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20th Mar 2019
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"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."

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


 

10 ways to ACT NOW and beat April bill shocks - council tax UP, stamp prices UP, TV licence UP, energy bills UP and more

This April, whether we're in, out or, most likely, just shaken all about, one thing is certain... prices for public services are rising. Many public bodies do their annual charges assessment to coincide roughly with the new tax year and, no surprise, as usual most are going up.

While you can't prevent the rises, there are often other ways to cut these bills. I want to show you how you can steal a March (sorry) on April's hikes.

  1. Stamp prices rise next Mon - stock up by Sun. On 25 Mar, the price of a 1st class standard letter rises to 70p, 2nd class to 61p. Large letters rise by even more.

    Yet stamps don't have a price on them, most just say "1st" or "2nd" and there's no expiry date. So if you'll use them in future, stock up now (eg, if you post lots of Christmas cards). Simon took this to the extreme in the past, responding to our tweet to see who's beaten past rises. He said: "@MoneySavingExp I bought £500 of stamps when I retired nine years ago and still have about £200 worth. I must have a saved a fortune."

  2. My warning to all workers age 22+. On 6 Apr you're likely due a BIG hidden pay rise, but it'll cost you. One under the radar change coming is to the pension contributions most employees automatically make without being aware of. If you're an employee, you need to read my important pay rise/pay cut warning.

  3. TV licence fee to rise on 1 Apr - but do you need one? The colour licence increases by £4 to £154.50, black & white (yes, there is still such a thing) by £1.50 to £52.

    So check who can legally ditch the TV licence. Plus if someone aged 75+ lives in your home, licences should be free. If not and you've been paying unnecessarily, you can reclaim the TV licence fee (a whopping £38m was refunded to over-75s from 2015-2018).

  4. Council taxes up an avg £75/yr on 1 Apr - are you due £1,000s back? The 4.5% average council tax rise in Eng (some a lot more) is equivalent to £75 on a typical band D property. Rises are expected in Wal and Scot too. While you can't stop this, there are many ways you could cut council tax costs...

    - Are you in too high a band? Up to 400,000 households in Eng and Scot are in the wrong band. In 2007, I came up with the council tax check & challenge system. We've had 10,000s successes since, and have added free tools to make it even easier.

    Succeed and you don't just get your band lowered, you get a backdated refund too, as Susan emailed: "Refunded approx £3,000 and downgraded, so my monthly payments remain lower to this day. Thanks so much. This put us back in the black."

    - Do you have or live with someone with a severe mental impairment (SMI), eg, dementia or severe learning difficulties? This likely affects up to 100,000, but it is scarcely known about, even by some council staff. Anyone with an SMI can be 'disregarded' for council tax purposes, meaning a 25% or even 100% bill reduction.

    Like Tom, who tweeted: "@MartinSLewis Thank you. After seeing you talk about council tax exemption, I've claimed back £9,650 for my dad who suffered a stroke in 1999 and has lived alone since 2005. Thank you. This will make a big difference." See how to claim the council tax SMI discount.

    - Moved since 1993? You could be owed £100+. An MSE investigation recently revealed more than £230m of credit should have been paid back. Are you due a council tax refund?

    - Live alone? You may qualify for the 25% single person discount.

  5. English prescriptions up to £9 on 1 Apr - 800,000 miss out on £50/yr by not using prepay certificate. Those who pay for prescriptions in Eng will see a 20p price rise on 1 Apr (they're free in the rest of the UK).

    Yet you could get an NHS prescription season ticket, where for a one-off £29.10 for 3mths or £104/yr it covers all your prescriptions - so use one a month and it wins. Our freedom of info request showed more than 800,000 people (in 2016/17) missed out on savings averaging £50/yr by not having one.

  6. A bit of good news... from 6 Apr most will pay less tax. Happy New Year... the new tax year that is. OK, there aren't any party poppers, but at least income tax thresholds are going up. For most people it'll work like this, though see our 2019/20 tax thresholds guide for more (our income tax calc will be updated next week to show your take-home pay).

    - The personal allowance rises to £12,500 (currently £11,850). This is the amount you can earn per year without paying income tax.
    - Earnings above that are taxed at 20%.
    - This rises to 40% on any earnings over £50,000 (currently £46,350).
    - Earn over £100,000 and you start to lose your personal allowance.
    - You pay 45% tax on any earnings above £150,000.

    These thresholds apply in Eng, Wal and NI, see Scottish Tax Rates for how it differs there.

  7. Your tax code is changing - it's your responsibility to check it. Many employees should have been sent their new tax code for the 2019/20 tax year, which starts on 6 Apr (the new basic one is 1250L). This tells employers how much tax to take from you.

    Millions are wrong each year, leading to you potentially facing a large bill later, so check it (that's your responsibility, not your employer's, under the law) - our Tax Code Guide will explain how the principle works (though it is currently written for the 2018/19 tax year).

  8. Energy prices rise a typical £120/yr for most on 1 Apr - switch to save £300/yr. The energy price cap on standard tariffs rises from £1,137/yr for someone with typical usage to £1,254/yrAs more than 50% of people are on these tariffs, that means a chunky rise.

    Quickly use our Cheap Energy Club to see if you can save possibly £300+. Though we hope to be able to bring you some special deals to cut costs further next week.

  9. Water bills rise an avg 2% on 1 Apr - some can save £500+ a year with a meter. Rises vary by region (a few, such as South Staffordshire, will fall). You can't switch supplier, yet in Eng and Wal most can switch to a water meter for free.

    My rule of thumb on this is... if you've more or the same number of bedrooms in your home as people, it's worth checking out. If so, see our Cut Water Bills guide, which includes links to a free calculator. Anne tweeted: "@MartinSLewis The best household saving I've ever made was to use a water meter. Bills reduced from £83 a month to £18." That's nearly £800 a year saved!
     
  10. Dental fees to rise on 1 Apr - book an appointment now. Basic NHS check-ups are up £1.10 to £22.70 in Eng and 30p to £14.30 in Wal. Some other charges rise too. There's little you can do except try to get an appointment before then. There's no change in Scot and NI.
 
 

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.

 

 
 

PROOF cheap car insurance is all about timing, eg, 'Got cover 21 days before renewal - saved £1,000'


Last July, we revealed that the cheapest time to buy a car insurance policy is three weeks ahead of your renewal date. Our in-depth research involved analysing data on over 18 million car insurance quotes, from three comparison sites. Of course though, that was a theoretical exercise, so we asked you to try changing when you get a quote, to see if it works - and you've emailed, Facebooked and tweeted your successes in your droves.

  • Timing your new car insurance quotes can save you large. This is about the optimum time to compare policies before renewal (rather than just renewing with the same insurer). The sweet spot is 21 days before, but as you can see from the graph, any time from roughly 18 to 26 days before is pretty good. Too early or too late and the price shoots up. In fact, from our original analysis a typical policy would cost an avg £1,156 on renewal day, but £589 three weeks earlier.

    This happens because the closer people are to the renewal date when getting a quote, the more risky they are deemed to be, according to insurers' data. So time it right. We've been overwhelmed with successes.

    Cam tweeted: "@MartinSLewis. Took your advice and got a car insurance quote 21 days prior to my renewal date. Was paying £148/mth. Now paying £68/mth." And Simon told us: "Got a car insurance quote 21 days before renewal and saved over £1,000. Thank you. #martinlewis"

  • Three steps to find the cheapest price.
    1) Combine comparison sites to speedily find your cheapest cover. They don't cover the same insurers nor give the same price for the same insurer. Our current order's: a) MoneySupermarket* b) Confused.com* c) Gocompare* d) Compare The Market*. (Why? See comparison order.)
    2) Check hot deals comparison sites miss, eg, £60 Amazon vch via Admiral, £55 Amazon vch via Age Co. For more, see deals comparisons miss.
    3) Also try big insurers comparisons miss. Some major names aren't on 'em. Try Aviva* and Direct Line* which can be competitive.

  • More sometimes counter-logical ways that could save you money. It's a case of trial and error.
     Use trial and error to see if comprehensive is cheaper than third party.
     - Check if adding extra drivers slashes costs. If they're a lower risk than you, it can bring the cost down.
     - See if legitimately tweaking your job description cuts costs.
     - Get on the electoral roll. Insurers do ID checks - if they can't identify you, cover may cost more.

More help in our Cheap Car Insurance and Under-25s' Car Insurance guides, including how to bag extra cashback.

 

Free £50 Tempur travel pillow till Thu. A dreamy freebie just for lying down in store and doing a survey. Free Tempur

Mother's Day deals, incl mums eat 'free', £5ish prosecco, £25 for 100 stems couriered flowers and more cheap gifts. It's a week on Sunday - how to treat her without overspending. See our Mother's Day deals round-up.

Warning. Do not use Viagogo. For why you should avoid the ticketing website, see Viagogo warning.

 Unconfirmed, but we've done the digging and are almost certain it starts Sat. Next sale updates.

New. The cheapest way to get an iPhone 8 right now. MSE Blagged. A new iPhone is never MoneySaving, but if you'll get one, at least do it cheapest... like this. Vodafone newbies can get 5GB data + unltd mins & texts* on a 64GB handset (via Mobiles.co.uk). Use code MSEIPH8 and it's £137.50 upfront, then £24/mth over the 2yr contract. We can't find a cheaper way to get an iPhone 8 with calls, texts and data - even with small allowances. For more help, see Cheap iPhones.

McDonald's Monopoly is back for 2019, incl free food or cash - how to max it. While there have been calls to ban it on health grounds, in Martin's Twitter poll 70% said it's fun and harmless. So if you'll try it anyway, we've ways to max your chance of a win. But please be 'eat-aware'.

Can you get a £49 Google Home Mini for £15? (It's 'free' if you've Spotify Family.) This is about manipulating a deal from the music streaming service. Google Home Mini trick

 
 

The bank account that gives £500+/yr of decent insurance to cover all the FAMILY's mobiles, holidays and car breakdowns for £156/yr
 

Packaged bank accounts are the Marmite of banking. Many love them, as cleverly used they get you hundreds of pounds of insurance for a fraction of the cost. Yet many hate them, as they were upsold unsuitable products leaving big sums of cash dripping away every month for years (if that's you, see reclaim £1,000s in mis-sold packaged bank account fees). Today though we're feeling the love, and we're going to show you how to work out if they're right for you, and save big money on insurance.

  • Packaged bank accounts are good for couples and families. While they're bank accounts, in reality this is all about getting quality insurance cheaply. So if you pay for travel insurance, mobile phone cover and breakdown cover anyway - especially if it's for more than one person - see this as a one-stop shop that can be cheaper. Best thing is to add up what you normally pay over a year and see if it's cheaper to do it this way. If you don't pay for those insurances, avoid.

  • Nationwide £500+/yr of insurance for £156/yr - best for families. The Nationwide FlexPlus* account costs £13/mth and can be a winner IF you'll use the perks. In fact, even if you don't want to switch bank, just open it (without using its switching service) and pay the monthly fee and you can get the insurance. Cover is for all the family living in the same home. You get...

    - Mobile cover for all your family's smartphones (incl all the latest). As decent cover for an up-to-date phone can be £100, even if you're just insuring two phones you can see the value adding up. If there are 4 of you with phones - wowzas.
    - World family travel insurance incl winter sports up to age 69. Cheapest family cover can cost £90+/yr.
    - Breakdown cover (incl Europe). For all account holders in any car, and anyone driving their car with permission. This can cost over £70/yr elsewhere.
    - 3% AER variable interest on up to £2,500. So you could earn £74/yr interest.
    - £100 refer-a-friend bonus. Got a friend with Nationwide? You can both gain £100 via its recommend-a-friend scheme if you do switch (incl 2+ direct debits).

  • Halifax £400+/yr of insurance and £135 FREE cash for £180/yr - best for couples as a joint account. The Halifax Ultimate Reward account is £15/mth provided you're in credit, pay in £750/mth (ie, your salary) and have 2 direct debits going from it each mth (£17/mth or £204/yr if not). Yet it pays you £50 to switch to it, £85 after 6mths if you pay in £1,500/mth, go paperless and use the debit card - factor that in and for couples this is a winner, in the first year at least. Key info...

    Mobile cover for the account holders' smartphones. Even if you want this as a sole account, as long as you trust your partner (think carefully about that and don't be pushed into it), add them as a joint account holder and they get the cover too.
    - World family travel insurance incl winter sports up to age 70.
    - UK breakdown cover. For all account holders in any car. This can cost about £50/yr elsewhere.
    - Home emergency cover. Covers burst pipes, leaks and more. Cheapest elsewhere is around £100/yr.

Full info and more options in Packaged Bank Accounts.

 

Huge, hidden discounts on official Heathrow parking, eg, we've seen it 40% less. This and more Cheap airport parking tips.

Gift card trick. £5 off Gap, New Look or Odeon. Stack with current offers to get even bigger savings. Gift cards

Warning. Beware fraudsters pretending to be from HMRC. Some outrageously try to scare you with false threats that you could be arrested. Scams alert

Free & cheap sanitary products, incl tampons. It's topical after the Govt announced free products in English schools from Sept. Here's how to get free or cheap tampons & more NOW, regardless of age.

There's STILL £1.6bn in old £5 and £10 notes out there - how to turn 'em into usable cash. New figures we've obtained show many still have old paper notes. Old notes help

£100ish Nails Inc nail polish collection £25 all-in. MSE Blagged 10-polish set incl glitter effects. 1,200 avail

 
 

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

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 £5k-£7,499: Admiral* 3.4% rep APR
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: M&S Bank* 2.8% rep APR (1-3 yrs)

Standard b'band & line rent: First Utility £16.99/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Vodafone £21/mth

Free £150 to switch: HSBC Advance
Great for service + free £100 to switch: First Direct

 

Smyths £10 off each £50 baby items spend - incl pushchairs. Online & in stores till Thu. Smyths

£1,000 WIN ON FREE POSTCODE LOTTERY - SUCCESS OF THE WEEK:
"I won £1,000 on Pick My Postcode. Love it, especially that I don't need to buy a ticket. Thanks also to Martin Lewis - it was your site that helped me find out about it."
(Send us your successes on this or any topic.)

Eurostar set for 10 MORE days of disruption - your rights. Boo la la. See Eurostar help.

 

THIS WEEK'S POLL

Should the contactless spending limit be increased? Two in five card payments are now made using contactless - up 31% in 2018. Yet the maximum amount you can spend using contactless is just £30 (barring some using Apple Pay), which is done to cap spending if someone takes your card. Should the contactless spending limit be increased?

At what age do you realistically hope to retire? Last week, 15,000 of you told us when you hope to hang up your (working) boots. Despite the state pension age continuing to rise, most still hope to retire in their 60s, while an ambitious 10% of the 300 or so under 25s who answered hope to retire in their 40s - wishful thinking, perhaps? See the full retirement poll results.

 
 

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should I tell the holiday company it's refunded me twice? I bought my mum a holiday, which had a 14-day cooling-off period in case she changed her mind. Sure enough she did, and I asked the company for a refund. It ended up refunding me the £1,849 twice. What should I do? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I tell the holiday company it's refunded me twice? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

THE QUICKIES

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: 2019 1% challenge
- Competitions thread of the week: Phuket holiday
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Steps towards zero waste
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Is it acceptable to order a kids' meal as a grown-up?
- Discussion of the week: Do you tip in restaurants?

 

Tempur - FREE £50 travel pillow
Next - Rumoured 50% off sale this weekend
Google Home Mini - £15 via Spotify?
Nails Inc - £25 for 10 nail polishes
Smyths - £10 off each £50 spend on baby items

Baileys - £12 Original Irish Cream one-litre bottle (norm £20)
Pizza Express - 3 courses for £19-£21, free drink for mum
Toby Carvery - 'Free' main on Mother's Day
Harvester - 'Free' main on Mother's Day
Tesco - £2 large Easter eggs (norm £4)

Homebuilding & Renovating Show - FREE tickets
Hot Diamonds - Extra 30% off outlet code
M&S - 'Up to 50% off' sale
Halfords - 20% off when you trade in selected items
Swagbucks - Earn £15 Amazon/M&S voucher doing surveys

Quick Forum Tips

Lidl weekend offers incl 99p bacon. Bring home the bacon
Free pizza pan (norm £5) with £3 pizza. Pan-tastic
Don't overpay in the free-from aisle. Craving a saving

 
 

MARTIN'S APPEARANCES (WED 20 MAR ONWARDS)

Thu 21 Mar - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am
Fri 22 Mar - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am
Mon 25 Mar - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 25 Mar - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon. Listen again

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES (MOST SUBJECTS TBC)

Wed 20 Mar - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm
Fri 22 Mar - BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am
Mon 25 Mar - TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am
Mon 25 Mar - BBC Radio York, Beth McCarthy, from 7pm
Tue 26 Mar - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm

 

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: I'm paying a lot of interest on my credit card (on £3,000 worth of debt) - is there a way I can cut the interest? Lynn, by email.

MSE Karl's A: If you're paying credit card interest, it's likely you'd benefit from a balance transfer. This is where you get a new card which pays off debts on the old one for you, often at 0%. Do this and more of your repayments go towards clearing the debt, rather than interest, so you'll end up debt-free quicker.

But don't just apply for a balance transfer card willy-nilly, as that could harm your credit score. Instead use our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calculator, which shows you the cards you're most likely to be accepted for. For full help, see Balance Transfer Credit Cards.

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

 

AN EASTER EGG MADE OF CHEESE? YOU'D CHEDDAR BELIEVE IT...

That's all for this week, but before we go... we've seen our fair share of novelty Easter eggs, but this one's a cracker for some. Last week, Sainsbury's announced it's launching the so-called 'Cheester Egg' made entirely of cheddar. MoneySavers have been (mostly) loving it, with one concluding: "I'd rather have cheese than chocolate any day". Let us know what you think in our Cheester Egg Facebook post.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team

 
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