Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

08 May 2019

Over 50 ways to save incl... £5 Next/Zara, energy price war, 12 financial freebies, £16 Echo Dot, Martin’s loan warning, 4.5% kids’ savings, £48 breakdown cover, Costco freebies

This info may be out of date.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.


12 financial freebies to net you BIG money

Everyone loves a freebie, and a host of financial firms currently pay free cash or vouchers when you get their products - which in many cases are also the best available. So we've rounded up the top deals, but first...

Will an application affect my credit file? Most add a minor mark but just one is unlikely to affect most people. Don't do lots in a short time though and avoid if you're within a few months of a mortgage or important credit application.

Free cash to switch bank account
It's easy, safe and takes just seven working days. The new bank moves all direct debits and standing orders for you, while the old account will be closed and any payments to it forwarded for at least 3yrs. 

1. Free £175 to switch and stay AND get 2% cashback on bills. NatWest Reward* and RBS Reward* pay switchers £125, then £50 more if you're still with them in June 2020. There's a £2/mth fee, but they pay 2% cashback on most bills paid by direct debit, often worth £60-£100/yr even after the fee. To qualify, you must pay in £1,500 a month (equivalent to a £21,500/yr salary paid in), log in online by 12 Jul for NatWest or 2 Aug for RBS and use your debit card each month.

Don't want to pay the £2/mth fee? If you don't pay bills you can still get the £175 with no fee (nor cashback) via NatWest Select* or RBS Select*. Just make sure you pay in £1,500 once by the dates above.

2. Special free £125 to switch to a top customer service bank + 5% linked savings. New First Direct* customers get the cash using that link (it's £100 if you go direct) and get access to a 5% regular savings account to save up to £300/mth for 1yr. Many also get a £250 0% overdraft. First Direct scored 90% 'great' for service in our latest poll so is a safe bet if that's key. You must pay in £1k+/mth (equiv £12,500/yr salary) for the bonus and to avoid a £10/mth fee.

3. Free £100 M&S voucher with NO min pay-in (+ £80 vch after 1yr if you pay in £1,250/mth). Newbies who open an M&S Bank* account get the £100 vch and access to its 5% regular saver if within 3mths of opening they switch, incl 4+ active direct debits. For the £80 (or £120 if you've an M&S credit card), as well as meeting the £1,250/mth min pay-in, you must keep the direct debits active and register for online banking and statements within 3mths.

Can I make £100s switching again and again? Some have made £800+ this way (incl some at MSE Towers). There's nowt stopping you, though as we say above, each application has a small impact on your credit score so avoid if you've a big application soon.

More info and full options on bank switching in Best Bank Accounts.

Buy a banana, get a free £25 to spend at M&S
This works differently to the others, so we've given it its own category. 

4. Free M&S £25 if you use a credit card once. Newbies accepted for the M&S Bank credit card (eligibility calc / apply*) can get 2,000 bonus M&S pts, worth £20, if they buy anything within 90 days, even just a banana, in any store, not just M&S. Plus, you're sent a vch you can swipe at the till (or use online) at M&S when spending there on the credit card to get 500 bonus M&S points, worth £5. 

So buy an M&S banana and, hey presto, you've made £25. Ensure you repay the card IN FULL to avoid interest, and continue to do that if you use it again to earn more points, though you could just cancel once you have the £25. See full M&S card analysis (19.9% rep APR interest).

Cashback credit cards - for year-round rewards
These pay you to spend, but only get one to do normal spending and pay it off IN FULL each month (preferably by direct debit) or the APR interest dwarfs the gain. While other cards here pay rewards for certain shops only, the fact these pay cash means they're of universal appeal. 

5. Earn up to 5% cashback. The fee-free Amex Platinum Everyday card (eligibility calc / apply*) pays 5% for 3mths (max £100), then up to 1%. As the main gain is in the opening months they're ideal if you've a big upcoming spend planned (22.9% rep APR).

PS: Spend more than £10k/yr? Then the £25/yr Amex Platinum card (eligibility calc / apply*) wins. It pays 5% (max £125) for 3mths, then up to 1.25% (28.2% rep APR incl fee)

However, as Amex isn't accepted everywhere you may not get cashback on all spending. Plus, you won't get the bonus if you've held most Amex cards in the past 2yrs. 

6. Top non-Amex cashback card. This Tandem card (apply) pays 0.5% on all purchases. As it's a Mastercard it's accepted virtually everywhere that takes plastic, though to apply, you must download the Tandem app for iOS or Android (18.9% rep APR). For full help and more deals, see top cashback cards (APR Examples).

Credit card introductory freebies
Some cards offer non-cash incentives if you spend a certain amount in the first few months. If your normal spending is enough and you can make use of the freebies, grab one (it's not an excuse to overspend) and... no apologies for saying it again, pay it off IN FULL each month (preferably by direct debit) to avoid the rep APR interest to get the freebie at no cost.

7. Free £100 of Nectar points. Accepted Amex Nectar (eligibility calc / apply*) cardholders who spend £2,000 within 3mths get 20,000 bonus Nectar points worth £100 at Nectar retailers such as Sainsbury's. You also earn the normal 2pts per £1 spent. Remember to cancel after 1yr if you want to avoid the £25/yr fee from year 2 (28.2% rep APR incl fee).

8. Free £50 Amazon/M&S vch and 2 free airport lounge passes. Spend £3k+ in the first 3mths on the Amex Rewards Gold card (eligibility calc / apply*) to get 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards pts, which can be swapped for a £50 Amazon/M&S etc gift card (shops can change) or 10,000 BA, Virgin or Emirates etc air miles. You also earn the normal 1pt per £1 spent (57.6% rep APR incl fee).

IMPORTANT: There's a £140 annual fee after 1yr so remember to cancel if you don't want to pay it. Full help and more deals, incl non-Amex options, in Credit Card Rewards (APR Examples). 

As before, you won't get the bonus for the two above if you've held most Amex cards in the past 2yrs. 

9. Free air miles - incl 12,000 Virgin miles or 5,000 BA/Avios miles. These cards can be a hugely beneficial way to start collecting or top up an existing account with the bonus miles, then the ongoing points. However, air miles schemes only tend to be worth it if you'll use them for premium economy, business or first-class tickets - and only if you can really plan, as you often need to book 11-12mths ahead. See a full rundown of the top deals and how they work in our Top Airline Cards guide. 

Get paid to (re)build your credit history 
If you've a patchy or limited credit history, you'll likely struggle to get the deals above. Yet some cards are designed for those who haven't had much credit before, or have past county court judgments or defaults. Do normal spending, never bust your limit and here it's more important than every to pay it off IN FULL each month to avoid horrid interest and (re)build your credit history by proving you're a good credit citizen.

10. Earn a £20 Amazon vch and (re)build your credit history. The Aqua Advance (eligibility calc / apply*) card gives a £20 Amazon vch after 2mths, as long as you use the card at least once, pay on time and don't bust your limit. Keep up this 'good behaviour' and your rep APR can eventually drop from 34.9% to 19.9%. More options and help in Credit Rebuild Cards and Boost your credit score (APR Examples).

The ones where we couldn't work out a category
As always, there are some that don't fit in with the others. 

11. A friendly freebie - refer someone to Nationwide and you both get £100. If you've a Nationwide current account, mortgage or savings, you can refer a friend. If they then switch to a FlexAccount, FlexDirect or FlexPlus current account (incl 2+ direct debits) within 90 days and fill in a form, you'll both get £100. You can get paid for switching five people a year, so could net up to £500.

12. Members of cashback sites could get cashback on lots of things incl insurance, credit cards and shopping. If you use such a site, ensure the product is the same as you'd get elsewhere. For full info and pros and cons, see Top Cashback Sites


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.



Cheap energy now CHEAPEST in 7mths: save £350/yr over the price cap

There's a HIDDEN ENERGY PRICE WAR, but only for switchers. Do nowt and you'll miss out

In April, the price cap for 11m people on standard tariffs jumped by an avg 10%, a rise of £100/yr for those with typical usage, and it will remain unmoved until October. Yet perversely, at the same time, wholesale prices - those which energy firms pay - were plummeting. That's allowed firms fighting for new customers to slash the cost of tariffs for switchers (see graph, right).

While someone with Big 6 typical usage pays £1,254/yr, the market's cheapest deal is now £880/yr - some £100 less than it was in January for the same usage. So it's worth everyone doing a 5-min comparison using our Cheap Energy Club to see if you can save.

  • Should you switch to new tiddler firms? Not really, no. When you do a comparison, the cheapest are generally new firms, with no track record (and possibly little financial backing, hence 9 going bust in the last year). So for ease and safety, it's best to scroll down a little (or use our filters) to find more reliability - and still make huge savings. To help, we've picked 3 top tariffs below. All for dual-fuel (ie, gas & elec) customers only.

  • Bulb - 'great' customer service, 100% renewable, plus £60 MSE boost, no exit fees. £940/yr on typical usage, incl MSE boost. The Bulb Vari-Fair deal has been enormously popular over the last year. It's 100% renewable electricity and it carbon-offsets its gas usage. Bulb now has over a million customers and received a 76% 'great' rating in our latest customer service poll. Go via the link above to the Cheap Energy Club comparison and you get our usual £25 cashback, plus £35 extra bill credit that we've arranged.  

    This is a variable deal, so the price could rise or fall (Bulb's last two moves have been cuts) but if it rises you can leave penalty-free. If you know a Bulb customer, ask them about its refer-a-friend deal.

  • British Gas - cheapest Big 6 fix + 'free' heating cover (existing BG customers can get it too). £953/yr on typical usage, incl £25 MSE cashback. The BG Energy Plus Protection Green May 2020 tariff has a fixed rate till May 2020 and is a no-brainer if you're loyal to BG or prefer a big name. But it's only available via comparison sites - you can't call BG and ask for it. Most also get 12 months' 'free' central heating, plumbing, drains and home electrical cover, but do note: the insurance auto-renews after a year, even if you switch energy (though you can cancel it any time).  

  • GNE - cheap 18mth fix with £65 boost, 100% renewable electricity. £957/yr on typical usage, incl MSE boost. If you want long-term rate certainty without needing to switch again, Green Network Energy's GNE Family Green 18 Month Fixed V25 locks in the rate for 18mths, meaning a substantial saving. Do it through us and you get £25 MSE cashback, plus a standard £40 bill credit from GNE.

PS: If you think this makes the price cap seem pointless, you're not alone. See Martin's 'energy price cap is broken' video.


Last chance. Get FULL SERVICE car breakdown cover for £48/yr. It's been our top deal for a decade, and you can still get AutoAid* for £48.31/yr - but only till next Tue (14 May). The day after it rises to £60/yr. It's well rated and covers you, your spouse, civil or common-law partner, in any car you drive.  And unlike basic policies which only cover breakdowns away from home, this covers them at home too. Similar AA/RAC cover can cost £100+/yr. Full info in Cheap Breakdown Cover.

£4.75 for Next, Zara, Topshop clothes, shoes & more. MSE Blagged. Everything5pounds sells surplus stock without tags from the high street alongside its own non-branded goods. Everything is usually £5 plus delivery from £4, but our code makes it £4.75 all-in until Sun. Everything5pounds

Trick to get a £50 Amazon Echo Dot for £16 (or 99p if you've an Amazon Music family plan). This is about manipulating a deal from the music-streaming service. £16 Echo Dot 

Tesco Clubcard discounts now on - up to 50% off coffee, crisps, pet food etc. See what's on offer and how it stacks up in our Tesco deals analysis, now its big promo (which we first revealed details of last month) has begun.

'I built my own pensions dashboard'. The Govt-backed 'pensions dashboard' - to help you keep track of multiple pensions - may take years to fully launch, so MSE Steve L has built his own.

Spend £33ish on 1yr Costco membership & get extra £37ish of freebies (incl carrot cake & two chickens). For many avid MoneySavers, giant discount wholesaler Costco is a shopping Disneyland. So the fact it's giving away a basket of freebies with its normal membership is like fiscal fireworks. Get full Costco cracker info.


Martin: 'Beware. My This Morning caller said her 'cheap' £1,000 loan cost £2,800. Here's how you can really get the cheapest loans.'

I've always warned that debt is like fire. Used well, it's a useful tool. Used badly, it burns. Yet if you need to borrow, as our guide explains, you can get 6.4% for a £3,000 loan and 2.9% for £7,500 - near all-time lows. Though, while thankfully loan PPI mis-selling is now long gone, it's far from the personal loan market's only blight.

Catherine's call to my ITV phone-in last week is a cautionary tale. Last summer, she thought she was doing right by using a credit reference agency's eligibility tool, to find a £1,000 loan. "It came up saying, 'you can get accepted' - I thought, 'brilliant, I can fix my car'. [Now, having such a costly loan on my credit file has] affected my remortgage. The loan was 54.9% over 5yrs... to pay it off now would be £2,800." These numbers don't add up, so one way or another she's having terrible loan issues at a likely extortionate cost. Here are 5 quick tips so you can prevent yourself being stung...

  • Use MSE's Loans Eligibility Calc, but DON'T assume others are the same. Loan eligibility calcs are the right starting point. They assess your credit history and income, then show which loans you're most likely to be accepted for, without impacting your creditworthiness. However, while MSE's Loans Eligibility Calc excludes high interest loans, few others do - in fact their seamless journeys make it difficult to realise you may now be in the 'subprime' market.
    PS: If you're wondering why I don't say this on the telly, it's because if I work on a show, TV regulations bar me mentioning MSE, so I must just be generic, eg, "use an eligibility calc". It's frustrating when I believe we've a superior tool.

  • All loans are 'representative APR', meaning only 51% need get the advertised rate. The rest can be charged more, and there's no limit. So a '2.9% loan' could cost you 20%. You're almost always only told this after application, so AFTER ACCEPTANCE ALWAYS CHECK THE RATE - even if using our eligibility calc, as we can't control this bit, though we're working on it. If your rate's far higher, do a Zammo (translation for the under-40s - "just say no").

  • Borrow longer, pay more. As in many things, with loans, length matters. The longer you take to repay, the more interest accrues. Eg, a 15% 1yr loan costs far less interest than a 4% loan over 5yrs.

  • 0% credit card loans are usually cheaper if borrowing under £3,000. With 0% money transfer cards you pay a small fee to get them to pay cash into your bank account, so then you owe the card at 0%. These are likely to be the cheapest route for smaller loans - just make sure you clear the card before the 0% ends.

  • And crucially... do you really need to borrow? Of course the biggest prevention is... just don't borrow. Ask yourself whether it's needed, minimise the amount, repay as quickly as possible, and ensure you budget so the repayments are affordable. If not, Zammo again (see above).

Easy tool to find the nearest FREE cash machine wherever you are.  As the number of free ATMs dwindles - 1,700 started charging in Jan-Mar alone - there's a tool to find free ATMs.

TalkTalk & EE broadband bills to rise. We show how to beat 'em. See TalkTalk and EE price hike help.

50+ baby MoneySaving tips, incl cheap nappies & 'Tinder for mums' app to find parenting pals. Huge congrats to the Duke and Duchess. And for the MoneySaving treatment fit for a king or queen, see our Baby Checklist.

FREE outdoor fitness, incl 14-day boot camp pass, gyms, timed runs, yoga & more. Come rain or (hopefully) shine, see how to get fit for free in the great outdoors.

Ends Thu. 2GB, unltd mins & texts Sim '£6/mth'. MSE Blagged. Newbies to Smarty* (uses Three's network) pay £7.50 upfront each month. But activate a Sim before Wed 22 May and you get three months 'free'. There's no min term, but keep it a year and it's an equiv £5.83/mth. Top Sims

Karen Millen extra 20% off everything code, incl sale. MSE Blagged. Good for weddings and proms. In store and online till Sun. Karen Millen


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Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  3. Gocompare*
  4. Compare The Market*

Then check insurers they miss:
Direct Line* (£40 Amazon vch for new custs)

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Zopa* 3.3% rep APR
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: M&S Bank* 2.9% rep APR (1-7 yrs)

Standard b'band & line rent: Shell Energy equiv £11.66/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
TalkTalk equiv £20.18/mth

£175 to switch and stay + 2% bills cashback: NatWest/RBS
Free £125 + great service: First Direct


Earn a right royal 4.5% on your children's savings

From instant access to regular savers and junior ISAs, being a little'un can give big returns

Whether you're a new parent, or your own prince or princess is now a moody 15-year-old, it's good to know the accounts for kids are the crown jewels of savings, paying far more than standard accounts. And if they're old enough to understand (why not talk them through the decision and how interest works?), it gives financial education while you're at it. For full info on how it works and how to manage their savings, see our Best Children's Savings. Here are the top payers...

  • Kids SavingsPutting money aside each month - save up to £100/mth at 4.5%. The Halifax Kids' Monthly Saver lets you save up to £100/mth for under-16s at 4.5% for a year (you don't have to contribute every month). To withdraw money, you just close the account. The Saffron BS Children's Reg Saver is similar, paying 4% while allowing unlimited withdrawals. Full info in Kids' regular savings accounts.

  • Want to give them a lump of cash? Earn 3%. HSBC MySavings pays 3% variable on up to £3,000 with unlimited withdrawals if they're 7-17, the same rate as the Santander current account (see below). If you have a Nationwide current account (not FlexBasic), then your child can get 3.5% in the Nationwide Future Saver.

  • Want a kids' account with a debit or cash card? Earn 3%. The Santander 123 Mini kids' current account pays 3% variable if they've £300-£2,000. Any child 13-17 can open it and get a debit or cash card. If they're younger, they can only open one if you've a Santander current account (and they must be 11+ to get a debit card).

  • Do kids' savings get taxed? Yes. They pay it just like grown-ups, where they can earn £12,500/yr as a salary before any tax is taken. As most don't, their savings are tax-free. Yet if they earn £100+/yr interest from money given by a parent, it's taxed at the parents' rate, though as now most parents can earn £1,000 savings interest tax-free each year due to the personal savings allowance, that's still not an issue for most.

  • Got a junior ISA or child trust fund? Or want to lock money away until they're 18? If you're one of the few with children that'll pay tax on savings, junior ISAs allow them to save up to £4,368/yr tax-free (so it doesn't count for the £100/yr rule above). This money is locked away until they're 18, when they can do what they want with it. If that works for you, the top payers Coventry BS (pays 3.6%) and NS&I (3.25%) beat normal kids' savings.

    If your child already has a savings junior ISA - or predecessor, the child trust fund - and it pays less than these, then you can simply ask the new firm to transfer it across for you so you can earn more.

  • Free financial education textbook. You can download a copy of the free textbook.

FREE family tennis sessions, incl coaching. At 1,000+ venues across Britain. Smashing deal

"I got £2,500 back via a PPI reclaim on a loan from years ago. It was easy to do, only took 15 mins and cost me nothing. Thank you so much for your constant urging for people to check."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)



Would you invest in the causes you care about? The Department for International Development wants to understand what factors influence people when they choose how to invest and save their money. It wants to know if people would prefer to choose causes close to their hearts, and if so, what those causes might be. If you'd like to help the investigation, fill in its short survey



How much time does your personal admin take? We all have to do it - deal with bills, bank online, book travel and holidays, file letters and receipts, collect vouchers, sort out problems with the home, cope with tax credits/benefits, manage kids' school requests and more. How much time does your personal admin take?

Most young people think it's time to ditch 1p and 2p coins. Last week, we asked whether you thought 1p and 2p pieces should be scrapped, and almost 12,000 responded. The Government's now confirmed the coins are here to stay, for now - but 63% of under-25s thought we should get rid of them, compared to just 38% of over-65s. See the full poll results.



Should my husband pay more towards bills while I'm on maternity leave? I've had a baby and am taking a year off work. I knew my maternity pay would be poor so I saved £23,000 to cushion the blow. My husband and I still pay the same towards the mortgage and bills, but I'm now deep into my savings. I know I'm having the time off, but it's my husband's baby too - should he be paying more while I'm on maternity leave? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should my husband pay more towards bills while I'm on maternity leave? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: May's Bring Your Lunch To Work Challenge
- Competitions thread of the week: All-inclusive Sandals holiday to St Lucia worth £5,000
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Food waste audit diary May 2019
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Non-traditional wedding cars
- Discussion of the week: Weekly Flylady thread 6 May 2019


Everything5pounds - £4.75 for Next, Zara, Topshop items
Amazon Echo Dot - Trick to get the £50 device for £16
Costco - £37ish of freebies with 1yr membership
Free tennis - At 1,000+ venues across Britain
Karen Millen - Extra 20% off everything, incl sale

Make loyalty schemes pay - Tips to unlock 'hidden' extras
Easyhotel sale - 20% off 20 hotels, incl London
Amazon Prime - Six months' free Prime Video via EE
Halfords - £10 MOT when you spend 50p+
Alton Towers & Sea Life - Half-price tix via £1ish hand wash

DW Fitness First - Three-day pass
Anytime Fitness - One-day or three-day pass
Better - One-day pass
Nuffield Health - One-day pass
Énergie Fitness - One-day pass

Quick Forum Tips

Lidl weekend offers, incl 99p cheese. Cheesy does it
Toilets FREE at train stations. Don't spend a penny
Cheap cinema tickets via sweets back soon. Sweet



Thu 9 May - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am
Fri 10 May - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am
Mon 13 May - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 13 May - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon


Wed 8 May - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm
Fri 10 May 
- BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am
Mon 13 May - TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am
Mon 13 May - BBC Radio York, Beth McCarthy, from 7pm
Tue 14 May
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm 



Q: I graduated from university last summer and have been paying back my student loan ever since. But a friend's told me I shouldn't have been - are they right, and if so, can I get cash back? Anon, via email.

MSE Callum's A: If you were a full-time student, your friend's right - you shouldn't have started repaying your loan immediately after you graduated, and you can get cash back. What you repay normally depends on how much you earn, but whatever your income, full-time students shouldn't start repaying until the April after they leave their course at the earliest.

The good news is that if you've repaid too early, you can reclaim the money with a phone call. For full help see our Student Loan Overpayments guide.

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



That's it for this week, but before we go... if you saw money lying on a dirty street, how much would it have to be worth for you to grab it? MSE Steve N asked that question on Twitter last week and it's divided MoneySavers, with many saying they wouldn't dive in for less than £1, but others insisting they'd retrieve even a penny. See the responses and tell us what you'd do in our Pick up a penny? discussion.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team