Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

19 February 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl... Premium Bond help, birthday freebies, 50% off Sainsbury's, free £175 + £3/mth, 2x Clubcard pts, BT & Sky hikes, MORE energy price cuts

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails
Plus... 2x Clubcard pts, BT & Sky hikes, MORE energy price cuts


A broadband and line rental shake-up launched on Sat aiming to help those out of contract - currently 8.8m - escape pricey deals. Under regulator Ofcom's rules, firms must now alert you when a promo is ending, and tell you the likely much higher price you'll pay on standard rates. They must also notify those out of contract each year, and in both cases firms must show their cheapest new-customer monthly price. The idea is this all encourages you to switch.

While a step in the right direction, the prices firms will publish can almost certainly be beaten, as the cheapest deals are hot, short-term promos that include extras such as bill credits or vouchers - and alerts won't include these key perks. And of course, you'll still have to actively switch.

In the long run, we expect the value of perks could rise to attract newbies, but monthly prices may rise too, making hot promos even more attractive. For now, this is a clarion call for those out of contract not to wait for alerts and act now - as the longer you hold, the more you pay. To help, we've blagged hot deals galore, all new this week (but diarise when they end to switch again).

Standard speed
Apply by 9 Mar and it's £17.99/mth over the 1yr contract, but you get £50 bill credit and you're sent a £25 Amazon vch - both automatically within 3mths. If you'd have spent the voucher anyway, it's an equiv £11.74/mth.
Ends Tues
It's £18.99/mth over the 1yr contract, plus you automatically get a £75 cheque within 1mth, making it an equiv £12.74/mth.
Faster 'fibre' speed
Ends Fri

We've not seen cheaper at this speed since 2017
It's £21.95/mth over the 18mth contract, but you get an automatic £120 Amazon vch within 4mths. If you'd have spent that anyway, it's an equiv £15.29/mth. Existing Vodafone pay monthly mobile custs get it £2/yr cheaper.
Apply by 9 Mar and it's £23.99/mth over the 1yr contract, but you get £50 bill credit and you're sent a £50 Amazon vch - both automatically after 3mths. If you'd have spent the voucher anyway, it's an equiv £15.66/mth.
Superfast 'fibre' speed
Ends Fri


It's £23.95/mth over the 18mth contract, but you get an automatic £120 Amazon vch within 4mths. If you'd have spent that anyway, it's an equiv £17.29/mth. Existing Vodafone pay monthly mobile custs get it £2/yr cheaper.

Apply by 28 Feb and it's £25/mth over the 18mth contract, but you get £75 bill credit added to your account before your first bill. Factor that in, and it's equiv to £20.84/mth.
(1) Usually means custs who don't have that firm's b'band and/or line now or haven't in 1yr - exact rules vary by firm, so check via the links. (2) To compare, we use 'equivalent prices' - adding all fixed costs, deducting promo cash/vchs and averaging over the contract.

  • What broadband speed do you actually need? Standard avg 10/11Mb speed is usually fine for browsing or light streaming. Fibre - the term for fast broadband due to the fibre cables that deliver high speeds - is best for streamers, gamers or if many use it at once in your home. Yet even with fibre there are speed differences, and the faster you go, the more of a luxury it is.

  • Will I get the advertised speed? The 'average' quoted is what at least 50% of custs get at peak times. Most big firms also tell you the minimum speed you'll get before sign-up. Plus with BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, if you don't get the minimum and it's not sorted within 30 days, you've the right to cancel penalty-free. See how to check your speed.

  • Won't switch? Haggle. Switching gives the best savings, but broadband firms are among the easiest to haggle with. In our last poll, 84% of Sky custs said they succeeded - for Virgin Media it was 76%, BT 74% and TalkTalk 69%. See Broadband Haggling help.

  • Could they hike prices? Sadly, telecoms firms often do. However, unless your contract specifies that your prices will increase by a certain amount (such as with BT), most will let you leave penalty-free within 30 days of the increase.

  • In or around Hull? As you'll know, you can't get these as you're likely stuck with KCOM, which has an effective monopoly in your area. Sorry we can't help - it's one for your MP.

  • What about service? We're running our latest poll to find out how you rate your provider - see below.

PS: The Ofcom rules also apply to mobile and TV contracts, but today we're just focusing on broadband.


The UK is facing a scam epidemic - how to stop and fight 'em
The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm Mon

Over to Martin: "In this, the last show of the series, it's a scam special. This isn't about stupid people doing stupid things. For instance, doctors, accountants, solicitors and university lecturers have all been scammed. I want to tell you how to protect yourselves and show you how to get help if you get hit.

"Plus we'll also follow what happens when I took on the big internet giants, many of whom have permitted my name and face to be used to facilitate vulnerable people losing millions. You can't afford to miss it."


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.



Premium Bond prizes cut from May - are they worth it?

They're the nation's most popular savings product - 22 million have a massive £85 billion saved in 'em

This week the Government's savings provider NS&I announced it's chopping rates on lots of its accounts in May, with the standout a cut to the Premium Bonds prize rate from 1.4% to 1.3%. In practice, this means there will be fewer prizes each month. We know for many it's as much the thrill of winning big that draws them, but we want to crunch the numbers so you know how they stack up vs normal savings where returns are more certain.

  • First, here's how Premium Bonds work and what the cut from 1.4% to 1.3% means. You can buy bonds that cost £1 each (up to a max £50,000) and with 'em you're entering a monthly prize draw. The percentages are a 'prize rate' - all they really mean is for every £100 saved in Premium Bonds, £1.40 is paid out per year in prizes across all savers, dropping to £1.30 from May. Yet the prizes include £1m wins, so to pay for them, in reality lots win far less than this prize rate. Indeed, 19 out of every 20 bonds will win NOTHING over a year.

    But Premium Bonds have advantages as prizes are always tax-free (unlike savings, though these days 95% of people pay no tax on savings interest due to the personal savings allowance). Plus, Premium Bonds are from NS&I, which is backed by the Government, so your money is 100% protected. All UK-regulated savings are protected up to £85,000 per person, per institution too.

    Our unique Premium Bond Probability Calc uses super-smart maths to help you work out your chances of winning, assuming you have average luck. While it works for the current 1.4% rate, we can't yet show you your chances in May after the cut, as otherwise it wouldn't work for people today, but we'll sort that at the time.

  • Now, let's see how savings compare - eg, 1.3% easy access. Savings pay interest, so assuming a constant 1.3% rate, you'd get roughly £13 interest for every £1,000 saved. We're using easy access as a comparison as they replicate Premium Bonds most closely, as you can take your money out when you want. You can currently get 1.3% with both Marcus and Saga, and while that rate is variable it still offers a greater level of certainty than Premium Bonds. If you held £1,000 in Premium Bonds over a year, there's a 60% chance you'd win nothing. More help and options in Top Easy-Access Savings, or boost returns in fixed-rate accounts, paying up to 1.65% for 1yr (though your money is locked away).

  • So, the big question: are Premium Bonds worth it? In actual fact, the rate cut isn't likely to make a huge difference. We always thought they weren't worth it for most, and they're still not. On average luck (and most won't even reach this), if you don't pay tax on savings interest, putting your cash into savings is the better bet, as the returns are likely to be higher and come with a greater level of certainty.

    But if you're one of the 5% of people who pay tax on interest, it's a different story. Firstly, for this group, tax-free cash ISAs will likely beat normal savings and Premium Bonds, but if you've maxed your £20,000/yr ISA allowance, and you hold a lot of Premium Bonds, you've a decent chance of beating the returns you get from normal savings with bonds. We don't expect this analysis to change much in May when the Premium Bonds rate drops, as there are few indications the savings market will rocket. Our Premium Bonds guide has the full explanation.

50+ birthday freebies (as it's our birthday), incl free £5 at The Body Shop, doughnuts & prosecco. As MSE turns 17 on Sat, we thought we'd give you a present with goodies you can claim on your birthday. Birthday freebies

Sainsbury's up to 50% discounts on 250+ items via Nectar card - are they any good? Get 'em on bread, ice cream, kitchen cleaner etc. See our Sainsbury's deals analysis.

New. Cheapest energy deal from an established firm in nearly 2yrs - save £350/yr. We know we've featured energy lots recently but price cuts just don't stop, and this week well-rated Green Network Energy has launched a 1yr fix for newbies at an avg £812/yr based on typical use, incl £25 MSE cashback - smashing the Big 6 and only beaten on avg by a smaller firm with very poor feedback. In fact, we've not seen cheaper from a medium-to-large firm since May 2018. So with cuts galore, now's a great time to switch, so find your winner via our top picks comparisons (based on a mix of price, service & big names) or do a full comparison for the very cheapest.

Earn £50-£150 in 2hrs by joining a focus group. Some MoneySavers make £1,000s (plus you usually get free grub). See our new top tips and 12 sites that help you make cash from market research.

Wallop. BT and Sky to hit millions with price hikes this spring - your rights. 
BT to raise broadband and phone bills in Mar - see BT help
Sky to hike broadband and TV prices in Apr - see Sky help


New. Biggest bank-switch bribe - grab a FREE £175 + £3/mth from NatWest 

It's been a bleak winter for free cash bonuses, with just two since early Jan, but finally there's some heat

NatWest has just rejoined the switch bonus fray, shooting to top spot with the largest cash bribe out there - a big boost if your bank's a bad'un or you just want the free money. What's more, switching is easy - it takes just seven working days, and the new bank moves all payments for you. Here are the top deals around... (All require a not-too-harsh credit check and you must use their switching services to get the perks.)

  • Top for cash: free £175 + £3/mth. NatWest last week began offering switchers a free £175 on lots of its accounts. The standout is NatWest Reward* as you get £3/mth extra (there's £5/mth cashback but has a £2/mth fee). If you can't meet the criteria to get it all (below), NatWest Select* also gives £175 but with no cashback and no fee.

    How do I get it all? To qualify for the £175 on either account, you must pay in £1,500+ and log in to online/mobile banking by 10 May. However, you won't get it if you've had switching cash from NatWest or its sister banks RBS and Ulster Bank since Oct 2017. To grab the extra £3/mth on the Reward account, you must pay in £1,250/mth (equiv to a £17,000/yr salary), then every month log in to its mobile app and pay out two or more direct debits of £2+.

    What's service like? NatWest was rated third among the big banks in our most recent banking app poll, with 47% rating it 'great', but it came bottom in our separate poll on overall service, with just 42% rating it 'great'.

    - Or bag a free £175 from HSBC. While not quite as lucrative, if you've not had an HSBC current account since Jan 2017, HSBC Advance pays switchers £175 if they move 2+ direct debits or standing orders within 30 days of opening and pay in £1,750/mth (equiv to a £25,700/yr salary). You can also open a 1yr 2.75% fixed regular saver to save up to £250/mth. It's poorly rated for its app with just 18% of you rating it 'great', while it's middling on service with 54% rating it 'great'.

  • Top cash + service combo: free £100 + No.1 service. First Direct* pays new customers £100 to switch while many also get a 0% £250 overdraft (it's 15.9% EAR variable interest above that, rising to a huge 39.9% EAR in Mar). And you can save up to £300/mth at a fixed 2.75% interest for 1yr in its linked regular savings account.

    It's highly rated for service, coming top in our latest poll with 85% of customers rating it 'great'. First Direct also topped the Competition & Markets Authority's bank poll this week, with 83% saying they'd recommend the bank. There's no min monthly pay-in, but you must deposit £1k within 3mths (you can withdraw it the next day) to get the bonus.

For more information and full eligibility criteria see our Best Bank Accounts guide.


TWO pairs of designer specs from £59. MSE Blagged. Incl Joules and Karl Lagerfeld. Glasses Direct

Free £100 John Lewis vch on £500 spend. It'll come in Apr and is valid store-wide if you spend on John Lewis home or nursery items by Sun - great if you've a big buy planned, but it isn't an excuse to spend willy-nilly. John Lewis

'My £1 Ikea milk frother changed my life.' What's the best £1 you've spent? MSE Becky was so inspired, that for a bit of fun, she asked what's the best other MoneySavers did with a quid, and found people who won a wedding dress via a £1 fish-finger pack, people who got a £1 corner sofa and more. See £1 'life changers'.

New top card to shift credit or store card debt to - 18mths 0%, with NO FEE.  Last week, we told you about Barclaycard's then market-leading no-fee balance transfer credit card at up tp 20mths 0%. Yet it's since been pulled - the latest in a long line of disappearing top balance transfer cards. The new top-pick, no-fee card that's open to all is from Santander (eligibility calc / apply*) at 18mths 0% (18.9% rep APR after). However, NatWest and RBS custs only can get 20mths at 0%, no fee. Always pay at least the min monthly payment and clear the debt or transfer again after the 0%. Full info & lots more deals, incl up to 29mths 0% (with fees), in Top Balance Transfers.

How to grab double Tesco Clubcard points till early March. See Clubcard boost.

EXTRA 10% off code for reduced 'past best-before' food, eg, 23p Walkers crisps, 90p for 36 Oxo cubes. MSE Blagged. Approved Food is a site selling cheap groceries near or past their 'best-before' (which is just a manufacturer's view of optimum quality, so they're safe to eat). Don't confuse them with 'use-bys' on fresh meat & dairy etc, which are a health warning. Min spend £22.50, delivery £3+, so best for stocking up. Approved Food


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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: Hastings Direct 3.3% rep APR
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: 
Cahoot* 2.8% rep APR

Standard b'band & line rent: Shell equiv £11.74/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Vodafone equiv £15.29/mth

£175 to switch + £3/mth: NatWest Reward
Free £175 for switching: 
HSBC Advance


'I've got me and my 29 neighbours £10,000s back via MSE's tips to lower our council tax bands - I'm now their favourite.' Are you due too?

Everybody needs good neighbours, and MoneySaver Jake is just that - his work saved his block HUGE sums

For more than a decade we've urged the 400,000 households in too high a council tax band to check if they're owed £1,000s each, as many have overpaid since 1993. And Jake Hanwell's success is one of the most inspirational we've seen. After challenging his band he got a huge reduction on future bills for the Stockton-on-Tees flat (see pic) he moved to last year, while his efforts mean 29 of his neighbours will get lower bills, plus collectively they'll get £10,000s back in past overpayments - one is getting 18 years' worth.

Jake says: "I'm over the moon. I initially challenged for myself and am getting £200 back and £300/yr lower bills. But it's had a bigger impact as they're lowering all the apartments' bands in our block. My first challenge was rejected, but after looking to MSE for guidance I escalated my case and won. I guess I am the favourite neighbour." See Jake's huge council tax reband success and see if you're due via our council tax check & challenge system - here are the basics:

  • 100,000s in Eng & Scot can claim a rebate and benefit from lower bills in future as they're in the wrong band. Here are the steps to check...

    Step 1. Compare your band with nearby similar homes. See the Neighbours Check.
    Step 2. Estimate your home's worth in 1991. See the Valuation Check.
    Step 3. If BOTH checks show your band may be too high, challenge it. You can't ask for it to be lowered, just reviewed. See how to challenge your council tax band.
    Told you can't challenge? Don't give up. The Valuation Office Agency (Eng) or Scottish Assessors' Association has a legal duty to ensure all bands are correct. So if pushed, they must investigate - see how to escalate.

    IMPORTANT: Beware challenging willy-nilly - there is a risk your band and your neighbours' bands could rise if it's revealed you pay too little. So had Jake got it wrong, his block may have all had higher bills.

  • How to grab other discounts or rebates. There are lots more avenues for some...

    - Do you live alone, with a student, or are you the only grown-up? Many don't claim, but you're due a 25% reduction.
    - Live with someone with a 'severe mental impairment'? Many are due a discount and cash back - see SMI discounts.
    - Moved home since 1993? You might also be owed £100+. Council tax is paid monthly (sometimes annually) in advance, so often you'll be in credit when you move and you're entitled to that money back. In 2019, we established about £230m is unclaimed. See Overpaid Council Tax Reclaiming.

PS, There's a totally different system in Northern Ireland, while the problem in Wales was largely addressed by an earlier revaluation. 


100+ free or cheap things to do with the kids this half-term. Incl craft workshops, museums & more half-term activities. Also find similar tips on our Instagram channel via the hashtag #FamilyMoneySaving (pls share yours too).

"Thanks very much for your article regarding mobile phone insurance sold through Carphone Warehouse. I've successfully had a claim of £553 going back to 2010."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)



How do you rate your broadband provider? We can tell you which are the cheapest broadband providers, but to keep our customer service ratings updated, we need your help. How do you rate your broadband provider over the past six months?

Younger MoneySavers are more likely to approve of using a voucher on a first date. Last week, in our traditional Valentine's poll, we asked if it was OK to use a voucher on a first date, and 5,001 of you responded. Men and women under 25 were in perfect agreement - 61% said using a voucher was a positive, compared to just a third of over-65s. Older women were most likely to disapprove. See full poll results.



My parents want us to buy, my partner's say we should rent, what should we do? Me and my partner are living with her parents but want to move out. My parents want us to buy, and have said they'll contribute, but hers say we should rent - possibly so we'll move out sooner. Whatever we do we'll upset one set of parents, so whose advice should we follow? Enter the Money Moral Maze: My parents want us to buy, my partner's say we should rent, what should we do? Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: The Mortgage-Free Roll of Honour
- Competitions thread of the week: Win a £5,000 travel card
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Being thrifty with posh beauty products
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: How much pocket money do kids get nowadays?
- Discussion of the week: Do you have any advice for me - the groom? I get married in five months


50+ birthday freebies - Incl free Body Shop £5, doughnuts etc
Glasses Direct - Two pairs of designer specs from £59
John Lewis - Free £100 vch on £500 home/nursery spend
Approved Food - Extra 10% off reduced past best-before food
Things to do with the kids - Incl free workshops, museums etc

The Works - 10 kids' picture books for £10
Aldi - £10 kids' fancy dress costumes, incl Harry Potter
Matalan - 25% off World Book Day costumes
Asda George - 25% off kids' fancy dress
McDonald's - Free World Book Day token via Happy Meal

Free Ideal Home Show tickets - 27 Mar to 13 Apr in London
£12 Baileys - 1L bottle at Tesco, norm £20 (ends Thu)
Hussle - Free one-day gym pass
Free pint of Guinness - Via app at selected pubs on Sunday
Laura Ashley - 40% off home & fashion (starts Wed)

Quick Forum Tips

10 Creme Eggs for £2 (20p each). Creme de la creme
Free drink for you and a friend on Fridays via O2. Fri-yay
Lidl offers incl 99p kitchen rolls (norm £1.49). Soak up the savings



Mon 24 Feb - This Morning, ITV, 10.55am
Mon 24 FebBBC Radio 5 Live, Ask Martin Lewis, 12.20pm
Mon 24 Feb - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm, last show of the series


Wed 19 Feb - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm, Oli Townsend, marriage tax allowance
Fri 21 Feb
- BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am, Guy Anker
Mon 24 Feb
- TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am, Oli Townsend
Mon 24 Feb 
- BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 5.45pm
Tue 25 Feb
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



That's it for this week, but before we go... after plane etiquette became a hot topic on TV and online last week, it took flight on our social pages. Do you recline your seat on board, or do you keep it upright, for fear of making it uncomfortable for the person behind you? Join the debate by winging your way to our Plane etiquette Facebook post.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team