Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

18 March 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl... cheap Brit Gas, savers act now, cheap mortgages, Netflix hacks, cheapest EVER 4GB Sim, £5 off Amazon

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails
Hi - here are your latest deals, freebies, tricks and messages to help you save.


14 coronavirus money & travel need-to-knows
Martin: 'It's an unprecedented challenge to our health, economy, businesses, personal finance and way of life. Everyone needs to prepare'

Martin:For our nation, it's been a hard, anxious and upsetting week. While the primary concern is health, our financial wellbeing matters too.

Sadly, the question isn't whether the impact of the gradual shutdown across the UK will be devastating on businesses and personal finances - that's a given. The real unknown is how long it will last.

My eyes have wettened more than once, after contact from people panicked in dire straits - whether it's self-quarantined heart patients who can't get out to top up energy prepayment meters, or the desperation of a single mum, petrified as she can't afford to feed her child if schools are shut and she needs to stay at home to look after them.

Yet answers aren't easy. For the MSE team and I, it's been a constant, ongoing battle to get the info you need, and often when we do, it changes minutes later and we have to start again. I'm incredibly proud of the team - but we can't promise perfection at this time, and in some cases we have to deliver the horrid answer that there is no help.

However, we are committed to working (all at home) to try to answer the 1,000s of questions you've sent us. And we won't just focus on coronavirus, but continue helping in all our usual MoneySaving areas too.

We're constantly updating TWO KEY coronavirus guides

- The Coronavirus Financial Help & Rights guide.
- The Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

Yet for quick help, the team and I have prepared these 14 coronavirus need-to-knows. 

1) Three-month mortgage holidays & credit card forbearance are available for those who are struggling. If you may struggle to keep up with your bills and keep food on the table, speak to your bank. Most have said they'll offer forbearance (tolerance and help), plus on Tue evening just before we sent this email the Chancellor announced he'd got a 'forbearance commitment' from all of them.

- Mortgages & loans. All banks should offer those struggling a three-month holiday from mortgage payments (ie, deferring the payments by three months). This isn't underwritten by the Govt - it's offered by banks.

The impact on your credit score is currently unconfirmed. Yet, as even before this banks were offering something similar, and as most said it wouldn't affect your credit score (as they were 'agreed payment holidays'), we suspect that'll still be the case.

We'll be updating the exact position, including credit score impact & eligibility, as the info comes in, in our Lender-by-lender mortgage help.

- Credit cards. Most banks and card firms told us they will allow emergency credit limit increases, while some will offer repayment holidays and a few will waive fees for missed payments. For full info, credit score impact & eligibility, see Credit card lender-by-lender help.

2) Struggling to pay your rent? Urgently speak to your landlord. The Chancellor has sadly not yet announced direct help for renters, though he's hinted there may be more to come in the next couple of days.

This is a more difficult area, as it's often a relationship between two individuals, and landlords may be relying on the income just as much as you are. Explain your situation, and if necessary, ask if you can be allowed more time to pay your rent.

Remember, most landlords will struggle to get new tenants right now, so there's a common interest in keeping tenants in properties. Trying to come to a reasonable mutual arrangement helps both. The landlords' associations have encouraged them to show forbearance, so good communication is key. See Renters' help.

3) Employees are due statutory sick pay from day one. If you're employed and forced to 'self-isolate', whether sick or as a precaution, you are due at least statutory sick pay (some employers give more), though you need to earn on average at least £118/wk to be eligible.

The amount isn't generous though, at just £94/wk (Martin has been lobbying to change this). The claim is currently from the fourth day sick, but the Govt plans to make it from day one (the legislation hasn't kicked in yet, but when it does it'll be dated retrospectively from 13 Mar). This may well change when we hear more from the Chancellor. See Sick pay help.

4) The Foreign Office now advises against all but essential travel ANYWHERE outside UK - the key trigger for travel insurance. This has just happened -  it's initially for 30 days, though of course it may be extended. It means if you do have a trip booked in that time with most travel insurers (sadly not all) you are usually due a refund even if flights/hotels are still on. See our Coronavirus travel rights guide for more.

PS: Some insurers are snowed, and prioritising those travelling within the next 7 days - they're asking if you can wait to call, please do.

Martin: 'If you're in NEED of 0% credit - apply ASAP' 
"I've heard unconfirmed mutterings (though intuitively it makes sense) that credit card firms are already starting to tighten acceptance criteria - never mind the fact many people's incomes may be compromised. Therefore, if you need to cut existing debt costs via 0% balance transfers, do it ASAP.

New borrowing is trickier. Normally I'm anti-borrowing unless for one-off needed, planned, budgeted-for expenditure (in which case, use our Cheap Loans guide).

Right now though I'm torn. It's understandable that in these unprecedented times some may want access to a cheap borrowing facility just in case. In which case 0% credit cards will fulfil that, but please be incredibly careful - only use in dire emergency (if you get one, lock it away and pre-define the criteria you'll allow yourself to use it in)."

5) If your child's school closes you've a right to take time off work to look after them - but it may be UNPAID. While the Govt's so far decided against mass school closures, it's warned these may be necessary for up to 16 weeks. If this happens (or your childminder/nursery shuts), by law you can take a reasonable amount of time off to look after your kids.

But as you're not sick or self-isolating, you don't get sick pay, and you don't legally have a right to be paid for this time (we hope this may change in announcements the Chancellor's due to make over the next couple of days). Some employers will offer paid time off though, so check or see if you can take it as paid holiday. Info & updates in Childcare work rights.

6) Self-employed or freelance? You may be able to claim employment support allowance. If you are off work and not entitled to sick pay, you may be able to claim benefits - the primary one being the employment support allowance. But this is even less generous than statutory sick pay - just £73/wk. Again, it'll be available from the first day you're off (once the new legislation has kicked in).

We hope to hear the Chancellor announce improvements and more help in the next few days. All updates will be in our Help for the self-employed info.

7) Everyone struggling or likely to should check now if you're entitled to benefits. As well as the specific help available for coronavirus, it's important to check whether there is other help you may be eligible for. Use our free 10-min benefit check-up tool.

"I wanted to say something that's at odds with MSE's original founding motto - 'a company's job is to screw you, our job is to screw them back' (since then it's morphed to 'cutting your bills, fighting your corner').

Right now, even in our commercial relationships, we should try not to be adversarial. We want banks and firms to show people patience, compassion and forbearance. Yet equally, when our entire economy and way of life is under threat, we must try to return it.

Many firms are struggling to cope, change policies, or even just get their staff settled in new ways to work - so be patient. And for those who can afford it, even if you've a right to a full refund for a ticket, travel or more, if the firm is in a struggling sector and asks if you'll take vouchers instead, it's worth considering.

That may just be what stops that firm from collapsing and their staff from losing their jobs, which results in more money taken out of society and a vicious cycle. Of course, be mindful of how you'd be protected (eg, by your card provider) if it did go bust."

8) Concert, theatre or sporting event cancelled? You should usually get a refund. A succession of events big and small have been cancelled, from The Who's tour to the Grand National. If you bought tickets from an official seller, you should be entitled to a refund, though not necessarily booking or delivery fees - see Event refund helpThough as Martin says above, you may want to consider how hard you push for it, depending who the firm is.

9) Most banks will let you access fixed savings without penalty. Normally if you've locked cash away in a fixed-rate savings account, you have to pay a penalty to get it out before the fixed term's up. Yet at least eight banks have told us they'll waive penalties for those affected by the pandemic. See Savers bank-by-bank help.

It is worth noting though, with interest rates dropping, your money may well be locked away at a rate that's now impossible to get (see fix savings note below), so you should only do this if really needed.

10) Topping up prepaid energy may be difficult if self-isolating, but some firms will help. If you're self-isolating, those with a smart meter can top up remotely (via phone, app or online). If not and you have a trusted person who can help, let them take your key and card to the shop (it may need disinfecting first). 

Otherwise, some firms say they can help, eg, Bulb and EDF are able to post you a preloaded top-up card or key with emergency credit. Not all are so proactive though, see Energy firm-by-firm prepaid top-up help.

11) Sky and BT Sport are not currently offering refunds for sports services. If you've paid, sadly they've said there is no refund, even though live sport is now in effect cancelled (though Sky's just said it'll let you 'pause' your subscription). However, if you're out of contract you may want to use our Haggle with Sky & Haggle with BT guides to reduce your bills and cancel the service.

12) If you are (or may be) made redundant, know your rights and get a survival plan in place. Hard as it is to write, we are likely to see an increase in redundancies, and it is likely to be difficult for many to find alternative employment while the shutdown conditions are still on. You do have rights though. See our Redundancy survival plan.

13) Got a train season ticket? You can get a partial refund for a small admin fee. While you can't pause a train season ticket, many firms will let you cancel and get a refund for the rest of the time (based on the cheapest way you could've bought tickets for the travel you've had, plus typically a £10 admin fee). So check if cancelling and rebooking later will be cheaper.

14) You can no longer get new travel insurance to cover the coronavirus - and annual policies may not cover new bookings. If you have a holiday booked but no insurance, then it is too late. We don't know of any policies offering cover for coronavirus-caused cancellations and claims, and even if you have an annual policy, most are now excluding coronavirus cover for newly-booked trips.

If you've already booked a holiday and are affected, a growing number of airlines (incl BA, Easyjet and Ryanair) are also letting customers at least rebook trips, while hotels and car hire firms are also offering some flexibility, so check. See What individual holiday firms are offering.

That's the core info - again use our Coronavirus Financial Help and Coronavirus Travel Rights guides. Plus it's a good time to focus on general finances and do a Money Makeover.


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.



Last chance? Cheapest British Gas deal since 2016 - likely to be pulled soon. New AND existing custs can switch now and save £340/yr

With more people staying home, and money tighter than ever, managing energy bills is important. Last week we told you of a NO-BRAINER tariff for most existing British Gas customers. Similar past incarnations of this tariff were available for a couple of weeks, and while we've no confirmation, this'll likely be much the same - so if it's for you - for safety get on with it. For those not with British Gas, if you're looking for a cheap big name, this is in the game, but Scot Power's launched a slightly cheaper deal (though its service rating is poor). Some tiddler firms' tariffs also undercut it, by up to £30/yr on typical use - do a whole of market comparison to see.

PS: In these testing times, it's worth saying switching DOESN'T involve your supply being cut off, even for one second - all that changes is which firm bills you.

  • Urgent. Cheap British Gas 1yr fix - save an avg £340/yr on typical useThe dual-fuel only British Gas Energy Plus Protection Mar 2021v2 tariff (sadly not prepay or NI) costs a typical £814/yr after MSE cashback. That's compared with the £1,155/yr avg most people on British Gas and other Big 6 standard tariffs will pay from Apr. 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 and same safety - and for existing 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 'em for free if you don't have them 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 how much you use).

Cheapest 4GB Sim we've EVER seen - '£5.92/mth' (with unltd mins & texts). MSE Blagged. Mobile newbies to Plusnet* (uses EE network) pay £8/mth on a 1yr contract, but also get a £25 prepaid Mastercard - as good as cash - within 45 days of Sim activation, making this £5.92/mth equiv. For more, see Top Sims.

18 Netflix hacks - incl check if you can save up to £72/yr. Handy if stuck indoors with nowt to do. Netflix hacks

Free £5 off £25 Amazon code for some. See if you're eligible for free Amazon credit.

NEW. 31 FREE big-name games for your phone - incl Harry Potter, Mario, Sonic and The Sims. There are tons of free mobile games out there, yet not all of 'em are actually worth playing. MSE Sarah's rounded up some top-rated games, incl arcade classics and TV/film characters everyone's heard of. See her pick of the free big-name games.

20 'lucky dip' summer hanging basket plants for £7 delivered (norm £33). MSE Blagged. Incl fuchsia & petunia. 10,000 available. Thompson & Morgan


UK base rate cut to 0.25%: part 1 - help for savers
SAVINGS rates likely to tumble within days - you can LOCK IN 1.5% NOW

The Bank of England has undertaken extraordinary economic shock therapy, to try to fend off a coronavirus-driven downturn. It has cut the UK interest rates from 0.75% to 0.25%. Yet as NOT ALL BANKS HAVE FACTORED IN THE CUT, you may be able to get in ahead of the curve with fixed products, where once opened the rate is locked in. While there's always the slim chance rates may not fall (or even improve), fixing definitely gives you certainty.

Rates are changing constantly, so double-check after clicking. Our Top Savings guide is regularly updated. Remember, all savings we list have the full UK savings protection of up to £85,000 per person, per financial institution.

  • You can LOCK IN at a minimum 1.5%. With fixed savings, you lock your money away for a set time for a set rate - so only do it with money you're sure you won't need. Providers usually issue a set amount of each fix until they run out (eg, we'll offer this until we've attracted £10m of savings). As all the fixes here are still versions launched before the UK rate dropped, you can beat the rate cuts. Here are the top payers' AERs...

    - 1yr fixes: SmartSave 1.56% (min £10k), Shawbrook Bank 1.55% (£1k) or Investec 1.55% (£25k).
    - 2yr fixes: RCI Bank UK 1.65% (min £1k), Shawbrook Bank 1.64% (£1k) or app-only Atom Bank 1.6% (£50).
    - Longer fixes: Investec 1.8% 3yrs (min £25k), RCI Bank UK 1.75% 3yrs or 1.9% 5yrs (£1k).

    The longer you lock in for, the more the risk rates will rise, so your money's locked in at too low a rate. You can also get top fixed cash ISAs, but rates are lower, so only the few who've used their personal savings allowance should consider them.

  • Need access to your cash? Earn 1.3% with easy access (for now). Here you can put money in and withdraw whenever you want. Cynergy Bank pays 1.31% AER (min £1), while Goldman Sachs's Marcus* - which has consistently been near the top of the best buys for 18mths - pays 1.3% AER. These rates haven't moved since the base rate cut, but will likely drop soon - so monitor them, though hopefully they'll still be near-table toppers.
  • Save money monthly? LOCK IN 2.75% fixed. Regular savings accounts are for putting money aside each month. They pay higher interest, but generally on smaller sums for a short time.

    - Bank with First Direct, HSBC or M&S? Their customers can access linked 2.75% regular savings accounts, fixed for a year - you can put up to £250/mth in (£300/mth in First Direct). So open now and the rate is locked in.
    - 2% fixed for a year, or 2.5% variable. Anyone can open and put £500/mth in Coventry BS's 2.5% AER version. The rate's variable, but even if it drops 0.5 percentage points, it'd still be as high as Halifax's 2% AER (fixed for a year).

  • Earn 5% FIXED for a year on up to £2,500 with a current account. Nationwide FlexDirect* pays newbies 5% AER fixed in year one on up to £2,500, 1% AER variable after. You need to pay in £1,000+/mth (equiv to a £12,500/yr salary) and pass a credit check. And if you know a Nationwide customer, get them to refer you and you both get £100.

  • More ways to boost your savings
    - Got debts or a mortgage? Overpaying often beats saving. Pros and cons in Repay debts with savings.
    - Saving for a first home? Get £1,000s added by the state. See Top Lifetime ISAs.
    - Low income? Get a 50% savings boost via Help to Save. See Help to Save for those that qualify.
    - Should you invest instead? It's more risky than savings - see 
    Is investing right for me?

Last-min Mother's Day deals incl a personalised A5 photo card for £1.59 delivered. Plus free gift cheques (pledge to do something nice for mum), beauty gifts & more. Yes, it's THIS Sunday - see Mother's Day round-up.

£23 Ciaté eye make-up set (norm £80ish). MSE Blagged. Incl 18-piece eye shadow palette, eyeliner, highlighter and under-eye patches. 1,000 available. Ciaté

ENDS FRI. Cheap fibre broadband from Shell Energy - '£15.49/mth'. MSE Blagged. This 35Mb fibre deal for newbies to Shell Energy is £22.99/mth over a 12mth contract, but you get £90 bill credit within 3mths. Factor that in and it's an equiv £15.49/mth. Remember though, when switching broadband you may be offline for a few hours. See our Broadband Unbundled tool for lots more deals.

120 hay fever tablets for £2.75. Useful with spring nearly upon us. Cheap hay fever meds


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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*
  3. Compare The Market*
  4. Gocompare*

Then check insurers they miss:
Direct Line*

Admiral MultiCar (incl £70 Amazon vch. Ends Sun)

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: Plusnet equiv £12.74/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

UK base rate cut to 0.25%: part 2 - help for mortgage holders

MORTGAGE rates to drop - can you grab a cheap fix and save £1,000s?

The Bank of England rate cut aims to stimulate the economy - and while primarily targeted at businesses, many existing mortgage holders will see costs reduced too. The rates for new mortgages, including fixes, are likely to drop over the next week, so check to see if you can get a cheaper deal on your existing mortgage (many can via phone, no need to go in person). As Caroline tweeted: "@MartinSLewis thanks for the kick about mortgages, I've just saved almost £11,000 by changing to a fix for the next 7yrs." Here's key info...

  1. What's happening to my mortgage rate? Those on tracker rates will get the full 0.5% cut, worth very roughly £30/mth per £100,000 outstanding (our mortgage calc will show exact savings). Those on variable rates will see a cut, usually by the full amount - see our lender-by-lender rate cuts guide for amounts and timings. If you're on a fix, as the name suggests, your rate won't change during the fixed period. For those for whom the impact of coronavirus means they'll struggle to pay, as we explained in the coronavirus note above, 3mth mortgage holidays are possible.

  2. To see if you can save, first check your mortgage details (and ask your bank for its best deal). This info underpins all your decisions. If you don't know, find out...

    a) What's your mortgage's current rate? Plus monthly payments & outstanding debt.
    b) What type is it? A fix, tracker or standard variable rate? See fixes vs variables.
    c) When's your fix/tracker deal over? And what rate will it go to after?
    d) When must it all be repaid? What's the term, eg, in 10, 20, 25yrs?
    e) Are there early exit penalties if I switch? If so, these may mean it's not worth switching.
    f) What's your current loan-to-value (LTV)? This is the proportion of a home's value you will borrow, eg, £180k on a £200k home is 90% LTV. Generally each 5% lower your LTV is, down to 60%, the cheaper deals get. As it is based on your home's current value, if its value has risen this may help. Equally, if you've savings, using them to reduce your borrowing may help you get a better rate too. See loan-to-value help.

    If your rate's about to end, ask your existing lender what its best deals are. These can have low fees as you're not switching lenders - and it can set a benchmark for what to beat.

  3. How to find the cheapest deals. Use our mortgage comparison tool as a benchmark to see what's out there for your situation. Yet remember, the real key is what the best deal you'll be accepted for is - and in the current situation, it's possible lenders will tighten criteria further.

    This is dependent on your property type, credit history and lenders' affordability checks. These can be tough, which is why using a mortgage broker can work for many - as they have info that's not publicly available about which mortgages are likely to accept you (and can answer questions too).

  4. FREE 66-page printed remortgage guide to help. Grab a free printed copy or download a PDF of our Remortgage Guide 2020 - this will take you through decisions such as whether you should fix or not (the more you want certainty, the more you should hedge towards fixing, and fixing longer). There's also a First-Time Buyers' Guide.

  5. Use our range of calculators to do the numbers for you. We've different mortgage calculators to help you work out most things you need, including... Basic mortgage cost calc | Compare two mortgages | Compare fixed-rate mortgages Ditch your fix? | How much can I borrow?Mortgage overpayment calc

Extra 30% off Hot Diamonds outlet code, eg, £40 earrings for £20. MSE Blagged. Incl free delivery. Hot Diamonds

"Thanks for your info about the  marriage tax allowance . Did a simple online form and received £900."
( Send us yours  on this or any topic.)



Can your finances cope with the UK's gradual shutdown? We are entering a national period of self-isolation and a likely, coronavirus-driven, hopefully short-term recession. How well set up are you (and your family) FINANCIALLY to weather it?

MoneySavers are keenest on buying bicycles and cars second-hand. Last week, we asked what you'd be happy to buy second-hand - over 5,700 people voted. The items you were most likely to give a second home to included bicycles, cars, furniture, DVDs and video games. Very few were keen on the idea of second-hand underwear though... See the full second-hand poll results.



Should I pay my friend to stay with her? A school friend of 30 years has moved a three-hour drive away, to a large country house with holiday cottages. For her 40th birthday I've been asked to pay £150 to stay there for the weekend, but it seems wrong to have to pay my friend. Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I pay my friend to stay with her? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: What small DFW thing will you do w/c 16 March?
- Competitions thread of the week: Nintendo Switch and Animal Crossing: New Horizons game
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Eating out of the freezer and cupboards challenge
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Hospital bag for baby and me - what do we need?
- Discussion of the week: Old-Style coronavirus Covid-19 isolation support thread


Amazon - £5 off £25 code for some
Thompson & Morgan - 20 summer hanging basket plants for £7
Ciaté - £23 eye make-up set (norm £80ish)
Hot Diamonds - Extra 30% off outlet code & free delivery

Card - Personalised A5 card £1.59 delivered (ends 6pm Wed)
Free gift cheques - Pledge to do something nice for mum
Couriered flowers - Bouquets for £17 couriered via code

BritBox - EE customers get free six-month subscription
Glasses Direct - £20 for prescription specs AND sunnies
My-Picture - 15% off any personalised canvas code
Online supermarket savings - Coupon codes & cashback

Quick Forum Tips

Free downloadable school workbooks, years 1 & 2. Schooled
£10 off Clinique 'Moisture Surge' face cream, now £15. Face it
Matalan up to 70% off sale, eg, £7 dress. Dress code



Thu 19 Mar - The Martin Lewis Money Show - Coronavirus Special, ITV, 8.30pm
Mon 23 Mar - This Morning, ITV, 10.55am
Mon 23 Mar - BBC Radio 5 Live, Ask Martin Lewis, 12.20pm. Listen again


Wed 18 Mar - BBC Radio Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm
Fri 20 Mar
- BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am
Mon 23 Mar
- TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am, Oli Townsend
Mon 23 Mar
- BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 5.45pm
Tue 24 Mar
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



That's it for this week, but before we go... if you're feeling glum about the prospect of self-isolating, or just need a short break from all the worrying news coverage, here's something that'll hopefully lift your spirits for a minute. We asked MoneySavers how they and their communities are responding to the coronavirus crisis, and heard dozens of uplifting stories featuring random acts of kindness - from strangers leaving ginger nut biscuits on grateful neighbours' doorsteps, to medicine deliveries for elderly cats whose owners are in isolation. Have a read and share your own in our Reasons to be cheerful Facebook thread.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team