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16th Dec 2015
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16 December 2015
Martin's Briefing: Cheap drains, trains & automobile (travel) - slash Xmas costs
Last order dates for Xmas delivery
The top Kardashian savings
Two-hour FLASH currency sale
Urgent: 40mth 0% debt shift
£75 Boots No7 beauty bundle £38
Send money abroad for £1 this Xmas
Martin hires lawyers to fight Govt student loan hike
70% off Xmas decorations
Free video message from Santa
Yr's 2for1 movies £2, incl Star Wars
Cheap personalised Xmas photo gifts
Sign women's pension petition
£67 shopping 11p: top 2015 life hack
M&S 30%-50% off selected lines

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

Cheap drains, trains & automobile (travel)

- Free tank of fuel with canny extreme couponing trick
- Keep the heat on or invalidate home insurance on Xmas breaks
- 4% cashback on fuel purchases: is it worth it?

It's Chrissstmasss. Some are Driving Home for Xmas, some are off on their very own National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and others are leaving their Homes Alone. With the big day approaching, we've A Wonderful List of top tips to cut the cost of travel and protect your home this Christmas...

1. xmasFree tank of fuel via extreme couponing trick. If you're planning a big spend at any one of 50+ retailers (eg, Homebase, PC World) buy the gift card in Morrisons and you get 1p/litre off fuel per £10 spend. So £100 gets 10p off, £1,000ish gets a free tank. Full info, incl pros & cons, in Petrol Gift Voucher Trick.
2. Turn your heating down, but not off, if you're going away. If it gets cold, no heating risks burst pipes - so much so some insurers won't cover you for damage if your home's unoccupied for more than five days and you turned the heating off. Rule of thumb is keep it to a minimum 14°C. See Don't turn the heating off when away.
3. Buying two tickets for one train journey can save you £100s. Split ticketing makes no sense, but it works. Eg, a single from Manchester to Cornwall costs £158, but the train stops at Cheltenham Spa. Buy a £52 ticket from Manc to C. Spa then a £58 one from there to Cornwall & the total's £110 - same train, same time, possibly even same seat.

To find if you can do this on your journey use our free Tickety Split tool. Justine tweeted: "You are a genius. Tickety Split has just saved me £50 - no effort, exact same journey."
4. Free winter car check (norm £15) from Halfords. It'll check your battery, bulbs, wiper blades and oil levels, plus top up screen wash for free. See Free winter car check.
5. Cheap boiler cover - you don't need to stick with your energy firm. Boiler cover is a free market, yet energy firms like you to think you have to get it with them. You don't need to. While British Gas charges £12/mth, you can get similar cover for as little as £6/mth. See Cheap Boiler Insurance.
6. Hot home insurance deals comparison sites miss, eg, free £75 M&S vch. Get combined buildings & contents via this Together Mutual* link to get £75 M&S, or use this L&G* link and the code GIFT18 for £65 M&S. The vouchers should arrive within 120 days.

It's important to note I'm not saying these are your cheapest, just they're worth getting quotes from and comparing to the best result from combining comparison sites. It's worked well in the past - Steven emailed: "Many thanks. Just renewed combined house insurance which was £110 but with £80 M&S vouchers - real cost now only £30. Happy days."
7. Cheap Christmas & NY train tickets still on - never think it's too late. Even this close to Xmas, you can still bag cheap advance tickets, eg, Ldn to Edinburgh single £40 on Christmas Eve. And even if you don't know your plans yet, never just assume you'll need to buy at the station - some rail firms still let you book cheap advance tickets (if they're still available) up to 15mins before the journey. See Cheap Trains for more tips and tricks.
8. Get a year's breakdown cover for £17. Winter breakdowns aren't fun. Yet basic cover can be cheap with AA/RAC from £17 if you do it right. Or there's AutoAid full service for £42, ie, you get home start and onward travel too.
9 Find where your stop 'male chicken' is. (If we used the correct term, this'd go to your spam box). Everyone should know where their stop-thingy (rhymes with lock - the mains water off-switch) is. Frozen pipe bursts create an avg £4k of damage - worse if you can't find the off switch as your home floods. See How to turn your water off.
10. Can you find sub-£1/litre petrol? Petrol prices are now under £1/litre in some places, but the range is huge. Use to find your cheapest, nearest forecourt, eg, in Manchester M20 the range is 99.9p to £1.11, west London is 99.7p to a whopping £1.65.
11. Is 4% petrol cashback card a big winner? The AA's FuelSave* credit card pays 4% cashback on fuel spending if you spend £500/mth in total on the card (2% if not) and it pays 0.5% on other spending - it also gives a free annual MOT. Sounds great except there's a £42 annual fee and cashback is capped at £150/yr.

We've crunched the numbers and in virtually every case, the winner is the fee-free Amex Platinum Everyday* (eligibility calc) card which gives 5% cashback on all spending, incl fuel, in the first three mths (max £100), then rates are up to 1.25% after.

Yet for either card, you must repay IN FULL each month to avoid the 22.4% & 22.9% rep APRs. Full info: Top Petrol Cashback Cards.
12. Drive down fuel costs by 30% without slowing down. The biggest way to save fuel is to change the way you drive. This isn't about slowing down, it's about speeding up more gradually, changing up a gear sooner and road positioning. See 7 cheap petrol driving tricks.

Try it and let me know how it goes, as forumite Techono12 did: "I occasionally drive to see family about 220 miles away. It used to cost me about £80 in petrol return, doing 70-80mph. When I stuck to 55-65mph it only cost £65."
13. Coach is the cheapest way to travel this Christmas. Eg, Ldn to Manc £15 rtn (50p booking fee) between Xmas Eve and NYE. You can even double-up Clubcard pts to use too - see all Megabus Deals for more.
14. Does your home insurance cover Xmas presents? Many policies (but not all, so check) give you a free boost of 10% of your contents cover over Christmas time & other religious festivals, either before or after (some give before AND after). This is to protect those presents you have bought or received.
15. Stay toasty with a sausage dog. Sometimes the best way to hunker down is to keep it low-tech. Make yourself a DIY sausage dog draught excluder, which can be hugely comforting - and see more thrifty tips in the Winter Prep forum thread.
16. Is your energy firm ripping you off? Take five mins to check. If you're on a big six standard tariff, you could save £300/yr by switching, and our test of new MSE team members shows doing a Cheap Energy Club comparison only takes 5m 52s on avg. @rabaldinho07 tweeted: "Just used your Cheap Energy Club and saved £330 a year. Cheers." Do a comparison at Cheap Energy Club.

PS: The ITV Martin Lewis Money Show is now off air until January, when it moves to Fridays at 8pm, starting on 8 Jan. Yet this week's student finance programme was a must-watch for those at or considering uni and their parents - you can watch again here.

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LAST OOOOORDERS for free & cheap online delivery

Ordering online for Xmas? Do it ASAP - Amazon, John Lewis, Asos & M&S normal delivery closes within 4 days

Nine days left until the big fella climbs down chimneys, but in the online world the deadline's far sooner. And as online can be cheaper, if you're doing it, do it now, so as not to miss out. Here are our festive delivery need-to-knows:

  • Last orders50+ last order dates (and what you pay if you miss them). Our Last Order Dates list includes the final free or cheapest delivery date for most big retailers. Eg, Thu: Tesco Direct. Fri: House of Fraser, Asda George. Sat & Sun: Amazon, John Lewis, Debenhams, Asos, M&S. You can often still order after these - you usually just pay more for delivery.

  • Last chance to easily compare prices. Our MegaShopBot finds the best comparison site for whatever you're buying, so do it quickly before delivery costs become a factor. For many more ways to save, see 43 Online Shopping Tips.

  • Know your free delivery thresholds. Free delivery is often only free if you spend over a certain amount. In May, Amazon hiked its threshold from £10 to £20. If you're just under, the Amazon Super Saver Delivery Tool finds items to bump it up, eg, a £19.50 electric toothbrush has £4.75 delivery, so it finds a 50p sponge to make delivery free. Similarly, John Lewis's free delivery threshold's £50, so buy a £49 jumper and postage's £3.50, but add a £1.50 Xmas bauble and it's free.

  • Order online and if it's late you can send it back. Unlike buying in-store, buy online and online consumer rights mean you can cancel the order within 14 days of arrival for any reason. You've then 14 days to send it back. So if your parcel doesn't arrive in time, at least you can return it (excludes personalised/perishable items). See more Delivery Rights info.


Ends midnight. Huge 40mth 0% debt shift (2.99% fee). Accepted new cardholders applying by 11.59pm today (Wed) can shift debts from existing credit cards to Virgin Money's* 40mth 0% best-buy balance transfer card for a one-off 2.99% fee. Repay quicker? Barclaycard's* next longest - up to 37mths 0%, with a lower 2.54% fee. Or the AA* is 22mths 0% NO FEE. Will you get 'em? Find which is most likely to accept you with our eligibility calc. Warning: Never miss a min repayment & clear these before the 0% ends or they jump to 18.9% rep APR (AA 19.9% rep APR). Full info: Top Balance Transfers (APR Examples).

Boots No7 bundle £38 (norm £75) with £124ish of stuff. Incl body lotion, day & night cream, mascara: No7 deal. Plus last chance Soap & Glory: Big queues last Fri, but still some £30 gift sets left (norm £60). Ends Thu. Soap & Glory

Send money abroad for Xmas from just £1. Sending money overseas to family or friends? See £1 world transfers.

Martin's hired lawyers to challenge the Govt's retrospective student loan cost hike. Read his student loan challenge blog.

HUGE Xmas decorations sale, eg, House of Fraser up to 70% off, M&S 50% off. Our full cheap Xmas decs round-up also includes Debenhams up to 50% off & John Lewis up to 30% off. But we predict this could get even better any day now, eg, John Lewis up to 80% off. See our Christmas Deals Predictor.



- Nails Inc polish set £23 (norm £100ish) 1,300 avail


- Top Help to Buy ISAs

- £10 West End theatre tix, incl The Nutcracker

- Ends Wed: Hot Diamonds extra 35% off sale

- Used Experian? Are you owed £100s?

- Give something you KNOW will be valued - top charity gifts


The top Kardashian savings - ie 'lots of interest, with a big but'

Up interest if you'll buck convention: 5% by switching bank, 2.88% Islamic savings or EU (not UK) savings safety

Our Top Savings guide lists best-buy UK-protected straight savings deals. Yet a host of other accounts have lots more interest, with a big but, so we're calling them Kardashian accounts. Here's a quick rundown with the pros & cons...

  1. Savings Open a new bank account & earn 5% interest. No increased risk here but you often need to meet pay-in and direct debit criteria, which is a bigger deal than just changing savings. A few current accounts' in-credit rates smash standard savings. Santander 123 pays 3% AER on £3k-£20k. Others pay higher rates on lower amounts, eg, TSB Classic Plus is 5% AER on up to £2k. Full info: 5% Savings Loophole.

  2. Islamic banks pay a whopping 2.78% (probably) fixed for two years. Fixed-term savings lock your money in for a set time, usually in return for a set interest rate. Yet the top 2yr rate is a UK-based & regulated Sharia-compliant Islamic bank. As Islam bars interest, instead they give an 'expected profit rate' - this is very, very usually paid out, though by definition it isn't certain.

    If so, Al Rayan Bank pays 2.78% fixed for two years, 2.88% fixed for three. This compares to the top standard fixes from First Save at 2.4% and 2.73% - the best big brand is Yorkshire BS at 2.1% and 2.4%.

  3. EU (not UK) savings safety protection gives top easy-access rate 1.65%. Normally we ONLY list banks with the full UK £85,000 safe savings protection (it drops to £75,000 in Jan). All those above, including the Islamic ones, have that. Yet EU banks can opt to be covered by their home countries' €100,000 protection & right now these can be winners.

    If the worst happened & a bank went bust, would (& could) a foreign govt bail you out? Iceland famously had issues, though the UK then protected UK savers. If you do go for this, bigger, wealthier countries are likely a safer bet.

    - Top easy access:
    RCI Bank 1.65% (French-protected) beats UK-protected Harrods Bank 1.51% & Skipton BS 1.4%.
    - Top 2yr fix: Fidor Bank 2.4% (German-protected) matches UK-protected First Save 2.4% & beats big brand Yorkshire BS 2.1%.
    - Top 3yr fix: Fidor Bank 2.75% (German-protected) beats UK-protected First Save 2.73% & big brand Yorkshire BS 2.4%.


Free video message from Santa. Father Xmas sends free personalised videos via web or app. Santa videos

YEAR'S 2for1 cinema for £2ish manipulating Meerkat Movies - works on new Star Wars. The Force Awakens this week. Use again & again for 12 mths - Yoda be mad not to, paying full-price is a Wookiee error. Cinema trick

Cheap personalised photo gifts for Christmas delivery
A4 calendar £6.50 (norm £18) ends today (Wed) | 30 greetings cards £13 (norm £35) ends today | 200 6"x4" prints £4 (norm £20) ends Fri

Sign the petition to get MPs to debate women's state pension changes. More than 58,000 people have so far backed the petition. Read the full news story here.

£67-worth of shopping for 11p - the top 2015 life hack. Plus Amazon delivery trick and cheap stolen goods in our Top 15 life hacks of 2015.


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M&S up to 50% off selected items sale, eg, coats, shirts, Xmas jumpers. Online & in-store. M&S

Ends Sun. Cheapest small loan AND £50 cashback. Zopa* (eligibility calc) offers the cheapest loans for up to £5,000 (from 4.6% to 7.9% rep APR depending on amount and term - sometimes around half the next-cheapest). Get one before 20 Dec and it gives £50 cashback - a good boon if you need to borrow (always plan & ensure repayments are budgeted for). See the full Cheap Loans guide.

Nails Inc polish set £25 (norm £100ish indiv). MSE Blagged. 10 x 10ml polishes incl glitter, foil effect. 1,300 avail

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"Paid £2,500 for six flights to Fuerteventura. Read your tip yesterday [about the Easyjet refund trick]. Now have credit for almost £1k. Thanks for the tip."

Nationwide cardholder - get £25 cashback on £100 Amazon spend. Register & spend by Thu. N'wide cashback


Urgent Travelex two-hr FLASH sale - boost airport pick-up rates

Three big bureaux have Christmas sales on - so you can get the best bang for your buck, euro or even zloty

Get currency the wrong way & you overpay on EVERYTHING abroad. So if you're heading off this Xmas, don't just walk into a Post Office or M&S for euros - our 15 cheap travel money tips will slice your costs down. Here's the latest info:

  • TravelexTravelex two-hr online sale on ALL CURRENCIES. This rate boost includes pre-order for airport pick-up (you can also get delivery) - useful as at-airport rates are usually hideous. To see if it's good, use our Travel Money Comparison which updates during the sale.

    Travelex sale time: Thu, from 11am-1pm.

    It's not the only one with a boost either. Sainsbury's Bank is boosting all currencies until 9.30am Thu (online and via phone) and Asda's boosting euros, US$ and a few others till 8am Fri (online and via phone). Again these will be in our Travel Money Comparison. Yet the sales mightn't hit top spot, as smaller bureaux boost their rates in reply. Either way, you may gain.

  • Easy, UNBEATABLE rates every time you go away. There's a no-hassle way to smash even the best bureaux de change rates if you regularly go away - by using a specialist overseas credit card. Halifax Clarity* lets you spend in every country at the same near-perfect rate that banks get. The new Creation Everyday* is similar & charges a smidgeon less interest on ATM withdrawals, yet we don't have feedback on it, so let us know if you try it.

    Only do this though if you pay them off IN FULL each month or you pay 18.9% rep APR and 12.9% rep APR respectively. Don't just apply in hope, that hits your credit file. First, find odds of getting most top cards via our eligibility calc. Full help, pros, cons & options in Top Overseas Credit Cards (APR Examples).

  • Top prepaid card: If you don't want or can't get a top credit card then also see the top prepaid cards option.


Free ice skating & free Winter Wonderlands plus 100+ free other cheap tips for festive family fun. Eg, Christmas baking ideas at home, £42 Ripley's family ticket. See 100+ festive family fun tips.

2for1 on Coke & other soft drinks for drivers. Designated driver offer at 8,000 pubs in Britain this Christmas. Coca-Cola deals

101 people have joined our Debt-Free Roll of Honour this year. We've broken 2014's record (92) already and there are still two weeks to go. If you've cleared your debts this year, or are looking for inspiration, join what forumite Blacktaxi's called "the best thread on MSE": Debt-Free Roll of Honour.



Have you had problems using online storage? If you've stored photos, music, videos and other precious items online, the competition watchdog, the CMA, would like to hear about your experiences. Have you found the service useful? Did the service change unexpectedly after you signed up? Have you struggled to access your files? Share your views about online 'cloud' storage in the MSE Forum.


Have you haggled with Sky, BT, the AA and more this year? Did you succeed? We've selected 59 major providers of digital TV, broadband, credit cards, breakdown cover, insurance and more. We want to know where you've tried to haggle in the last year and how big your success has been:

Last week 9,479 voted on what parcel delivery firms they thought best and worst. As it did last year, DPD came out top, with 71% of people using it voting it 'great'. See the full results.



- Top story: Regulator and EU blame each other over 'mortgage prisoner' rules

- Got a one-year Pensioner Bond? Your interest will plummet after the fixed term

- 51% of people want to cancel Christmas

- Mobile phone insurers still unfairly rejecting claims, watchdog finds

- TalkTalk customers left unable to choose free upgrade online



Should housing charity residents donate their Winter Fuel Payment? This week's MoneySaver who wants advice asks... I work at a housing charity - we provide sheltered accommodation, inclusive of heating. As the residents don't pay for their heating at all, should they be asked to 'hand over' their Winter Fuel Payment of between £100 and £300 (which is sent directly to them) to help support the charity? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should residents donate their Winter Fuel Payment? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Long-haul supporters thread
- Competitions thread of the week: Turkey villa holiday
- Old-style board thread of the week: Stockpiling
- Game of the week: Blosics
- Discussion of the week: Buying for blokes


- I've hired lawyers to investigate judicial-reviewing Govt's retrospective student loan hike



Thu 17 Dec - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am. Watch previous
Fri 18 Dec - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am. Watch previous


Fri 18 Dec - BBC Radio Manchester, 4.50pm
Mon 21 Dec - Share Radio, MSE Eesha and MSE Sally, 11am
Tue 22 Dec - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, 2.20pm

We've updated our privacy policy. To make it clearer for our users we’ve made a few tweaks. See Privacy policy.



Q: I am 16 and have a junior cash ISA (managed by my dad) until I'm 18. Can I open a Help to Buy ISA as well? Sally, by email.

MSE Helen's A: The answer is yes. If you're 16 or 17, there's an anomaly that allows you to open and hold a junior cash ISA and a 'normal' cash ISA. As a Help to Buy ISA counts as a cash ISA for this purpose, HMRC has confirmed you can open a Help to Buy ISA and hold it at the same time as your junior ISA, until you turn 18.

At that point, your junior cash ISA will convert to a normal cash ISA. HMRC has not been particularly clear about what will happen next. Our reading of its ISA guidance suggests you can still hold both a former junior ISA and a Help to Buy ISA but you can only pay in to one (unless both are held with one of the few providers that allow you to split your ISA allowance between a cash and a Help to Buy ISA).

Unlike with junior ISAs where a parent can open one for you, a Help to Buy ISA must be opened by you, and held in your name. This doesn't prevent a relative giving you cash to put in it though. For more info, plus best-buys paying up to 4%, see our Help to Buy ISA guide.

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


What's the best pizza deal for a tenner - 1x15" or 2x10"?

That's it but before we go, in his show this week Martin turned uber-nerd to explain how he calculates pizza deals. It's a 'pizza' maths with real take-home value. Do you agree?

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

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