Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

25 March 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl... supermarkets latest, debt shift alert, free audiobooks, NHS freebies, Brit Gas deal ends?

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails
Plus... NHS freebies, Brit Gas deal ends?, M&S 70% off & lots more


Martin's coronavirus help & support update
19 new money need-to-knows for employees, the self-employed, those now home with kids, Sky Sports users, train tix holders & more

The UK sadly, rightly, importantly is shutting down. Apart from for necessary work, groceries, medical appointments, caring and once-daily exercise, we should all stay home. This has a mountainous and potentially catastrophic impact on people's livelihoods, income and finances.

Understandably, we're swamped with concerned questions. I had over 18,000 for my live 'ask me anything' show last week (it's back this Thur at 8.30pm on ITV - do watch or set the Betamax). Clearly we can't answer them all one-by-one, so instead the brilliant MSE team and I are flat out (in our homes) constantly updating our two help guides...

Things are changing constantly. We've seen a staggering number of announcements in the last week alone, each of which in normal times would be blockbuster news. To bring you up to speed, I'm going to briefly detail the NEW need-to-knows here, but use the guides for far more. 

The new coronavirus need-to-knows

1) SELF EMPLOYED/FREELANCE? Try to hold on - the support package should come this week. There's a real feeling of panic growing among the UK's self-employed. While there are some measures in place, they're simply not enough yet, so I've two important points...

a) I have it officially CONFIRMED the Govt is working on a further support package (some reports say it'll be as soon as Wed, but it'll almost certainly be by Fri). I don't know what it is, but suspect it'll be on a par with the 80% of your salary up to £2,500 for employees. So hold tight, and don't make any drastic decisions until that's announced.

For more, and for updates when we get news, see our self-employed coronavirus help including my video briefing.

b) Check the measures already in place to see if they can help, including deferring tax payments and claiming employment support allowance if you're sick. Plus crucially, don't dismiss universal credit (see below for why).

2) EMPLOYEES. Can't go to work or have no work to do? Ask your employer to 'furlough' you and Govt will cover 80% of your salary up to £2,500/mth. This is officially called the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, and it means employers can choose to put staff who can't work on 'furlough' (on hold) - and then the Govt will cover their salary.

Think of this like a job being put on standby. The idea is you go into sleeper mode during the crisis, and then when it's over, they can instantly restart things and get the economy running again at speed.

It's up to employers to decide and define who is furloughed. It could be because you've no work to do (eg, you work in a closed restaurant), or as you have to be at home to look after children or you're self-isolating.

The key thing to understand is the state is looking to support people. It wants this to be a broad sweep of support to gather people up. It's looking to embrace people who need it, not loophole them out. See our employee furlough info, including my 5min video briefing.

3) If you lost your job due to coronavirus, or were in the process of changing jobs, furlough may still be available. Before the furlough support was announced, many people were laid off by panicking firms. If that happened, speak to the firm - they are allowed to take you back on, to furlough you.

I got my job back - it's good to feel part of something
Last week, a friend, 'Alex' (details changed), was devastated to be laid off from a hospitality job she'd started just a month before. On Fri, when the furlough scheme was announced I called her up, and suggested she ask the firm to take her back.

She thought there was no point, but I explained that the Govt will pay 80% of her salary, and while the firm can - hopefully - top that up to 100%, it doesn't have to. So I suggested she just offer to receive 80% for now, and that she shows them the HMRC guidance to prove it.

It worked. Alex got her job back and as well as the financial relief, she told me: "It's good to feel part of something again."

Of course, this is up to employers, and so I'd urge all employers to do what you can - you're not playing fast and loose doing this, you're doing what's intended. Though of course there will always be the rare few who sadly don't get it or don't care.

4) Don't dismiss universal credit. The changes are bigger than you think - especially for housing costs. Universal credit is a benefit available to many who are employed, self-employed, unemployed or on low incomes (but usually not pensioners), provided you've less than £16,000 savings in your household.

Last week, most people focused on the '£1,000 more a year' increase, which of course is only £20/week, but that's just the standard allowance. The housing allowance - which can cover rent, mortgage interest and service charge - has been unfrozen, so payouts can be larger (owner-occupiers can get help via support for mortgage interest payments). For example, in one London borough, for a two-bed home the max was £1,390/mth, it could now be as high as £1,550/mth.

Overall, some may be eligible for £1,500+/mth, and as there's no tax taken off. That's getting close to the max furlough payment for employees.

I know many are scared of sanctions and are worried about universal credit, but the strong message I'm getting from the DWP right now is don't be scared, they want to provide support this way. For more help, read our coronavirus universal credit explained info and use our 10-min benefit check.

5) ZERO-HOURS CONTRACT? Help depends on how your contract is structured. If you're paid through a payroll, you could be eligible for help as a furloughed employee (if so, your salary may, we think, be based on your Feb income - though that's to be confirmed - and there may be wriggle room if that was a particularly bad month). Otherwise, you may be due self-employment help (we need to wait and see), and definitely check out universal credit information too.

6) Renters, you can't be evicted for 3mths, and landlords can get help too. As well as universal credit housing help, new rules mean landlords in Eng/Wales won't be able to start new eviction proceedings for at least the next 3mths, protecting private and social tenants - while in Scot, private and social landlords will have to give an increased 6mths' notice before taking steps to evict a tenant. We're still awaiting rules for NI.

Private landlords are also now eligible for a 3mth buy-to-let mortgage payment holiday if their tenants are experiencing financial difficulties. Technically they needn't pass this on to their tenants, but morally they should and most will, so speak to your landlord if you need help. See renters' help.

If your landlord doesn't have a mortgage, there's no help and they may be relying on your rent as their income. If so, and you're both struggling, try to find a way to "meet in the middle" and work through it together.

7) Now 5 major lenders let you apply for a mortgage payment holiday ONLINE. If you are struggling to pay your mortgage, lenders will allow you to take a break on paying for 3mths. Now many let you apply online, and some hear back in minutes. For full help, including exactly how mortgage holidays work, see our how to apply for a mortgage payment holiday info.

Please DON'T call banks or HMRC unless you're vulnerable or have urgent need - go online & end the 10hr waits
I'm not normally the person who sticks up for banks, but they're a priority service right now for many who face financial desperation. They've also had to rewrite decades of policies within days, and adapt their staff to new working conditions.

Unsurprisingly that means call centres are clogged up, and I even heard of 10hr phone queues. So please do everything you can online. If you need to call, do it when needed (eg, only ask for a mortgage holiday if your direct debit is due within 7 days). If not, let those with more pressing needs go first.

The same applies for HMRC and other helplines. This way, those who need help urgently get it quickly, and it protects the vulnerable who may not have online access.

8) The UK base rate was cut again, to 0.1% - the lowest in 325yrs. Check your mortgage rate and sort your savings. Those on trackers and variable rates should see their mortgage payment reduced (see mortgage lender-by-lender cuts) by about £40/mth per £100,000 of mortgage if you add both cuts in the last two weeks. For those free to remortgage, it is also worth checking if you can cut your mortgage cost.

Of course, things continue to be dire for those with savings, but act now to lock in better savings rates.

9) HSBC is giving £300 overdraft buffer - others may follow. Terrible timing means from Mon 6 Apr (earlier for some), regulation changes have resulted in almost all lenders charging about 40% EAR on overdrafts, nearly double high-street credit cards, making overdrafts the new danger debt. 

HSBC has said to help with coronavirus it'll automatically increase buffer zones (which let you go overdrawn interest-free) on its Bank and Advance accounts, from £25 to £300 for 3mths from Thu. I hope others will join, but if you're struggling, see our full overdraft coronavirus help. Also see help on loans and credit cards.

10) Energy bill help. Disconnections are suspended for custs of all providers - most are pushing back bill dates (and British Gas has confirmed it's removing late payment charges) for those struggling financially. We await to hear others' plans. (Also see Brit Gas cheapest deal since 2016 below).

If your energy bill is a struggle, see our full energy bill help, and if you're on prepay and worried about running out of credit while in self-isolation, see energy firm-by-firm prepaid top-up help.

11) Sky Sports customers CAN now pause their subscription. Subscribers to Sky Sports (though not BT Sport) can now pause Sky Sports payments while sport is suspended.

Scammers are vicious, immoral scum - it makes you weep
Low-life scammers are taking advantage of coronavirus to try to defraud people, especially the elderly and vulnerable. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau says it's already identified over 100 reports of fraud relating to coronavirus, with victims' losses totalling almost £1 million.

Classic scams include calling saying: "This is your bank, we're struggling due to coronavirus, so we need to move money to a new [scam] account." Spread the word. Be vigilant. See how to spot coronavirus scams. And if you need one-on-one support, go to Citizens Advice Scam Action.

12) Almost all train tickets are now refundable. Anyone with an advance ticket can now get a refund. Season ticket holders can get the unused portion of their ticket back but may have to pay a £10ish admin fee. See how to get a rail refund.

13) Shops are extending their returns policies. For example, H&M upped its from 28 to 100 days for items bought in-store and online, so you've time to get things back during lockdown. See who's extended return rights.

14) Struggling with council tax? Speak to your local authority. Some councils are offering forbearance, eg, Telford & Wrekin Council is letting residents defer Apr's and May's payments (though you'll have to make it up later in the year). See council tax holidays.

15) Contactless card limit increasing from £30 to £45 on 1 Apr. This is to reduce personal contact, though it may take some time to filter through to all retailers. Contactless limits often don't apply to mobile phone contactless payments. See contactless update.

16) Can't get to your MOT? Change possible this week. If your MOT runs out, and you can't get an MOT as the local test centre is closed/you're stuck self-isolating, currently the only option is to get a SORN and take your car off-road. We're expecting to hear a change this week, likely to soften this stance -updates in MOT help.

Don't be afraid to ask for or give help. We all need forbearance - this is a time for compromise.

No apology for repeating my call that forbearance must be the word of the moment. Both in its plain sense to be patient or forgiving, and its technical meaning not to enforce legal rights including debt repayment.

Individuals are struggling right now, with huge income shocks. If you run a business or are a landlord, please show forbearance, try to work through something that causes the least worst outcome for both, so we can all get through this.

Yet firms are struggling with income shocks too, and even the Govt is facing enormous logistical issues, changing decades-old policies and work practices in hours.

So we must try to show them (yes, even Govt - which ultimately is still politicians and civil servants, ie, people, working under great pressure) patience, compassion and forbearance too.

17) Life insurance & income protection should still cover coronavirus. Not nice to think of, but we've had many ask us if life insurance policies will still cover coronavirus. Yes (unless someone took one out while they had it). The same should be true with income protection policies. However, most critical illness policies won't define coronavirus as a critical illness. See insurance latest.

18) Package holiday or flight cancelled? You're due cash, not vouchers - but that could change. When package holidays or flights are cancelled, the rules state you're due a full refund. Yet many firms are currently trying to direct you towards taking vouchers. Of course, if you're happy with vouchers then take them, as we need to support travel firms right now - but if not, you are due cash.

Enforcing that is tough though, as it may need court action. Plus travel expert Simon Calder has reported that the Package Travel Regulations may soon be suspended, meaning you only get vouchers for package hols. Full help in our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

19) Water bill problems. Trade body Water UK is today announcing it is working with water firms to arrange payment breaks, payment holidays and more for those struggling. See water bill help.

That's it. Please stay safe, stay healthy, stay at home if you can, take care of each other, be forbearing - and try to find as many silver linings and smiles in this cloud as you can. Martin.


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.



URGENT. If you pay credit or store card interest, shift to a top new 0% credit card NOW as acceptance criteria are rapidly being tightened

There are still decent deals available. If you can repay quick: 18mths 0% NO FEE. For longer: 29mths 3% fee

Lenders are starting to severely tighten acceptance criteria due to the coronavirus financial crisis, so 0% cards will be more difficult to get. If you pay interest on existing credit or store card debt, we suggest you try to grab a 0% balance transfer now.

This is where you get a new credit card to pay off other credit or store cards, so you owe it instead but at 0% interest. This means more of your repayments clear the actual debt, so you get debt-free quicker (just don't borrow more), saving you £100s or £1,000s...

Important:  Some lenders ask that you go via our eligibility calc, not direct

We've agreed to remove direct links to most lenders from this email and instead direct people via our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calculator (for lenders that let you check eligibility). It shows your acceptance odds for most of the top cards, helping you to minimise applications and protect your credit score. Some lenders requested this so only those more likely to be accepted will actually click the 'apply' button, reducing demand and enquiry calls, as they're already over capacity and need to prioritise coronavirus help for vulnerable people.

 Go for LOWEST FEE (preferably NO FEE), in the time you're sure you can repay. Unsure? Play safe & go long
(apply via eligibility calc)
- DEFINITE 18mths 0%, if accepted
Winner if you can repay within 18mths. It's the market's longest open-to-all 0% with NO FEE, plus if accepted you definitely get the full 18mths. After the 0%, it's 18.9% rep APR.
PS: NatWest/RBS existing custs may get 20mths 0% on another card.
Sainsbury's Bank
(apply - no calc avail)
- 'Up to' 26mths 0%
- 1% fee (min £3) then 0.38% refunded within 60 days, so 0.62% fee
Long low fee, but an 'up to'. That means some get accepted but are offered fewer months at 0%. After the 0%, it's 20.9% rep APR.
Sainsbury's Bank
(apply - no calc avail)
- 'Up to' 29mths 0%
- 3% fee (min £3) but 0.26% refunded within 60 days, so 2.74% fee
Joint longest & lower fee, but an 'up to'. That means some get accepted but are offered fewer months at 0%. After the 0%, it's 19.9% rep APR.
Virgin Money
(apply via eligibility calc)
- DEFINITE 29mths 0%, if accepted
- 3% fee
Joint longest, and you get the full 29mths if accepted. But the fee is 26p per £100 more than Sainbury's above. After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.

Always follow the Balance Transfer Golden Rules. Full info in Best Balance Transfers (APR Examples).

a) Never miss the min monthly repayment, or you could lose the 0% deal and it'll cost far more.
b) Clear the card or balance-transfer again before the 0% ends, or the rate rockets to the higher APR.
c) Don't spend/withdraw cash. It usually isn't at the cheap rate and withdrawals hit your creditworthiness.
d) You must usually balance-transfer within 60 days to get the 0%, though for Sains you need to transfer at application.
e) You normally can't transfer a balance between two cards from the same bank (the case for all cards above).


NOW ENDED: British Gas has now pulled this tariff. We've left the info here for reference, but you can still do a full market comparison via our link. Cheapest British Gas deal since 2016, save £340/yr, NO-BRAINER for existing custs. The Brit Gas Plus Protection Mar 2021v2 saves those on Big 6 standard dual-fuel tariffs, including British Gas itself, around £340/yr based on typical use. Yet you CAN'T CALL AND GET IT, you must go via a comparison site (use our link and you get £25 MSE cashback too). The tariff's fixed so the rate you get is locked in for a year, and with so many at home, such cheap energy is important, but there's urgency as we think it may go at the end of the month as that's when BG tends to reprice. For those already with BG it's a no-brainer, for others you can see how it compares for you via the link.

Supermarket coronavirus latest - product restrictions, online orders and NHS/vulnerable customer priority times. See our supermarket-by-supermarket update.

NHS staff freebies & discounts. Many people, including us, want to say thank you to these lifesavers. There's FREE parking, hot drinks, razors and London bike rides. Plus 50% off takeaways. So we've compiled a compendium of NHS workers' deals.

Ends Wed. Martin's 'now £3m' to fund small charities' urgent coronavirus poverty relief. On Thu, MSE's chair promised to fund £1m in £5,000-£20,000 poverty relief grants (apps close Wed - pls inform any relevant charities) and to sort logistics for any with big pockets who want to join him. It looks like that may bring in another £1.1m, so Martin'll try to top it up to £3m. Full info/updates and how you can donate in ML Coronavirus Poverty Relief.

It's back. Cheapest Sim with UNLIMITED data, mins and texts we've EVER seen. MSE Blagged. If you're a big data gobbler, via our link only, newbies to Three* pay £16/mth on a 2yr deal. Or see Top Sims for more deals.

Home-schooling - FREE financial ed textbook for 14 to 16-year-olds and Student Loans Decoded. Use Martin's free financial ed textbook & teachers' pack, and for 6th formers, get them to watch Student Loans Decodedwhich again includes a teachers' pack.


8 things they've now made FREE online that you used to pay for - audiobooks, maths lessons, fitness classes, box sets and more

To help the millions of people having to stay home, many companies have made stuff free that you normally pay for, both for kids and grown-ups. We've done a round-up of some of the best online freebies - here are some headlines:

  1. Enjoy 100s of free Audible kids' audiobooks, incl Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland and The Secret GardenNorm £11-£15. Handy if you're struggling with home-schooling or entertaining the kids, as they're available for as long as schools are closed. See Audible Stories.

  2. Free workouts for 6 weeks with Chris HemsworthNorm £23/mth. The actor (aka Thor from the Marvel films), known for his ripped abs, has free high intensity (HIIT) and other online workout classes right now - see free fitness classes.

    PS: If the little 'uns are getting restless, they can join 100,000s doing the free Joe Wicks daily kids' fitness classes.

  3. Free meditation sessions created for the crisisNorm £50-£60/yr. The Headspace and Calm apps, which normally require a subscription, have both released free content to help with understandable stress and anxiety right now. Free meditation & mindfulness resources

  4. New free box sets to binge on via iPlayer, eg, Spooks, Wallander, French & Saunders and The Missing. Instead of Amazon, Apple, Netflix etc subscriptions. The iPlayer service is free for those with a TV licence anyway, and the BBC has added more box sets because of the demand, incl the quartet above. Free box sets

  5. Help kids learn with Carol Vorderman's popular maths school and the Sir Linkalot spelling app. Norm £2/wk-ish. See Free home-schooling.

  6. Free 3-month language course for kids from Rosetta Stone. Norm £50 for 3 mths. Incl French, German and Spanish. Free language courses

  7. Free ballet and opera broadcasts from the Royal Opera House. As its London venue is closed, it's bringing opera and ballet into people's homes, including Peter and the Wolf and Acis and Galatea. See free online opera performances.

  8. Free online guitar lessons for 3 months. Norm £10/mth. It's a great time to learn something new if you've extra time on your hands, and manufacturer Fender is offering free guitar classes.

    PS: It's not just music, there are a whole host of things you can learn for free at home, including computer coding, Open University courses, languages, cooking and more. See free online learning.

New. 7-day free trial of Disney+ streaming service, incl Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King & EVERY Pixar film. It launched this week, and you can try before you buy with a week's trial, but make sure you cancel if you don't want to continue or you'll be charged £6/mth. Disney+ free trial

11 cheap Kindle book hacks, including any book from the Harry Potter series for free. Great if you're stuck at home. See Kindle Hacks

M&S up to 70% off boost, Next 50% off & more sales - ONLINE ONLY, OF COURSE. See the latest shopping sales & codes.

Reclaim 21 years of lost music for free. If you've bought CDs or vinyl from Amazon, you're entitled to stream/download most of them for free back to 1999. Play it again, Sam


Tell your friends about us

They can get this email free every week



Longest 0%: Virgin Money 29mths 0%, 3% fee (21.9% 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*

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: 
Vodafone equiv £17.40/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: 
Vodafone equiv £18.40/mth

5% interest fixed for a year: Nationwide FlexDirect
1-3% cashback on bills: Santander 123 Lite

Top easy access: Virgin Money 1.31%, min £1 (with restrictions) or Marcus 1.3%, min £1 (truly easy-access)
Top one-year fix: 
Hampshire Trust Bank 1.55%, min £1,000


"Thanks for your encouragement. I haggled with Sky on my TV, broadband and landline contracts and have saved £300/yr."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)



Are you a leaseholder? Have your say on fire safety issues in your building. A group of MPs have launched an inquiry to understand the extent of dangerous cladding and other fire safety defects on residential buildings. They particularly want to know about the financial and/or emotional impact this has had on residents' lives. Take part in the committee's 10-minute survey to help inform the inquiry.



What are your favourite TV box sets? With most people sat at home, it's time to go box set bonkers. So the MSE team have picked their favourites - and now we want you to pick yours. What are your favourite TV box sets?

Most MoneySavers think their finances WILL cope with UK's coronavirus shutdown. Last week, we asked if you were well set up financially to weather the likely recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 7,000 voted and just over half said they were well set up to endure the crisis, and another third said they'd manage. But 43% of self-employed MoneySavers thought that they'd struggle. See the full shutdown poll results.



Should we keep paying childcare fees during the coronavirus outbreak? My children were in after-school childcare that has now closed. We've been asked to keep paying fees if we can, so the staff - who do a great job - still get paid. We can afford to, but I'm aware the Government has announced measures to support businesses and potentially pay wages, and I have a feeling the nursery owners aren't badly off. Should we keep paying? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should we keep paying childcare fees during the coronavirus outbreak? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: 2020 Frugal Living Challenge
- Competitions thread of the week: Win a 49" TV, soundbar, Blu-ray player and a Disney Frozen II bundle
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Love Food, Hate Waste 2020
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: What random acts of kindness have you seen amid the coronavirus outbreak?
- Discussion of the week: What TV box sets are you currently watching?


NHS freebies & discounts - Incl free parking, hot drinks etc
Disney+ - Free seven-day trial for its new streaming service
Cheap Kindle book hacks - Incl free Harry Potter
Reclaim lost music for free - Back to 1999 via Amazon

M&S - Up to 70% off boost
Next - At least 50% off
Matalan - 25% off womenswear and homeware (ends Wed)
H&M - Up to 70% off

WWE Network - Free streaming incl every WrestleMania
PS4 - 'Free' online games, eg, Sonic Forces
Swagbucks - Earn £15 Amazon vch doing online surveys
Theatre - Stream Broadway shows free for seven days

Quick Forum Tips

Free daily audio story read by David Walliams. Little Listen
The History of London free Kindle book. London's Calling
Newly-added items to Sainsbury's Tu sale. New for Tu



Wed 25 Mar - Good Morning Britain, ITV, 8.15am
Wed 25 Mar - LBC, Nick Ferrari, 9am
Thu 26 Mar - This Morning, ITV, 10am
Thu 26 Mar - The Martin Lewis Money Show - Coronavirus Special, ITV, 8.30pm
Sat 28 Mar - BBC Radio 4, Saturday Live, from 8.30am
On Demand - BBC Sounds, The Coronavirus Newscast (recorded Tue 24 Mar). Listen again


Wed 25 Mar - BBC Radio Wiltshire, Mid-Morning with Marie Lennon, 10.30am, Katie Watts
Mon 30 Mar - TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am, Oli Townsend
Mon 30 Mar
- BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 2.25pm



That's it for this week, but before we go... with schools now closed for the large majority of children, we asked MoneySavers for their top home-schooling tips during these unprecedented times. The key theme was not to get too worried about it - just do your best. Everyone is approaching it differently - some have a strict timetable and stick to it, others prefer an unstructured approach, including relaxed reading, trampolining in the sunshine, planting seeds and writing a diary. Check out our Top tips for home-schooling Facebook post to get some inspiration or share your own tips.

We hope you save some money, stay safe,
The MSE team