Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

28 November 2018

Over 50 ways to save incl... £4.50 M&S/Next, energy crisis, airport lounge code, big bank bribe ends, cheap iPhone XR, free Santa letter, travel credit card battle

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails
Hi - here are your latest deals, freebies, tricks and messages to help you save.


Winter energy crisis
12 things EVERYONE needs to know

Firms collapsing, new price cap, costs exploding

Firstly, a message from Martin: "There is energy market
turmoil. Two suppliers with about 400,000 customers combined have collapsed since last week's email, and I wouldn't be surprised if more followed this winter. Plus we're seeing firms playing tricks such as hiking direct debits by 40%+ over winter.

The cause is simple: there's been a huge increase in wholesale prices (which energy firms pay). Even the market's very cheapest 1yr fix deal costs 13% more today than just three months ago. Combine that with the fact we've over-expanded our energy market, without proper checks on new firms' financial viability and customer service capacity, and things look rocky. And that's before I mention the Jan price cap.

Yet that doesn't mean you should sit on your hands. As Tina tweeted: "Just did your 
energy price comparison and switched. Straightforward, took 5 mins, will save £15/mth or £180/yr. DO IT NOW. Thanks @MartinSLewis." And some save many times that.
So the team and I have put together the following 12 must-knows for everyone who pays an energy bill..."

  1. What happens if your energy supplier goes bust? Last week both Extra Energy and Spark Energy collapsed, the fifth and sixth providers to fail this year. If you're affected, see our Extra Energy collapse help and Spark Energy collapse help guides. Yet the Ofgem 'safety net' means three important things.

    - Your gas and electricity will stay on, so there's continuity of supply.
    - Any credit you have will be protected.
    - You will automatically be moved to a new company.

    That means there is some peace of mind. Though if you moved to a small firm for its cheap tariff, you'll likely lose that if it goes bust. Yet things may soon change, as after listening to us, Ofgem is consulting on how to improve firms' stability.

  2. URGENT: Big Switch Event 12 ending. Cheaper than the market's cheapest 1yr and 2yr fixes. A couple of weeks ago, we negotiated two deals that undercut the cheapest, after MSE cashback. There can be regional variance, so we deliberately take you via a full market comparison.

    Both are from Green Network Energy (GNE), a UK offshoot of a big Italian firm, plus we've arranged enhanced MSE customer service, so if it doesn't sort the problem, we can get involved.

    - MSE WINNER 1: Cheapest 1yr fix. Very few left. There was only a limited number to begin with, and at time of writing there are fewer than 1,000 left, so it may've gone by the time you read this. To check, click this GNE MSE 1yr fix link and it'll let you know. 

    The rate you pay is locked in for a year, and for someone with typical usage is an average £240/yr cheaper than a big-six standard tariff for new customers, factoring in the expected price cap rates. 

    - MSE WINNER 2: The cheapest 2yr fix. Ends Fri 4pm. The GNE MSE 2yr fix is unlimited, so apply in time and you'll get it. Here the rate you pay is locked in for two years, so two winters, and someone with typical usage could save £400+ over the next 2yrs on typical use compared to a big-six standard tariff.  

    Here are key notes that apply to both...

    - They're for new custs, on monthly direct debit & paperless bills.
    - There are early exit fees of £25/fuel (£50 dual fuel).
    - They're not portable, so you can't take them with you if you move.
    - They're for dual fuel (ie, gas and elec) or elec-only, but NOT gas-only.

  3. No-brainer British Gas deal for British Gas customers, or anyone wanting a big name. Yes, staggeringly, British Gas currently has a cheap deal, but only if you opt for it - don't ask, don't get.  

    The rate on British Gas's Energy + boiler cover Oct 19 - for new and existing customers - is locked till 31 Oct 2019. In that time someone with typical use will likely save £200-ish vs a big-six standard tariff on typical use - when you factor in £25 MSE dual fuel cashback (via the link above). Plus most homeowners get 'free' £60ish boiler cover.

    It's for dual fuel customers, but you must go via a comparison site. To qualify, you need to get a 'free' smart meter if you don't have one.

  4. Your price will NOT be capped at £1,137. The regulator Ofgem is introducing a new cap for everyone on a standard price on 1 Jan 2019 (prepayment customers already have a different one in place).

    Incorrectly, some news reports said "this is the most anyone'll pay". That's balderdash, baloney or any other b word you can think of. The £1,137 is an indicative price based on typical usage. Yet this isn't a price cap, it's a rate cap. So you need to know two things:

    - The cap varies regionally, on typical use from £1,111 to £1,173/yr.
    - As it's a rate cap, if you use more your cap will be higher, use less and it'll be lower - there's no set maximum.

    Plus on 1 Apr, the cap will be updated, and then again every 6mths. As we know the methodology, and it's based on avg wholesale prices from Aug to Jan, at current rates it looks like it'll jump to £1,250 - a huge rise.

    All saving figures we quote here are based on the two prices above, which over the next year average £1,219 on typical usage. Yet in an actual comparison, your cap depends on your region and use. Obviously, this isn't a great scenario, so read Martin's letter to Ofgem about price cap confusion

  5. Outfox the Market hikes winter direct debits by 40% - will others follow? We've been flooded with complaints about this small firm, which has been very cheap for a while, see outfox the Outfox hike

    It has now split direct debits into winter and summer, with winter making up 70% of total payments. This volte-face has resulted in huge bill shock for many, which causes cashflow difficulties (and is likely a sign of its own cashflow challenges due to huge wholesale price hikes).

    - Is it allowed to do this? Unfortunately, yes. Ofgem rules just state any change has to be clearly explained with 10 days' notice.

    - What can I do? Most customers are on deals with no exit fees. So you can ditch and switch. Though it is a balance between Outfox's cheap rates, and its nasty short term direct debit hike. Yet if you're substantially in credit, tell it the rate is too high, and it says it'll look at it case by case. More in Fight unfair direct debits.

  6. The sin of doing nothing is worse than the sin of inaccuracy - spend 5mins checking. If worried about comparing, just bite the bullet. Even if you don't know your usage (say you've just moved home) comparisons can estimate for you. While the answer may not be perfect, it's far worse to stick with an overly costly supplier.

    The reason for suggesting you do a comparison is prices vary by use and region, so compare via our Cheap Energy Club which is whole-of-market by default. Plus if we can switch you, we give you roughly half what we get as cashback - £25 per dual fuel switch - so it's cheaper than going direct.

    If you're worried about which firm to switch to, we've some special filtered comparisons which make going through the results easier.

    - The 'I only want firms with good service' comparison.
    - The 'No price hikes' comparison - ie, only fixed rates.
    - The 'I only want names I know'  comparison - only big names.
    - The 'I like my current provider, find me its cheapest' comparison.
    - The 'Green me up, I want renewable energy' comparison.

  7. Not much changes when you switch. Don't worry that you'll be cut off, that doesn't happen. Plus when you switch it's the same gas, elec and safety. Only customer service and price change.  

  8. Should you get a 'fixed fee deal' where what you pay doesn't depend on usage? Three suppliers - British Gas, E.on and Green Star (existing custs only) - now offer 'unlimited tariffs', where you pay a fixed amount each month regardless of how much energy you use.  

    The price is based on what you used the year before, but they're not cheap. If you use the same, you'd be better with a cheap deal. Where they're good is if you are likely to use much more and are worried about the bill. Eg, you've retired and are now at home all day. For more help, see Unlimited energy pros and cons.

  9. Renters can switch without landlords' permission. If you pay the energy bills directly (as opposed to your landlord via an all-in-one rent payment), you are allowed to switch without permission, though you may want to inform them out of courtesy.

    The only exception is if you physically change the property such as switching from a prepayment to credit meter.
  10. It's not just switching - use less energy too. It's possible to get free insulation and boiler help, though usually you need to be in receipt of certain benefits. Or go old-school with thrifty heat-saving tips, incl sausage-dog draught excluders, chimney sheep and lining your curtains with fleece. Many also ask questions such as Is it better to leave the heating on low all day? 

  11. Over 64 or on benefits? Are you eligible for winter cash from the Govt? Winter can be tough but there's help available.
    a) Winter fuel payments. If you were born on or before 5 Nov 1953, regardless of income, you're eligible for the up-to-£300 one-off payment. If you get certain benefits, eg, state pension, pension credit or jobseeker's allowance, you'll usually get it automatically, otherwise you may have to claim. See Winter fuel payments.
    b) Warm Home Discount. If you were on pension credit on 8 Jul 2018, most get an automatic one-off £140 rebate on their electricity bill between Oct and Mar, unless they're with some smaller suppliers. If you've a prepay or pay-as-you-go meter you won't get it automatically, but you can apply for it. Other low-income families may also be eligible - check if your provider pays the discount.
    c) Cold weather payments. If you're on certain benefits, eg, income support, jobseeker's allowance or pension credit, you may get £25 for every seven consecutive days it's zero degrees or below from Nov to Mar, paid automatically. Full details in Cold weather payments.

  12. Are you forced to choose between heating and eating this winter? It's a disgraceful choice, but sadly a dilemma too many face. Check if you're eligible for special help via special free advice services:

    - Eng, Wales, NI. See Simple Energy Advice or call 0800 444 202.
    - In Scotland, contact Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282.
    - Also see our Housing & Energy Grants and Debt Help guides.

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.



Ending. Biggest free cash (£125) bank switch and 2% cashback on bills

Free cash deals are vanishing. Last week HSBC's £150 went, now NatWest/RBS's top 'bills' account offer is going

The current hot streak of bank switch deals is ending and there's no certainty they'll return. So if you're fed up with your bank or you just want the freebies, for safety, make a decision now. And switching is easy as it takes just seven working days and the banks move all payments. Here are the top deals. (All require you to pass a not-too-harsh credit check.)

  • Ends 11.59pm Mon. Free £125 + 2% bills cashback - good free cash, great bills accountBoth the NatWest Reward* and RBS Reward* accounts give new switchers a free £125 - there's a £2/mth fee but if you use the account to pay your bills by direct debit (energy, mobile, council tax etc) you get 2% of that as cashback. So for single people as a main account, or couples with a joint bills account, this is a strong deal.

    The £125 will arrive by 8 Feb. As for the cashback, our calculations say an average bill payer will earn £66/year even after the fee. Someone who's a pelican (big bills) could easily earn over £100 a year.

    How do I get it all? You must pay in a min £1,500/mth (simply the equivalent to a £21,500 salary), switch and log in to online or mobile banking by 7 Jan. The deal is open to new and existing customers who switch from another bank, as long as you haven't had switching cash from NatWest or RBS since Oct 2017.

  • Best of the rest, incl £150 freebie + top service. Most deals require you to move 2-4 direct debits and keep them active, and that you register for online or mobile banking and/or go paperless, so check. Here's what you can get...

    - Top service + choice of freebie, eg, £150 Expedia vch, Amazon Echo Spot. First Direct* has won every customer service poll we've done and new switchers can claim a gadget, online course (eg, yoga) or the Expedia vch. You can also access its 5% regular saver and most get a £250 0% overdraft. Pay in £1k+/mth (equiv £12,675/yr) to qualify for the freebie and avoid a £10/mth fee.
    Free £125 M&S vch with NO minimum pay-in (+£5/mth more in vchs for 1yr if you pay in £1,250/mth). New switchers to M&S Bank* can get the freebies and get access to its 5% regular saver.
    Free £50 + £85 after 6mths + £2/mth. Halifax Reward gives new switchers the £50 before the switch completes, and if you pay in £1,500+/mth (equiv £21,500/yr), have used your debit card at least once in six months, pay out 2+ direct debits each month and remain in credit, you get the rest.

For full eligibility info, details about when exactly the bonuses come and more deals, see Best Bank Accounts.


Free letter from Santa. For a reply, post kids' letters to Santa's address (deadline's this week if you need it in Braille).

New. Airport lounge access from £15. Blagged code gets up to 40% off, eg, Birmingham (£17-£28), Edinburgh (£16-£21), Gatwick (£15-£32) and Heathrow (£20-£36). Book by 9 Dec, use by end of 2019. See Cheap Airport Lounges.

£4.50 M&S, Next, Zara etc 'de-tagged' shoes, dresses, jackets etc. MSE Blagged. Discount website normally sells surplus high street stock at £5 per item + £4 del, but via the best Everything5pounds code we've seen, it's £4.50 incl del.

Ends Fri. Super-cheap iPhone XR with low upfront cost - huge 100GB for less than 4GB. The latest iPhone is never MoneySaving, but if you get one, at least do it cheapest. We've blagged a top deal for Vodafone newbies* (via to get 100GB data + unltd mins & texts on a 64GB handset for £40 upfront then £36/mth for 24mths - if you use code MSE10 at the checkout. That's less over 2yrs than the cheapest way we've found to get 4GB data on any network. For more deals and help, see Cheap iPhones. Note: only blue & white XRs were in stock as we sent this. 

The Christmas Deals Predictor 2018, incl Boots, John Lewis & M&S - 92% accurate so far. Black Friday's gone, but from now till New Year we still expect a mountain of deals, so our Christmas Deals Predictor analyses past years to estimate the timing and savings of 60+ deals to help you decide when is best to pounce.

Apple to soon stop selling cut-price iPhone replacement batteries - get one now if yours is dying. See Cheap iPhone batteries.


Alternative Christmas gift ideas: Give time, effort, memories & love

It isn't a retail festival and isn't about how much you spend. Let's stop the obligated, tit-for-tat, useless giving 

Christmas should be joyous, but it can cause unhappiness, debt and worry where people feel obliged to buy gifts they can't afford. Tit-for-tat giving means many people end up with tat. It clutters up landfill and isn't good for anyone. So with the Christmas countdown on, and as yesterday was 'Giving Tuesday', here's a sackful of alternative gift suggestions.

  • New. 16 ways to sprinkle Christmas magic for kids for free. We've 16 free (or very cheap) traditions to create memories, from driving round after dark to admire twinkly streets, to tracking Santa on Christmas Eve. See MSE Jenny's Free Christmas Magic blog.

  • Join the 'ban unnecessary presents' movement - watch Martin's call to arms. It's gone viral, not just in the UK, but everywhere, as 12m+ have viewed Martin's 3min ban unnecessary gifts video from his show - and it's had 244,000 shares, as a way for people to tell friends and family they want to change how they do things (we're not talking about gifts for kids under the tree, or your spouse. It's about the wider circle).

    Cristina tweeted: "@MartinSLewis just watched your show... texted everyone... including hubby... to say let's not bother gifting... heart in my mouth... but everyone agreed. Feel like a weight is lifted. Thank you."

  • How to do good at Christmas - give your time to those in need. For those less fortunate, the best gift can be your time. The How to do good at Christmas guide includes being there for isolated older people and more ways to volunteer.

  • Give a gift to charity in honour of your mates - eg, fund lifesaving vaccines for kids. If you're going to spend, as Giving Tuesday suggests, why not ensure the money you spend has a real impact? There's a wide range of Charity Gift catalogues with a raft of ideas such as the vaccines, buying a goat and more. You could give in your name, or in friends' names as a present to them, so the gift really means something.

  • Give time, not money. Print our FREE personal gift vouchers to give as presents. These free Christmas Gift Cheques let you promise to babysit, wash the dishes or even give your partner the 'special' massage they like.

  • Top Festive Fivers (sub-£5 gifts) ideas. In 2012, we ran a contest to create a database of the best sub-£5 present ideas and many still stand, such as creating a balloon box or a Santa sleigh bell. See the best Festive Fivers ideas.

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Longest 0%: MBNA up to 33mths 0%, 1.99% fee (19.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: Santander* 27 months 0%, no fee (18.9% rep APR)

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  3. Gocompare*
  4. Compare The Market*

Then check insurers they miss: 
Direct Line*

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Admiral* 3.4% rep APR
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: Sainsbury's Bank* 2.7% rep APR (Nectar custs, 1-3 yrs)

Standard b'band & line rent: TalkTalk equiv £12/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Now Broadband equiv £20.17/mth

Ending. £125 to switch and 2% cashback: NatWest/RBS
5% interest fixed for a year: 
Nationwide FlexDirect


New. Top cards for spending abroad - bag near-perfect rates and no cash fees, whether for this Christmas or beyond

There's an overseas card price war with a new Barclaycard entering the fray. It means three cards now pay cashback or interest as another boon on top of already being the cheapest way to spend abroad - as you get near-perfect rates and avoid the typical 3%-ish exchange fee charged on most plastic. Here are the top picks, with some key info first...

-  With credit cards ALWAYS pay IN FULL each month or the interest dwarfs the gain.
- You must pass a credit check to get the cards, which should come in 1-3 weeks.

Where it's a credit card, we assume you repay IN FULL
Starling DEBIT card (apply* No fee and no interest None
It's a current account that comes with a Mastercard but you don't have to switch from another bank to get it. Plus it's easier-to-get as if you don't want an overdraft there's only a soft credit check, which won't impact your credit score. It also pays 0.5% interest on up to £2k balances, 0.25% on £2k-£85k (iii). 
New. Barclaycard Platinum Cashback Plus credit card (apply(iv)
No fee and no interest 0.25%
Good for spending and cash. But it's a Visa, often beaten by M'card on exchange rates. Not avail if you've had a B'card in last 6mths.
Tandem credit card (eligibility calc / apply*
No fee but 18.9% rep APR interest until paid off - costs 5p-ish per £100 per day.  0.5%
If you pay in full, you're still charged interest on cash (not spending) on this Mastercard. It's new, so it's unclear how long it'll last.
Halifax Clarity credit card (eligibility calc / apply*
No fee but 18.9% rep APR interest until paid off - costs 5p-ish per £100 per day.  None
 Long-term best buy so good for reliability, but this Mastercard's currently beaten on financials by those above.
(i) As charged by card, some ATMs may add a fee. (ii) On spending (not cash) worldwide, incl the UK. (iii) Interest is over a year. (iv) Cashback and no fees until 31 Aug 2023, 21.9% rep APR. See APR examples.

So which is right for me?

  • Worried about ease of acceptance or don't want a full credit check? Then the Starling debit card wins.
  • Make lots of cash withdrawals? Go for a card with no withdrawal fee or interest, so Starling or Barclaycard wins.
  • Mainly spend on your card? Focus on the cashback - Tandem wins, followed by Barclaycard.
  • Do a mix of spending and cash withdrawals? Barclaycard wins.
  • Want to take out currency before you go? Use our Travel Money Comparison to find the best rates. 

£5 Amex cashback on £10+ spends at 1,000s of smaller stores. From Sat, see Amex shop small.

"As a long-time follower of MSE I've saved loads thanks to you guys, but just recently I followed your Haggling with Virgin guide, saving me £132 over the next year."
(Send us yours on this or any topic)



Help the homeless as temperatures drop. If you're concerned about someone you see sleeping rough, you can send an alert to StreetLink or give it a call on 0300 500 0914. StreetLink will tell local support services in England and Wales where to find them so they can help. It works year-round, but in this cold weather its service is especially valuable.



If you could cancel Christmas, would you? Christmas is nearly here, and while for some it conjures a picture of family, fun and festive frivolity, for others it means stress, present pressure, debt and chores. So if you could press a button to make the whole thing disappear (and just keep your holiday entitlement), would you cancel Christmas?

Outfox the Market has been voted the worst energy supplier for customer service. Last week, 5,042 of you responded to our biannual energy customer service poll. Among the big six, Npower and Scottish Power shared the wooden spoon, while EDF did best. Overall (of firms with 100+ votes), Zog Energy came top while Outfox the Market was bottom of the pile. See full energy customer service poll results.



Should my partner offer to lend me money? I've had a large, unexpected expense that I can't afford to pay. I know my partner has the money, but they haven't offered to lend it to me. I'm a bit annoyed. Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should my partner offer to lend me money? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Sealed Pot Challenge (2019)
- Competitions thread of the week: 18ct White Gold & Diamond Cluster Pendant
- Old-Style board thread of the week: December 2018 Grocery Challenge
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Should my partner be giving me housekeeping money?
- Discussion of the week: Uses for old booze


Naked Wines - £35 for 7 bottles & 2 glasses (wine norm £81)
Heartier - £64 Xmas turkey bundle, feeds 10-12 (norm £104)
Sanctuary Spa - £23 skincare set (norm £45)
Bonusprint - 24-page photo book £15 delivered (norm £30)
Vision Direct - 11% off new customers code

Burger King - meal deals, incl £2 burger and fries
Frankie & Benny's - 40% off mains from Wed
Prezzo - 2for1 on mains (Mon-Thu)
Pizza Hut - £7ish UNLIMITED lunch buffet (Mon-Fri)
Zizzi - 20%-40% off mains (days and locations vary)

Ikea - buy £25 tree, get £20 voucher to spend Jan-Mar
Boots - Soap & Glory 'Glitz and Make Up' set £25 (norm £50)
Halfords - FREE winter car check at 700+ locations
Vue - £5 cinema ticket for 'any film, any day' at 24 venues
WHSmith - FREE £1ish chocolate coins, via O2 Priority app

Quick Forum Tips

25% off 6+ bottles of wine at Sainsbury's. Wine not
'Free' Nerf darts with £9 Nerf blaster. Nerf-ing much
50p off Ginsters coupon via 95p pasty. Coupon and on



Thu 29 Nov - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am
Fri 30 Nov - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am
Mon 3 Dec - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 3 Dec - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon. Listen again
Mon 3 Dec - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm. See previous


Wed 28 Nov - BBC Radio Scotland, Mornings with Stephen Jardine, 10.45am, spending at Christmas
Wed 28 Nov - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm, smart meters
Mon 3 Dec - TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am
Mon 3 Dec - 
BBC Radio York, Beth McCarthy, from 7pm
Tue 4 Dec - BBC Radio Devon, Janet Kipling, 2.10pm, money and debt at Christmas
Tue 4 Dec - 
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



Q: I've just signed up to a new cheaper fixed tariff energy deal, but what happens when the fixed period ends? Sam, via email.

MSE Andrew's A: Fixed tariffs let you lock in the unit price during your energy contract - offering surety against rising energy prices. Yet when fixed deals end, suppliers usually move you onto their expensive standard tariffs.

So make sure you compare and switch before your deal ends - under regulator Ofgem's rules, you can't be charged exit fees for switching away within the last 49 days of your fix.

To make sure you're always on the cheapest deal, you can use our Cheap Energy Club - plus we'll alert you when you're nearing the end of your tariff and it's time to switch again.

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



That's all for this week, but before we go... last week the internet showed us we've all been eating corn on the cob the wrong way. And it's not the only eye-openingly educational viral story we've seen this year - we've also learnt which way round to use hair grips, how to eat a pizza slice and even which way you should open a banana. So what's the best practical trick you've learned this year? Let us know in our 2018 need-to-knows forum thread.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team