it's going to be a damp squib, with only a few providers offering them. Yet don't ignore it. After all, £1,000 of annual free cash is nowt to be sneezed at - and for first-time buyers, delay could cost.

The LISA is a tax-free wrapper that lets you put up to £4,000 in it every year as cash savings paying interest, or stocks & shares giving investment growth (or loss). For detailed info jump straight to my new full Top Lifetime ISAs guide, but for speed here are the 6 must-knows...

1. You have to be at least 18 but under 40 to open one.

Anyone aged 18 to 39 can open a LISA. So those pushing 40 need to be speedy, eg, if you turn 40 on Friday, open it Thursday. If you're too old to open one, Help to Buy ISAs - while you can put less in - also have a 25% bonus and don't have an upper age limit. And check out our normal Top Savings & Cash ISAs guides.

For (grand)parents wanting to help their (grand)kids buy a home, giving them cash to put in a LISA is a great way to do it.

ISA2. You get a 25% bonus on everything you put in.

For every pound you contribute, the state adds 25% each year, until you're 50. So if you save the maximum £4,000 a year, you get £1,000 added. Someone starting at 18 maxing it annually could get £32,000 added (if the system doesn't change).

3. It's a NO-BRAINER for almost every 1st-time buyer.

Once you've held a LISA for 12 months, the money and bonus can be used by first-time buyers towards the home and mortgage deposits for any residential property costing up to £450,000. See full What counts as a first-time buyer info.

Two first-timers buying together can get a LISA each, effectively doubling the bonus. A first-timer buying with a non-first-timer can still get one and the bonus.

4. It can be used for later life saving too - but be careful.

You also get the bonus if LISA money is taken out once you're 60+. You can even use a LISA first to buy a home, then keep it open and pay in to it for retirement.

Yet unless you're self-employed and a basic-rate taxpayer, saving in a pension rather than a LISA's likely to be more lucrative. See my full LISA v pension explanation.

5. After the 1st year, other withdrawals have a penalty.

You can withdraw money from a LISA whenever you want, penalty-free, until 5 April 2018 (though you'll need to close it). After, unless it's for a qualifying first-time property, you've hit 60 (or have a terminal illness/die) there's a 25% penalty taken off withdrawals.

The net effect of a 25% bonus, then 25% penalty, is you lose roughly £6 per £100 you put in (do it on a calculator if you don't believe me). So only put money in you're sure will be used for one of the two intended purposes.

6. Wannabe 1st-time buyer? Even if you've no savings, open a LISA with the minimum ASAP to start the clock.

You must have a LISA open for a year to be able to get the first-time-buyer bonus and use it for a property. So even if you open one this week, you'll be waiting until April 2018 before you can buy and get the bonus.

So why not open a LISA now with the bare minimum (can be £1) just to get the clock ticking, in case you want to add to it later.

Those with a Help to Buy ISA should definitely do this (you can have both; you just can't get the bonus on both). If you find you won't use your Help to Buy ISA this year, you can transfer it into a LISA with no issue before 5 April 2018. For more, see my Help to Buy ISA v Lifetime ISA video.

The Best-Buy Lifetime ISAs

I'm writing this on Tuesday evening, and so far only four providers, all stocks & shares firms, say they'll offer LISAs on Thursday. Not too helpful, as most first-time buyers want to save in cash as they're only putting money away for a short time - though Skipton Building Society has said it'll launch a cash LISA in June.

In case someone surprises us on Thursday, rather than looking for best buys here, instead click our LISA best-buys page which has up-to-the-minute info on shares & cash LISAs.

If, as is likely, no cash LISAs are available and you need to get the clock ticking immediately, open a stocks & shares LISA now, with the minimum, and transfer it to a cash LISA when one launches. For full information, help & FAQs, see Top LISAs.

PS: Of course tonight sees the end of the cash ISA year too, and tomorrow a brand new £20,000 cash ISA allowance. You can have a cash ISA with a LISA (but the total limit is still £20,000). Full help in Top Cash ISAs.

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Cheapest-EVER loans at 2.8% - but are rates set to rocket?

Rates at record lows again but regulators are worried, so don't dawdle if you need to borrow

Loans are getting cheaper, but the Bank of England has again voiced concern at too much borrowing. Last time it said this, there was talk it may force loan (not credit card) rates up. No one knows if it plans to intervene, but if you need to borrow, it's safer to go sooner. Of course, we too always say overborrowing is bad, so low rates are NOT an excuse to overspend - only do it if planned, budgeted for and affordable.

  • Cheap loanLowest rates from £1,000-£15,000. As you're credit-checked, applying adds a mark on your credit file, so use our free Loans Eligibility Calc which shows your chances of getting top loans without hitting your credit score. All below are for 1-5yrs, unless stated.

    - New. £7.5k-£15k: TSB* & Sainsbury's* (1-3 yrs, needs Nectar card) 2.8% rep APR.
    - £5k-£7,499: M&S Bank* is 3.6% rep APR (1-7yrs), Ikano* 3.7% rep APR.
    - £3k-£4,999: Zopa* is 5%-6.9% rep APR, Ikano* 5.2% rep APR.
    - £2k-£2,999: Zopa* is 6.9%-7.9% rep APR, Ikano* 7.9% rep APR (credit card loans are often cheaper).
    - £1k-£1,999: Zopa* is 9.9% rep APR (2-5 yrs), Hitachi* 12.7% rep APR (credit card loans are often cheaper).
    - Nationwide customer? It may better the above rates (except Zopa's) by 0.5% points if you've already got, or get accepted for, any of its current accounts. See Nationwide trick.

  • Be warned - all personal loan rates are 'representative APR'. So sadly, ONLY 51% of those accepted need to be given the advertised rate - the rest can be charged more. Anecdotally, the higher your eligibility chance, the more likely you are to get the advertised rate, though that's not foolproof.

  • Get a free credit report and score. Managing your credit when borrowing is crucial, so our Credit Club gives you a totally free Credit Report plus free Credit Score, Affordability Score, unique Hit Rate and more.

  • The Loan Golden Rules.
    a) Never borrow unless needed, minimise the amount, and repay as quickly as possible.
    b) Pay on time (preferably by direct debit) or you may get a charge & credit black-mark.
    c) If applying to pay off credit cards, a balance transfer may be cheaper.
    d) Full info & options in Cheap Personal Loans (APR Examples).


McDonald's hack - spend 70p, get as many £2 Big Mac & fries (norm £4) as you can stomach. Though please be eat-aware. McDonald's hack

New. Income Tax Calc 2017/18 - find your NEW take-home pay. The new tax year starts tomorrow, so we've updated our Income Tax Calc. Also, if you've been sent your tax code, it's your responsibility to check it - see our Tax Code Calc.

FREE 100GB online storage for photos, videos, docs etc. See our updated Free Online Storage guide.

Shift existing debt to 28mths 0% NO FEE. Accepted new cardholders can transfer credit/store card debt to Sainsbury's Bank's (eligibility calc / apply*) longest-ever no-fee 0% balance transfer credit card, for a fixed 28mths (actually, you pay a 1.5% fee but it's refunded in 60 days). Need longer? MBNA (pre-approval calc / apply*) is up to 43mths 0% for a 2.99% fee. Always pay at least the monthly min and clear before the 0% ends or they're 18.9% rep APR and 20.9% rep APR. Full info: Top Balance Transfers (APR Examples).

Bank with Barclays? Easy free £55. It's better to switch, but if sticking, get £55 free (norm £48).

'Free' £6 Amazon trick. Not for everyone. Check if you can get it



- Thorntons 2 personalised Easter eggs £5 del Ends 6pm Thu


- New £1 coin - a warning for EVERYONE with a coin jar

- What Article 50 means for your money

- Ikea shopper? Get fed 'for free'


5% council tax hikes - check if you're overpaying £1,000s

Are you entitled to a council tax discount - or have you been in the wrong band for years?

On Saturday, most local authorities in England & Wales increased their council tax rates, typically by around 4% but some as high as 5%. In Scotland it averages 3%. There's little you can do about that, though you may have been overpaying for years...

  • Do you live alone, with a student, or with someone with a severe mental impairment, eg, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's? The single person's discount is 25% off your bill. Yet this also applies if you live with someone who is 'disregarded' for council tax, such as students (all-student households pay nothing).

    Many with a severe mental impairment such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's are disregarded too, so check if you're missing out, as Paul did: "Thanks - with your guide, just helped my parents claim back £2,400 council tax as dad has Parkinson's." Full help incl backdated claiming in Council Tax Reductions.

  • Council taxAre you one of 400,000 in Eng & Scot in the wrong band? Swathes of households are overpaying and possibly have been since 1993. This is due to the stop-gap assessment of properties done by officials driving down streets with clipboards. So use our Council Tax Check & Challenge System to see if you're due a refund - and reduced bills. Garry did: "We paid band G for 17yrs - followed your guide and got moved to F, and a £3,969 refund." Here are the basics...

    - Step 1. The Neighbours Check. Simply compare your band online with nearby identical or similar homes. For how, see the Neighbours Check.
    - Step 2. The Valuation Check. Here you need to calculate what your home was worth back in 1991, we've built a Valuation Calc to help.
    - Step 3. If BOTH checks show your band is too high, challenge it. You can't ask for your band to be lowered, just reviewed. So only do it if both checks indicate yours is too high. If not, you could find your band increased or worse, your neighbours' bands are too. See how to challenge your council tax band.
    - Step 4. Told you can't challenge? Your Local Listings Office has a legal duty to ensure all properties' bands are correct. So if pushed, it must investigate - our guide explains how to force it to.


Last chance. Over-64s - you've till 11.59pm tonight (Wed) to boost your state pension. It's worth £1,000s for some, it's useless for others. Read Martin's 3-min state pension top-up briefing.

La Redoute code for 40% off EVERYTHING, incl Converse, Levi's, Nike. Limited stock. La Redoute

100+ free or cheap things to do with the kids this Easter. 4,500 offers for kids for £1, free museums, 2for1 theme parks and loads more cracking Easter treats.

15,000 FREE Grand Designs Live London tickets. Sat 29 Apr to Sun 7 May, norm £14+ each. Grand Designs


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Got the holi-wobbles? Avoid them with top euro, dollar etc rates

Just 2 mins now lets you relax when you're abroad, knowing you're getting the max bucks (or euros) for your bang

Article 50's happened, and we're being bombarded with questions on whether to get euros, dollars etc now for summer. The pound's weakness is causing the holi-wobbles (holiday collywobbles). In Martin's quick 5,745-people Twitter poll, 12% of those who intended to go abroad have given those plans up, and a further 35% say they'll go, but be more careful with their spending. As Ally tweeted: "I'm not long back from Australia - things were about 1/3 dearer than a couple of years ago. Painful."

We can't change the underlying rates, but can show you how to not spend a penny more than needed on your currency...

  • Travel Take 2mins to get near-perfect rates worldwide, every time. The easy option is to get and spend on a specialist overseas credit card that you pay off IN FULL every month (so there's no interest). This gives you the same near-perfect exchange rates the bank gets in almost every country, time and time again, as unlike most debit & credit cards which add a 3% 'non-sterling exchange fee', these don't charge it.

    - Best way to get one:
    Use our Overseas Cards Eligibility Calculator, which shows which of most top cards you've the best chance of being accepted for. Amanda emailed: "I got Halifax Clarity and got good exchange rates and zero charges. Fabulous for holidays, thank you."

    - Top picks:
    If you've a decent chance of all of them, Mastercards tend to give better rates than Visas. The top two of those are Halifax Clarity*, which has long-term good feedback and low ATM withdrawal rates, and newer player Creation Everyday, a smidgeon cheaper. With both, you pay a little interest on cash withdrawals (not spending) even if repaying in full, yet even then they beat most bureaux. Fail to fully repay and they're 18.9% rep APR & 12.9% rep APRs. Full help and best buys in Travel Credit Cards (APR Examples).

  • Can't get/don't want a credit card? Top prepaid cards. Unlike credit cards where you get the rate on the day you spend, you pre-load these with cash and get the rate on that day. Our top picks are Revolut and WeSwap, which give top rates and low or no overseas ATM fees. Full analysis & more options: Prepaid Travel Cards.

  • Need cash? Compare rates from 30+ bureaux. Our TravelMoneyMax comparison site (& our iPhone or Android apps) compare bureaux to find the cheapest. NEVER buy cash at the airport as rates are always hideous.

PS: For more help, see Martin's 'Should I buy euros now?' video - it was filmed before Article 50, but the principles still apply.


Victory 1: Contactless card security flaw to be tackled. Shockingly, contactless cards are vulnerable AFTER cancellation, but following our 6mth campaign the regulator has promised action. See Contactless flaw investigated.

Victory 2: The 'Great 0% Ads Scam' to be probed by regulator. When is 43mths 0% not 43mths 0%? When it's a hidden 'up to' deal. The regulator has agreed to act on our investigation and consider tightening up 0% ad rules.

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"Followed your remortgage guide - got myself out of a high-rate interest-only mortgage. Will pay it off 10 years early and save a whopping £55,000, thank you."

Two Thorntons personalised Easter eggs £5 all-in code (norm £12). MSE Blagged. Ends 6pm Thu. Our code gets you free delivery. Thorntons



One Pound Meals cookbook. Chef Miguel Barclay, who uses Instagram to showcase recipes, has offered us 50 free signed copies of his One Pound Meals book (RRP £15) for MoneySavers. Want one?


When did you last use your bank branch? Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland are to shrink hundreds of their branches into 'micro branches'. So when did you last use a branch of your main bank?

Click here to tell us how recently you used a bank branch

Do you think Brexit will be good for your finances? It depends how you voted... In last week's poll we asked if you felt you'd be better off in two years. Leave voters were most optimistic, with 42% thinking they'd be better off, while just 7% of Remain voters agreed. See our full Brexit poll results.



- Top story: Tesco Bank reopens applications for current account offering 3% interest until 2019. Full analysis next week.

- Energy customers will be protected from 'catch-up' bills, under Ofgem proposals

- Three customers face 2.6% mid-contract price rise from May - your rights

- New car buyers gear up for road tax changes - what it means for you

- Travel insurer Holidaysafe to 'improve' policy wording after elderly couple's £3,000 cruise claim is rejected

- NatWest cuts cashback on Reward account and introduces hefty minimum pay-in



Should my girlfriend contribute to flat expenses? My girlfriend doesn't officially live with me, but she's here most of the time. She lives with her dad rent-free, and she also owns a two-bed flat which she lets out. Should she contribute to monthly expenses? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should my girlfriend contribute to flat expenses? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Ideas for a second income
- Competitions thread of the week: Win a family ticket to see Jurassic Kingdom
- Old-style board thread of the week: 100 interesting ways to use potatoes
- Discussion of the week: Break away in Europe


- McDonald's food hack - Spend 70p, get a Big Mac & fries for £2 again and again


- Grab free Amazon vouchers for just a spot of window shopping

- Vet care fur free: Vaccinations, microchipping and more if on low income



Thu 6 Apr - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am. View previous
Fri 7 Apr - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am. View previous


Wed 5 Apr - Share Radio, 12.20pm
Wed 5 Apr - BBC Radio Cumbria, 'Money Talks', from 6pm
Thu 6 Apr - BBC Radio Tees, 10.35am
Fri 7 Apr
- BBC South West stations, breakfast
Tue 11 Apr - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, 2.20pm



Q: I've seen an offer for up-to-52Mb speed fibre broadband, but will I actually get that? Gary, via email.

Nick DurrantMSE Nick's A: Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing for sure. Shockingly, only a paltry 10% of customers need to get the advertised speed, though we've heard mutterings the Advertising Standards Authority is considering changing this.

However, most providers give a more tailored estimate before you sign up (if you get "significantly below" this after, you should be able to leave penalty-free). You can also get a good indication of what you'll get by spying on your neighbours' broadband speed.

Then check our Cheap Broadband guide to make sure the offer you've seen is a top deal.

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


Internet dating - ever been caught out by 'old' photos or dodgy profiles?

That's it for this week but before we go, the reliability of online dating profiles is a hot topic now in our forum. Did your Prince Charming look like a frog in real life? Or were they not the rocket scientist they claimed to be? Often this can be harmless, but there is a serious side too. So join the internet dating profile reliability forum discussion to have your say & tell any tale you have.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team

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