Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

15 May 2019

Over 50 ways to save incl... Green special, free £25 M&S, £4 theatre, £24k PPI back, cheapest fibre of 2019, free McD's, pension credit warning, 1.5% ISA

This info may be out of date.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.


Switch to 100% renewable energy. Help the planet & your wallet with £300+/yr savings.

A message from Martin:  UK attitudes and behaviours are changing. Single-use plastics are now often unacceptable, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg recently spoke to Parliament, Extinction Rebellion's cause (if not method) was widely supported and for the first time since 1882, the UK went a whole week without generating electricity from coal.

So we've taken a decision to start investing more journalistic resources into adding options to show you when going greener will save you money, and in areas where it doesn't save you, at how to reduce the cost of going green.

We've a lot of work to get there - it'll take months - but I wanted to make the pledge that we'll do it, and kick off with an initial green focus in this email. Let's start with green energy. Over to the team...

Today's top green energy deals are seriously cheap

In the past, opting for renewable energy tariffs (more on exactly what that means below) was often at a premium, but things have changed. Many of the best challenger energy firms have gone green and cheap as a way to attract new customers - meaning many can make huge savings. The easy thing to do is a comparison...

- Compare all GREEN tariffs, with GOOD (or better) SERVICE
- Compare all GREEN tariffs, including poor service
- Compare ALL tariffs, with GOOD (or better) SERVICE
- Compare ALL tariffs on the market

Yet we want to highlight our top-pick green tariffs. We've excluded some tariffs that are a touch cheaper (even if they're green) as they either have a poor customer service record or are small firms with little to no customer service feedback, which we normally exclude.

All savings below are for typical dual-fuel use, on a Big 6 standard tariff (avg price £1,254/yr), and if applicable, incl MSE £25 cashback.
  • Cheap 1yr 'green' fix: Octopus Energy - 100% green electricity + TOP customer service. SAVE £315/yr.

    The new Exclusive Octopus 12M Fixed May 2019 v1 costs an average £938/yr for typical use. The rate is locked in for a year (so there are no price rises) and it has no early exit fees. Octopus also scored a huge 85% 'great' in our recent customer service poll, putting it top of the service table.

    How green is this tariff? It sells 100% renewable electricity, but none of its gas is renewable or offset.

  • Cheapest 100% green elec and gas: Bulb - very good service rating + £55 MSE boost. SAVE £315/YR.

    The Bulb Vari-Fair tariff has been enormously popular over the last year. Bulb now has over 1m customers and received a 76% 'great' rating in our latest service poll.

    The tariff comes with the usual £25 dual-fuel MSE cashback, but we've arranged for another £30 bill credit, making it an average £945/yr based on typical use.

    This is a variable deal, so the price could rise or fall (Bulb's last two moves have been cuts). If it rises, you can leave penalty-free.

    How green is this tariff? It's the greenest of the cheap tariffs - it's 100% renewable electricity, and 10% of its gas comes from renewable sources, while it pays to offset the effect of the rest.

  • Cheapest green Big 6 (and cheapest Big 6 anyway): British Gas - 100% green elec & gas + 'free' heating insurance + EXISTING BG customers can get it too. SAVE £300/yr.

    The BG Energy Plus Protection Green May 2020 is only available via comparison sites. It was good when it launched last month and, as its price has dropped a number of times, it's got even better and is now £942/yr based on typical use, with the rate fixed until May 2020.

    It's a no-brainer if you're loyal to BG or prefer a big name. 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).

    How green is this tariff? It is 100% renewable electricity, and while none of the gas is renewable (unlike Bulb above), it pays to offset the effects of 100% of it.

  • Cheapest green longer fix (and cheapest longer fix anyway): GNE - 100% green electricity + £65 boost, SAVE £300/yr.

    With Green Network Energy's GNE Family Green 18 Month Fixed v25, you get the usual £25 MSE cashback plus a £40 bill credit, making it an average £957/yr based on typical use. It's an 18mth fix, so good for longer-term rate certainty.

    How green is this tariff? It sells 100% renewable electricity, but none of its gas is renewable or offset.

  • SUPER GREEN tariff - but SUPER costly too: Green Energy UK - 100% green electricity and 100% green gas.

    Green Energy UK's 
    Sparkling Summer 2020 is the only pure 100% renewable tariff on the market we could find, but the price reflects that. Green tariffs do not have to be limited to the price cap and it is therefore over £150/yr more on typical use than a Big 6 standard deal at a whopping £1,419/yr. So clearly it is only for those for whom being green is the most important factor.

    How green is this tariff?
     It's the 'greenest' of the green, with 100% of the electricity renewable and, uniquely, 100% of the gas generated from renewable sources rather than just offset.

    What is 'green' energy?

    It typically means creating electricity using the likes of hydro, solar, wave or wind power that do not deplete the Earth's resources - which is why it's often referred to as 'renewable'. Meanwhile, renewable gas comes from the less common method called 'anaerobic digestion', which is the breaking down of biodegradable material.

    Normal energy burns fossil fuels such as natural gas, which also releases harmful gases. There's also nuclear energy, but that is controversial.

    If you want to go green, it's more about the tariff than the firm, as one company may have many tariffs that vary in 'greenness'.

    But even if you go green, the gas and electricity you use will contain a mix of 'green' and 'dirty' energy, as we get it from the nationwide network that's fed from multiple sources. Standard energy is typically made up of 38% natural gas, 24% wind & solar, 15% nuclear, 10% bioenergy, 6% coal, 2% hydro and the rest from other sources (such as oil).

    So if you buy a 'green' energy tariff, what does it actually mean?

    • 100% renewable electricity. This is the most common claim you'll see. While your energy won't all be green, your supplier will buy enough renewable energy from the network to match your use, so the net effect of you using a 100% renewable supplier is as if all your energy was renewable. This also encourages more renewable investment.

    • 100% green gas. This comes in two types:

      - Firstly, there's renewable gas (from anaerobic digestion). But it's rare to have even 10% renewable gas, let alone 100%. Like with electricity above, your gas won't all be green, but your supplier will put the amount you use back into the network as renewable gas.

      - The other method, carbon offsetting, isn't actually renewable, but is green. What firms do is simply 'offset' the effect of 'dirty' gas by paying to plant more trees, which has the same positive effect as your usage has a negative effect.

More ways to save energy and money

Ultimately, the best way to save money and go green is to reduce your energy usage. So here are our top tips to cut back:

  • Free loft and cavity wall insulation - worth £700+. Some firms offer this to suitable homes if you're on certain benefits. See how to get insulation and if it's right for you.

  • Solar panels - are they worth it? They cut your bills and are environmentally-friendly, but they're expensive to install and new sign-ups no longer get paid to generate electricity (don't worry if you're paid already, that continues). Are solar panels worth it?

  • Is it REALLY best to leave the heating on low all day? Find out the truth behind this and 16 other energy saving conundrums (eg, should you paint radiators black?) in Energy Mythbusting.

  • Turn your heating down to 18 degrees - save £80/yr per degree lower. That's the gain according to the Energy Saving Trust, which also recommends setting it to 18-21 degrees. But even if yours is at 21, why not try lower? And as it's warmer, do you need it on at all?

  • Oh... and why not just put on a jumper if cold? Sometimes the simplest ways are the best. Also, check out old-style tips to keep warm, such as making a DIY sausage dog.

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.



10 easy, everyday ways to save cash and go green

As part of our green special, we've a host of tips as green as Kermit, incl get paid to walk & free water refills

These aren't rocket science (after all, rocket fuels ain't good for the environment), but they're easy and can put more cash in your pocket while decreasing your environmental footprint...

  • New. Get 'paid' to walk. It's undoubtedly green and some fitness and activity apps pay rewards, such as John Lewis or Currys vouchers, cinema tickets and more, if you do enough steps or other exercise. In six weeks, you could earn a £5 vch without needing to pound the streets like Sir Mo Farah. Get 'paid' to walk. PS: do you do as many steps as Martin?

  • 100,000s of water-saving FREEBIES - eg, £20 shower head. They cut water use and bills - avail in much of Eng & Wal. Free water gadgets

  • Up to 50p off most Costa, Pret & Starbucks drinks. Most paper coffee cups actually can't be recycled. So get yourself a reusable coffee cup and they'll give you a discount too.

  • Know the difference between 'use by' and 'best before' dates to cut food waste. Around 7m tonnes of food are thrown away each year in the UK. Many wrongly chuck food that's still edible, due to misunderstanding the difference between best before and use by dates. Plus do a meal planner, shopping list, and bag 75% off yellow-sticker supermarket bargains.

  • Drive efficiently (not the same as slowing down) to save up to 30% on fuel. If you can't give up your car, at least see six ways to make your car more fuel-efficient and seven driving tips to cut emissions.

  • Get paid to recycle, eg, £1.50 per ink cartridge, up to £450 for old mobiles. We've ten ways to earn cash and rewards. Clean up by cleaning up

  • Return plastic bags for 5p each. Some supermarkets let you 'sell' your stash, which is then recycled.

  • Buy refills to cut the cost of coffee, soap, air freshener etc by up to 45%. Saves plastic and cash. Refill and reuse

  • Free water bottle refills finder. An app finds pubs, shops etc that let you fill up for free to avoid plastic waste. Free water

  • Old-style tips, eg, wash and reuse plastic bags & grow your own veg. Our forumites are crafty, and old-style MoneySaving never goes out of fashion. Read and share ideas in the Sneaky Ways To Save forum thread.

And we'd love to know other ways you save money and help the environment via our forum, by email or on Facebook.


New. Grab top secret theatre tickets from £4 incl West End shows... but only if you can keep your mouth shut. Special site sells last min unsold seats for the theatre, ballet, concerts and more at dirt-cheap prices, but you must agree not to say what you get so you don't upset people who paid full whack. Skip the usual waiting list via our special link. Top secret tickets

FREE McDonald's veggie wrap. It's seen the light. While previous freebies were for meat eaters only, it's now catering for a different crowd, but only till Friday. See full info & more McD's hacks.

Ends Fri. Cheapest fibre broadband of 2019 - '£15.45'. This deal from Vodafone comes with avg 35Mb speeds on an 18mth contract if you claim a £100 Amazon/Currys/M&S vch. See our Broadband Unbundled tool for lots more deals.

48 garden-ready plug plants £25 deliv (norm £52). MSE Blagged. A green deal as part of our green special. Lucky dip, eg, pansy, petunia, lobelia etc. Jersey Plants

Warning. 1.3m pensioners missing out on pension credit, and there's an URGENT deadline for 1,000s worth up to £7,000/yr. See pension credit countdown. Related: Do our free 10min benefits check up.

MSE and top universities call to SCRAP the misleading current student loan statements. In February, we (and the Russell Group) redesigned it. Now we've tested it on nearly 6,000 people. When we asked if it was clear, 96% of those who responded agreed, and 90% said it helped them understand. We want the Govt to adopt it. Why to be wary of the current statement


Martin: 'Cash ISAs are paying 1.5% again - grab 'em'

Everyone aged 16+ can put £20,000 this tax year into a cash ISA. Rates are high, and it stays tax-free

It's been a few years since I rhymed: "Your money is nisa in a cash ISA." Cash ISAs are savings accounts you can put £20,000 a year in, where the interest is always tax-free. Yet since the personal savings allowance launched in 2016, most people haven't paid tax on savings interest anyway, and cash ISA rates have been lower than normal savings, so for most there's no point. Yet today, a new product changes that...

  • New. Top 1.5% easy-access cash ISA. Coventry BS has relaunched its 1.5% variable cash ISA, just pipping Skipton BS's at 1.48%. As they're easy access, you can withdraw cash whenever you want. This means we're in the rare position that the top easy-access cash ISA rate matches the top equivalent normal savings. Here's how ISAs compare in the main categories (winners in bold)...

    Easy access (variable rate) New. Coventry BS 1.5% (min £1) Marcus 1.5% (min £1)
    One-year fixed rate Charter Savings Bank 1.62% (min £5k) Atom Bank 2.03% (min £50)
    Two-year fixed rate Virgin Money 1.82% (min £1) Atom Bank 2.3% (min £50)

    If you've existing cash ISAs that pay less, you can transfer them to Coventry, Charter and Virgin to up the rate. To do that, don't withdraw cash, just ask the new provider to move the money over from your existing provider for you.

  • To cash ISA or not to cash ISA? Once money is in a cash ISA, the interest is tax-free year after year. So as Coventry's rate is as good as normal savings, you may as well go for it even if you don't pay tax on interest, in case you will in the future. Yet with fixed savings, where cash ISAs pay less, things change. The personal savings allowance (PSA) means people's normal savings interest, even outside an ISA, are tax-free up to a limit.

    - Basic 20% rate taxpayers can earn £1,000/yr tax-free (equiv to interest on £66,000 at the top easy-access rate).
    - Higher 40% rate taxpayers can earn £500/yr tax-free (equiv to interest on £33,000 at the top easy-access rate).
    - Top 45% rate taxpayers (ie, those earning £150,000+/yr) don't get a PSA.

    If, like most, you won't pay tax on interest, just go for the highest interest rate, which ISN'T normally via a cash ISA. But if some of your interest will be taxed, then cash ISAs can win as they are tax-free and don't count towards the PSA.

  • Potential first-time buyer? Get a 25% savings boost. This is a no-brainer for anyone who may one day want to buy their first home. With the Lifetime ISA or Help to Buy ISA the state adds £250 per £1,000 saved, usable towards a mortgage deposit. It can mean £1,000s free - read more via the links above.

  • The Top Green Cash ISAs - well, this is a green special. There's no nationally-recognised green standard, but Ecology BS only invests in projects that 'respect the environment and support sustainable communities', though it only has a savings account and doesn't currently have a cash ISA. Triodos Bank, which only invests in 'people, the environment or culture', has a decent (but beatable) 33-day notice cash ISA, plus some fixed cash ISAs. Coventry BS, Co-op Bank and Kent Reliance all say they're 'ethical' too - but judging levels of greenness is a matter of opinion.

Huge PPI reclaim: 'I was CONVINCED I didn't have PPI, but now I'm £24,000 better off... thank goodness I checked.' Success stories continue to roll in, and with the Aug claiming cut-off fast approaching, if you've ever had a loan, credit card, overdraft or car finance, check NOW if you can claim £1,000s in PPI for FREE.

Virgin Mobile's upping prices for 100,000s (and many found out on the same day as a major outage). See your rights, incl who can switch penalty-free.

Free Mental Health & Debt booklet 2019. It's Mental Health Awareness Week. Half of those in problem debt also have a mental health problem - see our 44-page Mental Health & Debt Help 2019 PDF booklet. Plus Martin's mental health and debt policy charity wants you to join its research community to help feed into policy suggestions.

Ends Thu. HUGE 100GB data Sim + unltd mins & texts for '£14.84/mth' from Vodafone. If you're a heavy data gobbler, newbies to Vodafone* (via can get this 1yr deal for £24/mth. As you're automatically sent a £110 cheque if you use the code 10AUTOMSE, it's equiv to £14.84/mth. Full help & more deals in Best Sims.

Extra 30% off Hot Diamonds outlet code, eg, £70 necklace for £30. MSE Blagged. Limited stock. Hot Diamonds

£35 for seven bottles of wine & two glasses (norm £78ish). MSE Blagged. 1,500 avail for Naked Wines newbies. Please be Drinkaware.


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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: EE equiv £10.24/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Vodafone equiv £16.12/mth

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


FREE £25 at M&S if you spend a penny

This isn't any old freebie, it's an M&S freebie... for newbies who play its credit card right

If you haven't had an M&S credit card in the last year, you can get one, use it to buy anything even for just a penny, and you'll bag a free £25 to spend at M&S. Of course finding something for a penny is tough, so you could simply buy a banana (or we challenge you to find the cheapest item). Yet as this is just a bit of fun, only apply if you're debt-free, have a good credit history and are a disciplined spender. We touched on this trick last week, but as it's so simple, we thought we'd flag it in full.

  • Free £25 to spend at M&S. Newbies accepted for this M&S Bank credit card (eligibility calc / apply*) can get 2,500 bonus M&S points, worth £25. Here's how:

    (i) You get 2,000 points if you buy anything within 90 days in any store, not just M&S.
    (ii) You're sent a voucher with the card that you can swipe at the till (or use online) at M&S when spending on the credit card there on virtually anything, to get 500 extra points.

    So buy an M&S banana as your first purchase and, hey presto, you've 2,500 points, worth £25 at M&S - these will be spendable once you receive them in your first quarterly mailing. After that, make sure you clear what you owe IN FULL, and then you can just cancel the card.

    - Is it worth using the card afterwards? Yes if you're a regular M&S shopper, as you earn 2pts (worth 2p) for every £1 spent at M&S in the first year (1pt per £1 after). But if you don't shop there regularly, you only get 1pt for every £5 spent elsewhere, so other reward credit cards are better. There's also a 6mth 0% period on spending, yet it's best to repay it IN FULL each month, especially to avoid the 19.9% rep APR after 6mths. See full M&S card analysis.

    - Will applying affect my credit file? It leaves a mark (trivial unless you apply lots in a short time or are about to make an important credit application, eg, a mortgage), so use our free eligibility calc to check your chances of getting it and other top cards without affecting your credit score.

  • Or get a £37.50 Nectar bonus or a £25 John Lewis/Waitrose vch. You can earn different new cardholder sign-up incentives with other cards. Full info and help in Reward Credit Cards (APR Examples).


Extra 20% off code for eBay outlets, eg, Evans Cycles, Hughes Electrical. Ends Thu. eBay code

"Thank you, just done my car insurance quote 21 days before it's due, as you say, and got it for £200 cheaper than my renewal quote."
(Send us yours
 on this or any topic.)

Want to work at MSE?  We're recruiting an energy & utilities analyst in a full-time, London-based role.  MSE jobs



How do you rate your energy provider's recent service? Now it's warmed up, it's a good time to reappraise what your energy provider's service was like over the winter. How do you rate your energy provider's service?

A typical MoneySaver needs 1-2 hours a week to sort personal admin. In last week's poll, we asked how much time you take to sort personal admin - from booking holidays to sorting bills. Over 6,000 responded and the majority said sorting personal affairs consumes roughly 1-2 hours a week. Interestingly, single men were the most likely to do no or very little admin. See full personal admin poll results.



Is the Tooth Fairy being stingy? One of my six-year-old daughters tells me the Tooth Fairy has been leaving a £5 note under her schoolfriend's pillow for every tooth she loses. Should I tell my daughters that the Tooth Fairy has run out of £5 notes - so they should be grateful for the 50p they found under their pillow? Or even that the Tooth Fairy doesn't exist and they should stop wiggling their teeth? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Is the Tooth Fairy being stingy? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: The £1,000 emergency fund challenge
- Competitions thread of the week: Trip to Disneyland Paris
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Buying loose fruit and veg
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Trying to conceive thread
- Discussion of the week: How to sell craft stash?


Jersey Plants - 48 garden-ready plug plants £25 delivered
McDonald's - FREE veggie wrap via app (ends Fri)
Hot Diamonds - Extra 30% off outlet code
Naked Wines - £35 for 7 bottles & 2 glasses (norm £78ish)
eBay - Extra 20% off outlet code (ends Thu)

KFC - £1.99 mini fillet burger, 2 wings & fries (before 3pm)
Swagbucks - Earn £15 Amazon/M&S vchs doing surveys
Ideal Home Show Scotland - Two tickets for £10
Personalised baby gifts - 20% off My 1st Years code
Free sailing & windsurfing - Taster sessions throughout May

M&S - £5 off £35 spend when you recycle clothes
Yellow stickers - Reductions where you may not expect
H&M - £5 off £25 spend when you recycle any textiles
Free make-up - When you recycle old packaging
Costa, Pret, Starbucks - Get up to 50p off your drinks

Quick Forum Tips

Lidl weekend offers, incl 99p muesli. Lidl nibbles
Sainsbury's £2 British strawberries. Berry nice
10 kids' books for £10. Read all about it



Thu 16 May - Good Morning Britain, ITV, 7.35am
Mon 20 May
- This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 20 May 
- BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon. Listen again


Wed 15 May - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm
Fri 17 May 
- BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am
Mon 20 May 
- TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am
Mon 20 May -
BBC Radio York, Beth McCarthy, from 7pm
Tue 21 May
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



Q: Is there a credit card you can get if you have a really low credit score and are trying to rebuild it? Anon, via email.

MSE Hannah's ALenders base lending decisions on your past, so if you've little credit history or a poor one, it's much harder to get the best credit card deals. If that's you, you may be more likely to be accepted for a credit (re)build card, which can help. Used correctly, these cards can help boost your credit score, although they often charge very high rates of interest unless you repay IN FULL each month, so make sure you do just that.

Applying for a card leaves a mark on your credit file. However, our Credit Rebuild Eligibility Calc shows your chances of getting top cards without leaving a mark that other lenders can use, so you can home in on the right one before applying. For more info and our top pick cards for rebuilding your credit score, see Credit Cards for Bad Credit.

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



That's it for this week, but before we go... getting the dreaded 'substitute item' is a well-known peril of online grocery shopping, but what's the oddest substitute you've ever been offered? Last week, Tesco hit the headlines after a customer who ordered a number 5 birthday candle was sent two 2s and a 1. MoneySavers have deluged us with their own strange examples - they've had daffodils instead of spring onions, Brussels sprouts instead of Brussels pate and even cat food instead of chocolate. Read the full bizarre list and add your own in our What's your weirdest substitution? Facebook post.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team