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Weekly Email
This email was sent
16th 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 This info may be out of date.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."

16 February 2016
Martin's Briefing: The MSE Big Energy Switch Event 4
£111 for yr's line rent & broadband
Secret 'no repairs' MOT centres
Warning: Booked hols but no ins?
Family & Friends Railcard £10off code
'Haggled £20 Nike' - shopping secrets
50+ wedding tips incl 'free' Amzn £50
Free £150 bank switch
Got M&S credit card? Points slashed
Two pairs of specs £19
£12 Kurt Geiger shoes
1mth left to claim AI Scheme redress
£45 Body Shop bundle £25
Marriage tax allowance warning
Beat Ukash travel card hike

Last chance: The MSE Big Energy Switch Event 4

British Gas £345/yr saving

- We've negotiated CHEAPER THAN THE CHEAPEST gas & elec
- 'I've switched and I'm saving £924 a year. Thanks.'

Update. Friday 19 Feb, 8.54am: The Big Energy Switch Event 4 has now ended but you can still save a typical £300/yr+ via our Cheap Energy Club. We've left the write-up untouched below as it's still packed full of ways to save, even if some of the deals mentioned have expired.

Forget paltry 5% gas price cuts announced by the big six firms - if you're one of the 70% on a standard tariff, you're still being screwed. Yet our 4th MSE collective switch (not in NI, sadly) can save a typical £345/yr, but the clock's ticking as it ends late tomorrow night (Thu), though the headline deal may go sooner. It only takes 5 mins, then you're switched in 17 days.

In the fortnight since we launched our collective we've broken all records and 97,000+ have already switched. Linzi tweeted: "Thanks for keeping on at us. I've switched and I'm saving £77/month, £924/year." Holidayangel tweeted: "Thanks. I've never switched & just saved a massive £645. Stayed with British Gas, easy."

A collective's where a trusted intermediary (eg, a council or us) runs an auction for energy firms to bid to provide special tariffs. Our huge 11m email recipients & 2m Cheap Energy Club members mean ours smash even the market's cheapest for most.

Are you eligible for Big Switch 4? Ofgem rules now mean we need to pre-register people for collective switches. You need to have been on the distribution list for this email or our Cheap Energy Club before 1 Feb.

How do I check if I can get it? Use our Can I get the collective? checker. Or for speed go straight to the Cheap Energy Club comparison and if you can get the collective it'll be in your results, if the tariffs are still available. Sorry, over the past fortnight huge numbers meant pages were slow - the team's working tirelessly to keep it working, please be patient.

What if I'm not eligible? You can still save large (just not quite as much) - there's no point waiting, every day of overpaying costs. Many can still save £100s, so use our Top Picks Comparison to see what you can get.

I'm eligible - can I change my email? First use the registered email, but when actually switching, on the form you can give a new one (if you want, you can return after switching & change your registered email with Cheap Energy Club too).
Cheapest dual fuel. Special British Gas dual fuel tariff. It's not often the UK's largest supplier competes on price, but this MSE British Gas 12-month tariff saves someone with typical bills on a big six standard tariff £345/yr. And EXISTING British Gas customers can get it (as can Sainsbury's Energy customers).

This was originally capped by BG at 100k switches to prevent it being swamped but we asked it to extend the cap, and as it says it's coping, it's agreed to 125k. To get the tariff you need to do a comparison, and if you're eligible and it's still available it'll be in your results. If not, you'll see the next best which should still save you a typical £300+/yr.

Key facts...

- You also get £30 dual fuel cashback from Cheap Energy Club.
- It's available for dual fuel (gas & elec together), incl Eco 7.
- You must opt to pay by monthly direct debit.
- Leave early and there's a £30 exit fee per fuel.
- As it's a fix, the rate (not cost, that depends on use) is fixed for 1yr.
- If you move home you can take it with you.
- Existing BG & Sainsbury's Energy custs can switch to it with no exit fee regardless of their tariff, and get the £30 cashback.

How it compares for someone with typical usage
Avg price on Ofgem typical dual fuel direct-debit use (varies by region)

Typical cost: Current avg big six standard tariff: £1,089/yr
Typical cost: Current British Gas standard tariff: £1,075/yr
MSE Special: MSE BG fix: £744/yr + £30 cashback, £60 exit fee
Next cheapest open market 12mth fix: Gnergy: £764/yr - no cashback, £25/fuel exit fee

Get YOUR EXACT PRICE & saving via a full market comparison

- Good for you if: 1) You want the cheapest deal. 2) You're with BG & don't want to change firm. 3) You're OK to switch again in 12mths (if not, see the three-winter tariff below).

- Not for you if: 1) You only want electricity. 2) You want to be able to switch again penalty-free within the year.

- How's customer service? British Gas scored 38% 'great' and 28% 'poor' in our Nov 2015 poll - but as part of this collective we've arranged for it to provide boosted customer service resources for our switch.

PS, there are other collectives out now which for some may undercut this. See full analysis.
Cheapest THREE-WINTER fix. Green Star - switch & forget. If you're not the type to play the market and just want a long-term cheap deal, the MSE Green Star 36mth fix is a corker, as once you get it the rate is locked in for three years from the date you're switched over.

- You also get £30 dual fuel cashback from Cheap Energy Club.
- It's available for dual fuel, gas-only & elec-only, incl Economy 7.
- You can opt to pay by monthly direct debit or costlier quarterly cash / cheque / direct debit.
- Leave early and there's a £25 exit fee per fuel.
- As it's a fix, the rate (not cost, that depends on use) is fixed for 3yrs.
- Existing custs can get it without paying an exit fee.
- If you move home you cannot take it with you.

How it compares for someone with typical usage

Avg price on Ofgem typical dual fuel direct-debit use (varies by region)
Typical cost: Current avg big six standard tariff: £1,089/yr
MSE Special: Green Star 36mth: £876/yr + £30 cashback, £25/fuel exit fee
Next cheapest open market 3yr fix: First Utility: £999/yr - £30/fuel exit fee

Get YOUR EXACT PRICE & saving via a full market comparison

- Good for you if: 1) You don't usually switch & often forget, as do this now & you needn't act again until 2019. 2) You're worried about future price hikes & prefer to bag the certainty of a long-term cheap price.

- Not for you if: 1) You just want the cheapest price. 2) You want to be able to switch penalty-free. 3) You may move home soon.

- How's customer service? We only had limited feedback (45 votes) on Green Star in our Nov 2015 poll but what we had was good - 67% 'great' and 13% 'poor'. Green Star has featured in our previous Big Switch Events and we've had few reported problems, and we've set up boosted customer service.
Cheapest GREEN tariff. Bulb 100% renewable tariff plus £12.50/fuel J Lewis vch. This is for those who want to do their bit for the environment and still save massively over standard tariffs. The winning bid, from a supplier that's generated 100% of its elec from renewable sources and a rare 10% of its gas from biomethane, is the MSE Bulb 12mth fix. This was originally capped at 1,000 tariffs but Bulb removed the limit last week.

- You get £30 dual fuel cashback from Cheap Energy Club.
- It's a very green tariff - see its full green credentials.
- It's available for dual fuel & electricity-only.
- Bulb sends a £12.50/fuel John Lewis vch 2mths after you switch.
- You must opt to pay by monthly direct debit.
- Leave early and there's a £5/fuel exit fee.
- As it's a fix, the rate (not cost, that depends on use) is fixed for 1yr.
- If you move home you can take the tariff with you.

How it compares for someone with typical usage
Avg price on Ofgem typical dual fuel direct-debit use (varies by region)

Typical cost: Current avg big six standard tariff: £1,089/yr
MSE Special: Bulb 12mth fix: £869/yr + £30 cashback, £5/fuel exit fee
Next cheapest open market 100% renewable 12mth fix: Ovo: £883/yr, no exit fee

Get YOUR EXACT PRICE & saving via a full market comparison

- Good for you if: 1) You want a competitive price but will pay a little more for green. 2) You're happy to switch again in a year.

- Not for you if: 1) You just want the cheapest price. 2) You want to be able to switch penalty-free (though the penalty is small). 3) You're with an independent gas transporter (IGT), as Bulb charges an extra £8.33/mth (£100/yr).

- How's customer service? Bulb is a small, new supplier, so we've no feedback on its service - however we have visited it, checked it can handle the traffic and set up boosted customer service for our switch. Hopefully all good.
Cheapest ELECTRICITY-ONLY tariff. E.on 12mth fix. Our winner is the MSE E.on 12mth fix, but we need to be straight as it won't always win. It's best at mid to low use, especially when you factor in our cashback. Click the link and you'll get a comparison showing you - if it doesn't win, you'll likely be shown you still save elsewhere.

- Existing E.on customers can get it without paying an exit fee regardless of what elec tariff they're on, even if part of a dual fuel deal.
- You also get £15 switching cashback from Cheap Energy Club.
- Tick 'sign up to E.on points' during sign up & over 12mths you'll get 1,500 pts, convertible into 1,500 Tesco Clubcard pts or a £15 high st vch (incl Argos).
- It works on Economy 7.
- You can opt to pay by monthly direct debit or costlier quarterly cash / cheque / direct debit.
- Leave early and there's a £30 exit fee.
- As it's a fix, the rate (not cost, that depends on use) is fixed for 1yr.

How it compares
Roughly based on the ELEC-ONLY usage of someone with oil/other heating

Typical cost: Current big six standard tariff: £505/yr
MSE Special: E.on 12mth fix: £380/yr + £15 cashback, £30 exit fee
Next cheapest open market 12mth fix: GB Energy: £379/yr - no cashback, no exit fee

Get YOUR EXACT PRICE & saving via a full market comparison

- Good for you if: 1) You don't have gas. 2) You are happy to switch again in a year. 3) You shop at Tesco and collect Clubcard points.

- Not for you if: 1) You're an electricity-only user but have high usage - but then still click the link to do a full comparison. 2) You want to be able to switch penalty-free within the year.

- How's customer service? In our last customer service poll E.on did well, scoring 58% 'great' and 11% 'poor' from 688 votes. We've worked with E.on in our previous Big Switch Events, have boosted customer service resources for it, and found it good at dealing with issues.
Cheapest prepaid - SADLY no winner. We tried for a key or card tariff, but no supplier beat the market's best buys, so we wouldn't put our name to it. Yet use our Prepay Comparison to find your cheapest - many can save £110/year.

However, even on them you'll still be paying £300/yr more than the cheapest direct debit deal. See Can I switch to a standard meter?

The MSE Big Switch Event 4 FAQs
For more detailed answers see the full MSE collective FAQs

Q. I'm already with one of these providers (eg, BG). Can I still switch? Yes, plus you won't have to pay any exit fees & you still get our cashback.

Q. Will the collective tariffs always win? Mostly, not always. It depends where you live and your usage, which is why we do this via a comparison.

Q. My fix ends soon (incl MSE's Big Switch Event 2), can I do this? Yes, within 49 days of it ending your supplier CAN'T charge exit fees.

Q. How does Cheap Energy Club work? When you join, 3 things happen:

1) We show your exact price, saving & compare to ALL market tariffs. While our collective tariffs usually win, there can be regional & usage variations.
2) You get £30 dual fuel cashback (£15 elec-only). Any time we can switch you (collective switch or not) we give this, sent roughly 60-90 days later.
3) We monitor that it stays cheap. You set a 'trigger saving', eg, £150/yr, then we alert you if you can save this by switching again - perfect for fixes where cheap rates go quick. This takes the hassle out of energy tarting, where you constantly switch to get the cheapest rate.

Q. What do I need to switch? A bill - preferably your annual bill - would be good, and use kWh rather than cost if you can. But if you don't have that, estimate your usage (if you're moving home the comparison does it for you) and while the answer won't be perfect, it shouldn't be far out.

Q. Does MSE make money from this? Yes. We're paid £60ish/dual fuel switch & give you £30 as cashback. After supplier costs we get £11 for costs & profit.

Q. I'm locked into a fix - should I switch? Possibly. Do our comparison, which shows how much you'd save compared with your current fix & the price it jumps to after. Just ensure you factor in exit fees.

Q. Who's responsible for these tariffs - MSE or the energy firm? The energy firm is, and you pay it. But we take our bit seriously and ask all providers to set up special customer help teams with max 48-hour response times. If something goes wrong, and it won't help, let us know and we'll try to help.

Q. If prices are dropping, should I wait? Standard price cuts are trivial compared with the savings possible here. If other cheap deals launch during our collective, they'll be shown in your comparison. Prices may continue to fall after, but switching now means saving now. Drops would need be huge to overcome that, and if they are, save now and pay the exit fees to switch then.

More quick FAQs:

Q. I'm in credit - will I get it back if I switch? Yes. See Reclaim credit.
Q. I'm in debt - can I switch? Yes, usually - see switching in debt help.
Q. Can I see the standing charge and kWh costs? They vary by region, so we display YOUR exact cost in the Cheap Energy Club comparison result.
Q. Can I switch if I've solar & FIT? Yes. See full solar & FIT info.
Q. On a smart meter? Can I switch? Yes, but you may lose functionality.
Q. Do I keep my Warm Home Discount? It depends, see Warm Home info.
Q. Is there a credit check? BG and E.on yes (unless you're an existing customer), Green Star and Bulb no. See collective credit check info.
Q. Can I get paper bills? Yes (not Bulb) but you'll pay up to £15/yr more - see paper bills.
Q. Can I switch if with an independent gas transporter? Yes, see IGT help.
Q. Is paying by direct debit cheapest? Yes, but do regular meter readings.
Q. Can they put my price up on a cheap fix? The rate's fixed, but use more (or if it's estimated you will) & the direct debit can rise. See Fight Unfair Direct Debits.
Q. Can I switch if I'm renting? Yes. See our Renters' Factsheet.

Tweet us if you’ve a collective switch question. We're doing a live Twitter Clinic on Thu, 12.45-13.30, answering all Qs to @MoneySavingExp.

PS from Martin. The last Martin Lewis Money Show finished on Friday night (watch it on ITV Hub - on flight delays, marriage tax allowance, kids' savings and more). So I'm taking a break for a week, mainly to sleep. This email is in the more-than-talented hands of MSE Guy and the team.

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Line rent & broadband £111 for a YEAR - equiv £9.24/mth

Cheapest b'band we've seen this year, from BT-owned Plusnet. Cuts £200/yr-ish off typical costs after cashback

These days if you want home broadband, it's almost unavoidable to have it bundled with your home phone. At standard prices with the likes of BT, Sky, Virgin & TalkTalk you could pay £300-£450/year. The key to cost-cutting is grabbing short-lived promo deals (or haggling based on them) - this is the cheapest we've seen so far in 2016...

  • Cheap BroadbandLine & b'band £111 for a YEAR. Via this link, get a 1yr contract with BT-owned Plusnet* for line rent & unltd downloads, up-to-17Mb speed. Its customer service rating is strong (61% 'great' in our poll) & 90% of the UK is eligible, but existing Plusnet customers (or those who left in the last month) are excluded. To get it...

    1. Sign up. Go via this Plusnet* link before 11.59pm on Tue 23 Feb.
    2. Pay line rent upfront if you can afford to. It's £185.88 for the year (equiv £15.49/mth), or £16.99 monthly.
    3. Broadband's 'free' during the contract.
    After, it's £9.99-£17.49/mth (depending on location).
    4. £75 cashback. Use the link above and within 60 days of account activation you'll automatically be sent a £75 cheque. (PS: If you've ad- or cookie-blocking software, turn it off or it mightn't track - see cookie blockers.)
    5. Pay by direct debit. Or there's a £1.50 per payment extra charge.

    How it rates: Pay a year's line rent upfront, factor in cashback & it's £110.88 for a year (equiv £9.24/mth). Pay line rent monthly & after cashback it's £128.88 (£10.74/mth equiv). BT's standard line rent is £17.99/mth alone.

    - What about calls? None included - calls to UK phones are mostly slightly cheaper than BT (see call costs).
    - No line/switching from cable (or in a few cases, Sky cust)? Installation's £49.99. You'll know before committing.
    - Need a router? There's an optional 'free' one available, though Plusnet charges £6.99 p&p.

  • Cheapest superfast fibre broadband. If you want something with more speed (see Do you need fibre?), our current top pick is BT's fibre b'band & line rent £370 over 12mths, get £100 card + £40 vch. Full best-buys in Cheap Broadband.

Ends Sun. Family & Friends Railcard £10 off code. Normally £30, now £20 for a 1yr railcard that gets you and up to three more grown-ups a third off most journeys, if travelling with 1-4 kids who get 60% off too. Family & Friends

'I haggled £20 off Nike trainers via its web chat.' 13 shopping secrets. Plus hidden store tag codes & more tricks.

50+ wedding tips incl 'free' Amazon £50 with gift list. Get £50 credit when guests spend £250. This, £1,000 receptions & more in Cheap Weddings.

Free £150 to switch banks. Many moan about their bank but don't exploit the switching price war. Top service bank First Direct's* boosted £150 incentive is only on till 29 Feb (via this link; £125 direct). It has 6% linked savings and a £250 0% overdraft (min pay-in £1k/mth). Also, Halifax* has just increased its bonus to £125 (from £100), and you get £5/mth if you've direct debits paid, stay in credit and pay in £750/mth. Full info, and more deals in Best Bank Accounts.

Got an M&S credit card? Bad news if you like its loyalty points. 3m+ hit - full info in M&S points cut.

Two pairs of prescription specs £19 deliv code. MSE Blagged. £36 off, works on 2for1s. Glasses Direct


- Body Shop bundle £25 delivered 5,000 avail

- 12 large pansy plants £6.50 delivered 1,200 avail

- Ideal Home Show 2for1 tix code Ends Sun

- Kurt Geiger shoes £12ish delivered Ends Sun

- Extra 20% off Soletrader Outlet Ends Thu


- Freebies galore incl irons, meat, make-up & more

- Biggest savings shake-up for a generation: Get 6% tax-free

- 2for1 Starbucks voucher

- Full Sky TV (sports/movies) £40/mth

Secret 'no repairs' MOT centres - 'Saved me £400'

It's not the test fee but repairing 'fails' that can send your finances into reverse. This and more insider tricks...

New Govt figures show almost 40% of cars fail their MOT at the first go. While tests are usually about £50, repairs can be £1,000s. If for safety, they're needed; but you could be fleeced if not. See our Cheap MOTs guide, but to rev you up...

  • MOT Almost 1 in 5 fail due to lights not working - check your car first. Latest stats show a shocking number hit a road block due to the obvious, eg, dodgy lights, broken wipers or balding tyres. Use our DIY Pre-MOT Checklist.

  • Choose the right test centre. If your motor's mint and fails are unlikely, focus on getting the cheapest test. See find a test centre help. If not...

  • Find hidden council MOT centres to minimise fails. If your garage is ace, great. Yet some report over-zealous fault-spotting they think is to gain lucrative repair business. Council-run centres, originally for buses/ambulances, are open to all. They often don't do repairs, so there's no vested interest. If they say 'fail', it's for safety. See our 70+ council MOT centres list. We've had lots of feedback that this works, eg, Glen7: "Had a pre-MOT at local garage. It failed & was going to cost £400. I booked into my nearest council centre & it passed."

Kurt Geiger shoes £12ish delivered, via 20% off outlet code. MSE Blagged. Ltd stock. Ends Sun. Kurt Geiger

Warning. Just 1mth left to claim AI Scheme (Sentinel) redress. 2m+ are entitled to a combined £100m+, but your form must arrive by 18 March to be eligible. Full help + templates in AI Scheme (Sentinel) reclaim.

Body Shop bundle £25 delivered (norm £45). MSE Blagged. 5,000 avail. Good for Mother's Day. Five items - incl £14 body butter, £13 moisturiser, £10 mascara. Or there's a 40% off code for most other items. Body Shop

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"Many thanks, in no time at all my wife got the marriage tax allowance." We've been flooded with successes since we warned last week 3.7m couples hadn't claimed it. Check now: marriage allowance.

Beat Ukash travel card hike. There's anger, especially as there's a fee to ditch, but we've a trick to avoid Ukash fees.

Biggest savings shake-up for a generation - 6% TAX-FREE. Sort your savings now. Tax-free savings

Tell your friends about us

They can get this email free every week


Sainsbury's Tu 25% off EVERYTHING. In-store & online clothes discount, incl school uniforms. Ends Mon. Tu

12 large pansy plants £6.50 del (next cheapest £11). MSE Blagged. Arrive in bud, flower in 3wks. 1,200 avail

Free £9ish Ciaté polish via £4 mag. 13.5ml full-size nail polish in one of five colours. Mag freebies

Warning. Have you booked your holiday but not got insurance?

'I paid for a family holiday then found I had cancer. I had no travel insurance, I can't get a refund, what can I do?'

It's a heartbreaking tale but one that highlights the importance of ALWAYS buying travel insurance the moment you book. One user (identity withheld for privacy) recently told us they'd spent £100s, which was non-refundable, on a holiday before being diagnosed with cancer, meaning they couldn't go. Sadly, they're financially stuck. Without cover you're not protected if you need to cancel. It doesn't cost more to buy early - find top deals in Cheap Travel Insurance, for starters...

Ideal Home Show 2for1 tix code. MSE Blagged. If you missed our freebies earlier in Feb, get a pair for £14-£16. For 18 Mar-3 Apr in London. Ends Sun. Ideal Home

20% off Soletrader Outlet code, eg, £76 Uggs. MSE Blagged. Ends Thu. Incl ltd Timberland, Vans. Soletrader


How do you rate your bank account's service? Please vote based on CUSTOMER SERVICE for your main CURRENT account over the last SIX MONTHS. Please ignore rates or other products or service 6+ months ago.

Bank of Scotland | Barclays | Cahoot | Clydesdale | Co-op | First Direct | Halifax | HSBC
Lloyds | M&S | Metro | Nationwide | NatWest | Norwich & Peterborough
RBS | Santander | Smile | Tesco Bank | Think Money | TSB | Ulster | Virgin | Yorkshire Bank

Thrift is the language of love: 7,869 voted on whether it's acceptable to use a 2for1 restaurant voucher on a first date. Only 16% think it's tight. See full results.


- Top story: - Police warning over fraudsters 'pretending to be Martin Lewis'

- New BT service to divert millions of nuisance calls

- On a first date? Yes, you CAN use a 2for1 voucher

- British Gas pulls free insulation offer


Should I ask my partner to pay me for childcare? My partner and I split nursery costs on the three days a week I work. I look after our little one for the other two working days, which I'm not paid for. Should I ask my other half to pay me the daily rate he pays for nursery? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should my partner pay me for childcare? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: List one thing a day on eBay
- Competitions thread of the week: All-inclusive trip to Barbados
- Old-style board thread of the week: What's it worth to you?
- Discussion of the week: Which was the best year of your life?


- I got £21.50 of Valentine's goodies for £8.50 to give on Mother's Day


Mon 22 Feb - This Morning, ITV, Money Monday, from 10.30am. Watch previous
Mon 22 Feb - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, 12noon. Subscribe to podcast


Wed 17 Feb - Share Radio, 11.20am
Thu 18 Feb - BBC Radio Manchester, 4.20pm


Q: My flight was delayed and I want to claim compensation. I think it was more than three hours late when I got off the plane, but is when the plane actually landed on the runway what counts? Steve, via Twitter.

MSE Megan's A: Good question. In order to claim compensation your flight must arrive at least three hours late - but the clock stops when the plane opens at least one of its doors, NOT when it touches down.

The European Court of Justice clarified this after Germanwings argued it shouldn't have to pay compensation because one of its planes landed on the runway a mere 2hrs 58mins late. The judge ruled the actual arrival time was when the first door was opened. As this was 3hrs 3mins late, the passenger was awarded compensation.

That said, there are circumstances where a passenger won't qualify for cash despite their plane being delayed at least three hours. For the full lowdown, see our Flight Delays guide.

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

Would you turn used teabags into hand warmers?

That's it for this week, but before we go, check out this thread on the forum: "Extreme thrifty tips". We're all about clever savings, but one magazine's top tips caused some consternation and got our forumites' thrifty juices flowing. Matches instead of candles? A broken brolly as a clothes horse? Used teabags as handwarmers? Share your most extreme ideas.

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

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