Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

06 March 2019

Over 50 ways to save incl... Council tax cash back, urgent £150 bank bribe, 2% savings, cheap No7, Martin’s Brexit travel alert, 100GB Sim £15/mth, Premium Bonds alert, Brit Gas hike

This info may be out of date.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.


Ends Fri. RBS: Free £150 + 2% bills cashback
Ends Mon. First Direct: Free £125 + No.1 service

At the start of the year, banks know many people sort their finances, so they throw free cash about to buy new customers, which is great as it means money in your pocket.

Yet we're nearing the end of that season. M&S and NatWest have pulled their top deals, and soon RBS will axe its cash bribe and First Direct's offer will worsen. So if you want to switch and bag free cash, do it now while you've max choice. While offers will exist afterwards, the range is likely to be much less.

- Is switching easy? Yes. In our snap poll on Twitter, 76% said it was easy or little hassle. In fact, it takes just 7 working days and all payments are automatically transferred for at least 3yrs.

Here are the current top deals (to get them, you must pass a not-too-harsh credit check and use the banks' official switch service)...

Top for cold, hard cash

We've ordered these top deals by how soon they end...

  • Ends Fri. RBS: Free £150 + 2% bills cashback (£200+ in year 1 for many). Good for bill payers. For a £2/mth fee, the RBS Reward* account gives 2% cashback on most bills paid by direct debit, eg, phone & energy. Our analysis shows with avg bills you get about £66/yr after the fee, with higher bills it's £135/yr - so the year 1 bonus could top £200, incl the £150 (which'll come by 10 May). If you prefer a free account, you can get the £150 with RBS Select*, but without cashback.

    How do I qualify? For both, request a switch by 11.59pm this Fri, complete it and log into online banking by 12 Apr and pay in £1,500+/mth (equiv to a £21,500/yr salary). They're for new and some existing customers - see our RBS review for eligibility info.

  • Ends Mon. First Direct: Free £125 + No.1 service + 5% linked savings. Best if top service is key. New customers applying via this special First Direct link* get £125 within roughly 40 days when they switch to it (£100 if you apply direct). It's won every poll we've ever done, with 89% rating it 'great' in our latest August survey.

    It also offers a 5% regular savings account, only available to people with this account. That allows you to save up to £300/mth in it for one year. Many also get a £250 0% overdraft.

    How do I qualify? Apply by 11.59pm on Mon 11 Mar, as after the bonus drops to £100. Then pay in £1,000/mth (equiv to a £12,700+/yr salary) or eventually there's a £10/mth fee. Full info in our First Direct review.

  • Ends 1 Apr. HSBC: Free £175 + 5% linked savings. Highest upfront bonus. Newbies who request a switch to HSBC Advance* by 1 Apr get £175 within roughly 40 days, and access to a 5% regular savings account that allows you to save up to £250/mth in it for 1yr at 5% interest.

    How do I qualify? You must start a switch incl 2+ direct debits or standing orders within 30 days of account opening and pay in £1,750/mth (a £25,900/yr salary does it), but you can't have had an HSBC current account since 1 Jan 2016. See our full HSBC review.

  • Ongoing. Halifax: Free £50 upfront + £85 after 6mths + £2/mth (£159 total in year 1). The quickest payer. Halifax Reward gives new switchers the £50 before the switch completes, then the rest as above.

    How do I qualify? To get it all, switch and pay in £1,500+/mth (equiv to a £21,500/yr salary). Plus use your debit card at least once in the first 6mths, pay out 2+ direct debits each month, go paperless and remain in credit. Full info in our Halifax review.
Top for overdrafts

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

  • Until Mon, via this link First Direct* offers £125 to switch to it and many get an ongoing £250 0% overdraft (if you pay in £1,000/mth). So if your overdraft's up to £375, this pays off some of what you owe and the rest is at zero interest.

  • Alternatively, Nationwide FlexDirect* can offer a far bigger 0% overdraft depending on your credit score, but it only lasts a year (50p/day after). So aim to clear it before. If you've a friend with an account, you can both gain £100 via its recommend a friend scheme if you switch incl 2+ direct debits.

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

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

Bank switching Q&A

Q. Can I cheat the minimum pay-in? Usually. You need to pay it in from an external source. Say the pay-in is £1,000, but you only have £500 coming in - pay the £500 in, withdraw, then pay it back in, and BINGO.

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

Q. What about monthly fee accounts that give insurance? You can get up to £700 of mobile, travel and breakdown cover for £156/yr - a good deal IF you need the cover. Full info in Top bank accounts for insurance.

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


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



New. Moved home since 1993? You could be owed £100+ in council tax

Our investigation reveals over £230 MILLION in councils' coffers should have been paid back. Get your money

We've been banging on for over a decade about how 100,000s people are in the wrong council tax band and are owed money. Then we added how to reclaim if you've a 'severe mental impairment' and haven't got the discount due. Today, we're adding a brand-new council tax reclaim to our arsenal and there's over £230,000,000 unclaimed. With news this week that council tax rates are rising by an avg 4.5%, here's all you need to know about council tax MoneySaving.

  • Council taxNew. Moved home since 1993? You may be owed £100+ in overpaid council tax. Many aren't aware they pay council tax a month (sometimes a year) ahead. So it's common to be in credit at the point you move. If so, you're entitled to it back - but often you need to claim it and many don't. We've gathered data under the Freedom of Information Act from over 280 councils and found more than £230 million is unclaimed. So we've launched our brand-new Overpaid council tax reclaiming guide to help.

    We don't want everyone just calling their council on spec - it'd waste your time and kill their switchboards. There are lots of factors that dictate if you're likely to be owed, so we've full Are you likely to be owed cash? help. If you are then it's simple to get in touch, as Lawrence told us: "I claimed back £103. There was only credit because I left the borough part way into the month." How far back you can claim varies by council.

  • Are you one of 400,000 in Eng & Scot in the wrong band? You could be owed £1,000s. Swathes of households are overpaying and possibly have been since 1993. This is due to the stopgap assessment of properties done by officials driving down streets with clipboards. So use our Council Tax Check & Challenge System to see if you're due a refund and reduced bills (don't do it without reading the guide, as there are some important warnings). Karen emailed: "Queried our band and got a £6,300 refund backdated to 1993 plus our monthly charge is now approx £45 less. Thank you so much."

  • Do you live with someone with a 'severe mental impairment', eg, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's? Many in this situation are disregarded too, so check if you're missing out, as Jim did: "Thanks for your info - my mother who has dementia received a cheque for £1,401." Full help incl backdated claiming in SMI council tax discounts.

  • Do you live alone, or with a student? The single person's discount is 25% off. Yet this also applies if you live with someone who is 'disregarded' for council tax, such as students (all-student households pay nothing). For full info incl a list of other exemptions and discounts (eg, if you're on a low income, have a disability), see Council tax reductions.


New. Top 1yr fixed savings at 2% from Lloyds-owned Birmingham Midshires. If happy to lock cash away for the year, Birmingham Midshires* now pays a fixed 2% AER. You can open it with £1+, though your opening deposit must be by cheque. For more options, see top fixed savings.

£75ish No7 skincare products for £35. Incl day creams, night creams & facial oil. Boots No7

Are you due one of 1.5m+ unclaimed Premium Bond prizes? Latest figures show more than £61m is out there, with some prizes going back to the 1950s. See Premium Bonds prize check.

Martin's '8 urgent post-Brexit travel need-to-knows' + new EU driving warning. Will your passport still be valid? Should you buy currency now? What about EHIC cards? And more... Martin's Brexit travel guide. Plus a warning if you're driving in Europe after Brexit that you may urgently need to sort new paperwork.

British Gas customer? You may be one of 100,000s facing huge hidden hikesThe giant has U-turned on a promise to keep many off its expensive standard tariff. See who's hit in the British Gas hike (and how to switch away).

Ends today (Wed). Broadband & line '£10.24/mth' from BT-owned Plusnet. Till 11.59pm, Plusnet newbies can get an avg 10Mb b'band speed at that price on a 1yr deal if you pay line rent upfront. And to get it down to an equiv £10.24/mth, we've blagged a £75 cheque that comes automatically. We've seen an almost identical version of this before but you needed to claim the cheque, so some would have missed out. For more options, use our Broadband Unbundled tool.


Hot Sim cards incl HUGE 100GB data, unltd mins & texts '£15/mth'

BEAT THE MOBILE PRICE HIKES: Some will see bills rise by up to £150/yr, so time to ditch, switch & save

EE, O2, Three & Virgin Mobile are all hiking prices in the coming weeks, with Vodafone expected to follow suit. Yet if you're out of contract, you're free to switch to a cheaper Sim - the little chip in your phone that dictates your data, calls and texts allowance. And as millions overpay on expensive old deals, make this your trigger to check if you can slash the cost of mobile use, with a host of top deals about...

  • The key is how much data & calls you use. To keep the price down, match your allowance so it's just more than what you use each month. As most Sims have unlimited texts and a generous amount of minutes, data is the key. In our recent poll, 70% said you use LESS than 3GB a month. So unless you watch a lot of TV, stream music or play lots of games via your phone's connection, you don't need to pay too much. Check your bills or use a free usage checker if you're not sure. Though if you need them, big data packages are super cheap right now.

  • Switch to a top Sim - from £5/mth for 1GB to '£15/mth' for 100GB. We've listed the cheapest deals for customers new to these mobile providers based on different allowances, with lots more in our Top Sims guides - useful if you can't get decent signal on the networks below.
Provider (network)
Monthly allowance
iD Mobile* (Three)
1GB, 500 mins & unltd texts
£5/mth. On a 1mth minimum term contract.
New. Plusnet* (EE) 4GB + unltd mins & texts (i)
'£6.67/mth'. Via this blagged deal, you pay £10/mth but are sent a £40 cheque within 30 days, so it's an equiv £6.67/mth over the 1yr contract.
8GB + unltd mins & texts (ii)
£10/mth. On a 1yr contract.
New. Vodafone*
20GB + unltd mins & texts (iii)
'£12.50/mth'. You pay £20/mth but enter the code MSE10AUTO and you're sent a £90 cheque within 2mths, making it an equiv £12.50/mth over the 1yr contract. (iv)
New. Vodafone* 100GB + unltd mins & texts
'£15/mth'. You pay £20/mth but if you enter the code MSE10AUTO you're sent a £60 cheque within 2mths, so it's an equiv £15/mth over the 1yr contract. (iv)
(i) Existing Plusnet Broadband customers can get the deal with 4.5GB. (ii) UK-only plan, so you can't use your phone abroad or for international calls. (iii) You can also claim a 'free' 12mth subscription to Spotify, Amazon Prime Video, Sky Sports Mobile TV or a Now TV Entertainment Pass. (iv) Links go via

  • Top switching tips.
    - Keeping your number's easy. Switching it over normally takes just one working day. See Number porting.
    - You may need to unlock your phone. Firms MUST let you if you're out of contract. See Unlock your phone for free.
    - Don't want to switch? Haggle. Mobile firms are among the easiest to haggle with. See Haggling help.

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Longest 0%: Sainsbury's* up to 30 months 0%, 3% 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: M&S* 2.8% rep APR (1-3 yrs)

Ends Wed. Standard b'band & line rent: Plusnet equiv £10.24/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Plusnet equiv £18.16/mth

£175 to switch (£150 direct): HSBC Advance 
Ends Fri. Free £150 to switch + 2% bills cashback: RBS Reward


Cheap loans: Are the Post Office's new freebies (eg, Echo Dot) worth it?

Loan rates are close to all-time lows, down to 2.8% - so providers are using other means to tempt you in

Loans are relatively cheap right now, especially if you're borrowing over £5,000. Competition is fierce, so some lenders are getting experimental. This week the Post Office entered the fray, offering borrowers a range of freebies if you get its loans. We know it's a popular brand, so wanted to help you decide if it's worth it. Let us take you through the logic...

  • Don't borrow unless you NEED to and can AFFORD to. Only consider a loan if you're doing a necessary, one-off planned purchase where you've budgeted that you can afford the repayments. Grabbing a loan just because you feel like loosening the purse strings is always a bad idea. If you're struggling with debt, see our Debt Help guide instead.

  • The cheapest loans - best rates up to £15k. Sadly ALL personal loans are 'representative APR', which means ONLY 51% of accepted customers get the advertised rate. The rest can pay more and the only way to find out is to apply. The rates below are available for loans of 1-5yrs, unless stated (shorter is better, as it means interest has less time to accrue).

    Our Loans Eligibility Calc shows which loans you're most likely to be accepted for with no credit impact.

    - £7,500 - £15,000 loans: M&S Bank* is 2.8% (1-3yrs), Admiral* is 2.9%
    - £5,000 - £7,499 loans: Admiral*, Yorkshire Bank* and Zopa* are 3.4%
    - £3,000 - £4,999 loans: 
    Admiral* is 6.7%, Zopa* 6.8%-7.7%

    Tip: If you're borrowing under £3,000, using special credit card loans is usually cheaper than the best buys below.

    - £2,000 - £2,999 loans: Zopa* is 9.4%-10.8%, Asda Money 9.9%
    - £1,000 - £1,999 loans: 
    Asda Money is 9.9%, Zopa* is 10.8%-15.1%

  • Post OfficePost Office new 3.2% + freebies: Echo Dot, dashcam, hotel night or spa treatment. Using freebies to sell debt ain't a great signal, yet the Post Office* is doing just that. You can claim (it's not automatic) one of a number of freebies within 3mths. As it's a decent brand and its rates are close to the best buys, we crunched the numbers.

    We found it's plainly not a winner for smaller and longer loans. Yet for borrowing £5,000+ (where it's 4.5% up to £7,499, then 3.2% until £15,000) over shorter terms, factor in the freebie and it can just win(ish), eg, borrow £5,000 over 2yrs and it's £59 more than the cheapest loan. Borrow £10,000 over 2yrs and it's £42 more than the cheapest, yet an Amazon Echo Dot costs £50, the ProofCam dashcam £80.

    So on paper, factor those in and it's cheaper. Yet if you need a loan, should you really be incorporating a freebie's value into the cost? It's a tough one. And all this assumes you're getting the advertised rate on all the loans - which is a big wobbler anyway.

  • Loan Golden Rules. Full info & options in Cheap Personal Loans (APR Examples).
    a) Minimise the amount you borrow and repay as quickly as possible.
    b) Pay on time (preferably by direct debit) or you may get a charge and a credit black mark.
    c) If you're applying to pay off credit cards, a balance transfer may be cheaper.

20% off code for The Book People, eg, Harry Potter Collection £24. MSE Blagged. Incl free deliv. Also £22 Roald Dahl set & £6 Veggie Lean in 15 by Joe WicksThe Book People


"I contacted Amazon as it took £79.99 out for Prime after the free trial yet I didn't realise it automatically continued, and I didn't use it anyway. It was easy to get a refund within 10 minutes."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)



Are you ScamSmart? Scams can dupe anyone - they're increasingly sophisticated, with fraudsters targeting consumers through mail, landline, text and online. Take this short quiz on tricks often used by investment scammers, so you can be better informed and less likely to be scammed. For more information on how to protect yourself, see our Stop Scams guide.



How do you rate your bank account's service? Every six months, we ask for your help to track the quality of customer service provided by banks. By comparing your answers with last time, we can see which have got better or worse. How do you rate your bank account's service?

The easiest companies to haggle with revealed. Last week, we asked which firms you've haggled with over the past year and whether or not you were successful in getting a discount. Breakdown cover firms appear to be most haggle-friendly, with 88% of those who tried with the AA and 86% of those who tried with the RAC reporting some sort of success. In third place was Sky, with 84% of TV customers managing to haggle a better deal. See full haggling poll results.



Should I pay my driving instructor for missed lessons? I started driving lessons eight months ago and sometimes have to cancel at the last minute due to sickness or childcare emergencies. It's a fairly informal arrangement, but should I pay my instructor anything to make up for the inconvenience? She's also cancelled on me a few times, so I don't feel too guilty. Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I pay my driving instructor for missed lessons? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: March WINS challenge
- Competitions thread of the week: Luxury spa for your home
- Old-Style board thread of the week: March Grocery Challenge
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Recently discovered that parent has a lot of debt
- Discussion of the week: All-new 2019 growing your own discussion


No7 - £75ish skincare products for £35
Pick My Postcode - FREE £500 daily prize draw
Ciaté - £25 lip gloss collection (normally £90+)
The Book People - 20% off code & free delivery
Topshop/Topman - 20% off full-price items code for newbies

Pizza Hut Restaurants - 50% off new vegan menu (Sun-Thu)
Beefeater - 33% off food bill (Sun-Fri)
KFC - Free side incl wings, fries, popcorn chicken and more
Domino's - 30% off a £25 spend
Zizzi - 30% off mains (days vary)

Fire Fighters Charity - 100+ car washes at fire stations
Ugg Emporium - Up to 70% off clearance
Odeon - Two cinema tickets for £7 any day via Vodafone app
RNIB - Free kids' audio or Braille book
Boots - FREE specs on 11 Mar when you trade in old ones

Quick Forum Tips

Free sample of Olay face cream. Face value
75p Easter eggs at Tesco (norm £1.50). Egg-cellent
Up to 50% off Sainsbury's Tu clothing sale. Suits Tu



Thu 7 Mar - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am
Fri 8 Mar - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am
Mon 11 Mar - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 11 Mar - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon. Listen again


Wed 6 Mar - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm, PPI
Fri 8 Mar
- BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am, Brexit and travel money
Mon 11 Mar
- TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am
Mon 11 Mar
- BBC Radio York, Beth McCarthy, from 7pm
Tue 12 Mar
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



Q: Sky has written to say it is increasing prices in April. How can it do this when we have a contract? Elaine, via email

MSE Steve B's A: Annoyingly, the regulator Ofcom's rules do allow telecoms firms to raise prices mid-contract. However, you may be able to leave your contract penalty-free. The rules say you can ditch your broadband contract penalty-free if prices rise, as long as you tell your provider you're off within 30 days of being notified. This means you are free to switch to another provider - see our Broadband Unbundled tool for the best deals.

If you also have a Sky TV contract, unfortunately you won't be able to ditch it penalty-free, although you could still try to haggle with Sky if you're unhappy about the changes. See our Haggle with Sky guide for our top tips.

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 on social we started a heated discussion on the worst commuter you've seen. We had "people who look at you shocked when you ask them to move their bag", "people who occupy the loo for ages" and "men who sit with their legs wide open". It didn't stop there... why not join in on our Twitter and Facebook pages?

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team