Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

04 March 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl… cheap No7, top banks revealed, free KFC & Greggs, 8GB Sim £8/mth, 1.3% savings, wedding cost-cutters

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Coronavirus travel worries 
Will your travel insurance cover you? Should you book? Which is the top value Covid-19 insurance? And much more...

Martin: The global spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus strain is prompting huge concern. Reports on the still-sketchy early data seem to indicate higher contagion and mortality rates than normal flu. The overwhelming concern is for the health of older people and those with weak immune systems, lung conditions and other medical vulnerabilities.

Yet even for healthy under-50s, where for most it's hopefully likely to bring only very minor symptoms, there's a potential impact from possible protective measures to slow the spread of contagion. These may be put in place to reduce the peak of infections, to lessen the impact on health infrastructure and to protect the vulnerable. 

We all need to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The current worst-case scenario includes school and workplace closures, bans on mass crowd events, and restricted movement.

We already know overseas travel is impacted and likely to get worse. As that's a core area we can help with, the team and I have been working flat out to answer your questions in our new full, constantly updated Covid-19 Coronavirus Help guide, with key points below.

And of course, we all need do our bit. While some shops' hand-sanitiser stocks are running short, regularly washing your hands with soap, under running water, is the best thing to do anyway. And if you think you've symptoms, use the NHS 111 coronavirus tool to decide what to do. 

IMPORTANT: The situation is fast-changing. Many airlines, hoteliers and insurers haven't set stances yet. What we're telling you is based on the best info we have, but please understand, nothing is 100% set in stone.

THE KEY TIP: Sort travel insurance ASAB and ASAP

We always urge you to get your travel insurance ASAB (As Soon As you Book), and this has never been more important. It's because if you leave getting insurance until just before you travel, you're not covered for anything that happens before that which stops you going - thus you've waved off half the value of the cover.

Right now that call is even more urgent. Insurance policies that will cover cancellations to official no-go Covid-19 areas will only pay out if you got the insurance BEFORE the country is ruled off-limits. So the earlier you get it, the safer, if - as is likely - formal guidance changes.

It's worth adding, if you can't go, you should always contact your travel provider (eg, airline or tour operator) first as it may give a refund, depending on your booking. Insurance is for when all else fails. Whichever insurance you go with, it'll cover you if you get ill while abroad and have medical bills - even for coronavirus - unless you travel against a Govt warning (see below).

The key trigger for travel insurance is FCO advisories

The key trigger for travel insurance covering you cancelling your holiday is if the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises "against all but essential travel", or the even more serious "against all travel", to your destination, even if your flight and hotel are still available.

Currently, FCO travel advisories due to Covid-19 only cover China (not Hong Kong or Macau), two South Korean cities and a few towns in nort
hern Italy, but it's likely to grow.

  • Top-pick travel insurance that covers FCO Covid-19 advisories. Most (but not all) travel insurers will cover key costs you can't recover from the airline/hotel/tour if you cancel for this reason. Below we've the cheapest 'NO-FRILLS' insurers - which have told us in writing they will provide cover. These are solely based on price, provided they meet our min cover levels.

    - Top annual policies from £9/yr: These are best if you go away 2+ times in a year. Coverwise Bronze* and Leisure Guard Standard* tend to be cheapest for under-65s, eg, a 30-yr-old individual in Europe pays £9, a family worldwide £72.

    - Top single-trip policies from £6/yr: Leisure Guard* and Coverwise* tend to come up cheapest for most simple options. Expect to pay from £6 for a seven-day trip to Europe for an individual and from £38 for a family with worldwide cover for a week.

    - Over-65s and pre-existing conditions: If you're over 65, it depends on your age. If you're 66-75, packaged bank accounts are likely to be cheapest esp for worldwide cover. If you're older, try Leisure Guard*, Coverwise Silver* and Insure & Go Silver. For full help, see the Over-65s' Travel Insurance guide.

    For pre-existing conditions, you've got two things to think about - your condition, and the cover. See full help in our Pre-Existing Travel Insurance guide.

  • Top-pick travel insurance that covers FCO Covid-19 advisories AND other cancellations. Some airlines are cancelling flights due to coronavirus, even in areas the FCO hasn't advised against travel to. Some hotels are doing the same. If that happens the airline/hotel should refund you, but what about the other costs (eg, if you cancel your hotel because your flight is cancelled).

    To get that covered you need what's generally, but not always, known as travel disruption cover. Yet bizarrely in our research so far, we've found those that cover hotels if a flight is cancelled, and those that cover flights if a hotel is cancelled, but just one that covers both:

    Note: we've included prices for annual policies but these also tend to win on single-trip cover.

    - Covers both from £29/yr. Choose the AA (Silver) cover policy and it will cover you if your flight or hotel is cancelled. This costs about £29 for a 35-yr-old individual's annual European policy, £141 for a family worldwide.

    - Covers flights if a hotel is cancelled (case-by-case the other way): A limited choice, but as an alternative to the AA, Direct Line or Churchill are the two picks for single and annual trips and over-65s and pre-existing conditions.
    They will cover your flight if the hotel is cancelled, but judge on a case-by-case basis, depending on your circumstances, whether your hotel is covered if your flight is cancelled. Because there is a chance, we'd probably hedge for these. These cost around £48 for a 35-yr-old individual's annual European policy, £113 for a family worldwide.

    - Covers hotels if a flight is cancelled: The standout for single trip and annual is Axa Silver. It costs £32 for a 35-yr-old individual's annual European policy, £92 for a family worldwide. It may also cover over-65s and those with pre-existing conditions (these links will give more info).

    - What about cover for unexpected costs if you're stuck away in quarantine? We haven't yet got a clear answer on this. Some insurers may cover you under 'travel disruption' cover, but it varies.

  • Cover all the family's travel (and mobiles) for £13/mth. Our top-pick packaged bank account Nationwide FlexPlus covers all a family's trips away worldwide for £13/mth, so £156/yr (up to 31 days per trip). It also insures all a family's mobile phones, and gives policyholders European breakdown cover. A family counts as parents or couples and children under 18 (or under 24 if in full-time education) provided they're living at home.

    The insurance covers Covid-19 and its natural disaster element will cover your flight costs if your hotel is cancelled. If your flight is cancelled, it says it'll consider your circumstances on a case-by-case basis. For full info and more options, see Top Packaged Bank Accounts.
I've already got travel insurance - will it cover me?

Most insurers will cover you for cancelling a trip if there is an FCO advisory for your destination. We've rough info in our insurer-by-insurer list though this will vary by policy and can change over time. Also check your insurer's website - many now list their coronavirus cover. If not, or the policy terms are too tricky, call up or use online chat. The two key questions we'd ask are:

1) Am I covered if the FCO later warns against 'all but essential travel'?
2) Am I covered if there's no FCO advisory, but my flight or hotel is cancelled and I can't travel as a result? If so, what's covered (flights, hotels, car hire etc)?

If you don't have the cover you need then ask if you can get an add-on/upgrade to your existing policy. If not, consider buying another policy. Of course, this may feel like throwing money away, so you have to weigh up the extra cover versus cost. 

What if my annual cover expires before the trip I've booked? 

As long as an annual policy is currently active, it will cover you if something happens now to stop you going in future, even if that future holiday is after the policy has lapsed. An example will help...

Imagine you're going in October, and have an annual policy that covers you now, until July. Then you'll get a new one in July. If the thing that stops you going happens in June, it's the first policy that covers you. 

Importantly, if your annual policy lapses before the trip, we'd try to get an annual (or single-trip) policy in place now, for cover that starts the day after your current policy expires. We've found many policies that you can book up to 90 days ahead.

You usually AREN'T covered if you just no longer want to go

This is important to understand. If there is no FCO advisory in place, nor anything else to stop you going (such as a flight cancellation), it's just that you've decided you don't want to travel - formally known as 'disinclination to travel' - then you won't be covered. This is even if the area has a growing number of coronavirus cases.

This applies even if you'd booked travel to go to a big sporting event (eg, the Olympics), concert or conference that's cancelled, so you no longer want to go. (Though if you bought that as part of a travel package, the package operator may refund you.)

There is a rare exception that if you've a related pre-existing condition, and your GP recommends you don't travel, some policies may cover you. For more, see pre-existing condition help.

My travel insurer is unfairly turning down my claim

Insurance is about unexpected eventualities. Within that there are the usual likely known eventualities, such as illness or lost luggage. Then there are the unknown eventualities, such as Icelandic volcanoes or coronavirus (possible) pandemics. Therefore it is very difficult to predict whether insurers will pay out in different circumstances.

Yet it's important to understand insurers are covered by the financial 'treating customers fairly' rules, which mean if you don't think it has been fair you can make a formal complaint. After it replies, or after eight weeks if it doesn't, you can go on to the free Financial Ombudsman to adjudicate. Eight weeks may be a long time in this case, so if your situation is really financially pressing, tell the ombudsman

I was about to book my holiday - should I still do it?

This is a judgement call, so here's Martin to talk you through it...

It's still early in the Covid-19 outbreak, so uncertainty is rife. Hopefully with hindsight we'll say, for those in the UK at least, this turned out to be a storm in a teacup. But it's plausible this will have a substantial impact on world health, travel and the economy across 2020. So if you're planning to book, ask yourself:

- How far away is the trip? The sooner it is, the more certainty you have. If you're planning to go soon to a country with only limited Covid-19 cases, there's less of a risk.

Further out is trickier. Summer holidays are four months away - the first Covid-19 case was only reported to the World Health Organisation two months ago. This shows the situation can change quickly and many more countries may be off limits in summer.

- Would you be disinclined to travel? 
Less demand may mean holiday prices drop. Yet ask yourself how would you feel about going to an area with growing Covid-19 cases that isn't on the Foreign Office exclusion list.

If you wouldn't go, then the further away the trip, the more cautious you should be about booking now - as if things got worse and you decide not to go, you're not covered. Of course you can mitigate the risk by either booking a trip that allows free cancellation later (many hotels allow this), or simply waiting to see.

If you think you'd go anyway (one logic says, there's as much risk of catching it here as there) then book, but ensure you've appropriate travel insurance in place, in case it is added to the Foreign Office's list.

- Are you vulnerable to coronavirus? A man whose wife has the chronic lung condition COPD asked me on Monday's Radio 5 Live Ask Martin show: 'We paid a deposit and we're looking to go away in May - what should I do?' They of course will be strongly disinclined to travel to a coronavirus-affected area due to the exacerbated medical risks.

As he didn't have insurance, the first thing to do was check for any pre-existing conditions travel insurance he could get that would cover the condition and Covid-19 in their circumstances. If not, I simply wouldn't book. Even if he finds it, it's a tough call. If you are vulnerable, think about where you'd prefer to be treated or quarantined (to protect you catching it).

What about my pension, shares, house purchase, sick pay if self-isolating etc... 

Of course, travel isn't the only issue affected by Covid-19, but it is the most immediate one in our core area. 

However, we're working flat out to add more and more info to our Coronavirus Help guide on many of these subjects too, and will continue to add to it over the coming days. Let us know what other questions you have (though please check the guide first to see if they're covered) at


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. The TOP banks for customer service 2020. And ba-da-boom, with many of our winners, it pays to switch, including FREE £100 cash

With your day-to-day bank account, customer service counts. So today we reveal the latest winners in our poll of 5,224 votes. Yet service is just one element, and extra perks such as free cash to switch are also key, so it's all about the combination of the two.

And with good bonuses about, if your bank's a bad 'un, now's a good time to give it the boot. Remember, switching is easy - it takes just seven working days and the new bank moves all your payments. Drum roll please...

1. Monzo* 94% 'great', 2% 'poor' No free cash, but cheap for spending abroad. It's a branch-free, app-only bank, whose big sell is a range of high-tech budgeting and savings tools.
2. First Direct* 89% 'great', 4% 'poor' FREE £100 to new switchers (if you pay in £1,000 within the first 3mths) + 2.75% regular saver + many get a £250 0% overdraft. We believe for most it's the best fee-free combo of service and financial perks.
3. Starling* 86% 'great', 9% 'poor' No free cash, though it wins for overseas spending & cash. Starling is Monzo's big app-only competitor, with a range of high-tech budgeting and savings tools. It also pays up to 0.5% interest. 
4. Nationwide* 74% 'great', 6% 'poor' FlexDirect gives newbies 5% interest on up to £2.5k, but only for 1yr (and you need to have £1k/mth going in) + many get a year's 0% overdraft (39.9% EAR after). No free cash, unless you know a friend who banks there, then you both get £100 if you switch (ask your friend to register for 'recommend-a-friend' as you'll need them to send you a link).
5. Co-op / Smile 68% 'great', 10% 'poor' No free cash upfront. But new and existing Co-op customers can sign up to Everyday Rewards, which can give you up to £5.50/mth cashback.

See how your current bank scores in our full customer service results

For more options, including the top accounts for free cash (up to £175 is available, though with lower service scores), see our full Best Bank Accounts guide.


£75ish No7 skincare set for £35ish. Incl day creams, night creams & eye serum. No7 heaven

What do your savings pay? Ensure it's NO LESS than 1.3%. Check now.Rates are dropping like flies & there are few reasons to earn less than 1.3% AER variable, as that's what the top easy-access accounts from Marcus* & Saga* pay (with these you can put money in & take it out when you like). Then use our Top Savings guide to see other options, such as fixing, or Help to Save, which can pay more.

Nab free food, eg, KFC side, Krispy Kreme doughnut, Leon box, Greggs mini pizza etc. As lots of new deals have launched, see our round-up of food freebies.

News: Treasury Minister replies, 'Martin, I'll listen to your mortgage policy plans, but I've lines you can't cross.' 250,000 people are practically unable to ditch expensive mortgages as they're with inactive lenders. Martin's announced funding for policy solutions research, and a minister has responded. Minister's letter & Martin's response

Are you an EXTREME MoneySaver? Want to be in Martin's new ITV show?Whether it's never wasting a drop of water, cleaning your house with vinegar, extreme couponing, split-ticketing with 50 tickets or whatever, Martin's looking for the most extreme savers to inspire others. Extreme savers: your country needs you


£8/mth for unlimited minutes, texts and easily enough mobile data for most (8GB) - why pay more?

If you're happy with your handset there are a host of cheap Sims - so it's time to hang up on dodgy deals

Finally rules have come in that mean mobile firms must tell you when you'll be out of contract, and what their cheapest new customer deal is. With a whopping 10m people out of contract, and often paying massively over the odds - such as paying the 'including handset' cost even when it's paid off - this action was needed. Yet the onus is still on you to switch and the simple way to save is by sticking with your current handset, finding a cheaper Sim and switching to it.

  • Top Sims - the need-to-knows... If you're looking for a new deal:
    - Check your handset is unlocked. This means you can put any Sim in it. If not, your current provider should unlock it for free.
    - Think about the network. There are only four in the UK - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. Others use their signals. So if you only get signal with one network, just find its cheapest provider. We've deals below for all but O2.
    - Match your allowance to your use. Check old bills or use the Billmonitor* tool, which analyses your bills and finds Sims to match your use. As it doesn't spot every deal, we've the cream below. The big choice is about how much data to get - to help, we've put some guidance in the table below, based on our last poll.
For many more options at different usage levels, see our Top Sims guide
PROVIDER (network)
Lebara* (Vodafone)
MSE Blagged
2GB data, unltd mins & texts (58% of people use less data than this)
£5/mth (1mth contract)
iD Mobile* (Three)
3GB, 500 mins & unltd texts (68% of people use less data than this)
£7/mth (1mth contract)
Three* Our joint top-pick combo of data & price
8GB, unltd mins & texts (80% of people use less than 5GB, so this gives a bit of a buffer)
£8/mth (12mth contract)
Virgin Mobile* (EE) Our joint top-pick combo of data & price 8GB, 5,000 mins & unltd texts (80% of people use less than 5GB, so this gives a bit of a buffer)
£8/mth (12mth contract)
MSE Blagged
Unlimited data, mins & texts (everyone uses less data than this)
£16/mth (24mth contract)
(1) New customers of that provider. (2) People's data use based on our poll in Jan 2020.

  • More quick tips to save. For full help and options, see our Top Sims guide.
    - Keeping your number's easy. Moving it over normally takes just one working day. See Number porting.
    - Don't want to switch? Haggle. Mobile firms are among the easiest to haggle with. See Haggling help.

20% off Vision Direct own-brand contacts, eg, 60 dailies for £14ish. MSE Blagged. Incl free delivery. I can see clearly now this deal is on

50+ wedding (cost) crashers, incl Primark's new bridal range. Weddings probably aren't what comes to mind when you think of Primark, but it's launched a bridal section, incl £6 lingerie, £4 floral hair crowns & £2 hen-night props. As a result, we thought we'd revive our 50+ wedding tips - incl £1k receptions, bargain dresses & more.

Ends Mon. Cheapest fibre b'band & line - '£15.66/mth'. This 35Mb fibre broadband deal for Shell Energy newbies costs £23.99/mth over the 1yr contract. But you get £50 bill credit & are automatically emailed a £50 Amazon vch within three months. If you'd have spent the vch anyway, it makes the price an equiv £15.66/mth over the year. See our Broadband Unbundled tool for lots more deals.

News: Do you own your property leasehold? Hope for escalating ground rents & other problems.The competition watchdog is to take enforcement action on leasehold mis-selling & unfair contracts. See leasehold latest.

Thur is World Book Day so we've 13 free or cheap kids' book tricks. Free books & audiobooks, 10 books for £10 etc. Free or cheap kids' books

25% off code for toys, games, books, crafts, stationery etc at The Works. MSE Blagged. Delivery's £3 or collect free in 475+ stores. The Works


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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:

  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: 
Shell equiv £15.66/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: Vodafone equiv £18.40/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 1.6%, min £50


Coast £10ish dress (norm £89). MSE Blagged. Via code which gets 20% off all sale items. £4 delivery. The Coast is clear(ance) 

"My wife and I returned from Barbados last month on a flight delayed by about five hours. I used your Flight Delays guide and we reclaimed €600 each - the money was in my bank in three days."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

Want to work at MSE? Four jobs available: assistant editor, campaigns & policy officer, energy & utilities analyst and money analyst. To work in our London office. See MSE Job Opportunities.



How you can help the homeless. If you're concerned about someone you've seen sleeping rough in the cold weather, you can send an alert to StreetLink. This service then tells local support services in England and Wales about the person you've seen, so they can provide them with help and support. You can submit an alert via StreetLink's website.



Do you have a will? If not, why not? If you want to dictate where your assets go when you die, you need a will. Die without one and on top of the grief, it can cause a financial nightmare for the people you care about. A will can be made cheaply, and sometimes for free (see our Cheap Wills guide). So do you have a will and if not, why not?

Monzo's taken the crown for banking service. Last week, we asked you to rate your bank account's service. Over 5,000 of you responded - and Monzo came out on top. For more on the results, see above.



Should I keep all the proceeds from selling the contents of our deceased dad's home? My father recently passed away and his house needs to be cleared so it can be sold. My sibling, who rarely visits, wants us to pay a company to dump everything. I regularly cared for my father, and want to sort through his home for what's worth saving or selling. Friends say I should keep any proceeds for myself, but should I split it with my sibling? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I keep all the proceeds from selling the contents of our deceased dad's home? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Ninja saving turtles March merriment
- Competitions thread of the week: English Heritage annual family membership
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Impulse buys
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Young family holiday ideas
- Discussion of the week: If you found money, would you return it to its owner?

No7 - £75ish skincare products for £35ish
Vision Direct - 20% off own-brand contact lenses
The Works - 25% off most items via code
Coast - 20% off sale items, eg, £10ish dress (norm £89)

Great British Pubs - Pint of beer, cider, soft drink via app
O2 Priority - Pub drink for you and a friend (every Fri)
Ikea - Tea or coffee with a 'Family' card (weekdays)
Stonegate Pubs - Pint of Guinness 12-2pm on Sat via app
Peroni - £2.50 no-alcohol beer 6-pack via cashback

Boots - 10% off selected brands, incl Fenty, Liz Earle etc
Tesco - 75p medium-size Easter eggs (norm £1.50)
Eurostar - £58 return tickets to Paris and Brussels
Karen Millen - Extra 20% off sale code
World Book Day - 'Free' book via McDonald's Happy Meal

Quick Forum Tips

Co-op £5 pizza & beer meal deal. Lager than life
25% off selected tops at New Look. Made you look
Plants at Lidl from 59p. Lidl me this



Thu 5 Mar - Good Morning Britain, ITV, 7.45am
Thu 5 Mar
This Morning, ITV, 10am
Mon 9 Mar 
- This Morning, ITV, 10.55am
Mon 9 Mar - BBC Radio 5 Live, Ask Martin Lewis, 12.20pm. Listen again


Wed 4 Mar - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm, Steve Nowottny
Fri 6 Mar
- BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am, Steve Nowottny
Mon 9 Mar
- TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am, Oli Townsend
Mon 9 Mar
- BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 5.45pm
Tue 10 Mar
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



That's it for this week, but before we go... what are your best MoneySaving ideas for kids' party bags? Token party gifts were a hot topic on our social channels last week. Homemade gifts including personalised key rings and tote bags were popular items, while others said they take advantage of multi-buy offers on books and give them to party guests. One MoneySaver said filling them cheaply is a piece of cake - as that's all they give. Share yours in our cheap party bags Facebook post.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team