Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

26 February 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl... Netflix tricks, free wills, ‘my financial abuse story’, £5 off McD’s, 27mths 0%, Virgin £21/mth fast fibre, scam help, Three/O2 hikes

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails
Plus 27mth 0%, Virgin £21/mth fast fibre, scam help, Three/O2 price hikes


Martin: 'Savings in crisis. Rate-after-rate cut - Marcus, NS&I, Saga, Santander & more. Take action NOW or savings'll become losings'

It's been the week of 1,000 rate cuts. It seems no one wants to be the best buy. Top deals have toppled like dominoes. I warned here, at the start of the year, that I suspected 2020 would be a savus horribilis, and so it's proving.

The prime cause is the interest-rate environment - we recently narrowly avoided a UK base rate cut, but savings rates focus more on the overall outlook, both in the UK and the world, and that remains depressed. On top of that the big banks need to raise less cash from savers (as they're no longer allowed to pump extra money into their investment arms) which has reduced competitive pressures.

All this paints a gloomy picture, with MOST PEOPLE'S SAVINGS EARNING JUST 0.4% on average. As inflation is at 1.8%, that means most savings are losings - as in real terms your nest egg is shrinking. And while it's not always possible to beat inflation, the more you earn, the less is eaten away.

THe slippery slope of savings cuts...

For a flavour of the market, here are a few of the best-buy rate cuts. The top easy-access accounts Marcus* & Saga* have just cut rates from 1.35% to 1.3% (though they're still joint-top for unlimited withdrawals).
NS&I's announced that from May it'll cut its Direct Saver from 1% to 0.7%, its Income Bonds from 1.15% to 0.7% and the Premium Bond 'prize rate' from 1.4% to 1.3% (see Are Premium Bonds worth it?).

From May, Santander's 123 will drop from 1.5% to 1% (see Ditch Santander 123?), and TSB's Classic Plus will fall from 3% to 1.5%. The Post Office too has cut its easy-access and fixed rates.

How to sort your savings - and make every penny count

The days of money happily languishing in one account for years are long gone. You need to become an active, aggressive (but polite) saver, monitoring accounts and ditching and switching when rates become pants. My Ask Martin BBC Radio 5 Live podcast has the big picture, and product details are below... 

All accounts listed have the full UK  savings protection  on up to £85,000 per person, per financial institution.
  • YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE A PENNY PAYING UNDER 1.3%. Check now. If you're earning less, take action. I've benchmarked this rate, as it's what the top easy-access accounts pay - which let you add and withdraw money whenever you want. In fact you should store cash here, even while you work out if you can earn more elsewhere.

    - Top easy-access accounts - 1.3% (min £1). Marcus* & Saga* pay 1.3% AER variable. I'd hedge for Marcus, as since it launched in Sep 2018 it's always been or been close to the best buy for new & existing customers. Saga includes a year-long bonus (0.2%) meaning while you get a touch of rate certainty for a year, it's certain to drop after that.

    - 1.31% but withdrawals limited to two per calendar year. Virgin Money pays 1.31% AER variable but caps withdrawals. Still, if you just want an account to store untouched cash it wins.

    - 1.55% if you can wait for your cash. 
    Shawbrook Bank pays 1.55% AER variable, but you need to give 120 days' notice to withdraw.

    Now read on to see if you can earn even more. You can have lots of different accounts, so put every penny where it earns most...
  • Can you lock cash away? Earn 1.8% fixed for two years. For money you're willing to lock away without access, open a fix (also known as a savings bond). And unlike easy-access accounts, here the rates are locked in. Full options in top fixes, but in brief:

    Top 1yr fixes: App-based Atom Bank
    min £50, pays 1.6% AER. Ford Money (yes, the carmaker's bank), min £500, 1.55%.

    Top 2yr fixes: Atom Bank pays 1.7% AER (min £50) and 
    Zenith Bank UK 1.68% (min £1,000).

    Ends Sat. Save £5,000+ and get £10-£200 cashback. 
    The Raisin online platform lets you open accounts from a range of providers within it, making switches between them easy. Until Sat, newbies saving £5,000+ can get boosted cashback - add that in and it can beat the best buys, especially for fixes. Full info and analysis in Raisin cashback.

    - Is this a good time to fix? It's a tough call. Fixed rates keep dropping. So it seems perverse to suggest locking in at lower rates. Yet we don't live in a boomerang world - there's no 'rates must rise after dropping' rule.

    For larger sums, fixes pay higher rates and give certainty. So the more you value certainty and the easy life of being able to put money away and leave it, the more you should fix. Then, and if rates do move after, as Oasis wisely said (I believe inspired by interest rates) don't look back in anger. Though in such uncertain times, I'd hedge towards shorter 1-2yr fixes.
  • Earn 5% on up to £2,500 for a year with a current account. Accepted new Nationwide FlexDirect* customers earn 5% AER fixed in year one on up to £2,500 (1% variable after). You need to pay in £1,000+/mth (equiv to a £12,500/yr salary). And if you know a Nationwide customer, get them to refer you and you both get £100.
  • Do you pay tax on savings interest? Top 1.3% cash ISAs. Most people (95%) don't pay tax on savings, as the personal savings allowance lets all basic 20% rate taxpayers earn up to £1,000 interest a year tax-free (higher 40% taxpayers, £500/yr).

    If you do pay tax on savings interest, cash ISAs come into their own. These are just tax-free savings accounts you can put up to £20,000/yr in. The interest earned doesn't count towards your personal savings allowance.

    Unusually, at the moment the top easy-access ISAs pay similar to normal savings - usually they're less. So anyone can consider 'em.

    - Top easy-access cash ISAs. 
    Leeds BS (min £1,000) pays 1.3% AER variable. Virgin Money pays 1.31% (min £1) but only lets you take money out twice per calendar year.

    - Top fixed-rate cash ISAs. 
    The rates here are much worse than normal fixes, so these are only worth it for savings you pay tax on. OakNorth Bank is the top fixed cash ISA at 1.41% AER for 1yr, and 1.51% for two. Full info in Top Cash ISAs.

  • Already got cash ISAs? Transfer them to up the rate. If you earn less than the rates above, at the least, open one of these new accounts and ask it to transfer your money in. See ISA transfer help.
Got debts or a mortgage? Overpaying often beats saving

It always pays to clear expensive debt. After all, £1,000 in top savings earns £13/yr, while £1,000 debt on an 18% credit card costs £180/yr. Clear the debt with the savings and you're £160+ better off. See Repay debts or save?

- Mortgages: 
Similar logic, but there are a few catches - see Overpay my mortgage with my savings? and the Mortgage Overpayment Calc.

- Student loans: It's complex - see my 'Should I overpay my Plan 1 student loan?' video (if you started uni 1998 to 2011 plus Scot/NI students after 2011) or 'Should I overpay my Plan 2 loan?' guide (Eng/Welsh students who started after 2011).

  • Save monthly? Earn 2.5%+ on £800+/mth. Regular saver accounts are designed for you to put money aside each month, rather than lump sums. They pay higher interest, as the amounts are smaller, and the time is limited. Yet there's nowt stopping you combining two or three, then you can easily save £800/mth or more.

    - Earn 2.5% in the top 'open-to-all' regular saver. Coventry BS pays 2.5% AER variable for 12mths and lets you save up to £500/mth. You can miss monthly payments, but you lose some interest if you withdraw early. If you want to save more, Principality BS pays 2%.

    - Bank with First Direct, M&S or HSBC? All have linked regular savers paying 2.75% fixed for a year, allowing most to pay in roughly £25 to £250 each month. A couple of these banks also pay free cash to switchers, so it can be lucrative. See Best Bank Accounts.

  • Low income? Get a 50% savings boost. For those who qualify, Help to Save is unbeatable - it can add 50% on top of savings.

  • Saving for a first home? Get free £1,000s from the state. If you're aged 18 to 39, open a top Lifetime ISA, which gives a 25% boost on up to £4,000 saved a year (so a max £1,000/yr boost).

  • NatWest/RBS current account customer? Earn 1.5% 'easy-access'. The Savings Builder account allows unlimited withdrawals and pays 1.5% AER variable up to £10,000, but if you don't increase the balance by £50/mth you don't get interest that month. If worked right it can be lucrative.

  • Peer-to-peer advertises up to 6.5%, but it ISN'T saving. Lending firms such as Ratesetter, Funding Circle and Zopa advertise eye-catching returns of up to 6.5%. Yet you could lose your money as there's no protection. Make sure you understand peer-to-peer risks.

  • See savings paying 4% or more? Barring those mentioned above, there's almost certainly something off - it may be they're disguised investments (ie, there's risk), just plain dodgy, or they don't have the savings safety protection - so be very careful.

  • Should you invest instead? With savings your cash is protected; with investing you hope that it grows quicker, but at the risk of losing some or all of your money. Many wrongly draw the conclusion that as I don't talk about investing, I'm against it.  

    That's not true, investing can be great, I do it myself - yet it's not my or MSE's expertise, and it's a regulated subject. So it's a case of 'we don't cover it', not 'we're against it'. See Is investing right for me?

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. 27mths' INTEREST-FREE borrowing via top 0% spending credit card

Done right, 0% credit cards are the best way to borrow - as there's no interest. Done wrong, they're one of the worst 

There's no cheaper way to borrow than at 0%, and that means a credit card could be your secret weapon. Provided you can buy the thing you need on a card, for purchases under £3k to £5k-ish, grab a 0% interest purchases card and use that. Yet don't do it for willy-nilly spending to supplement your income. Only do this for one-off, planned, affordable stuff you NEED (eg, a new fridge) - and always minimise the amount. If in doubt, DON'T. Here's the lowdown...

First find out which cards will accept you
Use our 0% eligibility calculator to find which of most top cards you've the best chance of getting, meaning you get your own personal best-buy table, with no impact on your creditworthiness.

Sainsbury's Bank (eligibility calc / apply*) plus, get up to £37.50 in Nectar points (1) Up to 27mths 0% (20.9%)
New. Barclaycard (eligibility calc / apply*) (2)
Up to 27mths 0% (21.9%)
Bank of Ireland UK (apply) - shorter 0% but unlike the others, it's not an 'up to' card, so if accepted you'll definitely get the full 0% length. It's not in our eligibility calc though.
24mths 0% (19.9%)
(1) These cards are best for big one-off spends. But if you shop at Sainsbury's anyway, you get 750 bonus Nectar pts (worth £3.75) per £35+ spent there in the first 2mths, up to a max 7,500 pts (worth £37.50). If you do that, it's best to pay the shopping element off straightaway to keep it separate from genuine borrowing. (2) You can't have had a Barclaycard in the last 6mths. 

  • Spending £5k+ or credit card not accepted? See Cheap Loans (for £5k+) or 0% Money Transfers (sub-£5k where credit cards aren't accepted). 

  • Follow the 0% Card Golden Rules. Full info in 0% Credit Cards (APR Examples), but in brief...
    a) Always pay at least the set monthly minimum and stick within the credit limit, or you can lose the 0%.
    b) These cards are usually only cheap for spending - avoid cash withdrawals or shifting debt to them.
    c) Plan to clear the card (or balance-transfer away) before the 0% period ends, or rates jump to the rep APR.  

'Martin, I read your financial abuse guide & realised I've been financially controlled for most of my marriage - I want to tell my story.' Read Karen's story and the original Financial Abuse guide.

23 MoneySaving TV tricks - incl cut the cost of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV etc. More than half of households now stream - so we've tricks galore, eg, save up to £72/yr switching Netflix plan, the 'pretend to cancel' Now TV trick etc. Full info in TV MoneySaving.

Ends Fri. Virgin 108Mb MEGA-fast fibre broadband & line - '£21/mth'. MSE Blagged. If you've a need for serious b'band speed, via this link only, Virgin Media newbies pay £25/mth over the 18mth contract. But you get £75 bill credit, making it £375 over 18mths, equiv to £20.84/mth - half what some pay for slow BT b'band & line. Yet only 50% of homes qualify - check your eligibility via the link. For more deals at all speeds, see our Broadband Unbundled tool.

Should you 'downshift' your shampoo? Eg, swap £10 Body Shop shampoo for £1 dupe. Lots of stores' own-brand items mimic big brands. MSE Rhiannon assesses how much you can save with the Shampoo Downshift Challenge

Ends Sat. £5 off £15 McDonald's spend. See this plus 18 more McDonald's hacks.

How scam savvy are you? On Mon night, 3m watched Martin's ITV scam special - if you missed it, watch it here. Plus check out have your details been hacked?, Martin's scam self-defence class and our 30+ Ways to Stop Scams guide.


'Thanks, I got £80 travel insurance instead of £500 for my mum who has a heart condition.' The cheapest policies for pre-existing conditions

If you've just booked your holiday and have got or had medical issues, getting cheap travel insurance can be a nightmare. As this is such a big issue, the regulator's told mainstream insurers that by Nov they must start to signpost people to specialist cover. Yet who knows how good that info will be? So instead, see our Travel insurance for pre-existing conditions guide. Diane read it and emailed to say: "Thanks for helping me find £80 travel insurance for my mum who has heart, lung & neurological conditions, instead of £500 quoted elsewhere, for a week in Portugal." Here's our quick prescription...

  • Get travel insurance ASAB... and always declare conditions for all cover. Too many people book their holiday, then leave getting the insurance until just before the trip. Always get it As Soon As you've Booked, so if something happens early that stops you going on holiday (eg, a new long-term illness starts), you're covered.

    And never be economical with the truth to get an economical policy. Lie, and when you claim, it may be deemed invalid and you could be accused of fraud. Insurers often ask about physical & mental health conditions you've seen a doctor or had ongoing medical treatment for. When picking any policy, we suggest these min cover levels.

  • Four steps to finding the cheapest travel insurance policy. This isn't always straightforward, so we've given you lots of options. We'll start with the easier things to try, and if they deliver a decent policy, great. If not, keep going.
    1. Check normal comparison sites, incl MoneySupermarket*, Compare The Market* and Confused.com*. If you've milder conditions, you may not need specialist cover. Though do always check whether the insurer wants more info than the comparison site did - and this may change the price - or you may want to ask the insurer to exclude covering your pre-existing condition (think carefully whether this is right for you).

    2. Then try specialist medical comparison sites. These include Staysure*, Medical Travel Compared and All Clear Travel, which include specialist insurers standard sites may miss.

    3. Still not found cover? Elbow grease time. There are other insurers you may need to check manually that comparisons may miss, including Avanti, MIA Online, Orbis and Global Travel Insurance*.

    4. Still struggling? Find a broker. They can do more legwork, or possibly get you a specially underwritten policy - find one via the British Insurance Brokers' Association.

  • OR see if you can get cover via a bank. Some packaged bank accounts (where you pay a monthly fee) include quality travel insurance (plus usually mobile phone and breakdown cover too) and some with pre-existing conditions can be covered (sometimes for a small added fee). Our general top pick is Nationwide FlexPlus at £13/mth, which covers all a family's trips away - see our FlexPlus briefing. For couples, especially older couples, it's Co-op Everyday Extra for £15/mth, but there's a trick to get it for £9.50/mth - see our Everyday Extra briefing.

  • ALWAYS carry a free EHIC in Europe. They let you use state-run hospitals at the same cost as locals and are still valid until at least Dec, even after Brexit. Yet 5m+ expire in 2020, so see our EHIC guide to get one or renew for free. Plus look at insurer Europe Plus and its specialised policy for covering treatment costs when EHICs are used.

  • If the insurer won't pay out and isn't playing fair. It's difficult as insurance protects against unexpected eventualities, which is tough to check in advance. Make sure insurers are Financial Conduct Authority-regulated, and if they unfairly reject a claim, take them to the free Financial Ombudsman.

New. The FREE 'Martin Lewis: Student Loans Decoded' programme now has a teachers' guide. In Oct, we launched our unique Student Loans Decoded video - a 40min lesson-length programme on the financial impact of going to uni. Pupils and parents gave us great feedback - and teachers liked it so much they asked for a lesson plan guide. So we've created the Student Loans Decoded Teachers' Guide - fully financial education quality-marked too.

Three & O2 pay-monthly mobile customers face 2.7% price rise. See mobile rights for what you can do.

New. Another FREE £175 + £3/mth bank switch bribe as RBS matches sister brand NatWest. Both now give a £175 switching bribe on many of their accounts. The standouts are RBS* / NatWest* Reward, as you get £3/mth extra (£5/mth minus a £2/mth fee). Or RBS* / NatWest* Select just gives £175 with slightly less-stringent criteria. For the £175, start a switch by 2 Apr, pay in £1,500+ and log in to online or mobile banking by 10 May 2020, though you can't have had switching cash from them or Ulster Bank since Oct 2017. For the £3, each month you must pay in £1,250/mth (equiv to a £17,000/yr salary), log in to its mobile app and pay out 2+ direct debits of £2+. Full info and more options in Best Bank Accounts.

New £15-£35 'London Theatre Week' tix, incl Les Mis & Woman in Black. 35+ shows discounted when you book by Sun 8 Mar, but popular seats will go quick. While labelled a weeklong event, it's actually on till Oct. West End theatre

EXTRA 25% off Kurt Geiger, Adidas, Ted Baker, Vans shoes. Eg, £14 Kurt Geiger (norm £29). MSE Blagged. Additional discount on already cheap outlet. Ends Thu, £3 delivery. Shoeaholics 


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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 11Mb equiv £11.74/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell 35Mb equiv £15.66/mth
Superfast Fibre & line rent: Virgin 108Mb £20.84/mth 

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

Top easy-access: Virgin Money 1.31%, min £1 (with restrictions) or Marcus and Saga at 1.3%, min £1 (truly easy-access)
Top one-year fix: 
Atom Bank 1.65%, min £50


New. March is 'Free Wills Month' - look after loved ones when you die

Save ££s now and save your family more stress at a very difficult time - and now's a good time for offers

There's no getting around it, death happens. So if you've children and/or assets, such as a home or savings, and people you want to look after when you're gone, it's vital to sort a will. The good news is now is a good time to get one with plenty of deals out there to cut the typical £200 cost of a single solicitor-drafted will or £300 for a joint will (officially called mirror wills). Full info in our Cheap and Free Wills guide, but here's the lowdown...           

  • March is one of the two free wills months a year for some over-55s. The Free Wills Month event happens in Mar and Oct, and allows anyone aged 55 or older to get a solicitor-drafted (or updated) will for free. It's hoped you'll leave a £300ish donation in your will to a partner charity, though you don't have to. Whatever you choose, there's nothing to pay upfront.

    - Is it available nationwide in March? It's in lots of places but not everywhere. However, if you can't get it where you live now, you should be able to in Oct. There's no clear geographical boundary of where is and isn't included in Mar, so you'll need to check as even in some regions you'll find pockets that are covered and some that aren't. Some areas definitely INCLUDED next month are London, Liverpool, Mid Wales and Scotland. Those EXCLUDED incl Birmingham, Manchester and N Ireland.

    - Hurry if you're interested. You can start to make bookings from 9am this Mon, and as places tend to go quickly, it's best to book in an appointment ASAP. See all areas included in March and how to book.
  • Under 55, or no Free Wills Month near you in March? There are other options to try, incl:
    - Wait till Oct if you're ineligible for Mar's 'Free Wills Month'. It'll then include Birmingham, Manchester, N Ireland etc.
    - Nov is Will Aid month where there's no min age. It's a different scheme where solicitors write basic wills in exchange for a charitable donation (£100 is suggested for a single will, £180 for a pair of 'mirror wills'). See Will Aid info.
    - 50% off Which? Wills. MSE Blagged Until 31 Mar, we've blagged you 50% off Which? Wills*. Here, you write it yourself online using its template and it's checked by one of Which?'s specialist will-writers. A single will is £59.50, and joint is £94.50. See Which? Wills for more help.

    There are a range of other options, from specialist will-writers to doing it yourself. See solicitor vs will-writers vs DIY wills.

"Thank you for your information on claiming back mis-sold packaged bank account fees. I've just been successful in reclaiming £3,000 in fees and interest since 1998."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

Feel Unique 25% off code, incl Elemis and Huda. MSE Blagged. Works on 5,000+ full-price items till Tue. £4 delivery. Feel Unique



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

Zen triumphs in our broadband customer service poll. In last week's poll, small firm Zen came top among providers with 100+ votes, with a huge 94% of its customers rating it 'great'. Plusnet was best of the biggies, with 46% saying it's 'great', while Post Office took the wooden spoon overall - just 26% said it was 'great', while 46% said it was 'poor'. See full broadband poll results.



Should I pay to receive my own wedding gift? I've been sent a wedding gift from a relative overseas, but there's a £55 charge I need to pay before customs will release it. I'm on maternity leave and an extremely tight budget, and the charge will put me into debt. But if I don't pay and get the gift, I know my relative will be offended. Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I pay to receive my wedding gift? | Suggest an MMDView past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Not enough in the emergency fund
- Competitions thread of the week: Win £1,000 to spend on eBay
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Bookworms 2020
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Early-rising toddler
- Discussion of the week: Living costs for uni student


McDonald's - £5 off a £15 spend (ends Sat)
Shampoo downshift - Eg, swap £10 Body Shop for £1 dupe
London theatre - £15-£35 tickets incl Les Mis
Shoeaholics - Extra 25% off outlet incl Kurt Geiger
Feel Unique - 25% off selected items code

Free drink - Beer, cider or soft drink at Eng & Wales pubs
Birthday treats - Incl free Body Shop £5, free doughnut
Beauty - Incl make-up & perfume minis via Debenhams
Motoring - Take a free mock driving theory test online
Fitness - Free weekly timed 5K run

Dare - £14ish of beauty products with £3.70 mag
Ideal Home Show - Two tickets for £15
ShopDisney - 15% off full-price code (ends Fri)
Odeon - Five tickets for £24 or two for £11.50 via Groupon
Chiquito - £1 tacos (Thu only)

Quick Forum Tips

Free downloadable planner pages. To me, to do
Boots £10 points when you spend £60. What's it all a-Boot
Sainsbury's Tu up to half-price sale. We are sale-ing



Thu 27 Feb - Good Morning Britain, ITV, 7.45am
Fri 28 Feb
This Morning, ITV, 10am
Mon 2 Mar 
- This Morning, ITV, 10.55am
Mon 2 Mar - BBC Radio 5 Live, Ask Martin Lewis, 12.20pm. Listen again


Wed 26 Feb - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm, Oli Townsend
Fri 28 Feb
- BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am, Guy Anker
Mon 2 Mar
- TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am, Oli Townsend
Mon 2 Mar
- BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 5.45pm
Tue 3 Mar
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



That's it for this week, but before we go... we've been celebrating at MSE Towers after the site officially turned 17 last Saturday. Over the years we've helped millions make savings big and small, with success stories ranging from a whopping £247,000 PPI reclaim to a London-to-Southampton train ticket bought for just 35p. But the way the site looks has changed a fair bit along the way - and you can see just how far it's come since Martin first launched it in 2003 in our MSE turns 17 news story.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team