Dec
23
2020

Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

23 December 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl... Xmas refunds, hidden Amzn discounts, 29mths 0% + £20, 14p veg, Boxing Day sales on now, ‘£18’ FAST Virgin b’band, 50% savings boost, track Santa, travel goodies & baddies

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How to rescue Christmas (financially, at least) - incl train refunds, holiday rights, last chance food & drink deals and board games you can play online


Sadly, for millions of people Christmas has been dramatically transformed at short notice. With a series of tighter restrictions in place, many have had to cancel or curtail family visits, axe holidays, or rethink last-minute shopping. While we can't help bring the full Christmas experience back, we can help prevent the turmoil making too big a dent on your finances, and remind you of some seasonal tips that can help if you're scrambling to change your Christmas plans. Here are the key helpers...

  • You can claim a full refund for many Christmas trains if you can't travel. As millions have been forced to cancel trips to see friends and family, the Government has said you can get a full refund on many train tickets in Eng, Scot and Wales if you meet the conditions below and usually if you claim within 28 days of the trip:

    - Eng/Wales: With all the major operators we checked with, if any part of the journey is in those countries, and you booked the ticket from 24 Nov-19 Dec for travel from 23-27 Dec, you'll get a full refund. See how to claim in Eng/Wales.

    - Scot: If the journey is on ScotRail, you can get a full refund on any ticket for travel on or after 20 Dec. On all other major operators we checked with, the same rules as for Eng and Wales apply. See how to claim in Scot.

    - N Ireland: Sadly, unlike the rest of the UK there are no special mass refunds available. Usual policies apply which mean admin fees are charged on any refunds. See NI train reclaim for more help.

    If your trip does not meet the date requirements above, you'll revert to usual rules which can be tighter on how long you have to claim, and may force you to take a voucher, or get a refund but with an admin fee on top - full info in the links above.

  • You can also claim a refund for many unused coach tickets over Christmas (and possibly beyond). As with trains, the Government says you'll get a full refund on many trips in Eng, Scot and Wales. The country-specific rules are similar to trains above yet some firms have indicated they'll go further - eg, National Express says it may give refunds over a wider period but says this is on a "case-by-case basis". See coach refunds help.

  • Your rights if hit by holiday chaos amid travel bans and closed borders. Many in the UK are banned from travelling abroad, while 40+ countries, such as France, Canada, Germany, the Republic of Ireland and Italy, are restricting visitors from the UK, which has led to many airlines, train firms and ferry operators cancelling services.

    This is a very fluid situation, so we will be constantly updating our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide to take you through the main issues, both if you can't go, or if you or someone you know is struggling to get home due to border closures. Here are some of the key points we know so far:

    - If the airline, tour operator etc has cancelled your booking, you should be due a full refund. Some firms may still try to only give you a voucher, though. See my trip has been cancelled help.

    - If I'm banned from travelling away from my area, what are my refund options if my trip abroad is going ahead? Many firms are offering refunds, letting you move the trip or swapping the ticket for a voucher if you tell it you can't go - see our firm-by-firm analysis. If you can't get a refund and there's no flexibility, try your travel insurer, but most policies do NOT cover Covid-related disruption - see travel insurance help.

    - If I was due to go away to a part of the UK which I'm now not allowed to travel into, will I be refunded? 
    Some providers have said they'll give refunds, and the Competition and Markets Authority says you should get your money back, but we're still doing lots of checks on more firms' policies. For the latest, see lockdown UK accommodation rights.

  • Where to find cheap food such as 14p veg and £3.50 chocs if you suddenly need to make Christmas dinner. Millions who had planned to have Christmas elsewhere may now be scrambling to get the essentials for Fri, while some may have left it to the last minute anyway. Regardless, we've rounded up the cheapest Christmas food deals, though you'll almost always need to go to a store, as available delivery slots are almost impossible to find.

    Of course, given the time of year and uncertainty over supply chains, we can't be certain what stock will be available at supermarkets - local stores may be a better option if you just need essentials.

  • If you want a Christmas tipple, there's £5 prosecco and £10 champagne. On a similar theme to food, you may also be rushing to get booze in for the big day (or beyond) if you'd originally planned to be elsewhere. See which supermarkets have the cheapest deals, but please be Drinkaware.

  • Need to post presents now? Sadly, it's unlikely they'll arrive by Christmas Day, but we can show you how to cut costs. If you can't visit friends and family, and you're in possession of presents you planned to give in person, you may want to post them as none of us can be certain when restrictions will end.

    We spoke to Royal Mail and some big couriers, which all told us that even if you paid for their fastest services, it's too late for Christmas Day - so you may want to warn recipients.

    But if you need to post something, as a general rule it's usually cheapest to use Royal Mail for lighter objects, such as socks and small beauty items. For heavier stuff, cheap courier firms usually win on price. Our Cheap UK Parcel Delivery guide has full help.

  • You can play Articulate, Cluedo and Exploding Kittens online - where to find the cheapest board games. Sadly, many won't be able to show off their Trivial Pursuit knowledge skills, Scrabble word prowess or Monopoly magic in person. Even if you are allowed to meet up, the Government advises against playing physical board games with anyone outside your household due to the risk of spreading coronavirus.

    However, many popular games are available online or to play over a video call. Our cheap board games round-up has all the top deals on physical and online board games, and info on which are easiest to play remotely.

  • What's free on TV? Eg, footie, Jurassic World and Succession. Great if you'll be even more glued to the box. Watching TV is a big deal during a normal Christmas, but with many Home Alone (which is also free) or simply having fewer people around, it may be an even bigger part of your ritual than usual.

    To help, our TV Tricks guide includes the big free streaming trials you could use (eg, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video), what free footie is on and what classics you'll find on Freeview.

  • Consider doing good by giving to charity if you're unable to buy presents. The sudden closure of some shops and the inability to personally give presents may have scuppered your plans. Yet given many end up buying unneeded tat anyway, why not embrace the spirit of charitable giving, whether personally or on someone else's behalf? Here are a few ideas:

    - Help feed the hungry for free with just one click.
    - Give to charity, with loads of ideas in our charity gift catalogue.
    - Foodbanks expect record demand, so see foodbank giving help.
    - Buy toys for kids who mightn't get a gift. See Christmas present appeal.

    And to wish you a Merry Christmas, we've practised what we preach and paid for tetanus vaccines for 20,000 children on your behalf via the charity Unicef.
 
 

DON'T believe the fake 'Martin Lewis' or 'MSE' ads
Lots of scam ads litter social media and even newspaper websites - some of these lie that we or Martin promote Bitcoin, binary trading etc. See Fake ads warning.

 

 
 

New. Shift debt to 29mths 0% (3% fee) and get a £20 Sainsbury's vch

Don't wait till after Christmas to sort credit or store card debt, especially with attractive new offers available

After weeks of top balance transfer deals being axed, there are some new deals to shout about, including Sainsbury's Bank launching the joint-longest 0% card which also comes with a £20 Sains vch. It's good news if you've card debt, as a balance transfer can save you £100s or £1,000s. With one, you get the new card to pay off balances on other cards, so you owe it instead, but at 0%, while all repayments clear the debt rather than servicing interest. The key is whether you'll be accepted, so go via our 0% Balance Transfer Eligibility Calc, which shows your acceptance chances for most top cards.

Top 0% new-cardholder balance transfer CREDIT cardS
Go for the lowest fee in the time you're sure you can repay - if unsure, play safe and go for the longest length
CARD 0% LENGTH & FEE (i) HOW GOOD IS IT?
New. Sainsbury's Bank*

Recommended: Check acceptance chances first

Sadly won't accept anyone self-employed
- Up to 29mths 0%
- 3% or 4% fee - min £3 (ii)
- £20 Sains vch if shifting £1k+
Joint-longest 0% + £20 Sainsbury's vch, but it's an 'up to'. Via our links (not direct), all accepted who transfer £1k+ within 30 days are emailed the £20 vch within 90 days. But poorer credit scorers may get 25mths or 21mths 0%, and/or a higher 4% fee. After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.

It beats TSB due to the £20 vch, but you risk a higher 4% fee, which would then only make it cheaper on £1k-£1.9k transfers.
TSB*
(not in eligibility calc)
- Up to 29mths 0%
- 2.95% fee
Joint-longest 0%, but an 'up to'. So some accepted get 26mths or 23mths 0% depending on credit score, which is still decent. After the 0%, it's 19.9% rep APR.
New. Virgin Money*

Recommended: Check acceptance chances first
- 26mths 0%
- 3% fee
Slightly shorter 0%, but a DEFINITE 26mths 0% if accepted. Unlike the cards above you've more certainty, so if you've a decent eligibility score it's a good option. After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
Santander*

Recommended: Check acceptance chances first
- 18mths 0%
- NO fee
Easy winner if you can clear it within 18mths. There's no fee and it's a DEFINITE 18mths 0% for all accepted, so if cleared in time, there's no cost. After the 0%, it's 18.9% rep APR.
Poor credit scorers: 
Fluid (iii)
- 9mths 0%
- 4% fee
Best if no others are likely to accept you. It's a DEFINITE 9mths 0% for all accepted, and you can use it for respite from interest, even if you've had a county court judgment 1yr+ ago or bankruptcy 18mths+ ago. But only shift what you can clear within 9mths, as after it's a huge 34.9% rep APR - unless your current card rate is higher.
(i) One-off fee as a percentage of amount shifted. (ii) You need to request the transfer at application to pay this, or you'll pay the fee charged at the point of request, which could be the same, more or less. (iii) Here, we're sending you to our eligibility calc, as Fluid has asked us to do so to reduce demand on it. Full info and options in Best Balance Transfers (APR Examples).


ALWAYS follow the Balance Transfer Golden Rules. Full explanation in Best Balance Transfers.

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) The balance transfer must usually be done within 30, 60 or 90 days to get the 0% and any vch - check your card.
e) You can't balance-transfer between two cards from the same banking group.

 

Secret Amazon discounts on returned (often unused) items, eg, £84 toddler's trike for £44, £250 off an HP laptop. There's a hidden part of the giant retailer's site many haven't heard of called Amazon Warehouse. MSE Debs recently found a super-cheap trike there which prompted us to remind you of the bargain hunter's dream in our updated Amazon Warehouse guide.

Ends Thu. 108Mb fibre (ie, MEGA-FAST) b'band AND line from Virgin for '£18.40/mth'. MSE Blagged. Till Thu, Virgin Media newbies can get this 108Mb-speed 18mth deal for £23.95/mth. With it, you're automatically given a £100 credit on the first bill (so you pay nothing for 4mths) and get 'free' weekend calls. Factor in the credit, and the price is equiv to £18.40/mth. As with many b'band providers, we've heard of service issues with Virgin, but if you want ultra-fast speeds at this sort of price there aren't many other options. Only 52% of homes can get Virgin, so the link takes you via our broadband comparison tool to check your eligibility, and from it you can check other deals.

Martin: 'This is why I set up a charity...' Do you or does someone close to you have mental health issues? If so, Martin asks you to take 2mins to read his latest blog. It's about what the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute does, how you could help by joining its research community - and how it may help you. Read "This is why I set up a charity".

New Govt first-time buyers' Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme. A reminder that last week the Govt launched a new scheme, where first-time buyers in England can get a new-build home with a 5% deposit. Full pros and cons in our Help to Buy Equity Loan guide.

Lastminute.com, Teletext Holidays and Ryanair among the worst in major new MSE Covid travel refunds survey - action's needed. See the full travel survey results, incl Martin's plea to regulators to protect passengers.

Eligible for a 50% bonus via Help to Save? 60,000+ have just got an avg £378 bonus - how it works. If you're on a low income and claim universal/tax credit, check if you're eligible for a Help to Save account. It lets you save up to £50/mth and, crucially, after 2yrs you get a 50% bonus of the max you had in it. You then get another 50% bonus two years later, though it's calculated slightly differently. In Dec, 60,000+ savers who had the account for two years got their first bonus, getting an average of £378 each. Full info and eligibility in Help to Save.

 
 

Boxing Day sales ON NOW - incl Asos, H&M, Kurt Geiger, Schuh. Plus we expect John Lewis, M&S and Boots to start soon

The sales season may be different this year - but here's what you need to know to bag a bargain 

As happens most years, so-called Boxing Day sales have started early. But discounts in some stores are deeper than ever this time as retailers seek to shift stock left unsold due to the pandemic. Of course, in many parts of the country, the traditional 'trip to the sales' isn't an option, but whether you're shopping online or in-store, here's what you need to know (or for speed, head straight to our Boxing Days sales round-up).

Before buying, always consider Martin's Money Mantras. Always ask yourself: Do I need it? Can I afford it? Have I checked prices elsewhere? If the answer is no to any of those questions, then DON'T BUY IT.

  • Huge sales on now - incl Asos up to 70% off, H&M up to 50% off, Kurt Geiger 50% off, Schuh up to 75% off. See our full Boxing Days sales round-up for the lowdown. To show how sales are different this year, Asos normally starts at up to 50% off and moves to 70% off after Christmas. This year, it's kicking off with up to 70% off. Similarly, the Schuh sale usually starts at up to 60% off, but this year it's begun with up to 75% off.

  • Our predictions for sales to come this week, incl Boots, John Lewis and M&S. For the full lowdown, see our Christmas Deals Predictor - where we've already got 84% correct.

  • Remember local retailers. By definition, we have to cover big chains' sales - we can't focus on the 10,000s of independent stores as we don't have the resources. Yet that doesn't mean big chains are best. And in such a tough year for retailers, it's worth supporting local stores if they are open and you're allowed to visit them - otherwise they may not be there in future. And if you can't get to a store, why not see if they're online, as many are?

  • Deliveries could take longer than usual. Huge demand for deliveries has led Royal Mail to warn of delays, and this is reflected on some retailers' websites too, so take expected arrival dates with a pinch of salt.
 

Track Santa as he delivers presents on Christmas Eve. Hop online or download free app to track Santa.

Furlough scheme extended till end of Apr. The state will cover up to 80% of wages, up to £2,500/mth, for employees on furlough for an extra month - see furlough explained. Plus small businesses have longer to apply for a bounce back loan.

Got an Amigo guarantor loan? It wants to limit mis-selling payouts to avoid going bust - what it means for you. See Amigo news.

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK:
"Thank you so much for your wonderfully informative Money Tips. I used the Benefit Calculator to check if my 85-yr-old mother was entitled to any help, and within 14 days she was awarded £65 in weekly housing benefit, backdated to September."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

 
 

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

Longest 0%: TSB up to 29mths 0%, 2.95% fee* (19.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: Santander 18mths 0% (check eligibility / apply*) (18.9% rep APR)

Cheap fix: Green Network Energy 12mth fix, save £170/yr
Cheapest big name fix: British Gas 13mth fix, save £132/yr
Want us to help you pick a tariff and switch you yearly? Try MSE Autoswitch

Savings include £25 MSE cashback. Assumes typical use vs price cap. Links go via Cheap Energy Club.

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

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

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Tesco Bank (check eligibilityapply*), 3.4% rep APR (1-3yrs)
Cheapest for £7.5k-£15k: 
Cahoot (check eligibilityapply*) or TSB (check eligibilityapply*), 2.8% rep APR

Standard b'band & line rent: Shell Energy equiv £15.83/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £17.74/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: Virgin Media equiv £18.40/mth

Free case of wine for switching + 2.02% interest: Virgin Money
1-3% cashback on bills: 
Santander 123 Lite

 

THIS WEEK'S POLL

How did you fare financially in 2020? Coronavirus has had a big impact on our finances - but it hasn't affected everyone equally. Many have struggled, but others have been able to pay down debts or save more than before. So with the year (finally) drawing to a close, tell us how your household finances have fared in this week's poll.

Smaller energy providers beat big names on service. Last week, more than 6,500 of you told us what you thought of your energy provider's customer service. Of the firms that received 100+ votes, big names such as E.on and British Gas languished near the bottom, with Scottish Power even taking the wooden spoon. Smaller, gas-only provider Zog Energy once again topped the charts. Check how your energy firm scored.

 
 

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Who should pay for my daughter's broken phone? I bought my 11-year-old daughter a mobile phone for £100, which I didn't get insured. She smashed the screen when she was at her dad's house. Should he pay to repair the phone, as it happened while my daughter was with him? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Who should pay for my daughter's broken phone? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

 

Cheap board game deals - Incl £13 Articulate and £15 Cluedo
Christmas food deals - Incl cheap chocs and supermarket veg
Christmas drink deals - Incl cheap bubbly. Pls be Drinkaware
Amazon Warehouse - Discounts for returned or warehouse items
Track Santa on Christmas Eve - Hop online or download free app

Cheap chocs - Incl £3.50 Quality Street, £4 Celebrations tubs
Cheap Christmas veg - Incl 14p/packet potatoes, sprouts, carrots etc
Tesco - £5 Bella Cucina Prosecco
Aldi - £9.95 Nicholas de Montbart Champagne
Virgin Wines - Six bottles of wine £30 delivered (red, white or mixed)

Asos - 'Up to 70% off' sale
H&M - 'Up to 50% off' sale
Ikea - 'Up to 50% off' winter sale
Nintendo - 'Up to 75% off' over 900 games
Zara - 'Up to 50% off' sale

Christmas gifts for a newborn? Wise men turn to MSE
Win a dinosaur Christmas children's book. T-rexcellent
Customise your cheesecake. Yule never guess how

 
 

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES

Fri 25 Dec - BBC Radio Shropshire, Mid-morning with Andy Martindale, from 10am, Guy Anker on present refund rights

 

CHRISTMAS DINNER ON THE BBQ?

That's all for this week, but before we go... disaster struck last Friday in MSE Becca's house as the oven broke - and it won't be fixed in time for Christmas. She's now planning to do Christmas dinner on the BBQ, but we wanted to know if you had any Christmas dinner rescue tips to help. Some of you have already told us about curry cooked near a fireplace, a turkey cooked one side at a time as half the oven didn't work and steaks on the BBQ. Let us know your unconventional Christmas dinner cooking stories on our Facebook post.

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