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WEEKLY EMAIL

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This email was sent
10th Dec 2014
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 This info may be out of date.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 December 2014
         

This week

Urgent £5,600 home improvement grant
4% pensioners' savings?
Debt shift 24mth 0%, just 1.25% fee
Cheap turkey & other Xmas tips
New stamp duty calculator + get Air Passenger Duty refund. Budget '15
It's here - Soap & Glory gift set £29
Urgent: £5 off £10 Amazon spend
Body Shop 40% code, 'free' £11 gift
Free Innocent smoothie voucher
Hot Diamonds 40% jewellery code
£100s back from OLD energy firm
50% Thorntons Xmas hampers code
Did you get your EE bband voucher?
New 1.85% savings notice account
Three-year railcard for £65 code
Spode Xmas tree pottery jug £10
Kid's BMX £80, grownup's bike £100
FREE £4.50 roll of wrapping paper
FREE Wedding Show tix codes
Codes: Crabtree & Evelyn, Topman, Gap 20%, Burton 25%
£10-£40 West End theatre tix
'I got £17,900 PPI after they said no'
Update: Christmas Deals Predictor
Vouchers Index: Restaurants / Shopping
Best Buys: 0% cards | Car insurance
Best Buys: Gas & Elec | Bank Accs
Are Scottish delivery charges fair?

MARTIN'S QUICK BRIEFING: For more tips, alerts & awful puns, follow Martin on Twitter

Urgent: Up to £5,600 to improve your home
The Govt's new £30m Home Improvement Fund reopens 9am today (Wed)... yet it may not even last until lunchtime

UPDATE 3pm, Thu 11 Dec: The £24m set aside for solid wall insulation has now run out and no further solid wall insulation bids will be accepted. You can still apply for other funding - but if you want to, go fast.

The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (HIF) is a massive cash giveaway from the Govt to encourage home energy efficiency measures. Last time £120 million went in just six weeks. So in Nov we warned you to be ready this time.

Today (Wed) at 9am the HIF is back and while £100 million is available, it'll be released in tranches - the first £30m today. Yet as it closed with virtually no notice last time, many have been waiting until now, so unless the site crashes (quite possible) it'll be lucky to last a day. Therefore our big message is...

IF YOU'RE READY, GO QUICK; IF NOT, PREPARE ASAP FOR NEXT TIME

So here's how it works and what to do whether you're ready or not...

£5,600 sounds nice. What's it for? Here's what's included:

- Offer 1: Install two or more of 11 measures & get up to £1,000. Includes cavity wall insulation, boiler upgrades, double-glazing, waste water heat recovery & more. See full Home Improvement Fund List.

- Offer 2: Up to £4,000 for solid wall insulation (it was £6,000 last time). Over 6m people have solid walls (ie, no gap in the brickwork like cavity walls). Insulation here is costly, but could reduce energy bills by £460/yr, so the HIF offers up to 2/3 of your costs. MSE Wendy did this last time: "I'm getting 50m2 of solid wall worth £7,100, but only need to shell out £1,750."

- 'Add-on' offer: £500 bonus if you've moved home in past year. Make any of the improvements above and you get an extra £500 if you've moved.

- 'Add-on' offer: £100 of Green Deal assessment costs back. Make any of the improvements above and get £100 back - these assessments normally cost £100-£150 so this should cover most of the cost.

It's worth noting that of the £30m, £6m is for offer 1 and £24m is for offer 2, so they may not close at the same time.
xxxHow to apply. Only those who are ready can apply, as to do it you need to have:

a) Had a Green Deal assessment - any in the last 2yrs stand, assuming your home hasn't changed. Or an Energy Performance Certificate.
b) Agreed a plan for the work to be done.
c) A Green Deal-registered builder's quote (this wasn't needed last time).

Apply via the Home Improvement website from 9am (it may crash today).
I'm not ready/not heard of this before - prepare for next time. Unless I'm very wrong on how quickly it'll run out, there's no chance of newbies getting this £30m. But prepare now for the next release of cash, due in Feb.

You need a Green Deal assessment (costs c.£100-£150 so do a free online check first) or an Energy Performance Certificate, which costs c.£60-100ish (but isn't refunded as with the HIF so you won't get the cost back).

You then need to agree a plan for the work to be done, get a Green Deal-registered builder's quote and wait until the next application round starts.
What is the Green Deal itself? Its aim is to get us to try more than 40+ energy efficiency measures, from cavity wall insulation to solar panels, paid for by a loan where repayments are made from the savings on your energy bills (eg, if your usage drops by £200/year, your bill stays the same to repay the loan). Read our FULL HELP: 19 Green Deal Mythbusters.

It's a great idea, a concept I really support, but sadly it was rather poorly executed. Until it added the Home Improvement Fund (a name incidentally based on my suggestion, as let's be honest, 'Green Deal' ain't so catchy) cash - which in many ways has little to do with the main Green Deal - the take-up was low.
Totally FREE help if you're on a low income. The ECO scheme can provide totally free energy efficiency measures if your household has sub-£16k/yr income or higher in some cases for the solid wall element. Check ECO help.
Ends 24 Dec. Easy FREE insulation worth £700 plus £25 J Lewis voucher. Totally separately and far more easily, anyone in a suitable home (not NI) can currently get free loft & cavity wall insulation and a £25 J Lewis/Argos etc voucher. This is done by British Gas but you needn't be its customer to get it.
Don't forget, SWITCH ENERGY now to save £220/yr. There's an energy price war - but only for switchers. Five new market-leading tariffs have launched in the past three months - all are fixed deals, so rates won't rise.

Your cheapest depends on usage and where you live, so plug your details into our Cheap Energy Club Top Pick Fixes Comparison to find your cheapest and see if you can save. It includes pros & cons for each tariff.

Switch via Cheap Energy Club and you usually get £30 dual fuel (£15 single) extra cashback and we'll alert you to switch again when your new tariff's no longer cheap. More help & cashback options: Cheap Gas & Elec.

Top picks for typical usage - varies by region
Find YOUR bespoke actual price via our Cheap Fixes Comparison
Fix till Exit fee Cost/yr
Avg big 6 standard tariff for comparison - - £1,180
Cheapest: Extra Energy. New provider so little feedback Jan 16 £25/fuel £958
Top for service: Ovo Energy*. 81% great 12mths £30/fuel £973
Cheap 2-winter fix: EDF Blue+ Price Promise*. 55% great Apr 16 None £1,040
Cheap 4-winter fix: EDF Price Freeeeze*. 55% great Feb 18 None £1,170
Source: MoneySupermarket. All monthly direct debit, dual fuel, unless stated

PS. ITV1 The Martin Lewis Money Show Fri 8pm. Thanks to all 3.3m who watched last week. If you missed it, watch Episode 2 - energy reclaiming & Zara trick and Episode 1 - personal stocktake & Black Fri deal. This week I'm taking on train fares - how to slash the cost of tickets with illogical savings - and much more.

Blagged for MoneySavers

Did you miss?

Get constantly cheap energy
Our club ensures you're always on the cheapest tariff.
Join free: Cheap Energy Club
Reclaim PPI for FREE
Claims handlers aren't more successful.
Free help & templates: Reclaim PPI

MSE News

Top story: Green Deal Home Improvement Fund reopens
Don't hit the slopes without the right cover, warns ABTA
Average rail fares to rise 2.2% from January
British Gas fined £11m after failing to meet energy efficient targets
Shopping outside the EU this Christmas? Beware of hidden fees
Spread the (MoneySaving) love
If this email's ever helped you, please forward it to friends and suggest they get it via moneysavingexpert.com/tips
Use the Money Mantras If you're skint If you're not skint
The Ones Not To Miss Wed 10 Dec 2014
New 4% over-65s savings deal to be revealed on Friday
On Fri we finally learn the rates of the first NS&I Pensioner Bonds since 2008. Here's what you need to know

In March the Chancellor announced the Govt planned to launch special pensioner savings via its NS&I savings arm. This week we get the rates. Our new Pensioner Bonds guide has full pros & cons & we'll update on Friday. Here's key info...

  • Pensioners BondsWe GUESS the rates will be 2.8% and 4%. We think the one-year fixed rate will be 2.8% AER and the three-year 4% AER - but we could be wrong. Apply from Jan (date TBC). £10bn will be available (enough for 500,000 people at the max contribution).

    - You can put up to £10,000 in each of the two bonds.
    - To withdraw you can close it early but will pay a hefty 90 days' interest as a penalty.
    - You pay normal savings tax on the interest (ie, basic rate taxpayers lose 20% of the interest). Non-taxpayers must reclaim the tax once it's paid (you can't fill out the usual R85 form).
  • If you've less than £10,000, always go for the three-year bond. IF (and its a big if) we're right or nearly right about the rates, then always go for the three-year bond. That's because even if you have to close the account after a year and take the 90-day penalty, you'll still get an effective rate of 3%, beating the one-year deal.
  • How to use it for income. Interest's paid into the account annually, so you can't use it as income. If you need income, use a savings calc to find the interest you're due then put that aside. Eg, save £10,000 and you'd get £1,250 interest over 3 years, so put in £8,750 and use the rest to spend. See Use a fix to get monthly income.
  • The rates are likely to blow equivalent savings out of the water. The top one-year fixed savings rate is First Save's 1.85% AER, for three years it's Shawbrook Bank's 2.5% AER. See how Pensioner Bonds compare from Fri.

It's here - Soap & Glory Next Big Thing Star Gift at Boots £29 (norm £60). From 7am Fri. You've been in a lather about when it'll launch, we predicted Fri & that's when. Incl scrub, moisturiser & mascara. Stock ltd. Soap & Glory

Urgent. £5 off £10 Amazon spend on a Mastercard code. Likely to end any moment (as limited number of codes). Only for items shipped and sold by Amazon.co.uk itself. If you're quick enough, full info in Amazon code.

Body Shop 40% off code + free £11 face cream on just £10 spend. From 9am Wed. Get 40% off in stores or online, plus spend £10 min (after discount) online and you get a free gift with code. Ends Tue. Body Shop

FREE £2ish Innocent smoothie | FREE Greggs festive bake. Print a voucher & redeem it in most supermarkets for the free smoothie and download app & register (new & existing rewards members) for the Greggs Bake.

New. Top LOWER fee debt shift - 24mth 0%, just 1.25% fee
The balance transfer price war continues. Slash £100s off existing credit card debts (and new poorer credit deal)

A balance transfer is when you get a new card that repays debts on old card(s) for you, so you owe it instead, but at a cheaper rate. Two new best buys have just launched, one a low-fee deal, the other for poorer credit scorers.

  • New 24mth 0% balance transfer 1.25% fee. The new Barclaycard* gives 24mths 0% for a 1.25% fee - timely, as Lloyds has just pulled its similar card off the market. While there are longer 0%s and lower-fee 0%s, as the aim is to go for the lowest fee possible, ensuring there's enough time for you to clear the card, it wins for many. See how it compares below, but note if your debt's on a card of the same brand, it won't usually let you shift it.
TOP PICK NEW CARDHOLDER 0% BALANCE TRANSFER DEALS
Find which card you're most likely to get with our balance transfer eligibility calc (protects your credit score)
Card Intro offer One-off fee (1) Rep APR after
Tesco* - The only no-fee 0% 12mths 0% None 20.6%
Nationwide* - Getting longer 15mths 0% 0.65% (min £5) 17.9%
New. Barclaycard*- Long, lower fee 24mths 0% (2) 1.25% (3) 18.9%
Halifax* - Second longest 33mths 0% (2) 2.8% (3) 18.9%
Barclaycard* - Longest 0% card 34mths 0% (2) 2.99% (3) 18.9%
1) % of amount transferred 2) Some get a shorter 0% 3) These are promo rates. You pay a higher fee & they refund you down to this level.
  • New. Weak credit scorer 6mths 0%. A new Lloyds* card offers 6mths 0% debt shifts for a 3% fee (though a big 25.9% rep APR after). Strangely the balance transfer isn't mentioned on its landing page - there it just encourages you to spend (best avoided). The boon is it even allows some with long-past (5yrs+) CCJs/missed payments to get it. So first check our Eligibility Calc so you can see if you can get any better deals (this card isn't in it yet).
  • The Balance Transfer Golden Rules. It's not just about picking the right card, it's about using it the right way...

    a) Don't just apply in hope, that marks your credit file. Instead use the Eligibility Calc to find your best chance first.
    b) Never miss the min monthly repayments, or the bank is allowed to end your 0% deal and charge far more.
    c) Ensure you clear the card or transfer again before the 0% ends or the rate rockets to the rep APR.
    d) Don't spend/withdraw cash on these. It usually isn't at the cheap rate & cash withdrawals hit your credit file.
    e) Unsure what to pick? Use our Which Card Is Cheapest? tool. Full help in Best Balance Transfers (APR Examples).

Hot Diamonds 40% off code. Branded jewellery. MSE Blagged. Ends Sun. Discounted women's diamond jewellery, eg, gold-plated earrings £30 (were £50), Emozioni gold-plated bangle £12 (was £20). Free p&p. Hot Diamonds

Does your old energy firm owe you £100s? If you've switched supplier in the last 6 years and didn't ask for credit back, you could be owed. Energy UK's set up a website and helpline to help but it does less than our longstanding Reclaim Energy Credit guide & watch Martin's ITV show from last Fri on it. As Amy Kennedy tweeted: "Wow. I got £188 back from Scottish Power and it's been 2yrs since I switched. Thanks Martin."

50% off Thorntons Xmas hamper codes. MSE Blagged. Eg, £60 hampers £30. Five to choose. Thorntons hampers

Did your EE broadband Amazon voucher arrive? We've had a long-term hot EE deal where you get emailed £100+ of Amzn vouchers within 90 days of installation. Lots have got it, we just want to check ALL did. If yours is late, check spam folders, then email eevouchers@moneysavingexpert.com (incl name, order date, reference & email signed up with).

Boost savings rates to 1.85% with notice accounts. The top easy-access is Tesco Bank at a dire 1.4% AER variable, but Shawbrook Bank is 1.85% AER variable on its 120-day notice account - same as the top 1-year fix, FirstSave. So as long as you plan ahead it's a strong rate with flexibility. Or get up to 5% in a current account. See Top savings.

3-year Railcard £65. Senior, Friends & family, and 16-25. Normally £70, or £30/yr. 1/3 off train travel. Railcards

Cheap turkey and many other Christmas tips
There's no escape, the big beardy fella's suiting up. Don't panic - there's still time for a good time at a good price

It is possible to be festive and frugal. The only thing we want to be in the red is Rudolph's nose, here's a sackful of tips...

Christmas money savers1. Can cheap turkey taste best? 'Finest' isn't always best at the supermarket - in taste tests many prefer cheaper. Feed up to 10 for £11. See MSE Tara's Find good cheap turkey blog.
2. Beware of gift cards. If the retailer goes bust, you'll likely lose cash. See Gift Card Warning.
3. Delay Xmas. If you're buying a family big-ticket item (LED TV, PlayStation 4) it'll be cheaper in Jan. Use our Xmas IOU generator and buy 'em a small gift with the savings.
4. A gift you KNOW'll be used. Don’t give tat. See our Charity Gifts list & give in a friend's name.
5. Try some DemoHoHotivation. A couple of weeks left - a few cutbacks can still help.
6. Ban unnecessary presents. Not bah humbug, more stress saver. See Martin's Ban unnecessary Xmas presents blog.
7. Phone overseas for 50p an HOUR. Of course if you're both online you can make Free Web Calls, but often elderly relatives aren't, so use our International CallChecker for cheap calls. Eg, 50p/hr to Australia (to a phone via Skype it's £10).
8. Top sub-£5 gifts to make or buy. Try one of our 40 gifts under £5, plus lots more ideas in 50 Festive Fivers.
9. Free Xmas gift cheques. Spend time, not money. Use our Free Xmas Cheques to promise someone special a cooked meal, babysitting or maybe your partner an, ahem, special massage on demand.
10. Write 'it's a gift' on the receipt (if it is). Normally, only the person who bought the gift has consumer rights. Use a gift receipt or get the shop to write on its copy who the gift is for, so rights are then transferred for returning. See Gift rights.

Spode 'Christmas Tree' pottery jug £10 (next cheapest £19). Or 2 mugs £7. Limited stock, 500 of each avail.

Kid's BMX £80 (was £160) & grownup's mountain bike £100 (was £150). Cheap cycling gear at Tesco Direct, Halfords and more. Just in time for Christmas. You see, we're pedalling good deals.

FREE roll of Xmas wrapping paper worth up to £4.50 via O2 Priority Moments. Use app to get code & redeem at WHSmith. Stock's likely to go fast. You need the O2 app (but there's a trick for non-O2 customers). WHSmith

Show Best Buys
Click the titles for full info and all our top picks
Balance Transfers Car Insurance Cheap Loans Top Cash ISAs
Longest 0%: Barclaycard*
34mths 0%, 2.99% fee

(18.9% rep APR)

Low fee 0%: Halifax
28mths 0%, 1.5% fee

(18.9% rep APR)
Get quotes in this order...

MoneySupermarket*
Gocompare*
Direct Line*
Aviva*
Admiral MultiCar*

Santander* (£5k - £7.5k)
5.3% rep APR



Sainsbury's* (£7.5k - £15k)
3.8% rep APR


Post Office 1.55% AER
Min £100, incl bonus
Postal. Transfers allowed


Coventry BS 2.4% AER
Min £1. No transfers
Loophole: Fixed till Nov 2018


See Card APR Examples & Loan APR Examples

FREE Wedding Show tix codes (Manc & N'castle). Getting hitched? We've blagged 3,500 free tickets for Manchester on Sun 8 Feb (usually £16.50), and 1,500 for Newcastle on Sat 24 or Sun 25 Jan (usually £6). Wedding Shows

CODES AND DISCOUNTS: Crabtree & Evelyn 20%, Burton 25%, Gap and Topman 20% etc
Crabtree & Evelyn 20% off MSE Blagged. (£10 min spend) | Burton 25% off online (Wed only) | Gap 20% off code, incl sale
Topman 20% off online | New Look £10 off £50 code | Aldi £15 off £75 voucher in 55p paper | See ALL codes and vouchers

New stamp duty calc + reclaim Air Passenger Duty
The Chancellor's Autumn Statement last week contained a host of pre-election sweeteners. Here are the highlights

Normally Autumn Statements aren't too relevant for MoneySaving, just macroeconomic jargon. This one had its fair share of that, but as elections near, Chancellors need to 'do things'. So here's our action list on the back of his doings...

  • Stamp duty calculator New stamp duty calc. The UK's worst tax system, the one used for stamp duty, has been scrapped. The problem was the 'slab system' (Martin even ran a contest to redesign it), where the rate paid's on the whole amount - so a £125,000 house was free, but one penny more cost £1,250. That's now history. The new system's like income tax, ie, you only pay the rate on each portion above a threshold.

    Most buying homes under £937,500 will pay less - above that, often far more, as the new structure's meant to stave off Labour's mansion tax. IF YOU EXCHANGED BY WED 3 DEC 11:59PM BUT HAVEN'T COMPLETED you can choose the new or old system. See our new stamp duty and old stamp duty calcs.
  • Booked a holiday for next summer? Reclaim Air Passenger Duty for U12s. Air Passenger Duty (APD) for under-12s ends on 1 May 2015 (under-16s from 2016). If you've already paid it, you're due a refund, see How to reclaim Air Passenger Duty airline-by-airline. Related info: Cheap Flights for plane savings.
  • Your ISA can be passed on to your spouse on death. Surviving husbands/wives/civil partners can now inherit a deceased partner's ISA and it'll stay as an ISA, so you won't pay tax on any gains. See Top Cash ISAs.
  • New postgraduate student loans. From 2016/17 under-30s can apply for postgrad student loans of up to £10k per course. It's likely (still undecided) to work like the undergrad system, explained in Student loan mythbusting.
  • Slight change to April 2015 income tax. The standard personal allowance (the amount of income earnable before tax) is currently £10,000. It was due to rise to £10,500 in April, but will now go to £10,600 (so £20/yr more in people's pocket). The higher rate threshold will go up in line with it. See What tax will you pay info & calc for more.

£10-£40 tickets to 70 Jan/Feb West End shows. Incl Cinderella (£10), Wicked (£20), Lion King (£30) & Matilda (£40). For 1 Jan - 13 Feb performances. Best seats sell out fast, so go quick. Get Into London Theatre

Success of the week: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"I followed your PPI info, used the template letter and was told I wasn't owed anything. Off to the Ombudsman I went using the template and I've been refunded £17,900. Whoopee, thanks."
- see our Reclaim PPI for free guide to find out if you're owed big money & how to get it back too.

The Christmas Deals Predictor - score so far? We're on song for the first two weeks, including spot on this week with our Soap & Glory Star Gift prediction (see above) and Sainsbury's Tu. See the remaining Deals Predictor predictions.


Show Best Buys
Click the titles for full info and all our top picks
Gas & Electricity Bank Accounts Home Insurance Landlines

Compare, get £30 dual fuel cashback & alerts if your deal's no longer cheap. Go via the free MSE Cheap Energy Club Top Pick Fixes Comparison.

The savings can be huge. Someone with typical dual fuel usage on a big 6 standard tariff pays £1,180 a year, the cheapest deal's £958.


First Direct*
£100 bonus and top cust service


Santander 123*
Up to 3% cashback on bills

(£2 per month fee)
Get quotes in this order...

Confused.com*
Compare The Market
Direct Line*
Aviva*

Post Office*
with weekend calls
£10/mth (pay a yr upfront)


Direct Save Telecom*
with weekend calls
£11/mth (pay a yr upfront)
Do a Money Makeover Budget Planner MSE car sticker £13 Travel Insurance
Show Vouchers and Top Deals

Restaurant vouchers

Discount vouchers

Top deals

The Moneysaving community
Show Money Saving Community
The MoneySaving Community

CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK
Do retailers charge fairly to deliver to Scotland?
Citizens Advice Scotland wants to find out if online retailers treat Scottish customers unfairly because of where they live. A previous inquiry found some Scots paid an average of nearly £19 extra when buying online. Is delivery info clear and easy to find? Are your legal return rights available and correct? Take its quick survey to help it research a range of retailers and share your views in the MSE Forum.

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA
I got £700 for Mac repairs but then got it fixed free. Should I give the money back?

This week's MoneySaver who wants advice asks... I bought an iMac computer, but after 20 months it stopped working. I took it to the Apple Store, where I was told it needed £860 of repairs. Apple redirected me to the retailer, saying responsibility lay with it under consumer law. After many stressful calls, I accepted £700 from the retailer towards the repair costs. A repair shop then assured me the problem was not my fault, but inherent, so I contacted Apple again and it offered a free repair. Should I return the retailer's £700? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I give it back? | Suggest an MMD | View Past MMDs

THE GREAT HUNT
How do you keep your mobile data usage down?
Lots of people complain they are constantly going over their data allowance but are locked into a contract so can't increase it. We want to tap MoneySavers' collective knowledge on ways to keep your data use down and avoid being hit with hefty excess data charges. Do you restrict your handset surfing to locations where you have wi-fi access? Do you use special apps that claim to be able to compress pages so you use less data? Share yours/read others': How do you keep your data usage down? Past topics: View all

CHEAP FLIGHT SALES ALERT
Airline: Monarch Price: 6,000 seats at £32.99 or less Ends: midday Thu 11 Dec
Our pick this week is Monarch's* offer for selected flights between 23 Dec 2014 and 25 Mar 2015, with 6,000 seats available. The sale ends midday Thu 11 Dec and includes taxes and most charges, but credit card fees apply. There is no code to enter, the price appears automatically. Extra charges warning: Avoid payment and check-in charges - see Budget Airline Fee Fighting. Related: Cheap Flights, Cheap Hotels, Spending Abroad, Cheap Currency, Travel Insurance

THE GREAT HUNT... REVEALED
Do you get worse service if companies think you're a pain in the bum?

We
asked whether firms put notes on customers' files if they think they've caused problems. Insiders said valid complaints don't usually lead to a black mark, but abusive behaviour and swearing certainly will. You could end up having a nasty note put on your file, or even having to wait longer for vital services. One dental receptionist told us being difficult won't get you bad service - but it'll mean you only ever get the bare minimum.

Quick forum tips

Freebie of the week

Martin's blogs

Martin's appearances

11 December
Good Morning Britain, ITV, 7.40am
Deals of the Week
12 December
This Morning, time TBC
Martin's 90-Second Savers
12 December
The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm
How to spend less on your train fare and Xmas consumer rights.
15 December
Radio 5 Live, 12pm-1pm
Consumer Panel
Subscribe to podcast
15 December
This Morning, time TBC
Subject TBC.

MSE team corner

Discussion of the week

£100 for Xmas play costumes?

A forumite is astounded by the cost of the costumes needed for her children's yearly concert, which total more than £50 per 'performer'. What are your tips for saving money on your child's nativity play this year? Suggestions so far include looking in charity shops and, if all else fails, opting for tea towels.

Cheap travel money

UK's Best Currency Rates
£100 will buy you:
Best Worst
Euro Flag 125.80 112.77
US Flag $ 155.10 139.59
Turkish Flag TL 342.10 299.34
Rates correct at 3pm Tue
Find all top currency rates
Compare travel cash

This week's poll: Parcel delivery firms - which are best and worst?

With the festive season nearly here, parcel delivery firms are zipping around the UK helping out the big man in the red suit. Yet sadly parcel delivery horror stories abound - ranging from no-shows to “they threw the goods over the fence” or “they lied that we weren't in”.

Please rate your experience with each of these firms DURING THE LAST YEAR (don’t rate if you haven’t experienced their service).

Amazon Logistics iPost Parcels
CollectPlus Parcelforce
City Link Royal Mail Parcels
DHL TNT
DPD UPS
DX UK Mail
FedEx UK Yodel
Hermes/myHermes Never used a delivery firm
Interlink Don't know which firm used

Poll results

Is your energy company's service any good?

Good Energy topped our poll, with a whopping 91% of its customers claiming it has great service. August's poll winner Ovo Energy maintained a high rating, with 81% of its customers rating it great.

At the other end of the scale, Npower remained bottom, with 61% of its customers rating it poor.

The full results make for interesting reading. 7,782 voted.

Question of the week

Q: Is it legal for small shops to charge a surcharge of up to £1.50 on credit/debit card payments? Indie, via email.

MSE Sam's A: It is legal, but regulations brought in in April 2013 (June 2014 for small shops) say traders mustn't charge you more than it costs them to process the card transaction. This is likely to be 10p to 20p for a debit card, and 1% to 5% for a credit card (Amex tends to be more and smaller stores pay more than chains as they have less negotiating power). Therefore, it is possible that a credit card charge of £1.50 isn't excessive.

Legally, if a business charges a card surcharge fee, under the 2008 Unfair Trading Regulations, it must tell you upfront. If you're in a smaller store though, it's worth asking before you hand over your plastic. If it doesn't tell you about the charge, or you think the charge is unfair, contact Citizens Advice and it can pass on your complaint to Trading Standards.

For more information on your consumer rights or to get our special wallet-sized printout, see our Consumer Rights guide.

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

 Free game of the week: Above Average Guy

Puns SO bad they're good

That's it for this week, but before we go, if you're in need of a good laugh take a look at this bunch of puns that are so bad we think even Martin would love them (Oi! What's that supposed to mean? - ML).

We hope you save some money,

Martin & the MSE team

Important. Please read how MoneySavingExpert.com works

We think it's important you understand the strengths and limitations of this email and the site. We're a journalistic website, and aim to provide the best MoneySaving guides, tips, tools and techniques - but can't promise to be perfect, so do note you use the information at your own risk and we can't accept liability if things go wrong.

What you need to know

  • This info does not constitute financial advice, always do your own research on top to ensure it's right for your specific circumstances - and remember we focus on rates not service.

  • We don't as a general policy investigate the solvency of companies mentioned, how likely they are to go bust, but there is a risk any company can struggle and it's rarely made public until it's too late (see the section 75 guide for protection tips).

  • We often link to other websites, but we can't be responsible for their content.

  • Always remember anyone can post on the MSE forums, so it can be very different from our opinion.

Please read the Full Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, how this site is financed and Editorial Code. Martin Lewis is a registered trade mark belonging to Martin S Lewis.

More about MoneySaving Expert and Martin Lewis

What is MoneySavingExpert.com?

Founded in February 2003, it's now the UK's biggest consumer help website with over 10 million people getting this email and more than 15 million using the site every month. In September 2012 it became part of the MoneySupermarket Group PLC. Its focus is simple: saving cash and fighting for financial justice on anything and everything. The site has more than 75 full-time staff, many of whom are researching, analysing and writing to continually find ways to save money. More info: See About MSE

Who is Martin Lewis?

Martin set up and runs MSE, and still writes this email each week (unless it says so). He's an ultra-focused money-saving journalist and consumer campaigner with his own ITV prime-time show The Martin Lewis Money Show and weekly slots on Radio 5 Live, This Morning and Good Morning Britain, among others. He’s a columnist for publications including the Telegraph and Woman magazine. More info: See Martin Lewis' biography

What do the links with a * mean?

Any links with a * by them are affiliated, which means get a product via this link and a contribution may be made to MoneySavingExpert.com, which helps it stay free to use. You shouldn't notice any difference; the links don't impact the product at all and the editorial line (the things we write) isn't changed due to it. If it isn't possible to get an affiliate link for the best product, it's still included in the same way. More info: See how this site is financed.

As we believe transparency is important, we're including the following 'un-affiliated' web-addresses for content too:

Unaffiliated web-addresses for links in this email

ovoenergy.com, edfenergy.com, barclaycard.co.uk, tescobank.com, nationwide.co.uk, barclaycard.co.uk, halifax.co.uk, lloydsbank.com, moneysupermarket.com, gocompare.com, directline.com, aviva.co.uk, admiral.com, santander-products.co.uk, sainsburysbank.co.uk, firstdirect.com, santander-products.co.uk, confused.com, comparethemarket.com, directline.com, directsavetelecom.co.uk, monarch.co.uk.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Note

Referring people to insurers or insurance intermediaries can in some circumstances constitute an FCA regulated activity. For this reason, pages with links which take you to the sites of insurers or insurance intermediaries are hosted by MoneySavingExpert.com Limited on behalf of MoneySupermarket.com Group PLC. MoneySupermarket.com Financial Group Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN: 303190). The registered office address of both MoneySupermarket.com Group PLC and MoneySupermarket.com Financial Group Limited is MoneySupermarket House, St. David’s Park, Ewloe, Chester, CH5 3UZ.

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