Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

22 January 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl...Brit Gas cheapest in 3yrs, free McD’s, Sim switch trick, save for kids uni calc, Santander 123 help, Audible tips, free £175, beat school hol hikes

This info may be out of date.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.


Surprisingly, as it's winter, energy prices keep tumbling, but only for switchers. Most people who do nothing won't feel any benefit, and as 11m of you sit on dud standard Big 6 tariffs, that's a worry.

So carpe deal-um, ie, get off your bum and sort it ASAP if you haven't. But don't just call up and ask, some of the big firms' cheapest deals aren't available that way. They are 'don't click, don't get' deals ONLY available by doing a comparison.

Here is a selection of the top picks based on average prices (not available for prepay - but those on prepay can still compare), yet your winner depends on your use and location. So all links go via our comparison (we use filters, ie, 'big name only' or 'exclude poor service', so you can see similar deals). 

Based on typical use. Find your winners  via a comparison
What MOST PEOPLE pay now...
The average standard Big 6 (Brit Gas, E.on, EDF, Npower, Scot Power & SSE) tariff on typical usage
(Mix of price, service & names you know)
Cheapest strong (64% 'great') service. Avro 1yr fix. A new tariff | Dual-fuel only | 64% 'great', 23% 'OK' cust service (link compares all 'OK' or 'Great' service firms) £835/yr
(save £343/yr)
Top (88% 'great') service & green elec. Octopus 1yr fix. Dual-fuel and elec-only | New custs only | 88% 'great', 8% 'OK' cust service (link compares all 'OK' or 'Great' service firms) £859/yr
(save £319/yr)
Cheapest Brit Gas deal since Nov 2016 
BIG name, green elec & EXISTING custs can get it too. British Gas 1yr fix. A new tariff | Dual-fuel only | smart meters required where poss | 40% 'great', 27% 'OK' cust service (link compares big name providers)
(save £318/yr)
Cheapest v. green tariff. Bulb variable100% green elec, 10% anaerobic gas, 90% carbon offset gas | Dual-fuel and elec-only | New custs only | 88% 'great', 6% 'OK' cust service (link compares green tariffs with 'OK' or 'Great' service) £974/yr
(save £204/yr)
Yet POOR customer service (we wouldn't). Outfox the Market 1yr fix. 19% 'great', 16% 'OK', 65% 'poor' cust service (link compares whole of market) £804/yr
(save £374/yr)
Prices are avg dual-fuel costs, incl £25 MSE cashback (where applicable), based on typical use.

  • Don't worry - switching is easy. Some are worried by it, but your supply won't be cut off, no one visits your home (unless you get smart meters) and it's the same gas, same electricity, same safety. The only changes are price and service. See our switching FAQs for more help.

  • Still won't switch? Switch without switching. The best savings are usually from moving firm, but if you really won't, at least get the best deal from your supplier. As we say above, some firms offer cheap deals that allow existing custs to get 'em (as well as newbies). Yet for some, you can't call up to apply, they're only avail via comparison sites. Our switch without switching comparison shows your firm's top deal.

  • I keep hearing of small firms going bust - is it safe to switch to one? It is safe in the sense your lights will stay on, heating will work and any credit you're owed will be returned. But the risk is you'd almost certainly lose a cheap tariff. See what happens if my energy company goes bust.

  • Will I need a smart meter? All the Big 6 (not others above) require you to have smart meters installed within 3mths to get their cheapest deals. If you don't, you'll likely be kicked onto more expensive standard tariffs unless you can't get them for technical reasons. Don't worry too much, you don't pay to have them installed. See Smart Meters help.

  • I live in Northern Ireland. Can I get these deals? Unfortunately not. No UK comparisons include NI, but see Cheap NI Electricity or the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland's tool.
Slash the the cost of all your debts
The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm Mon

Over to Martin: "Bills are flooding through the doors at the moment, leaving many in debt bereft. So this week, we'll be looking at how to cut the cost of credit cards, store cards, loans & more, and what to do if your debts are just too much for you. Do watch, or set the LaserDisc recorder. PS: If you missed this week's savings special, click the link to watch it on the ITV Hub."


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 calc. 'How much should you save for your child to go to university?'

Whether they're 2 or 17, be prepared. There's a HIDDEN parental contribution the Govt won't tell you - so we will

At 18 you're old enough to vote, marry and fight for our country. True grown-up independence. Unless you're off to uni. Then, for most, a big chunk of your maintenance (living costs) loan is dictated by, effectively, a means-test of parental income. The higher it is, the less you get. The reduction starts at just £25,000/yr total family income. The max total shortfall is over £15,000. Logic implies parents are expected to fill the gap, but they're never told. Students just get loans that aren't enough to live off.

For years I've met a parade of uni ministers to ask them to make this transparent. They've nodded but done nowt. So we've given up and are doing it ourselves. Today, we launch the new calc and my parental contribution guide. These both apply to ENG STUDENTS ONLY, but if they're a success we hope to do something similar for the rest of the UK.


Updated. Martin's Santander 123 warning: 'It's now a dead duck.' We told you last week it's slashing savings interest & cashback from May. You had many questions, so we've updated our article with answers incl when to ditch; 123 Biz, Lite and Mini account help; if you can keep your regular saver if you leave & more. Ditch Santander 123?

11 ways to beat school holiday travel price hikes. As Jan is the busiest booking month, we've added more tricks, incl how to find free kids' places on family trips. These join old favourites such as hidden cheap booking dates, and how flying from Scotland even if based down south can be cheaper. See Beat school holiday hikes.

Ends Thu. Virgin 100+Mb FAST b'band & line '£19/mth' - we ain't seen cheaper at that speed. MSE Blagged. As we told you last week, via this link Virgin Media newbies pay £25/mth, but an auto £75 bill credit means there's nothing to pay for 3mths, so it's £225 over the 1yr contract, equiv to £18.75/mth. Some 55% of homes qualify (it'll show your eligiblity via the link and give alternatives if you can't get it). Lots more deals in our Broadband Unbundled tool.

Shift credit or store card debt to 29mths NO INTEREST. If you missed it, Martin's debt-free masterclass last week showed how to cut lots of debt costs to 0% - key in Jan when many struggle. A winner for some is a 0% balance transfer credit card, and there are a host of such deals incl Sainsbury's Bank (eligibility calc / apply*) at up to 29mths 0% (2.74% fee, min £3) or Virgin Money (eligibility calc / apply*) at 29mths 0% (3% fee). With Virgin, you get the full 0% length if accepted, but Sains can offer fewer 0% months. Always pay at least the min monthly payment and clear the debt or transfer again after the 0% to avoid 19.9% or 21.9% rep APRs. Full info and LOADS more deals in Top Balance Transfers.

Last chance. Grab free McDonald's fries & McMuffin, 99p Quarter Pounder. See McD's deals.

New BBC Ask Martin podcast. Martin's Radio 5 Live show with Emma Barnett is now a podcast. Subscribe here, or listen to this week's show on all you need to know about the new 40% overdraft rates (& did Martin ask Emma on a date?).


As banks pull rewards left, right, and centre, grab FREE CASH (up to £175) for switching bank while you still can

Last week Santander 123 announced it'll cut rewards in May, NatWest is doing it on 1 Feb, and across the board we're seeing banks withdraw their normal sweeties aimed at getting you to switch. Just take free cash as an example - in the big Jan switch period last year there were five accounts that paid you to switch to them, right now there are only two. We're not sure if the market will change, so sooner seems safer. Here are the current standout offers. Accounts below require a not-too-harsh credit check and you must use their switching services to get the perks...

  • Free £175 for switchers. Switchers to HSBC's Advance account get £175, plus with it you can open a 2.75% fixed regular saver, where you can put up to £250/mth for a year. Its customer service is middling at 54% 'great', 29% 'OK'.

    All you need to do to qualify is have 2+ direct debits or standing orders moved over within 30 days and pay in £1,750/mth (equiv to a £25,700/yr salary going in each month). Plus you can't have had an HSBC account since Jan 2017.

  • FREE £100 + top service + a £250 0% overdraft. First Direct* pays new custs £100 to switch. Many also get a 0% £250 overdraft (it's 15.9% EAR variable over that, rising to a huge 39.9% EAR in Mar), plus you can save up to £300/mth fixed for 1yr at 2.75% interest in its linked regular savings account.

    It's highly rated for service, coming top in our latest poll with 85% of its custs rating it 'great'. There's no min monthly pay-in, but you must pay in £1k within 3mths (you can withdraw it the next day if you want) to get the bonus.

  • Nationwide pays 5% interest on savings for 1st year (plus £100 if you know a cust already). Nationwide's FlexDirect* pays newbies 5% interest on up to £2,500 in it for the 1st year, if you pay in £1,000+/mth. You can also get a 0% overdraft depending on your credit score. And if you know an existing cust and they refer you, both of you get £100.

  • Barclays cust? Sign up for its Blue Rewards. If you bank with Barclays and are happy with it, sign up to its Blue Rewards via online or app banking and you'll get a net £3 each month you pay out 2+ direct debits and pay in £800+ (equiv to a £10,000/yr salary). Though don't switch to it just for this, as the rewards above are much higher.

For more information and other options, see our Best Bank Accounts guide.


Important: Are you an MSE Forum user? We're soon upgrading our MSE Forum tech, but as part of that you'll have to reset your password after the move in Feb. That means if you've got an out-of-date email, you'll lose access as we'll have no way to verify your password then. So pls check your email now and update it if necessary. See Forum email check.

13 Audible audiobook tricks, incl free books & cancel to pay just £12 for 3mths? See Audible tricks.

FREE ways to learn computer coding, guitar, Spanish and lots more new skills. Online free learning.

Odeon cinema tickets £5ish each - via five for £23.75 or two for £11.50 deals. Usable in one go or on multiple trips. So if you're after tix for the flix, here's how to get a movie on (sorry).

Going vegan? MSE Rhiannon's a super MoneySaver and has been vegan for years - here are her top tips. If you're doing 'Veganuary' or moving to a long-term plant-based diet, Rhiannon shares how to make a week of dinners for less - it could save a family of four up to 60%. Vegan MoneySaving

£25 Ciate holographic lip gloss set (norm £100+). MSE Blagged. If sparkle's your thing, our code gets six full-size 'Glitter Flip' glosses for £25 all-in. 2,000 avail. Ciate


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Longest 0%: Sainsbury's Bank* up to 29mths 0%, 2.74% fee (min £3) (19.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: Santander* 18mths 0% (18.9% rep APR) or 20mths 0% if you're a NatWest/RBS customer (19.9% rep APR)

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  1. MoneySupermarket.com*
  2. Confused.com*
  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: Cahoot* 2.8% rep APR

Standard b'band & line rent: Shell Energy equiv £11.74/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Vodafone equiv £16.34/mth

Free £175 for switching: HSBC Advance
Free £100 + No.1 service: 
First Direct


Slash your mobile phone bill WITHOUT changing network - pay as little as £10/mth for unlimited calls, texts & 30GB data, or '£7/mth' for 8GB

We often bang on about the 9m of you out of contract on your mobile who vastly overpay, as the price of Sims (the chip in your phone that dictates your data, calls and texts allowance) have dived. Yet when we do that, some of you say: 
"I'd like to switch, but don't want to change network as it's the only one that gives me good service where I live and work." So today we're taking on the reticent switchers with a simple trick.

  • There are only actually four networks in the UK. They are EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. All the other UK operators - be it Giffgaff, Tesco, Virgin or others - are virtual networks, meaning they piggyback on top of the signal of one of the main four, and while it may be a different provider, you'll get the same coverage and signal strength as if you'd gone direct (and there are regulations to ensure this is the case). So if you don't want to change network, simply find the cheapest provider using the same signal. To help, we've done it for you below.

    Don't care which network? We've flagged our overall top picks across all networks and data levels below.
You usually need to be a new customer of that provider, but not that network
The cheapest deals using the THREE network
iD Mobile*
£5/mth for 1GB data, 500 mins & unltd texts on a 1mth contract.
Three* (via Fonehouse)
MSE Blagged - top pick
Equiv '£7.17/mth' for 8GB data, unltd mins & texts on a 12mth contract. You pay £8/mth, but get £10 cashback after 90 days.
Smarty* - top pick
£10/mth for 30GB data, unltd mins & texts on a 1mth contract.
The cheapest deals using the O2 network
Sky Mobile* - top pick £6/mth for 3GB data, unltd mins & texts on a 12mth contract.
Giffgaff* £10/mth for 6GB data, unltd mins & texts on a 1mth contract.
O2* (via Mobiles.co.uk)
MSE Blagged
Equiv '£9.92/mth' for 20GB data, unltd mins & texts on a 12mth contract. You pay £20/mth, but use our MSE Blagged code MSE21 at checkout and you'll get a £121 cheque sent to you within 2mths.
The cheapest deals using the EE network
Virgin Mobile* £6/mth for 2GB data, 1,000 mins & unltd texts on a 12mth contract.
Virgin Mobile* £9/mth for 8GB data, 5,000 mins & unltd texts on a 12mth contract.
The cheapest deals using the VODAFONE network
Vodafone Basics* (UK only, no roaming) £6/mth for 1.5GB data, unltd mins & texts on a 12mth contract.
£10/mth for 8GB data, unltd mins & texts on a 1mth contract. All Voxi plans offer unltd data for social and chat apps as standard.

  • More quick tips to save. For more help and options, see our Top Sims guide.

    - You can analyse your bill to check if you're on the best type of tariff. Use the Billmonitor* tool.
    - Keeping your number's easy. Switching it over normally takes just one working day. See Number porting.
    - You may need to unlock your phone if moving network. Firms MUST let you unlock for free if you're out of contract.
    - Don't want to switch? Haggle. Mobile firms are among the easiest to haggle with. See Haggling help.

"I just wanted to say how much me and my family appreciate your information and guidance - it is simply outstanding. Some of the things I have done, based on your guides: Flight delay refunds worth £500, got my children Help to Buy ISAs, renewed car insurance at the 'sweet spot' time & more."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

FREE Build It Live tickets in Manchester, Kent & Oxfordshire. 1,000 pairs per show in Feb & Jun. Norm £12 each. Build It Live



How much do you spend on holidays in a year? It's January, peak holiday-booking season, the time of year when travel firms compete for our cash with special offers and deals. So this week, we want to know how much of your income you spend on getaways each year. How much do you spend on holidays?

Most MoneySavers use less than 2GB mobile data each month. Last week, we asked how much mobile data you consume in a typical month and 4,900+ responded. From the results, it seems the majority use less than 2GB. Perhaps predictably, younger folk were the most data-hungry, with 29% of under-25s using 10GB or more each month. In stark contrast, only 2% of those aged 65+ used the same amount. See full mobile data poll results.



I was wrongly given an OAP discount for my haircut, should I have paid full price? I went to a new hairdresser who wrongly charged me what I now know is the discounted OAP rate for a haircut (I am 56, but evidently look older) - at the time I just thought it was quite cheap. I went again, and was again charged the cheaper OAP rate despite not being asked my age. I knew it was wrong this time as I'd looked at the price list. Should I have offered to pay full price? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I offer to pay my hairdresser full price for my OAP haircut? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: The £2 Savers Club 2020
- Competitions thread of the week: Trip to Cape Town for two
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Make do, Mend and Minimise in 2020
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: How best to make new cats feel at home
- Discussion of the week: 20 20s for 2020


McDonald's - Free fries & McMuffin, 99p Quarter Pounder
Free ways to learn - Incl coding, Spanish, guitar & more
Odeon - Five cinema tickets for £24, two for £11.50
Ciate - Six full-size lip glosses £25 all-in (norm £100+)
Build It Live - 3,000 pairs of tix in Feb & Jun (norm £12 each)

Vegan recipes - MoneySaving family meals for Veganuary
Brewdog - Free pint for kilt wearers on Burns Night (Sat)
Toby Carvery - Two mains for £12 via app (ends Sat)
Cafe Rouge - 50% off mains voucher (every day)
Browns - 25% off food via app for newbies

Swagbucks - Up to triple cashback, incl Asos and Amazon
Virgin Wines - Six bottles for £27 delivered (norm £57ish)
Nike - Extra 20% off sale code (ends Sun)
SpeckyFourEyes - £22 Superdry prescription specs
Travelodge - Rooms for £29 & under, excl London

Quick Forum Tips

Tu clothing 50% off sale. Don't mind if I Tu
Mon Guerlain perfume sample. Spritz my life
Aldi Christmas food clearance. Aldi, but a goodie



Thu 23 Jan - Good Morning Britain, ITV, 7.35am
Fri 24 Jan - This Morning, ITV, 10.00am
Fri 24 Jan - BBC Radio 5 Live, The Elis James and John Robins Show, 1.30pm
Mon 27 Jan - This Morning, ITV, 10.55am
Mon 27 Jan - BBC Radio 5 Live, Ask Martin Lewis, 12.20pm. Listen again
Mon 27 Jan - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm


Wed 22 Jan - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm
Fri 24 Jan
- BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am, Guy Anker
Mon 27 Jan
- TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am, Oli Townsend
Mon 27 Jan 
- BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 5.45pm
Tue 28 Jan 
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



Q: I got a 0% interest credit card last year but I am now being charged interest. How soon after taking out a credit card can you apply for a new one to shift the debt to? Dave, via email.

MSE Karl's A: There's no restriction on how soon after applying for a credit card you can apply for a new one. What some rightly get worried about is too many applications in a short time (ie, over a few months) which can harm your credit score, but that probably isn't an issue for you. That's because the nature of balance transfer credit cards means there may well be a year or two (or more) gap between cards, as intro 0% deals often last a long time.

To find another card, it's best to use our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calculator. It shows cards you're most likely to get without harming your credit record.

A note from the MSE team: Karl's sadly leaving us after 3.5yrs of top work at MSE - good luck at the Civil Service, Karl. You'll be missed.

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



That's it for this week, but before we go... "My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me", "My hamster ate my post", and "I was up a mountain in Wales" were just some of the most bizarre excuses HMRC says it has been given for late tax returns over the past year. Unsurprisingly, they didn't work - but plaudits for creativity. See more in Top 10 most bizarre excuses and claims. And don't forget, if you need to file a self-assessment tax return, the deadline is 11.59pm on Fri 31 Jan - but don't leave it to the last-minute to be safe.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team