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Weekly Email
This email was sent
10th Feb 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 This info may be out of date.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."

10 February 2016
Martin's Briefing: 6% tax-free, biggest savings shake-up for a generation
Big freebies: irons, meat, make-up etc
Last chance: 40mth 0% debt shift
Cheap Valentine's incl 12 roses £3, £9 champers, free cocktail & £10 dine-in
Cheaper than the cheapest energy
Are you one of millions missing out on the marriage tax allowance?
Feel Unique £10 off £25 beauty
Cameron snubs Martin on student hike
Full Sky TV (sports/movies) £40/mth
Can you save £600/yr on water bills?
2for1 Starbucks voucher
Free Kids Pass & 100+ half-term tips
20% off iTunes, H&M etc gift cards
Unltd mins/texts, 6GB data £12.49/mth

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

Biggest savings shake-up for a generation

- 95% of people won't pay tax on savings interest from 6 April
- Earn up to 6% TAX-FREE, if you sort your savings now

- Step-by-step guide to maximising the performance of every penny

Currently for every £100 interest earned, basic rate taxpayers lose £20 in tax, higher rate £40. Yet from 6 April the new personal savings allowance (PSA) means every basic (20%) rate taxpayer can earn £1,000 interest without paying tax on it, equivalent to the interest on £70,000 in the top easy-access savings account. Govt stats say 95% of people won't pay any savings tax.

This doesn't just apply to savings accounts, it's for ANY INTEREST such as from bank accounts, credit unions, building societies or even peer-to-peer lending. And it'll be automatic - from 6 April you'll be paid interest gross (ie, with no tax taken off).

Higher (40%) rate taxpayers get a £500 personal savings allowance, but additional (45%) taxpayers don't get any. Full info and what to do if you'll earn over the limit in our How the personal savings allowance works guide.

Most importantly, the PSA changes where you should put your money, and now's the right moment to start sorting it. Below I've updated our savings fountain which shows where every penny should flow to max interest.

The NEW Savings Fountain

 Savings Fountain For most people, the new personal savings allowance means tax is now not an issue, so to maximise interest pour your cash where you earn most. Think of it like a champagne fountain: once the first glass is full, it overflows to the next layer.

But before you start, do you have any debts?
If so and the interest rates cost more than saving pays (I used to say 'more than you'll earn after tax' on savings but for most that's no longer relevant), you're likely better off clearing them. Pros & cons in my 3 guides - SHOULD I USE SAVINGS TO PAY OFF MY... 1) Debt? 2) Mortgage? 3) Student loan?

Here's my new, improved savings fountain order - ALL savings mentioned here have the full UK savings safety protection unless stated.

1. TOP TIER: Help to Buy ISAs: 4% plus up to £3,000 bonus. Launched (for first-time buyers) in Dec, for anyone 16+ who's never owned a home and may want to, this is usually a no-brainer - not because of the interest, but because if you use it towards a mortgage deposit the state adds 25% on top, up to a max £3,000. Full FAQs & best buys in my Top Help to Buy ISAs guide.

And just this week we've seen the first people cashing in. Read Jason's story: "Just got £800 towards my deposit - very happy."
2. NEXT, FOR LUMP SUMS: 5% easy access via 'bank account' savings. A range of bank accounts offer super-high in-credit rates as loss leaders to entice banking customers to switch to them.

- Bigger savers: Santander 123* pays 3% on £3k-£20k. It has a £5/mth fee, but for many that's easily covered by the cashback if you pay bills via it. Even without that, and with the fee, it's the best easy-access deal if you've £7,000+ saved. Couples can have 3 accounts covering £60k (one each & a joint) if they meet eligibility terms.

- Smaller savers get higher rates and no fee: Club Lloyds* pays 4% on £4,000 to £5,000, Nationwide FlexDirect* is 5% on up to £2,500 for a year, TSB Classic Plus* 5% on up to £2,000 (and also gives up to £5/mth cashback on contactless card spending). If you've very small savings it's often better to just grab the £150 bank switching bonuses rather than interest.

To get these accounts (or to make them fee-free) you need to pass a credit check, meet their monthly min pay-in amounts & set up two direct debits. Full info incl eligibility criteria in Best Bank Accounts.

- Can I open more than one? Yes, see the 5% Savings Loophole.
3. TRICKLE CASH INTO REGULAR SAVINGS... Save monthly for up to 6%. Regular savings accounts can pay high interest but only on small amounts for a short time. They're great for, er, saving regularly, but you can also gradually trickle lump sums from a top savings account.

- Earn 6% with 'bank linked' regular savings.
The top payers are all accounts you can only open if you have a specific current account. Luckily, the current accounts they're linked to all tend to be best buys.

Three pay 6% AER, and let you pay up to £250-£300/mth. All give free cash for switchers to the linked accounts: First Direct £150 | M&S £100 M&S card | HSBC £120 (links go to full info).

Also all the top banks for smaller savers above (in point 2) have linked regular savers: Club Lloyds pays 4%, Nationwide & TSB 5%.

- Anyone can earn 3.05%.
Leeds BS Regular Saver pays 3.05% AER variable for a year, if you pay in between £50 and £250 every month.

Full info in Top Regular Savings Accounts, which also mythbusts the common misunderstanding that "these don't pay the rates promised".
4. NOW IT'S TRICKSY CASH ISAs. Some should ditch 'em, for others there's a trick to fix at 2.6% but with access to your cash. For 17 years, the ISA's been the savings superhero - the only way to protect normal savings from the taxman. But now all savings will be tax-free.

So THIS IS WHERE THE NEW PSA CHANGES THINGS. What you do depends on how much you're saving and your tax rate. It's complex so I've written a full Is it time to ditch cash ISAs, now that all savings will be tax-free? guide to go through it step-by-step.

For those who they still work for, here are the top deals...

- Top fixed-rate cash ISA: State Bank of India pays 2.6% AER fixed for 5yrs, but you can withdraw cash by closing the account (give 30 days' notice). Do that and you only get 1.6%, but that still beats top easy-access deals - the best of both worlds. More options in Top ISA Fixes.

- Top easy-access cash ISAs: Virgin Money pays 1.51% AER variable on new money & transfers, though you can only make 3 withdrawals/yr or the rate drops. More options in Top Easy-access ISAs.
5. CAN YOU LOCK CASH AWAY? Earn 2.45% in fixed-rate savings. Are you prepared to save cash for a set time, where you can't withdraw any? If so, you can get a fixed rate that's usually higher. Yet it's worth first doing an ISA fix as they don't lock your cash away.

Also bear in mind if rates rise over the term you can't ditch & switch, so we don't list savings fixes longer than 3 years. Full options in Top Fixed-Rate Savings, in brief...

- The top straightforward 1yr deal is Charter Savings 1.81% AER (min £1k) - top 3yr is Axis Bank 2.45% (min £1k). But you can earn more.

- Al Rayan Bank probably pays 2.17% over 18mths and 2.78% over 2yrs. I say 'probably' as it's Sharia compliant, and as Islam bars interest it's an 'expected profit rate' - it's never not paid out in full before, but by definition isn't certain. Anyone can open it, & it's fully UK savings safety protected.

- Fidor Bank pays 2% AER for 1yr, and 2.75% for 3yrs. Though this DOESN'T have UK savings safety protection, it's German-protected to a similar amount (up to €100,000) so in the unlikely event it went bust you'd be reliant on the German govt to bail you out.
6. TOP BOG-STANDARD EASY ACCESS: Earn 1.45% - 1.65%. Here you can put in big amounts and withdraw cash at leisure. From April, interest will be tax-free too, but rates are lower than top easy-access ISAs now so if you haven't used those yet, fill them first.

- The top deal is Virgin at 1.41% (min £1). You may note many best buy tables list a higher payer, but they don’t always tell the full story...
- RCI Bank pays 1.65% AER variable, but this DOESN'T have UK savings safety protection, it's French-protected to a similar amount (up to €100,000), so in the unlikely even it went bust you'd be reliant on the French govt to bail you out. That’s not necessarily a problem but it is worth knowing before deciding.

As these are variable rates, they can change, so monitor regularly. Full options in Top Savings. If you've large sums, over £75k, consider spreading cash to keep it safe - see How safe are my savings?.

If you find it easier to have it explained to you, watch last week's Martin Lewis Money Show - Personal Savings Allowance special on the ITV hub.

The LAST Martin Lewis Money Show of the series - Fri 8pm (repeat Sat 4.30pm). Flight delays, marriage tax allowance & it pays to watch

It's the last show of the current (5th) series. Thanks to all who've watched - our ratings are averaging 3.8m, our record, and great to help me persuade ITV that money in prime time works. For the final week, I'll cover flight delay compensation and cutting tax if you're married, and we'll see how much viewers saved by watching. Do watch, or set the DVD recorder/Videoplus/Betamax.

Spread the (MoneySaving) love.

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


Free irons, meat, make-up & more via 'freebies for feedback' sites

Our new guide to product-testing freebie sites, plus more tricks to grab free Krispy Kremes, dog chipping, etc

They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, but they also said the Earth was flat. We've been sending this free email for over a decade, and each week it contains hot pay-nowt giveaways which then live in our Freebies, Freebies, Freebies section. Today we've just updated it with a host of new ways to grab stuff for nada - here are our top tips.

  • FreebiesNew. Product-testing freebies - irons, electric toothbrushes & more. These sites can give free goodies in return for feedback. Forumites have grabbed everything from meat and mascara to E45 lotion & electric toothbrushes. Now our new Top 10 Product Testing Freebie Sites guide shows how. Mummybaker says: "I've had irons, Ladyshaves, cookies, all sorts. It's worth it - not much effort." It's not a dead cert, but fun to try - let us know how you get on.

  • Super-hot, short-lived freebies incl FREE DOUGHNUT. Now for easy freebies. We include the best each week in this email - current corkers incl a free Krispy Kreme Doughnut, Covent Garden Soup & Dog Microchipping. To get serious, the forum's Freebies (no spend) board has thousands of free-stuff fans swapping tip-offs.

  • 'I bagged a mint-condition CAR on Freecycle.' Sofas, beds, TVs, bikes - you've reported huge successes from giveaway sites. Instead of providing landfill fodder, people offer them to locals. Shayshay says: "Struck it lucky on Freecycle with a Metro owned by a vicar - mint condition, full service history." See 32 Freecycle & Freegle Tips.

  • FREE insulation worth £700. Anyone in a suitable home (not NI) can get free loft and cavity wall insulation. For some on sub £16k-ish incomes, there are even free £2,000 boilers. See Free Boilers & Insulation.

These are just the tip of the freebie frenzy - it stretches to Free Gym Passes, Free Bank Switch £150, Free Eye Tests, Free Antivirus Software, Free Office Software, Credit Card Freebies & Free £200 Daily Cash Draw.


Are you one of 3.7m couples missing out on your marriage tax allowance? Check now: marriage allowance.

Ends Fri: Feel Unique £10 off £25 beauty products code, eg, Touche Éclat £15. MSE Blagged. Feel Unique sells branded beauty products online - this code gets £10 off (while stock lasts), incl YSL, Benefit, etc. Feel Unique

'David Cameron snubs my retrospective student loan hike letter'. See Martin's PM snub blog.

15,000 codes get FULL Sky TV incl Sports & Movies £40/mth (norm £75/mth). MSE Blagged. Only if you've not had Sky (TV/b'band) in past year. £10 set-up fee on a 12mth contract. Sky codes. Already got Sky? Haggle.

Could you save £600/yr on your water bill before up to 5% rises? Avg bills across Eng & Wales will increase 1%, some up to 5%, see region by region change. Yet many miss out on big savings from switching to a water meter, as Helen did: "Thanks. Monthly direct debit is down from £80 to £25". Full help & calculators in Slash Water Bills.



- Feel Unique £10 off £25 beauty products Ends Fri

- Full Sky TV incl Sports & Movies £40/mth 15,000 avail

- Free 1-month Kids Pass Ends Thu 31 Mar


- £10 specs code incl lenses and delivery

- Warning: Three's hiking bills for 100,000s

- Prepay energy user? You're owed £12 - you got it?

- £53 steak bundle £30 via code


Last chance. 40mth 0% debt shift deals ending

Slash the cost of existing credit or store card debts. THREE of the longest 0% card deals close this week

A balance transfer is the way to slash the cost of existing card debt(s), so your repayments clear the actual debt rather than just servicing the interest. In practice it means you get a new card that repays debt on old card(s) for you, so you owe it instead but at a far cheaper rate. Yet three top deals are about to end, so speed is likely to be of the essence.

The top new cardholder 0% balance transfers
Don't just apply, that hits your credit file - find the cards you've best odds of getting via our eligibility calculator.
Ends Sun. Virgin Money* - longest 0%, lowest fee 40mths 0% (18.9%) 2.89% (min £3)
Ends Mon. Halifax* - longest 0%, slightly higher fee
Up to 40mths 0% (18.9%) 2.95%
Ends Fri. MBNA* - long 0% with pre-approval via eligibility calc Up to 39mths 0% (20.9%) 2.98%
Virgin Money* - long low-fee card 32mths 0% (18.9%) 0.99% (min £3)
Halifax* - longest NO-FEE 0% card Up to 23mths 0% (18.9%) None
AA* - longest NO-FEE 0% card that isn't an 'up to' length 22mths 0% (19.9%) None

  • Tip 1: Go for the lowest fee in the time you're sure you can repay. Most balance transfers charge a one-off fee of the amount shifted, eg, 2.89% is £28.90 per £1,000. So calculate how long you'll take to clear debt, add a bit for safety, then pick the lowest fee within that time. Unsure? Play safe and go long, even with a bigger fee.

  • Tip 2: Find which cards you're most likely to get - including pre-approval. Applications leave a mark on your credit file, even if rejected. Our eligibility calc shows which cards you've best odds of getting, so you can home in on your top deal, protecting your credit file. Simon told us: "Owed £2,555 paying £90/mth interest. Used your eligibility calc and switched to 37-month 0%. Saved a fortune." After 37mths we estimate he'll save £3,330.

    Plus for a few cards, including the MBNA one above, the lender provides enough info so we can tell some people they're 100% pre-approved for that exact deal (subject to passing its ID & fraud check).

  • Tip 3: Some 0%s are 'up to', so some get a shorter deal based on credit score. So we show the best non-'up to' options. If you've good odds of these in the eligibility calc they can be worth it as they give more certainty.

  • The Balance Transfer Golden Rules. Full help & ALL best buys: Balance Transfers (APR Examples), in brief...
    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 which to pick? Use our Which Card's Cheapest? tool.


2for1 Starbucks vch. Works on all hot drinks, cheapest free. Not too taxing. Plus free Benefit makeover. Starbucks

FREE 1-month Kids Pass and 100+ half-term things to do (cheap cinema, theme pks etc). Norm £7.50, we've blagged a free trial to Kids Pass, and see our guide to keep kids entertained: 100+ cheap or free half-term fun fests.

Trick to bag 20% off iTunes, H&M, Pizza Express & Spafinder, then STACK with offers. Tesco is selling 4 gift cards 20% off, so buy them, then use combined with other deals (eg, H&M 25% off). Full info: Gift card trick.

Unlimited minutes, texts & 6GB 3G data Sim just £12.49/mth. From The People's Operator* (uses EE signal), a 1mth contract so easy to quit. If you don't need 4G it's easily the cheapest current unlimited min & text deal we've seen.


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Be my (cheap) Valentine

 ♥ Cheapest Valentine's dozen roses £3 in store - £21 couriered. Full round up of deals: Valentine's Day roses.

£9 champagne. £1 cheaper than last week. See all champagne deals. Pls be Drinkaware.

FREE £8ish cocktail, FREE £3ish beer. Chambord Spritz cocktail via Pitcher & Piano voucher. Or get a schooner of Budweiser Budvar via Revolution Bars voucher. Pls be Drinkaware.

FREE Valentine's gift cheques. You don't need to spend - give time instead. Use our free Valentine's gift cheques to promise something nice (or naughty), eg, a massage, brekkie in bed or candlelit bath. Valentine's gift cheques

Valentine's dine-in for 2 deals: Often decent value... £20 M&S | £15 Morrisons | £10 Asda | All dine-in deals.

Valentine's restaurant deals: They've a captive market so reductions aren't that hot, but: £17 Pizza Express 2 courses & drink | £20 Carluccio's 3 courses | £22 Ask Italian 3 courses and drink | £22 Zizzi 3 courses & drink | See all restaurant deals.


Cheaper than the cheapest energy:
'Switched British Gas to British Gas saving £734/yr'

9 DAYS LEFT: MSE Big Switch Event 4. Four special tariffs that beat the market's cheapest. Many saving £300+

Npower's just joined E.on, SSE & Scottish Power as the fourth Big 6 energy firm to announce it's cutting the price of its standard tariff. But these are paltry, 5% gas-only cuts and most don't hit until winter's over. Even after the cuts if you're one of the 70% on a standard tariff, without doubt you're being RIPPED OFF. Last week we launched our Big Switch Event 4 collective switch (sadly, not for NI or prepay) with cheaper than the cheapest deals...

  • HUGE savings but the clock's ticking. A collective switch is where we ask firms to bid to provide special tariffs. We're drowning in successes, eg, Claire tweeted: "@MartinSLewis Switched from British Gas to British Gas, saving £734. Thanks, wow." And Clare: "Switched E.on to BG, saved a whopping £1,058/yr. OMG, thanks."

    The Big Switch Event 4 ends on Thu 18 Feb, but our British Gas tariff is capped at 100,000 switches (we're asking to increase it) and we've broken all records already with 51,000 in one week. So go quick. PS: Sorry, last week huge numbers meant pages were slow - the team's working tirelessly to keep it working, but pls be patient.

  • Check if you're eligible for Big Switch 4. Ofgem rules mean we must now pre-register people for our collective. You need to have been getting this email or been a Cheap Energy Club member before 1 Feb. To check if you're eligible use our Can I get the collective? checker. Or go straight to the Cheap Energy Club comparison - even if you're not eligible you can still save £100s, and there's no point waiting, every day leaving it is a day overpaying.

MSE Big Energy Switch 4 - how much can you save?
Prices below based on typical use (1) - find YOUR result with a Cheap Energy Club comparison
Tariff Avg cost Best of the rest (2)
Average Big 6 standard tariff (70% of people are on these) £1,089/yr -
Cheapest: British Gas MSE 1-year fix (£60 early exit fee). Dual fuel only, available to all incl existing British Gas customers (incl Scot Gas & Sains) who can switch to it with NO EXIT FEES. £744/yr + £30 cashback £765/yr
Cheapest long fix: Green Star MSE collective 3-year fix (£25/fuel exit fees). Dual fuel or elec-only, best for those who want less hassle. £876/yr + £30 cashback £1,040/yr
Cheapest GREEN fix: Bulb MSE collective 12-month fix (£5/fuel early exit fees). Dual fuel or elec-only 100% renewable electricity. £869/yr + £30 cashback + £12.50/fuel J Lewis vch £883/yr
Cheapest ELEC-ONLY fix: E.on MSE collective 12-month fix (£30 early exit fee). Strongest for mid to low energy users. £380/yr + £15 cashback + £15 vch/1,500 Tesco pts £380/yr
(1) Monthly direct debit, dual fuel. Varies by region. 12,500 kWh gas and 3,100 kWh elec over a year. (2) Roughly same fix length.

  • Quick need-to-knows. For full help see our main detailed MSE collective switch FAQ.

    1. With these firms now? They DON'T charge exit fees for internal switches, ie, BG->BG, & you get cashback...
    2. We're paid £60ish/dual fuel switch & give you £30 of it as cashback. After supplier costs we get £11.
    3. All tariffs are fixes. So the RATE (not the cost, as that depends on use) is locked in with no hikes.
    4. What about customer service? We've arranged boosted customer service for all these tariffs.
    5. Can I use a different email? First use the registered email, but when actually switching, on the form you can give a new email (if you want, return after switching & change your registered email with Cheap Energy Club).


SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
Jonathan tweeted us a huge multi-saving this week:
"@MartinSLewis. Switched to British Gas tariff, 8% off [use Cheap Energy Club], haggled with Sky to 47% off [see Sky haggling tips] and car insurance swapped: 53% off [see Car insurance cost cutting].

Saved around £780 after cashback. #Ta"

House of Fraser's website gives WRONG web return rights info. See our House of Fraser error news story and let us know of other stores doing similar.



Is it OK to use a 2for1 voucher on a first date? Imagine Robert asks Cora (or Tom) to dinner on a first date, saying he'll pay. When the bill comes, he pulls out a 2for1 voucher - what advice would you give Cora (or Tom)?

Last week, you told us you're happy to give cash as a wedding gift if asked. Of the 20,663 who voted, 55% would prefer to give hard cash while a further 34% would give it if requested. A surprising 1.4% would give nothing at all, claiming their presence is enough. See the full results.



- Top story: Tesco cancels credit cards after 'data breach' at mystery retailer

- Give those in debt crisis 'breathing space' to buy food, Martin Lewis and StepChange urge Government

- Npower to cut gas prices by 5.2% - but you can still save more by switching



How should I tell my sister I can't afford these gifts? Recently my sister has habitually bought surprise gifts for our mum, then asked me and our siblings to contribute. How do I tell her I can't afford to without sounding tight? Enter the Money Moral Maze: How should I tell my sister I can't afford mum's gifts? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: The 1% Challenge
- Competitions thread of the week: Holiday to Italy
- Old-style board thread of the week: Going vegan... Old-style
- Discussion of the week: Buffet etiquette


- Cameron snubs my retrospective student loan hike letter

- Is it time to ditch cash ISAs now all savings to be tax-free?


- Gift card trick

- Loose fruit & veg can save you a packet



Fri 12 Feb - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am. Watch previous
Fri 12 Feb - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm. Watch previous
Tue 16 Feb - Back In Time For The Weekend, BBC 2, 8pm. Watch previous


Wed 10 Feb - Share Radio, 11.20am
Thu 11 Feb - BBC Radio Manchester, 4.20pm
Mon 15 Feb - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, 2.20pm



Q: I bought something online and am returning it within 14 days, but they say I'll only get a voucher, not a cash refund. Is this right? Via Twitter.

MSE Megan's A: No. This is governed by a law, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013. It states that for goods bought online you've 14 days to cancel them (even just because you've changed your mind - something you can't do for goods bought in store) and then 14 days after cancelling to send them back. You are entitled to a cash refund of your original payment and the cost of delivering to you (via the least expensive option) though not sending it back.

There are exceptions - primarily personalised or perishable goods. So unless you bought one of the exceptions, you should get cash. Let the store know and quote the law & let us know of any stores you think aren't doing it right.

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: "Your teenage love stories". In the run up to Valentine's, our forumites have taken a trip down memory lane to revisit their early love lives. Read how one girl went from travel-sick to love-sick on a school trip, how a young couple marked their one-week-iversary and one lovestruck teenager discovered the real reason their first crush was hanging around so much...

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

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