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WEEKLY EMAIL

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07th Sep 2016
Warning! This info may be out of date. Read this week's email

Quick message from Martin - Get this emailed

"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."

07 September 2016
         
THE TOP TIPS IN THIS EMAIL
Martin's Briefing: The 'Are You Wasting Money?' quiz - and how to fix it
New. FREE 200 for switching bank
Are you in wrong council tax band?
7 ways to spot and stop scams
Odeon 45% off cinema tickets code
Gift card trick, eg, 20 J Lewis for 10
Last Chance. Spread the word: register for super-cheap MSE Big Energy Switch
425 spring bulbs 10 all-in
What the Government expects you to give uni kids
FREE visits to hidden property gems
25 beauty box (100ish of goodies)
25 off 50 Airbnb spend
40+ birthday treats incl 'free' prosecco
Amazon Dash - is it worth it?
20 for 100-page A4-ish photo book

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

The 'Are You Wasting Money?' Quiz

10 questions to see if you're wasting cash, and of course how to fix it


MSE QuizThe holidays are over, September's here, it's back to reality (if you ever left it), so I wanted to go back to basics. A check-up if you like, to see if you could save yourself 1,000s. So no apology to MoneySaving aficionados - hopefully you'll pass with flying colours - as it's always worth a check, especially if you're one of those who reads this email, yet doesn't always act...

Q1. Are there more or the same number of bedrooms in your home as people?

If yes - it's likely you could save by switching to a free water meter (not for Scotland or NI), so use this water switching calculator at speed to see if you could save. The benefit can be much bigger than you'd think, as Steve emailed: "Since I've been reading MSE, we've had a water meter installed. Instead of 58/mth we now pay 22/mth." That's a saving of over 400/year.

Why the bedrooms vs people question? Water bills are based on your home's 'rateable value', which is roughly akin to how much it's worth; and bedrooms are a good indicator of that. Whereas water meters measure usage, which correlates roughly with the number of people. So if you've a big house with few people, meters usually win.

For more help including what to do if you're refused a meter, how to get water-saving freebies, and all rights, see our water-saving guide.

Q2. Have you switched energy tariff in the last year?

If not, you're almost certainly paying MASSIVELY over the odds, as it's likely you're on your provider's standard tariff (even if you were on a cheap deal, once it ends you're moved to this). And for someone on typical bills that's likely to be 300/yr over the odds.

Normally we'd tell you to compare and switch, but the MSE Big Switch Event starts next week and it's very likely to undercut the market's cheapest. The rules say you must pre-register, so the most important thing to do is check you're registered for MSE Big Switch 5 before Monday.

PS: Even some of those who have switched in the last year may well be able to save a decent chunk.

Q3. Do you pay over 50/yr credit card interest?

If so, STOP - you need to cut the rate. You may be wondering "why 50/yr?" Well, normally I focus on perfect solutions; today I'm focusing on easy. If you're only occasionally charged interest, you may decide it isn't too bad, but anything over 50 really is a clarion call for action.

The solution is usually to stop borrowing and shift debt to a 0% balance transfer card. These pay off credit and store cards for you, so you owe them instead, but with no interest. Always use our free Balance Transfer Eligibility Calc, which tells you which deals you're most likely to get.

The longest 0% deals available now include MBNA (eligibility calc / apply*), which is 'up to' 41mths for a one-off fee of 3.49% of the amount you transfer, and Virgin (eligibility calc / apply*), which is the same length, but has a higher 4% (min 3) fee. But unlike MBNA it isn't 'up to', so if you're accepted you'll definitely get the 41mths.

If you can repay quicker, Barclaycard (eligibility calc / apply*) is 'up to' 32mths 0%, with just a 0.68% fee and a possible 20 cashback. Or if you can repay even quicker, Halifax (eligibility calc / apply*) is 'up to' 25mths 0% with NO FEE. Tesco (eligibility calc / apply*) has no fee, and while it's a shorter 24mths 0%, it isn't 'up to', so if accepted you'll get 24mths.

Yet it's not just getting the right card, it's how you use it. Here are my golden rules:

a) Repay at least the set monthly min, or you can lose special rates.
b) Always clear the card/shift again before the 0% ends, or rates jump to the rep APRs - 20.9% (MBNA & Virgin), 18.9% (Barclaycard & Halifax), and 20.6% (Tesco).
c) Don't spend/withdraw cash on them - it's rarely at the cheap rate.
d) You usually must do the balance transfer within 60/90 days to get 0%.

Far more help in Best Balance Transfers (APR examples). Also consider paying off debts with savings.

Q4. Can you name all regular payments you make each month?

If you're scratching your head then you need to check - you may be shocked what you don't know or have forgotten about. Don't assume this is a trite exercise: just by checking many are taken aback by what they find, such as Becky:

"I moved 2 years ago, but was still paying a direct debit to my old gym (330/yr) and local wildlife centre (43/yr) - both now too far away."

It's easy to check whether you've got direct debits or standing orders, as they're listed. Recurring payments (those made via giving the long card number) are trickier. For full help see our How to check your regular payments guide, and let me know what strays you find.

Q5. Do you just renew your broadband, phone, digital TV and breakdown deal?

You've guessed it - again, a 'yes' ain't good. Most providers don't reward loyalty, they charge for it. Each year bills go up for existing customers while firms fight for new customers with hard discounting. Yet there's a way of turning this around - haggling.

Simply call up (don't worry if you're shy, this isn't about being nasty) and ask for a better deal or say you'll take your custom elsewhere. The result can be huge. 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." For help, see our full haggling tips for Sky, AA and more.

Q6. Is your tax code 1100L?

If it is, you're on the standard tax code most people get - fine for most but if you've any unusual circumstances, it's likely to be wrong. If it isn't, HMRC thinks you've unusual circumstances, so you should check. If you don't know what your tax code is, find out.

To check, use our Tax Code Calculator. It'll help explain whether your code is likely to be correct for your earnings and situation. And don't assume your tax code is right: each year MILLIONS are wrong, and that may mean you're due cash. As Alice tweeted: "@MartinSLewis Checked tax code thanks to you, and error means I'm now owed 2k."

Q7. Did you auto-renew car insurance the last time it came through?

If you did, it's likely you've paid higher rates for your loyalty. Insurers usually offer the best deals to new customers, giving existing ones higher rates in the hope they're not challenged. And with prices rising rapidly - up 17% over the past 12 months - it's not too late to check now, even if you're not at renewal.

a) Check for cheaper.
Our full Cheap Car Insurance guide shows how, but briefly: i) Combine comparison sites for a wide search - our current order's Confused.com*, Gocompare*, CTM and MoneySup*. ii) Check competitive insurers that comparison sites miss, including Direct Line* and Aviva*.

b) Changing policy midway through.
If you find a cheaper deal, provided you've not claimed, for a 50ish admin fee (factor that in) you can usually cancel your policy and get the rest of the year refunded. You won't earn this year's no-claims bonus, but if it means you save now and prevent future price rises, it can be a big winner. Full info: Switching mid-policy.

As Mubariz tweeted:"Just had my car insurance HALVED (543 saving) plus 150 refund by changing mid-policy. HUGE thanks."

Q8. Is your mortgage rate over 3.5%?

Mortgage rates are at record lows with rates of 1%-2% widely available, yet millions of people are stuck paying over 3.5%, often on the lender's standard variable rate - these average 4.7%.

Of course, not everyone can switch. It depends on your credit score, how much equity you have in your home, affordability and more; but it's always worth checking. For every 1% point you lower the mortgage rate you save 80/mth per 100,000 owed. Here are three key pointers...

1. Benchmark your cheapest deal using our Mortgage Comparison Tool.
2. Use the Ultimate Mortgage Calculator to find what you'll save.
3. Read my free printed 60-page Remortgage Guide to hold your hand through it.

And as this post on my Facebook page shows, it can be big money: "Downloaded your remortgage guide and have managed to get a new deal saving 128/mth, saving us 3,000 over 2yrs."

Q9. Got a credit card and always repay it in full? Does it pay you?

Paying off in full means you don't pay interest. Bravo. Yet there's another step. When you use a credit card, the retailer has to pay the card firm a transaction fee. With a cashback card you effectively get this put in your pocket. As Anna tweeted me: "@MartinSLewis Glad I read about Amex cashback card: I'll get over 200 paid."

The fee-free Amex Everyday (eligibility calc / apply*) pays 5% cashback (max 100) for the first 3mths, then tiered rates up to 1% after that, or if you spend more the Amex Platinum can pay a touch more. The best-paying fee-free non-Amex, so it tends to be more usable, is the Aqua Reward (eligibility calc / apply*) which pays 0.5% on all spending.

But only do this if you'll set up a direct debit to repay IN FULL each month, or you'll pay 22.9% or 34.9% rep APR interest, which more than wipes the cashback gain. Full options in Top Cashback Credit Cards.

Q10. Are you paying more than 10/mth for your mobile?

If so, ask yourself why. If you're paying a hefty whack because you're still paying off your handset or roam abroad, that's one thing. But if the cost is just from calls or data use, 10 is over the odds for some.

The reason I set this figure is because you can get a virtually 'all-you-can-eat' Sim-only tariff for 9/mth from Three* - here you get a year's unltd mins/texts & 4GB 4G data (without free roaming). If you need more data, from 9am today (Wed) EE's flogging 8GB for 20/mth but you get a 75 Amazon vch & 6mths' Apple Music too.

So stop ringing up big bills. Full info & low-use options in Sim-only deals.

Get friends on board the MoneySaving bandwagon.

If this email's ever helped you, please forward it to friends and suggest they get it via moneysavingexpert.com/tips.

New. FREE 200 for switching bank (it's easy & hassle-free)

The price war's taken a step up again, with one of the biggest bank switching bribes we've ever seen


We've said it before and we'll say it again: STOP BITCHING, START SWITCHING. If your bank doesn't treat you well - leave. Switching's no big lurch: the huge majority of those we've polled say it's easy and hassle-free. As Amy tweeted: "It's true what @MartinSLewis says, it's easy to switch. 2 new ones opened this evening with 2 new banks; couldn't be simpler." In practice, they close your old account, move direct debits & standing orders and auto-forward payments. Full help & all options in Best Bank Accounts; also see Cutting Overdraft Costs. At a glance though (all accounts require a credit-check)...

  • Bank switchNew. Free 200 (150 upfront, 50 if you stay) + 6% fixed savings. New switchers to HSBC's Advance* account get 150 within 70 days. Plus, register for online/mobile banking and if you're still with it after a year, you get another 50. It has a 6mth 0% overdraft, and you can save up to 250/mth in its linked 6% fixed regular savings account.

    Customer service: Not the best - 38% rated it 'great', 18% 'poor', in our Aug poll.
    Who can get it? You must switch two direct debits or standing orders. Then, to keep the account, you must pay in a relatively large 1,750/mth (equiv to 26,300 pre-tax salary).

  • Free 150, up to 5.50/mth (max 66/yr) and better service. Switchers to Co-op Bank* get 150. And sign up to its Everyday Rewards scheme to get 4/mth, plus 5p per debit card use, up to 1.50/mth - max 216 in year one.

    Customer service: Very good - 73% rated it 'great', 5% 'poor', in Aug.
    Who can get it? You must switch four or more direct debits. You don't need to pay in anything for the free 150, but to get Everyday Rewards, you must pay in 800/mth (equiv to 9,850 salary), get paperless statements, log in to online/mobile banking and stay within your overdraft limit.

  • Free 100, no.1 service, 6% fixed savings & 0% overdraft. First Direct's* won every service poll we've done. Switchers get 100, a 250 0% overdraft and can put up to 300/mth in its 6% fixed regular saver.

    Customer service: Never been beaten - 91% rated it 'great', 3% 'poor', in Aug.
    Who can get it? You must pay in 1,000/mth (equiv to 13,100 salary) or there's a 10/mth fee.

  • Free 100 M&S, 6% fixed savings and YOU NEEDN'T PAY IN OWT (get 10/mth if you do). Switch to M&S Bank* and you get a 100 M&S gift card, 100 0% overdraft and 6% fixed regular savings on up to 250/mth. Unusually, the account doesn't require you to pay in a set amount each month, so for those with uncertain income, it's a good no-hassle option. Yet each month you deposit 1,000, it adds 10/mth to the gift card.

    Customer service: Good - 65% rated it 'great', 12% 'poor', in Aug, but only 81 people voted.
    Who can get it? You must switch 2 direct debits. The extra 10/mth gift card also requires you to have any 2 active (so not old) direct debits.

If you're a saver, go quick. One attraction of many of these accounts is they've linked regular savings deals paying high rates and fixed interest. After the recent UK base rate cut, many of these are likely to be under review. So to be sure to lock in the fixed rate listed, open the bank account and then - crucially - the regular saver element of it ASAP.

Odeon 45% off cinema tickets code. For 2D and 3D films, valid every day till 15 Sep. Odeon code


Gift card trick, eg, 20 John Lewis for 10. MSE Blagged. A gift card site sells unwanted cards/e-vouchers for Starbucks, Deb'hams & more, usually at 2%-25% off. We've blagged a way to get more off. ONLY 3,000 avail. Gift card


Last Chance: Spread the word - only ONE week left to register for super-cheap MSE Big Energy Switch. Please tell friends and family who may gain. Registration for our collective switch, which aims to beat the market cheapest, ENDS ON MONDAY. Your savings could be huge. If you get this email, you're automatically registered (though if you want to use a different email, register that) but do suggest that friends, family and colleagues check if they're registered (and register if not).


425 spring bulbs 10 all-in (norm 50ish). MSE Blagged. Incl crocus, anemone, oxalis. Thompson & Morgan


How much are parents expected to give their kids while at uni? It's all about the official 'parental contribution' - see Martin's money for uni blog & ready reckoners.


FREE visits to 5,000+ hidden property gems this Thu-Sun. Many usually-closed or usually-charging English buildings are open free, incl Beatrix Potter's house, Capability Brown's Cadland Gardens, Norman Cross Prison. Free Heritage Open Days

BLAGGED FOR MSE

- Gift card trick, eg, 20 of John Lewis for 10 3,000 avail

- 425 spring bulbs 10 all-in (norm 50ish) Ends Tue

- 25 beauty (worth 100ish) incl Bare Minerals 2k avail

- 20 for 100-page photo book via code Ends 30 Sep

- Missguided 20% off full-price and free del Ends Fri

DID YOU MISS?

- Free 25 M&S voucher for spending a penny

- Free KFC hot wings, fries or popcorn chicken

- Find YOUR cheapest fuel

- iPlayer TV licence warning

- Glove box parking aid

Are you in the wrong band? '5,500 council tax back & bill 350/yr lower'

It only takes 5 mins to check if you're one of up to 400,000 homes in Eng & Scotland who've overpaid council tax


Many are unaware they're in too high a council tax band. If so, you can slash what you pay and get a rebate stretching as far back as 1993. It's getting on for a decade since Martin first launched his Council Tax bank check & challenge, and as time grows so does the size of the rebate. The Foster family emailed their success: "Our council refunded 5,475 into our bank account. We are also 350 per year better off. Thanks so much for your guidance." At speed...

  • Council taxWhy so many Zayns (in the wrong band)? In 1991, provisional council tax bandings were allocated by temporary '2nd-gear valuations' - literally someone driving down streets in 2nd gear with a clipboard (see image for bands in Eng). Yet this stop-gap assessment has never been redone in Eng & Scot (Wales has rebanded & NI residents don't pay council tax). So up to 400,000 may be in the wrong band.

  • Check 1: The Neighbours check: Simply compare your band with neighbours in identical or similar homes. Don't worry if you don't want to ask them. The information is freely available online. For how to do it at speed see the Neighbours Check.

  • Check 2: The Valuation check: Your council tax band is bizarrely still decided by your home's value in 1991. So you need to estimate what your home was worth back then. This is easier than it sounds, as we've built a Valuation Checker to do it for you.

  • If BOTH checks show your band is too high, challenge it. You can't just ask for it to be lowered, just reviewed. So we'd strongly caution you only do it if both checks indicate you're in too high a band. If not, you could find your band is increased or worse, your neighbours' bands are too. See how to challenge your council tax band.

    Told you can't challenge? Don't fret, your Local Listings Office has a legal duty to ensure all properties' bands are correct. So if pushed, it must investigate; the guide explains how to force it to investigate.

  • Live alone, student, carer, on benefits? You may be eligible for a council tax reduction. Even if you're in the right band, in some cases you don't have to pay the full amount. See Council Tax Reductions for full help.

25 beauty box (100ish of stuff bought separately), incl Bare Minerals & Moroccanoil. MSE Blagged. 2,000 avail. Beauty box


25 off 50 Airbnb spend, UK and world. For newbies to the room and home-rental site. See Airbnb discount code.


40+ free treats for your birthday, eg, free Body Shop 5, doughnuts, prosecco and more. As September's the most common birth month in the UK, we've rounded up 40+ birthday freebies.


Amazon launches its Dash 'household essentials' service - is it worth it? We've speedily compared Amazon Dash prices.


20 for 100-page A4-ish photo book code (next cheapest 34). MSE Blagged. Book 'em, Danno. Photos

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

7 ways to spot and stop scams...

BBC1's Fake Britain's just warned of scammers pretending to be our Martin Lewis, so how do you spot scams?


There's only one Martin Lewis - not a football chant - a warning. In its latest show, Fake Britain joined us in warning against scammers pretending to be Martin Lewis & MSE with false claims of tax rebates and energy deals. Remember we NEVER call or knock at your door. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Our scam-spotting guide will help - here are 7 key tips...

  1. Stop scamsCheck if hackers have stolen your data. Find out if passwords, email addresses, your home address, phone numbers or your DOB have been exposed after the big hacks of the last few years (including the high profile LinkedIn warning). Hack check. If they have, change the password there (and anywhere else you use the same).

  2. Filter out fake deals in your Facebook feed. Our Deals team uncover many bogus offers popping up on Facebook feeds, eg, Lidl allegedly giving away 80 for its birthday and British Airways offering 100 free flights. They're a con: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Here's how to spot Facebook fakery.

  3. Apple users' urgent fix to stop crooks hacking into your device. Apple's recently admitted its operating system had a vulnerability making it possible for fraudsters to hack into your iPad/iPhone, to expose personal data (including your financial details). Install its security fix.

  4. Add a pin to your SIM, to prevent '6,000 bills'. If your contract mobile phone's stolen, you'd be shocked how quickly big bills can be run up on it; we reported one victim having massive 6k bills run up. Yet adding a pin to your SIM can prevent it.

  5. Never give personal details if they call you... even after you've put the phone down. The new scam is 'vishing' (fishing for victims by voice) where callers claim to be from a bank, insurer, energy firm - even the police - and convince you to hand over personal or password details. Cunningly, they ask you to call them back, but they don't put the phone down, so you're still talking to them without realising. So it's always best to call from another phone and independently find the right number - don't rely on the one given. These scammers can be plausible.

  6. Where does this www.bbc.co.uk link take you? Not all internet links are genuine - fraudsters exploit this a lot. To find where a link really goes, on a laptop or desktop, hover your mouse over it and read what it says at the bottom of the screen - though sometimes even that's foolable. Always look where you're clicking. (We bet you checked that time.)

  7. Ensure you've got antivirus software - it's FREE. This is a simple but effective measure. See our free antivirus software guide.

Cheap backpacker insurance. If you're heading off for more than 2 mths, ordinary travel insurance isn't enough. Our new Cheap Backpacker Insurance guide takes you through the top deals.


SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"I've just got over 4,700 back on three PPI policies my husband took out many years ago with Homebase, M&S and HSBC. Thanks for such a useful website with helpful templates." For full info to do it yourself, including free template letters, see Reclaim PPI for Free.


Free or cheap flu jabs. Some can get 'em free - if not, check you're not overpaying. See free or cheap flu jabs.


The A-Z of motoring MoneySaving - 26 ways to cut costs. Drive yourself through our motoring A-Z.


40 free 20 self-help books to give away. Breaking Law is a new book by retired Judge Stephen Gold, which includes a huge compendium of self-help information and templates, plus a foreword from our own Martin Lewis. Breaking Law giveaway.

THIS WEEK'S POLL

Do you have a will & Power of Attorney in place? There are two crucial documents that can protect your dependents in future: a will and a Power of Attorney. Which do you already have in place?


Should we renationalise our railways and water? Last week's poll asked which essential services you think should be taken back into public ownership. For those aged under 50 railways were the key target, with 78% wanting them renationalised. Those aged 50+ were more likely to want water services renationalised, at 75%. See the full renationalisation poll results.

MONEYSAVING NEWS

- Top story: Is TSB about to become the next bank to slash current account savings rates?

- BA technical glitch leads to lengthy flight delays - claim 100s in compo for free

- Treasury Committee brands competition watchdog's remedies for unarranged overdraft fees 'a missed opportunity'

- Martin Lewis urges Government to treat students as 'citizens not just consumers' during Commons evidence session

- Energy switching skyrockets by over one million customers in space of a year

- Details of 68 million Dropbox accounts stolen in hack - check NOW to see if yours have been compromised

- The top Avios credit card grounded by BA

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should I return products sent in error? I bought a cap online, but when the package came there were three of them in there. The delivery note stated a quantity of only one - should I send them back or just keep them? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I return products sent in error? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

THE QUICKIES
- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: So... what do you want to achieve in 2016?
- Competitions thread of the week: Win a fabulous family holiday to Florida
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Cheap vegan meal ideas - family of 4 needs your help
- Discussion of the week: Ex opened my mail & tried to bank cheque... what can I do?

MARTIN'S BLOG

- How much are parents expected to give their kids at uni?

DEALS HUNTERS' BLOGS

- Scam alert: free 80 Lidl voucher, free BA flights and more - How to spot a Facebook fakery

- Amazon Dash - is it any good?

MARTIN'S APPEARANCES (WED 7 SEP ONWARD)

Thu 8 Sep - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am. View previous
Fri 9 Sep - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am. View previous
Mon 12 Sep - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 12 Sep - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon. Subscribe to podcast

TEAM APPEARANCES

Wed 7 Sep - Share Radio, 11.20am
Thu 8 Sep - BBC Radio Manchester, 4.50pm
Tue 13 Sep - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, 2.20pm

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: If I open a three-year cash ISA, can I still open a new one next year ? Martin, via email.

MSE Rosie's A: You almost certainly can. The key rule for ISAs is you can put new money into only one of each type of ISA (cash, stocks and shares, or innovative finance) per tax year.

With a fixed-term cash ISA, you'll pay in a certain amount of cash when you open it and then usually won't be able to add any more in later years. This means that when the new tax year rolls around you'll have another ISA allowance to use, so can open another cash ISA. For more information on ISAs, and to see the current best buys, see our Top Cash ISA guide.

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

Does your country have a colourful saying about cash?

That's it for this week, but before we go, check out this thread from the forum: What's your country's money idiom? Ever heard a Welsh person saying: "He keeps a hedgehog in his pocket?" Or a German: "To live like a maggot in bacon?" Hint: It's all about money. Visit the thread for a list of unusual sayings from around the world and tell us any you know of.

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

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