Mar
11
2020

Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

11 March 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl... Coronavirus, Brit Gas cheapest in 3yrs, Boots 90%off, free drinks, PayPal warning, Martin’s overdraft alert, Mum’s Day deals

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails
Plus... PayPal warning, Mum's Day deals, Martin's overdraft alert
                                                           
 


 

Act NOW: Steal a March on April changes or risk losing £1,000s, incl on marriage tax allowance, PPI tax back, first-time buyers' free cash (& cheap stamps)


The new tax year starts on Mon 6 Apr, and millions are unaware they risk missing out on big money unless they act now to secure it before that deadline...

  • TWO MILLION eligible for marriage tax allowance are missing out. Act ASAP or you'll lose £212 of £1,150 you may be due. To be eligible for the marriage tax allowance (MTA)... (1) You must be married or in a civil partnership. (2) One of you must be a non-taxpayer, the other a basic 20% rate taxpayer.

    If so, the non-taxpayer can shift 10% of their tax-free allowance to the taxpayer. This year, that means shifting £1,250, on which they'd save 20% tax - so a £250 gain.

    You can backdate claims by up to four years (on top of this tax year), currently a total gain of £1,150 (once you're claiming, you get it year after year). The scheme launched in 2015/16, and to claim for that year, you have to do it by Sun 5 Apr - if not, you lose £212. Full help, incl how to claim, in our MTA guide.

    As Vincent emailed:"Thanks MSE. At long last, I listened and put in an MTA claim - just received a cheque from HMRC for £899."

  • Had a PPI payout since 6 April 2015? You could be due £1,000s in tax back - but go quick. With successful PPI reclaims, you don't just get what you paid back, you also get 'statutory interest' on top (to put you back into the position you would have been in). This element automatically has 20% tax taken off - and millions are due this back. Full help in Martin's Reclaim PPI tax blog, yet in brief, what you're due back depends on when the payout came.

    - Last chancePayouts received 6 Apr 15 to 5 Apr 16:
     Here only non-taxpayers are entitled to reclaim, and as you can only claim back four tax years, you have to do it by this 5 April.
     
    - Payouts from 6 Apr 2016 - almost everyone is due: 
    This is when the personal savings allowance started, allowing basic-rate taxpayers to earn £1,000 interest a year tax-free (higher rate, £500). The PPI statutory interest counts towards this, so around 95% of people needn't pay tax (though if a big payout pushes you above the limit, you'lll pay some tax).
     
    This can be BIG money, as Jeff emailed: "Last week I received a PPI cheque for over £24,000. I've also just claimed over £2,000 in interest tax relief. Thank you ever so much."

  • First-time buyers, fill up your £4,000 Lifetime ISA allowance now - if you don't use it, you lose it. A Lifetime ISA can be opened by those aged 18-39 and gives first-time buyers using it towards a home a 25% bonus on everything they manage to save, capped at £1,000 per tax year.

    You can put in up to £4,000 per tax year, which means you've until 5 April (you can put in another £4,000 the next day). So if you can max it out, do. Full help and best buys in our Lifetime ISA guide (incl how it compares with Help to Buy ISAs).

  • Biggest stamp price rise for 8yrs on Mon 23 Mar - stock up now. A week on Monday, stamp prices jump from 70p to 76p for first class and 61p to 65p for second class - larger-letter stamp prices rise too 

    But stamps don't date, so as long as they say first or second class on them, buy them now and they are valid in perpetuity. You may as well stock up, even if it's just for Christmas cards for the next few Christmases. (And while for most we're talking pennies, one MoneySaver saved £100s bulk-buying stamps.)

  • Wear a uniform to work? Last chance to back-claim tax for some. If you wear a uniform to work and wash or repair it yourself, you might be due a tax refund. The amount you're able to claim tax relief on depends on your industry, but the standard flat-rate expense allowance for uniform maintenance this tax year is £60 - which means basic-rate taxpayers can claim £12 (20%), higher-rate payers £24 (40%).

    Again though, this can only be backdated four tax years, so if you're owed for 2015/16 you've only until 5 April to claim. For full help, see Free Uniform Tax Refund.

  • Regularly pay for prescriptions? Buy a prepay certificate now to beat the hikes. In Eng, the price of a single NHS prescription is going up by 15p (they're free in the rest of the UK).

    First check if you're eligible for free prescriptions (eg, if you're pregnant or had a baby in the last 12mths). If you're not, but typically get more than one prescription a month, you can save with an NHS prescription 'season ticket', which for a one-off fee covers all your prescriptions. The price of these is going up too, but get one before 1 April and it's £29.10 for 3mths or £104 for a year. We've previously found 100,000s of people can save by getting one.

While there's no deadline to act, we're also expecting price changes to many public sector bills. So do see our related guides on:

- Check and challenge your council tax: are you due a discount?
- Can you save £100s on your water bills?
- Should you be paying for the TV licence?

 
 

New. Cheapest Brit Gas deal since 2016 & existing custs can get it too, like MoneySaver Gary: 'Switched from Brit Gas to Brit Gas - saving £100 A MTH'


British Gas has relaunched its super-cheap tariff (sadly not prepay, nor N Ireland), and made it even cheaper. It's by far the cheapest tariff from any Big 6 supplier on typical use, and very close to being the market's all-round cheapest after MSE cashback. Only a few tiddlers with little or poor customer service feedback can beat it. Of course, we'd always suggest you do a whole of market comparison via our Cheap Energy Club, but for the many scared of switching or loyal to British Gas, this is an easy win.  

  • New. Cheapest Brit Gas since Oct 2016 - save an avg £340/yr on typical useThe dual-fuel only British Gas Energy Plus Protection Mar 2021v2 tariff costs a typical £814/yr after MSE cashback. That's compared with the £1,155/yr avg of the British Gas and other Big 6 standard tariffs. The rate is fixed for a year, so there'll be no price hikes (though what you pay can change with your usage).

    It's the same gas, same elec & same safety - and for British Gas customers, the same service. However it's far cheaper, 100% renewable elec (not gas) and gives 1yr's 'free' heating insurance. There are £60 early exit fees and smart meters are required (it'll install them for free if you don't have 'em already).

  • How can I get it? It's only available via comparison sites. So new and existing custs can use our British Gas link, which takes you through our energy club comparison AND gives you £25 dual-fuel cashback. It also allows you to see how it stacks up against other big name tariffs (as your exact savings depends on where you live and what you use) - do use our filters to see top customer service, green and other deals.

  • MoneySaver Gary saved £100/mth. Savings can be huge, as high energy user Gary emailed us about the previous version of this tariff (which wasn't even as cheap): "Hi, as a result of Martin's advice, we changed from British Gas to British Gas and saved £100/mth - reduced from £375/mth to £275/mth. In addition, I received free boiler, drainage and electrical cover. The drain blocked within our boundary last week and we utilised this and only had to pay the £60 excess. An added bonus to switching. Thank you."

  • Could this get even cheaper - what about MSE Big Switch energy events? That's always possible: things are unfolding rapidly as the world oil price has dropped. We're working hard to try to bring you one of our regular special energy deals next week or the week after - and we'd want to undercut this tariff. Yet while we've a few potentials, it's not in the bag, and with the situation changing at speed, there's nowt wrong with deciding you prefer a bird in the hand.
 

PayPal warning. Paying someone you don't know? DON'T use 'family & friends'. This seems to be a growing trend but can leave you dangerously unprotected. See PayPal warning.

Boots 90% off clearance - can you find a bargain? It's gone to max reduction on its Jan sale. Stock's extremely limited, but some have found hidden gems. Boots clearance

6 easy FREE drinks (soft & alcoholic) to claim in March, eg, beer, G&Ts & J2O juice. Claim them via apps and sign-ups. Free drinks (please be Drinkaware).

Mother's Day deals - incl mums eat 'free' & £25 for 100 couriered flowers. It's on Sun 22 Mar - see our Mother's Day round-up (which also includes 15% off canvasses code and a £1.60 personalised card) for how to treat mum without overspending.

Our Flybe help worked - many are now getting refunds. Many are being refunded after Flybe's collapse last week, as Ian emailed: "Filled out my bank's claims form for £165 flights - already had the full refund paid." See Flybe refund help. For Flybe staff, sadly facing an uncertain future, there's also general help in our Redundancy guide.

5,000 £50-off codes for Shark DuoClean cordless vacuum. MSE Blagged. We'd tell you a vacuum cleaner joke, but they always suck... So instead we'll remind you we've managed to grab a code that makes this mid-level cordless £200, the cheapest we've ever seen - plus it comes with a 5yr warranty. C. 5,000 left. Shark code

PS: Join us for Wednesday's Budget (at 12.30pm). Join us on MSE Twitter for key updates, or see Martin's Twitter live commentary for Budget translations (ie, when what the Chancellor says isn't what he means).

 
 

MARTIN'S WARNING TO ANYONE OVERDRAWN
This Sat HSBC, First Direct & M&S start charging around 40%. Within a month Barclays, NatWest, RBS, Santander, Lloyds & Halifax will follow

Cut your overdraft NOW - it's costlier than credit cards  

Overdrafts are the new danger debt - double the interest of high street credit cards. Last year the regulator, the FCA, ruled that from 6 April this year, all banks must replace daily/monthly fees with a single interest rate to improve transparency. It has succeeded - the new rates are transparently hideous. Yet it failed in its other aim, to boost competition. Almost every bank will now charge around 40%. Nationwide's rate changed in Nov - this week HSBC, First Direct & M&S do it, and the rest will roll out imminently. 

  • Winners & losers? The worst hit are those with large, authorised overdrafts of c.£600+, who could see costs double. Those who just occasionally dip into overdrafts, or only have small ones, will find this new system cheaper if they used to have daily fees. Those with unauthorised overdrafts (ie, bust your limit) will pay less, as banks can no longer charge more than they do for authorised overdrafts. See full bank-by-bank overdraft changes.   

  • SLASH OVERDRAFT COSTS TO 0%. Anyone overdrawn should look to lower the rate - then what you save can be used to clear the debt, and hopefully avoid you needing an overdraft again. Full help & eligibility criteria in 0% overdrafts, but here are 4 brief options:
     
    - Free £100 and £250 0% overdraft. Most accepted First Direct* customers get a £250 0% overdraft and a FREE £100. For overdrafts under £350, or those who just dip in, as the £100 clears some debt and the rest is interest-free, it's a winner. Above £250, you'll pay the 39.9% EAR variable interest from Sat. To get the free £100, you need to pay in £1,000+ within 3mths (you can always withdraw it the next day).

    - Larger 0% overdraft but only for a year. New Nationwide FlexDirect* switchers can get a year's 0% overdraft (39.9% EAR variable after). The limit depends on your credit score, but it can be largeUse the year to clear the debt.

     Shift to a 0% money transfer card. Special 0% money transfer cards will pay possibly £1,000s into your bank account to clear the overdraft, so you owe them instead at 0%. As it's easy to get wrong, click the link for full info.

    - Cheapest standard overdrafts. Two app-based banks may offer cheaper standard overdraft rates. Starling* is 15% to 35% EAR variable, Monzo* 19% to 39%, depending on your credit history. While not 0%, the cheaper rates can cut costs for those on larger overdrafts. You can check if you're likely to be accepted before applying.

  • What if I can't get 0% and costs are a nightmare? After I and others lobbied, the FCA recently wrote to banks asking 'why are you all charging the same' and telling firms to take 'positive steps' to help customers left worse off. This likely sets up a standard industry practice, meaning the ombudsman can rule on it if banks don't follow it. So ask your bank for help, especially if the change contributes to financial hardship, as it should consider offering alternatives (eg, waiving interest or cheaper loans) and if not, take it to the ombudsman. See how to talk to your bank incl template letters.

  •  7 quick overdraft cutting tips. It's not just about making it cheaper, you need to manage your overdraft.

    1) Aim to repay a fixed amount each month. Treat it like any other debt to be repaid. Eg, if you're £500 overdrawn, 'paying' £100 means next month aim to be £400 overdrawn. Doing a budget will help.
    2) Got other debts? Prioritise paying off the most expensive first. Eg, if the overdraft is, as is likely, costlier than credit cards, repay the minimum on those and use spare cash to lower overdrafts. See which debts to pay first.
    3) Consider moving direct debits to just before, not after, payday. You'll be overdrawn for less time, so costs are lower.
    4) Got savings? Don't be afraid to use them to clear your overdraft. See Repay debt with savings?
    5) Struggle to control spending? Consider shifting to a non-overdraft account. See Basic Bank Accounts.
    6) Can you reclaim past bank charges? If charges caused hardship, you may be able to reclaim them.
    7) Struggling with multiple debts? Get non-profit debt counselling help from Citizens Advice, National Debtline or StepChange. It can make a huge difference. Full info in Debt Help.
 

News. Virgin Money cuts overseas debit card fees to tie with Starling as top pick for spending abroad. Full info and best buys in our Top Overseas Spending Cards guide. 

£20 for prescription specs AND sunnies. MSE Blagged. Via code until Mon. If you don't need sunnies, you can just get two pairs of specs for £15. Spec-tacular

FREE solicitor-drafted wills if you're 55+ (norm £150+). Book now to avoid missing out. We told you a couple of weeks ago that March is Free Wills Month in many areas across the UK - so get your skates on, as we're told around half of appointments have already been booked. See Free Wills Month for full info.

M&S up to 50% off sale, eg, £7.50 skirt, £10 kids' padded coat. Incl women's, men's and kids' clothing plus home and beauty. See what we've spotted in the M&S sale.

MoneySaving for dog owners - incl how to buy/adopt, plus save on food, vets' bills etc. As it's just been Crufts, now's a great time to bone up on canine cost-cutting. Of course, caring for a dog is about love more than owt else, but pets come with a financial responsibility - and we can help with that. See our guide for paw-some savings.

 
 

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

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*
  2. Confused.com*
  3. Compare The Market*
  4. Gocompare*

Then check insurers they miss: 
Direct Line*
Aviva*

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 £12.83/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent:
 Shell equiv £15.49/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: 
TalkTalk equiv £16.68/mth 

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

Top easy access: Yorkshire Building Society 1.32%, min £100 (with restrictions) or Cynergy Bank 1.31%, min £1 (truly easy access)
Top one-year fix: 
Ford Money 1.55%, min £500

 

Ends Tue 17 Mar. Get £40 cashback on the top credit (re)build card - spend on it and repay IN FULL to boost your credit score...

When you apply for credit, lenders try to predict your future repayment behaviour based on your past. If you've a poor history or no history, you're often rejected (but you can check if you'll be accepted before applying using our eligibility calculators). An easy way to boost your credit score is to prove you can be a good credit citizen, but for that you need credit, which is a catch-22. Yet a few specialist, easy-to-get 'bad credit' cards are useful not for borrowing, but as a way of building up a good credit history. Here's what you need to know...

  • How to use a card to (re)build your credit. Whether on an existing or new card, do normal spending of say £50-£100/mth on the card, NEVER withdraw cash, NEVER miss a repayment, NEVER bust your limit and after a year or so you should see your credit acceptances start to improve (unless you have credit issues elsewhere). Repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest costs, as credit rebuild cards have high rates.
  • The top credit (re)build cards. If you haven't a card to use and have a poor credit score, you'll need a specialist 'bad credit' card (our Credit (Re)build Eligibility Calc shows what you can get). Even better, some reward you too...

     - Ends Tue. Earn £40 cashback to rebuild your credit: Accepted new Barclaycard Forward (eligibility calc / apply*) cardholders get £10 credited to their account every 3mths for a year (so max £40) if they spend on it at least once every 3mths, stay within their credit limit and make at least the min repayment on time every month (though repay IN FULL or you're charged a HUGE 34.9% rep APR interest). There is a 3mth 0% spending period (but for rebuilding your credit we'd just ignore that and carry on as normal).

    - Earn Clubcard points: Tesco's Foundation card (eligibility calc / apply*) gives 1 Clubcard point per £4 spent on almost everything at Tesco and 1 point per £8 spent elsewhere (though it's not an excuse to overspend). Repay in full each month to avoid the 27.5% rep APR interest.

    - £20 Amazon voucher: Amazon's Classic card (apply) gives a £20 Amazon voucher on acceptance. However, sadly this isn't in our eligibility calc. If you get it, repay IN FULL each month otherwise the rep APR is a horrid 29.9%. 

Full help and more card options in Credit Cards For Bad Credit (APR Examples).

 

Earn £15 Amazon/M&S vouchers doing quick online surveys. MSE Blagged. This is popular with MoneySavers. You're paid to fill in surveys, watch videos and do online searches. And newbies to Swagbucks can bag a bonus.

BROADBAND HAGGLING SUCCESS OF THE WEEK:
"I have a broadband, TV & phone package with Virgin but started to feel ripped off. I saved £218 for the next year with just one haggling call. Thanks MSE." 
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

 

THIS WEEK'S POLL

What do you buy second-hand? It's cheap and environmentally friendly, yet some people think only new will do. Which items would you be happy to buy second-hand?

Only half of MoneySavers have a will. Last week, we asked if you have a will and if not, why not. Only 50% of the 3,415 who voted said they do - and of those, almost a quarter admitted theirs isn't up to date. The most common reasons for being will-less were simply "not knowing where to start" and "not getting round to it". See full poll results.

 
 

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should I tell my partner I'm contributing more to our holidays? My partner and I enjoy travelling. I tend to book and pay for everything, and my partner pays me back for their 'half'. I earn roughly twice as much, so usually split costs 70/30 without them knowing, as this means we can travel more throughout the year. I feel I'm being dishonest - but nobody is getting hurt. Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I tell my partner I'm contributing more to our hols? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

THE QUICKIES

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget
- Competitions thread of the week: Win a £950 Outwell Avondale 5PA inflatable family tent bundle
- Old-Style board thread of the week: No kitchen to cook in, help
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Finding your family history
- Discussion of the week: How much cash do you still use and how (card) light is your wallet?

 

Boots - 90% off clearance. Can you find a bargain?
M&S - Up to 50% off sale, eg, £7.50 skirt, £10 kids' coat
Free drinks - Incl beer, G&Ts, J2O juice
Glasses Direct - £20 prescription specs AND sunnies
Swagbucks - Earn £15 Amazon/M&S vchs doing surveys

Gifts - Eg, £80ish Ciaté eye collection for £23 all-in
Cards - Eg, personalised A5 photo card £1.59 delivered
Free gift cheques - Spoil mum with free printable vouchers
Couriered flowers - Eg, bouquets £17 delivered via code
Restaurant deals - Mums eat 'free' at Toby Carvery etc

Baileys - £12 1L bottles (norm £20) at Tesco
ShopDisney - 20% off full-price items online via code
No7 - £75ish skincare products for £35ish
Pizza Hut - 20% off for students, Sun-Thu
London theatre - £15-£35 West End tix. Ends Sun

Quick Forum Tips

Reebok Outlet up to 50% off. 'bok the trend
Free Little Dish stickers & bookmarks. Mark my words
Tesco large Easter eggs half price.Eggstremely good value

 
 

MARTIN'S APPEARANCES (WED 11 MAR ONWARDS)

Wed 11 Mar - Various on the Budget from Westminster
Thu 12 Mar 
- Good Morning Britain, ITV, 7.45am
Thu 12 Mar 
- This Morning, ITV, 10am
Mon 16 Mar - This Morning, ITV, 10.55am
Mon 16 Mar - BBC Radio 5 Live, 12.20pm

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES (SUBJECTS TBC)

Wed 11 Mar - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm, Oli Townsend
Fri 13 Mar
 
- BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am, Oli Townsend
Mon 16 Mar
 
- TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am, Oli Townsend
Mon 16 Mar
 
- BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 5.45pm
Tue 17 Mar
 
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm

 

YOUR FAVOURITE SONG - A NEW WEAPON IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORONAVIRUS?

That's it for this week, but before we go... the NHS says a key way to stop the spread of coronavirus is to wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing 'Happy Birthday' twice - ie, at least 20 seconds. But if that song's wearing thin, try using the fun Wash Your Lyrics site instead, which has drawn praise this week from none other than the Health Secretary. It generates a helpful hand-washing poster with the lyrics to any song you choose - handy for knowing just when during TLC's 'No Scrubs' you can step away from the sink, or how long you need to endure the kids chanting 'Baby Shark'...

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team