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11th Sep 2019
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 This info may be out of date.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."

11 September 2019
         
Hi - here are your latest deals, freebies, tricks and messages to help you save.


New. FREE 150 + 2% bills cashback from NatWest as it throws its (bowler) hat into the bank switching ring. Now FIVE banks pay


As temperatures outside cool, the bank switch war is heating up. Five high street banks now offer bribes (legal ones, so take 'em) to lure in new customers. But which is right for you? Well, that's what we're here for...

Switching itself is quick, easy and safe. It takes seven working days - the new bank moves all payments (incl direct debits) and closes your old account. If anything goes wrong, you're protected (see Q&A below). When we last did a snap Twitter poll, 76% said switching bank was easy and hassle-free.

You must pass a not-too-harsh credit check and use the banks' official switching service to get the perks below.

The top bank-switch bribes
  • New. NatWest: FREE 150 + 2% back on bills. Largest upfront cash bonus. NatWest this week joined sister bank RBS in paying new switchers 150 on most accounts. Our picks of its offerings are...

    - 150 + 2% cashback on bills (great if you're a bill-payer incl joint bills accounts). NatWest Reward* and RBS Reward* give 2% cashback on most bills (eg, energy, phone) paid by direct debit for a 2/mth fee. On average, people get 60/yr cashback after the fee - but some earn 100+/yr.

    You need to pay in 1,500/mth (equiv to a salary of 21,500 being paid in) and log in online at least quarterly.

    - Want the free cash with no monthly fee? You can still get the 150 (but no cashback) by switching to the bog-standard fee-free NatWest Select* or RBS Select* accounts. To qualify, you need to log in online and pay in 1,500 by 24 Jan 2020 (10 Jan RBS), but you can always withdraw the cash again the next day.

    - Customer service (Aug poll): NatWest got 42% 'great', 36% 'OK' - in a separate poll its app was 47% 'great' (pretty decent for a high st bank). RBS had few votes, but 36% of its customers rated it 'great', 35% 'OK', and its app was 43% 'great'.

  • M&S Bank: FREE 100 M&S voucher with NO min pay-in (though pay-in 1,250/mth to get 80 more vouchers in a year). Doesn't need a pay-in and customer service is strong. Newbies who switch to an M&S Bank* account can get the vouchers and access its 5% regular saver (save up to 250/mth for 1yr). So provided you'd use the voucher (eg, on food), it's a good option.

    - How do I qualify? To get the 100 vch, within 3mths of opening you must switch, incl 4+ active direct debits, but the big boon is there's no minimum pay-in. You get an additional 80 gift card after 12 months (120 if you've an M&S credit card) if you then keep the direct debits active, register for online banking and statements, and make a min pay-in of 1,250/mth.

    - Customer service (Aug poll): Usually very strong, in Aug it was 68% 'great', 23% 'OK' (though only based on 44 votes). However, if you're an app user, beware - that was rated just 4% 'great'.

  • First Direct: FREE 50 + TOP service + 5% reg saver + 0% overdraft. Best if service is key. New First Direct* switchers get 50, access to a 5% regular savings account (save up to 300/mth for 1yr) and many also get a 250 0% overdraft.

    - How do I qualify? Pay in 1,000 within the first 3mths.


    - Customer service (Aug poll): Consistently superb, 85% 'great' in Aug (it flick-flacks with Monzo for overall top spot, but Monzo doesn't pay you to join). First Direct's app though was rated just 28% 'great'.

  • Barclays: No upfront cash, but get 10/mth for a year (so 120), then 3/mth after. Decent ongoing rewards for those with smaller bills. New switchers to Barclays* who sign up to its Blue Rewards by 30 Nov get 10/mth for the first year (technically you get 14/mth, but there's a 4/mth fee). After that, you're 3/mth+ up after the fee.

    - How do I qualify? Pay in 800+/mth, equiv to a salary of 10,000/yr being paid in, and have 2+ direct debits set up and paying out each month, plus sign up for online or mobile banking. You get more rewards if you've a mortgage or loans etc with Barclays.

    - Customer service (Aug poll): 52% 'great', 19% 'OK'. Its app is highly rated at 57% 'great'.

  • Got a strong APP-etite? We've mentioned app ratings above, so you're probably asking which are the best banking apps. No surprise you voted the app-focused banks Monzo (78% 'great' app, 92% 'great' service) and Starling (70% 'great' app, 82% 'great' service) top - but of course, go for those and you sacrifice a sign-up bribe. Of the traditional banks, Barclays' app came top, so it's not a bad halfway house. See bank apps ratings.
Top accounts if you're overdrawn

Debit cards are debt cards if overdrawn. So if in the red, don't ignore it:

  • First Direct: 250 0% overdraft + FREE 50 + TOP service. As above, First Direct* offers 50 to switch to it and many get an ongoing 250 0% overdraft. So if your overdraft's up to 300, this pays off some of what you owe and the rest is at zero interest. Above 250, it's 15.9% EAR interest, one of the cheaper overdrafts out there.

    - How do I qualify? Open the account (though the overdraft's credit score-dependent). If you also want the 50 bonus, switch, then pay in 1,000 within the first 3mths.

    - Customer service (Aug poll): Superb, 85% 'great'. Its app is rated only 28% 'great' though.

  • Nationwide: 0% overdraft for a year (+ possible 100 to switch). Alternatively, Nationwide FlexDirect* could offer a far bigger 0% overdraft depending on your credit score, but it only lasts a year (39.9% EAR after), so aim to clear it before. If you do spend some of the month in credit, you can get 5% AER interest on up to 2,500 for the first year.

    If you've a friend with an account, you can both gain 100 via its 'recommend a friend' scheme.

    - How do I qualify? No min pay-in for the overdraft, 1,000/mth (12,500/yr salary) for the interest. If switching via 'recommend a friend', you need to switch 2+ direct debits to get the bonus.

    - Customer service (Aug poll): Always decent, last time it scored 70% 'great', though its app was rated a middling 40% 'great'.

  • Larger overdraft? Try a specialist credit card. A few cards allow 'money transfers', where the card pays cash into your bank account, clearing your overdraft, so you owe it instead at up to 28mths 0% (for a fee). For more help and best buys, see our Money Transfers guide.

Full eligibility on all these accounts + more help in Best Bank Accounts.

Bank switching Q&A

Q. What about monthly fee accounts that give insurance? You can get up to 500 of mobile, travel and breakdown cover for 156/yr - a good deal, but only IF you need the cover. Full info in Packaged Bank Accounts.

Q. Can I cheat the minimum pay-in? Usually, yes. Say the pay-in is 1,000 but you only have 500 coming in, pay in the 500, withdraw, then pay it back in, and BINGO. It must all come from an external account, however.

Q. What if something goes wrong with the switch? The bots behind the scenes sort it, so for at least 3yrs any money paid into the old account or wrongly earmarked to come out of it is transferred to the new one. If you're hit with charges due to a switch error that leads to a missed payment, this should be refunded by the new bank.

Q. I don't qualify for one of these accounts - what can I do? Sadly, 1m+ don't have a bank account. Yet if you've ID, you can get an account where there's no overdraft called a basic bank account.

DON'T believe the fake ads on Facebook
Lots of scam ads that litter social media lie that we or Martin promote Bitcoin, binary trading etc. See Fake ads warning.

Martin's savings WARNING: 'Both top easy-access accounts have cut their rates - fixed rates are dropping too. Should you lock in now?'


The mood music for savers isn't good. The world economic outlook is gloomy and there's huge uncertainty here in the UK, so the City's long-term interest rate predictions have plummeted. Fixed-rate savings are based on these, so they're dropping. And in the last week, first easy-access best-buy Marcus, which held firm at 1.5% for 11mths, shaved down its rate, then its fellow top payer Cynergy followed suit.

The worry (though no one knows) is this signals the start of a race to the bottom. Similar happened in 2016. Seemingly no bank wanted to top the best buys, scared of the huge wads desperate savers pumped in when they did. Rate cut followed rate cut. The top easy-access rate was just 1%, the top 1yr fix 1.4%. So here are today's top rates (you can use a number of diff accounts) and some thoughts. All accounts listed give full 85,000 per person UK savings protection.

  • Top EASY-ACCESS 1.45% - lets you add and withdraw cash at will. Marcus and Cynergy are still the top payers at 1.45% AER (both have year-long intro bonuses, of 0.1% and 0.7% respectively, so the rates will drop after). As they're variable, if rates drop or a better deal comes along, you can simply pull your money out and move it elsewhere. Full options and info in Top easy-access savings.

  • Top NOTICE accounts 1.81% - needs advance notice to withdraw. If you can put money away and will know before you need it (eg, when you're ready to look to buy a house), the top-paying notice account is Charter Savings at 1.81% AER (min 5,000). You need to give 95 days' notice to withdraw cash. Again it's a variable rate, but you'll either be given more than 95 days' notice or early access to your cash if it drops the rate. See Top notice savings for more options.

  • Top FIXED rates 2% - lock cash away for higher rates. For money you can lock away without access for 1yr, Wyelands Bank pays 1.88% AER (min 5k) and Arbuthnot Direct 1.86% AER (min 10k). For 2yrs, First Save (min 1k), Wyelands Bank (min 5k) and Access Bank UK (min 5k) all pay 2% AER. Some longer fixes pay more, though be mindful that the longer you fix for, if interest rates rise, you're locked in and can't switch to a better deal.

  • Is it worth locking away cash right now? It's somewhat perverse to consider that as fixed rates have dropped, you may want to lock in. Yet there is a realistic chance they could get lower still, so that in a few months we look back on today's deals and think they're pretty decent. Sadly I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't say this is what'll happen, but if you're worried about plummeting rates and want certainty, it may be worth hedging toward fixing.

  • Boost interest if you've debts, larger savings, want to buy a house & more:
    - Got larger savings or pay high tax? If you have filled your personal savings allowance (lets basic 20% rate taxpayers earn 1,000 interest/yr or 40% taxpayers 500/yr tax-free), then while top cash ISA rates are lower, the tax gain may help you.
    - Pay off debts/mortgage.
    If the interest rate on your debt is higher than on savings, then it is often better to pay off your debt rather than save. See the Overpay your mortgage? or Pay off your debt? guides.
    - Earn 5% on regular savings. Save up to 300/mth at higher rates with Top regular savings.
    - Earn 5% in some bank accounts. Some give 5% on up to 2,500. See Bank account savings.
    - Claim universal credit or working tax credit? You may be eligible for a 50% Help to Save boost.
    - Saving for your first home? Open a Help to Buy ISA or LISA and get a 25% boost.

Updated. How Brexit is likely to impact mortgages, flights, your rights & more. With huge political uncertainty over how, when and even if the UK will leave the EU, we've facts where there are facts & Martin's analysis where there aren't, in our revamped 25 Brexit need-to-knows.

150 Dyson V6 cordless vacuum cleaner via code (norm 200). MSE Blagged. The cheapest we've EVER seen a new cordless stick Dyson. Not the latest model, which typically costs 500+, but this a stonking deal. Bag a cheap Dyson.

13 charity shop bargain-hunting tricks - how to find designer clobber & brand new items, spot sales & buy online. Oxfam's asking people to stop buying new clothes for 30 days as part of its Second-Hand September campaign, so to help, we've dusted off our 13 Charity Shop Tricks blog to help you find bargains (and help the charities too).

Update Fri 13 Sep: Brit Gas, E.on and EDF have all pulled their cheapest tariff - we've left the original info here for reference.British Gas cut its cheapest price last week (& existing custs can get it too), now E.on and EDF join it - save 280/yr. The new BG Energy Plus Protection Green Sep 2020v2 tariff locks in the cheap rate for a year. Incl MSE's 25 dual-fuel cashback, it's 260/yr cheaper for someone with typical use than its standard tariff - a NO BRAINER for existing BG dual-fuel direct debit customers if you don't want to leave. Yet while last week we said it was the cheapest Big 6 tariff, two new tariffs - Eon's Fixed Online Exclusive v8 (new custs only) & EDF's Simply Online 1 Year Fix Oct20 (new & existing custs) - now undercut it. ALL are only via comparison sites (incl via the links above, where you get 25 extra dual-fuel cashback), not direct.

Free McDonald's breakfast McMuffin with 1ish hot drink. Ends Fri. See how to get it in our 20+ McDonald's hacks.

Warning: Now even UCAS is pushing costly debt to young people - Martin's taking 'em on. Staggeringly, the university admissions service is including adverts for commercial loans in its emails and letters. Martin's accused it of abusing its monopoly position and breaching the ethical line. Labour deputy leader Tom Watson's supporting him, and yet UCAS aren't backing down. See Martin's full letter to UCAS and its response.

New. Cheapest PREPAY energy, great service & renewable - save 220/yr

It's rare for us to feature a cheap prepay deal, as, well, they're rare. So we're delighted to be able to write this...

Prepayment meters, often called key or card meters, are in around 15% (4m) of homes. Those of you who have them get frustrated that we don't feature many prepay deals. You're right, we don't - because we find so few worth mentioning. The real disgrace about that is that many of society's poorest are on prepay and it's typically the most expensive way to pay for energy. Even though the regulator has capped prices, many rates are rip-offs. Full info in Cheap Prepay Energy, but in brief:

  • New. Cheapest prepay, 'great' service and renewable - save 223/yr via special MSE deal. Mid-sized energy firm Bulb's customers often rave about it - it scored 88% 'great' in our recent poll. For someone with typical use, its new dual-fuel Bulb Vari-Fair Prepay deal is 996/yr, compared to the 1,219/yr most Big 6 standard tariff customers pay.

    That price includes the usual 25 MSE dual-fuel cashback PLUS an extra 40 we've specially arranged - though you must sign up by Thu 19 Sep to get this. On average, it's the market's cheapest prepay deal. Here's quick info...

    - Variable rate, but no lock-in. The rate can change, but you can leave without exit fees at any time.
    - It's renewable. 100% of the elec & 10% of the gas is renewable. The other 90% of the gas is carbon-offset.
    - It's not portable. So you can't take it with you if you move.
    - It's only for new customers. Any newbies in Eng, Scot and Wales (not NI) can get it, unless you're blocked from switching due to 500+ energy debt.

  • Switching prepay tariff is easy. It's the same gas, same elec and same safety - the main things that change are price and customer service. You'll be sent a new key or card to top up with before your switch completes (it's not a smart meter tariff). Don't worry, you'll still be able to top up throughout the process, and if you've any credit left on your meter, your old supplier will pay this back.

  • Can you save MORE switching to a standard credit meter? While prepay meter rates are capped, from Tue 1 Oct they'll be able to charge a typical user almost 40/yr more than the (already outrageously expensive) normal standard tariffs. Yet that's not the main problem. The key is that it's the normal billed meter market that's really competitive - it's where energy companies pump all their special cheap deals, and prepay users are excluded, so end up in practice paying much more.

    The only advantage of sticking with prepay is if you have problems budgeting. If not, check if you can switch to a normal billed meter - some providers let you do it for free. See Can I ditch prepay energy? for full help.

PS. We give you cashback because if we can switch you we get paid - we give you roughly half that amount (money you wouldn't get direct), so it's a win-win. Our money pays for our tools, data, team and hopefully some profit too.

Martin: 'We need your help to STOP DEBT SUICIDES.' 400,000 people in debt in the UK consider suicide each year, and 100,000 attempt it. Yesterday (Tue) was World Suicide Prevention Day. Many lenders are forced by law to use threatening and intimidating language in their debt letters. Martin's @mmhpi charity is trying to change that - please sign the Stop the debt threats petition.

FREE days out at 6,000+ historic buildings & heritage sites this month. Throughout Sep, many usually-closed or usually-charging places across the UK are open free, incl Durham's Chapter House (featured in Harry Potter) and a Giant's Causeway visitor centre tour in Northern Ireland. Free Heritage Open Days

84ish Nails Inc polish set for 25 all-in. MSE Blagged. Includes nine full-size 14ml polishes. 1,800 avail

Tesco 'Clubcard Prices' are back - you pay less for 400 items, but is it any good? Until Wed 2 Oct, Clubcard holders buying these items (eg, up to 50% off coffee) will likely save, yet we're not that blown away by it. See what's on offer (and how good the discounts REALLY are) in our full Clubcard Prices analysis.

Last chance. Hot 5GB Vodafone Sim for '7/mth'. Newbies to Vodafone* signing up via Mobiles.co.uk can get 5GB data + unltd mins & texts for 15/mth - but use code 10AUTOMSE at the basket & you're sent a 100 cheque within 2mths, so it's an equiv 6.67/mth over the 12mth contract. The offer ends at 11.59pm on Sun or once the last 2,500 codes have been used - whichever's sooner. Note: Vodafone will automatically add its anti-virus package. It's 'free' for three months then 1/mth, so cancel ASAP if you don't want it. Full details and more deals in Top Sims.

15 Roald Dahl books 17.50 delivered. MSE Blagged. Via code (norm 25+). Incl Matilda, The BFG, James & The Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory etc. Ends Sun. Save some Wonka

Tell your friends about us

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

Longest 0%: MBNA* up to 29mths 0%, 2.75%-3.49% fee + 20 cashback on 1k+ transfers (20.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: NatWest / RBS 23mths 0% - existing custs only but there's a trick for others (19.9% rep APR)

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  1. MoneySupermarket*
  2. Confused.com*
  3. Gocompare*
  4. Compare The Market*

Then check insurers they miss:
Aviva*
Direct Line*

Cheapest for 5,000-7,499: Zopa* 3.3% rep APR
Cheapest 7.5k-15k: M&S Bank* 2.9% rep APR

Standard b'band & line rent: Post Office equiv 11.74/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent:
Vodafone equiv 17.45/mth

New. 150 to switch + 2% cashback: NatWest Reward
Great service + free 50: First Direct

Slash car insurance renewals by 100s, incl hot deals comparisons miss

It's peak renewal time. So if yours is about to pop thru the post or into your inbox, here's how to drive down costs

September is new registrations month, which means it's one of the busiest periods for sorting car insurance (even if your car's nowhere near new). Many are getting renewal notices and being asked to pay more. Yet there are huge savings to be had if you fight back, as Mandy emailed: "My friend's mother-in-law was quoted 1,800+. Gave her the order to search comparison sites and she thanked me for the result - 485. Thanks." Full help in Cheap Car Insurance, but in brief:

Remember, if you're claiming on your car insurance and they're playing silly devils, you have a right to take them to the financial ombudsman if you don't think you're being treated fairly.

Ends Sun. Get 5p/L off Morrisons petrol & diesel. Its on-again, off-again promo's back. See how to get 5p off.

TAX CODE CHECK SUCCESS OF THE WEEK:
"Thank you Martin for posting the details to check your tax code. I checked mine, it was not the correct code and I got 552. Delighted."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

Free tickets to Martin's ITV live show. Be in the audience next Tue (17 Sep) from 6.30pm in London (limited numbers). Full info: TV tickets.

THIS WEEK'S POLL

Are you allowed to buy cheap school uniforms? Buying new school uniform can be a costly exercise - especially if your child has to wear pricey branded items. So does your child's school let you buy from supermarkets, or are you restricted to a specific shop?

Younger MoneySavers are more likely to want a higher contactless spending limit. Last week, we asked whether you thought the current contactless spending limit of 30 should be increased. Over 5,000 MoneySavers responded, and you were split - 50% want a higher limit and 42% for it to stay the same or be lowered, while 8% don't use contactless at all. Younger respondents are more likely to use contactless though, and 60% of under-25s backed a higher spending limit compared to 43% of over-65s. See full contactless poll results.

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should I share cashback on a shared bill with my housemates? I've sorted the bills out for my student house and, thanks to my own initiative, got 120 cashback on our broadband bill. Should I share it or keep it? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I share cashback on a shared bill with my housemates? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

THE QUICKIES

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: One debt vs 100 days
- Competitions thread of the week: Win an overnight stay at Alton Towers with entry to Scarefest and the Dungeon
- Old-Style board thread of the week: What do you cook in your air fryer?
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Older children and rent: do you put their contributions into a savings pot for them?
- Discussion of the week: The MoneySaving student meal recipes thread

Dyson - 150 cordless vacuum code (norm 200)
McDonald's - 'Free' egg/bacon/sausage McMuffin
Heritage Open Days - Free visits to 6,000+ sites
The Book People - 15 Roald Dahl books 17.50
Nails Inc - 84ish nail polish set for 25 all-in

KFC - 3.99 fillet burger meal via app (norm 6ish)
Pizza Express - 30% off food bill (ends Thu)
Leon - Free 'Little Box' meal after 5pm
Pizza Hut - 7 unlimited lunch buffet every day
Sizzling Pubs - Kids eat for '1'

M&S - 90% off remaining stock
Office - Up to 70% off
Topman - Up to 70% off
River Island - Up to 70% off
New Look - Up to 70% off

Quick Forum Tips

3.50 tubs of Celebrations/Roses. Chocs away
2mths' free access to meditation app. Ohm my...
Free seeds in London. Money doesn't grow on trees

MARTIN'S APPEARANCES (WED 11 SEP ONWARDS)

Thu 12 Sep - Good Morning Britain, ITV, 7.35am
Fri 13 Sep - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 16 Sep - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 16 Sep
- BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, 12.20pm
Tue 17 Sep - The Martin Lewis Money Show Live, ITV, 8pm

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES (MOST SUBJECTS TBC)

Wed 11 Sep - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm
Fri 13 Sep - BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am
Mon 16 Sep -
TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am
Tue 17 Sep -
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: My energy provider is offering me a two-year fixed deal, but only if I agree to have a smart meter fitted - is this legal? William, via email.

MSE
Chris's A: In short, yes. No-one has to get a smart meter if they don't want one - they're not compulsory. But suppliers can require you to get a smart meter if you want to sign up to a specific tariff. When this is the case, energy firms must tell you about it in the tariff's T&Cs, and we also try to highlight it on Cheap Energy Club.

If a tariff requires you to get a smart meter and you then don't have one installed, you may end up being placed on a more expensive tariff, and even charged an exit fee for the privilege. For more info on what having a smart meter means, see our Smart Meters guide.

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

'I COLLECTED 1,700 IN SPARE CHANGE'

That's it for this week, but before we go... after MSE Kelvin recently emptied his coin jar and found he was sitting on a cool 27, we've been asking how much you've pocketed by cashing in your spare change. The sums were bigger than you'd think, with one MoneySaver collecting 1,000 in a biscuit tin and another taking a 4.5L Famous Grouse bottle full of coins to her bank and finding she'd amassed 1,700. Read their stories and let us know how much shrapnel you've saved in our Is your coin jar worth a fortune? Facebook post.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team

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