Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

06 January 2021

Over 50 ways to save, incl... lockdown must-knows, free £180 wine, 29mth 0%, beat Netflix hike?, new GHIC, Asos 80% off, £17 b'band, Virgin price hike, car insurance savings and more

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Martin: 16 things EVERYONE needs to know about lockdown finances

Includes furlough, payment holidays, self-employed help, savings, university rights, working-from-home tax back, renting, self-assessment and more...

Life right now has a chilling, and depressing, sense of deja vu. Most of the UK is again in a form of lockdown, but this time it's darker and colder. Physical and mental health is the prime concern, but tighter restrictions have a significant impact on livelihoods, income and finances too.

This time around at least, support mechanisms are already up and running. So I want to remind you of the key help, with links to more detailed info the team have diligently and hastily prepared. Even if they don't affect you, do take a few minutes to go through them, so you can spread word.

1. Schools are shut for most - employees can be furloughed to look after their children. If you can't work from home or can't go to work due to childcare responsibilities, we have confirmed it is legal (and desirable), though not compulsory, for employers to furlough you. See furlough for childcare for more help. More on furlough below, as well as help for the self-employed with parental responsibilities.

If you can't be furloughed, legally you've the right to take time off if needed to look after a dependant, but sadly you don't have a right to be paid for this time. 

PS: Schools can apply for laptops and wireless internet routers for children not online.

2. To be furloughed you need to have been on your employer's payroll by 30 Oct - it applies to zero-hours and agency workers too. A year ago furlough didn't exist - now everyone knows it's where the state funds the wages of employees who have no work or can't work. Furlough is currently set to last until 30 Apr. It covers 80% of an employee's salary, up to £2,500/mth. 

Most private employers can furlough staff including part-time, zero-hours and agency workers, and more. Yet it is totally at their discretion; you can't force them. To qualify you need to have been on the 'Real Time Information payroll submission' your employer sent to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on or before 30 Oct (at the moment I've heard nowt about that date moving). Detailed help in how furlough works

3. Furlough is flexible - it can be for as little as an hour a week. You don't have to be on furlough full-time. If work has reduced but not totally dried up, or you can do some work while caring for your child, you can be furloughed part-time, with hours changing weekly. You get the 80% of your pay for that period and full pay from your employer for time worked. See how flexible furlough works.

4. The self-employed with a biz due to suffer a significant profit reduction (incl due to parental responsibilities) may get up to £7,500. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant 3 can be applied for until 29 Jan. The SEISS eligibility criteria are, briefly, that you must have filed a tax return for 2018/19, have an avg trading profit of less than £50,000/yr, and 50%+ of your income must be from self-employment.

If you qualify, lockdown or other recent tier changes may have triggered the ability for you to apply. This involves declaring that, between 1 Nov 2020 and 31 Jan 2021, you've a reasonable belief of a significant Covid-related trading-profits reduction due to either:

a) You're temporarily unable to trade due to lockdown, parental/caring responsibilities, or instructions to shield/self-isolate (excl going abroad).
b) You've had lower demand, activity or capacity (eg, fewer customers, cancelled contracts, supply chain issues). See our full what counts for the SEISS declaration help.

5. Required to work from home, even for one day, since 6 Apr? Join the 1.4m+ who have claimed a year's tax relief. I've been shouting about this here and on my show since Oct, and my claim work-from-home tax back blog's been viewed an incredible 6.6m times since. The rebate is worth £60 or £125 and HMRC told us last week about 1.4m had claimed. It's usually a doddle to do. 

PS: Doing self-assessment for 2019/20? If you worked from home last March, you can claim for that too on your form, via the 'other expenses and capital allowances' box - more info in the blog.

6. Payment holidays for mortgages, cards, loans, car finance etc available until 31 Mar. Those struggling financially due to Covid who haven't had a payment holiday can near-automatically get one for 3mths, then another after 3mths. Those who have already had one can do it for up to a total 6mths. For more, see my Should you take a payment holiday? blog. Here are the deadlines and links to more info...

- Until 31 Jan: £500 0% overdrafts (only a few banks incl Lloyds, Halifax, Santander are doing this, as the regulator no longer requires it)
- Until 31 Mar: Mortgage payment holidays (home repossessions are currently banned until 31 Jan - that may be extended)
- Until 31 Mar: Credit & store cards, personal loans & catalogue debt
- Until 31 Mar: Car finance (PCP, lease, HP), pawnbroking, buy-now-pay-later & rent to own, payday loans (interest & payment hols)
- Until 20 Apr: Individual voluntary arrangements 

If you've already had 6mths of payment holidays, you'll be put on to "tailored support" - ie, it's up to providers to try to find a way to help you.

7. Interest rate cut more likely - consider locking in fixed savings. According to investment platform AJ Bell, the lockdown means markets are now pricing in the odds of a UK interest rate cut this year at 50%, and for it to stay as now at 50% (before lockdown it was 30%/70%). Of course the UK base rate is already at a historically low 0.1%, so that could mean rates cut to zero or even negative.  

To stave that off, while top fixed-rate savings are low too, at least the rate is locked in so once you get it, it can't drop further. It's worth considering for money you don't need access to but can't risk by investing.

8. Universal credit is the catch-all help - don't dismiss it. Universal credit is a benefit available to many employed, self-employed and unemployed people or those on low incomes, whether furloughed, getting SEISS or not. See our Covid universal credit help. Many dismiss it, but while it's not perfect it may help.

At the top end, including housing allowances it can be worth £1,500/mth tax-free. So if you're struggling, check if you're eligible - use our 10-min Benefits Check tool to see. Though those with savings above £6,000 get less (rightly or wrongly - you're expected to then support yourself more).

9. Most uni students should 'stay where you are' - what does this mean for accommodation and tuition fees? With a few exceptions, such as medical, vet and teaching courses, most UK students - even some on practical courses - are being advised against physically returning to university for now.

Sadly there is no automatic refund entitlement for accommodation costs, though even before this week in Eng and Scot, some unis told us they were offering rent refunds or discounts. With private renting it's even more difficult. See uni accommodation Covid refund help for more.

As for tuition fees, the Govt says the fact teaching is online does not mean you're due a refund, as long as the quality is there (some lawyers may argue different). Many unis are struggling financially and logistically right now too. Last Sept I did a video on tuition fee refund rights if teaching's now online, most of which still stands.

10. Renters who need help, speak to your landlord. Landlords and tenants may be financially hurting due to the pandemic, so forbearance, tolerance and meeting in the middle is best for both.

Many landlords with mortgages can get a payment holiday if their tenants are struggling to pay - so have the conversation. Yet tenants don't have a right to a rental holiday as mortgage holders do. See renters' Covid help for more.

Evictions in Eng/Wales are currently banned until Monday - let's hope common sense prevails and it'll be extended. Updates in rental help.

11. No news for those excluded, but I'm hopeful for SEISS 4. Up to 2.9m people have been excluded from furlough or SEISS, including PAYE freelancers, ltd company directors, new-starter self-employed and more - personally, as I told the Treasury Committee, I believe this is a short-sighted mistake.

I've no update, but do think SEISS grant 4 may now be tweaked to include more people, strengthening the reasons I first explained in my A glimmer of hope for excluded self-employed blog last Nov.

12. Don't miss the 31 Jan self-assessment deadline - incl for making past delayed payments. If you've been asked to do a self-assessment form for the 2019/20 tax year (normally self-employed/higher incomes/complex affairs) then the deadline as normal is 31 Jan online.

Last year the Govt allowed people to delay their advance payment due on 31 Jul 2020 by 6mths. This ends on 31 Jan, and isn't being extended, yet speak to HMRC and you may be able to agree a separate repayment plan. See full self-assessment help.

13. Bounce back loans can be used to replace lost income for the self-employed. These loans allow small biz owners to borrow up to £50,000, interest and repayment-free for the first 12mths. For those who can't get other support, in some circumstances they can be used to replace lost personal income. Full help in our Bounce Back Loans guide.

14. Holidays are now banned for those across much of the UK - can you get a refund? Given for Eng/Scot/Wales (not NI) leisure travel is illegal, the competition watchdog says you should usually be due a full refund, but in practice it can be tricky to enforce in some cases. We've full help in our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

15. You can still move home, get an MOT and go to the dentist, but driving tests are cancelled. Some activities aren't restricted this time round. In all UK nations you can still go to the dentist, get an MOT done, view a property and move home. See our Coronavirus Life in Lockdown guide for much more. Driving tests are suspended though (except motorcycle tests in NI), but you will get a refund. 

16. New business grants (Eng) for retail, leisure, hospitality and others. Biz finance isn't my or MSE's bag. Yet it has just been announced that there's to be: a) one-off top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses up to £9,000 per property, and b) a £594m discretionary fund for other businesses. The Federation of Small Businesses has info, and it says it'll add more.

All the latest updates & info goes in our constantly updated, detailed Covid help guides on Finance & bills | Employees | Self-employed & ltd companies | Lockdown life | Benefits | Travel

My lockdown financial survival guide
We're back 8.30pm Thu, ITV - Martin's Money Show LIVE

We're back after a few weeks off, and no surprise my big briefing will be on the latest coronavirus financial help. Plus loads of up-to-the-minute key info to cut costs in the week's crucial financial briefing.

And as for the rest, that's up to you - you can tweet suggested questions on owt you like to @MartinSLewis, but pls use the show's hashtag #MartinLewis. Do tune in or set the Betamax.


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 top debt shift deals, eg, up to 29mths 0% & £20ish on top

If you can't afford to clear your card debt, you can't afford not to try to shift it to 0%

Don't wait for January's possibly scary credit and store card statements to drop. If you pay interest, a key tool to cut costs is a balance transfer - where you get a new credit card to repay old cards, so you owe it instead, but at 0%. That gets you debt-free quicker as repayments clear the actual debt, rather than cover interest. Yet DON'T JUST APPLY - first find which cards you're likely to get (especially important as acceptance criteria are tightening) using our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calc. That'll show your acceptance odds, helping minimise applications and protect your credit score. There are two new deals, here's how they fit in...

Go for the LOWEST FEE (incl cashback) in the 0% period you're sure you can repay in. Unsure? Play safe & go long
New. Barclaycard*
Recommended: Check acceptance chances first
- 15mths 0%.
- £20 cashback if shifting £2,500+ within first 60 days.
- After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
No-fee 0%, plus cashback (so some get paid to shift). If you shift £2,500+ and can clear your debt within 15mths, it's the outright winner. Not only do you get the full 15mths if accepted, with the cashback you actually pay back less in total than the amount shifted.
Recommended: Check acceptance chances first
- 18mths 0%.
- After the 0%, it's 18.9% rep APR.
Longest no-fee 0%. And you'll get the full 0% length if accepted, so if our calc shows you've good acceptance chances and you can repay within 18mths, there's no cost at all.
New. Sainsbury's Bank*
Recommended: Check acceptance chances first (doesn't accept the self-employed sadly)
- Up to 29mths 0%.
- £20 Sains voucher via this link (not direct), if shifting £1k+ in first 30 days.
- 3% or 4% fee (min £3) for transfers at application, depending on credit score.
- After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
Longest 0%, plus £20 Sains vch, but it's an 'up to'. The £20 vch is emailed within 90 days, yet some accepted may get 25mths or 21mths at 0% and/or the higher 4% fee.
Recommended: Check acceptance chances first
- Up to 28mths 0%.
- 2.79% or 3.49% fee, depending on credit score.
- After the 0%, it's 20.9% rep APR.
Long 0%, but another 'up to'. Slightly shorter than Sainsbury's above, though a lower upfront fee. However some poorer credit scorers could get 14mths at 0% and/or a higher fee.
Virgin Money*
Recommended: Check acceptance chances first
- 26mths 0%. 
- 3% fee.
- After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
Longest definite 0% period if accepted. If our calc shows you've a decent eligibility score, it's worth a look, as you'll get the full length if accepted.

Getting a card? Always follow the Balance Transfer Golden Rules:

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 1-3mths to get the 0% and any vch - check your card.
e) You can't balance-transfer between two cards from the same banking group.

Full help and info, incl options for poorer credit scorers, in Best Balance Transfers (and see APR Examples).


Free 15-bottle wine case (valued at £180) for switching to Virgin's 2% interest bank account. New switchers to Virgin Money* can get a case of wine, plus a market-leading 2.02% AER variable interest - but only on up to £1,000. To get the wine, switch incl 2+ direct debits via its official switch service, register for its app, and put £1,000 in its separate, linked 0.5% easy-access savings account. Full help and eligibility info in Best Bank Accounts. Pls be Drinkaware.

Hurrah - the tampon tax has been abolished. And we've 14 other sanitary savers. See those sanitary savers.

Get £40 cashback for investing £400. MSE Blagged. If you plan to 'robo-invest' - where investments are selected for you based on your attitude to risk - then after fees, this Wealthify deal is equiv to a 9.5% head start, provided you keep the full investment for a min 6-7mths. (The fact we've included it doesn't mean we recommend Wealthify - we don't do investment tips, it's just if you're going to use Wealthify anyway, you can get cashback). 3,500 avail. See Robo-investing cashback - incl info on the deal + how robo-investing works.

Sales boosts - eg, Asos now up to 80% off, H&M up to 70% off, Selfridges up to 60% off. See our sales round-up.

New free GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) now open for applications - it replaces the EHIC. The new global card replaces the European one, but don't read too much into the name - it does much the same for almost all the same countries. Don't google for it though, as shyster websites will try to make you pay. See our free GHIC/EHIC help. If you've already got a valid EHIC, it's still valid, so you don't need a GHIC. 

Cheap fibre (ie, FAST) broadband & line - '£17.25/mth'. MSE Blagged. This 35Mb-speed deal for Shell Energy newbies is £22.99/mth, but you get an AUTO £68.97 bill credit within 3mths (essentially 3mths free). It's a total £206.91 outlay over the 1yr contract, equiv to £17.25/mth. Shell is only rated 'OK' on service - if you want a higher service rating or even faster speeds, see our broadband comparison tool for more deals.

Switching energy? Remember our Cheap Energy Club's usually cheaper than other comparisons. Cheap Energy Club is usually cheaper for two reasons: a) If we can switch you, we get paid, so give you £25 dual-fuel cashback, which you don't get direct or usually elsewhere. b) Unlike most, we're automatically whole of market, so don't hide tariffs from providers that don't pay us. Our three ways to help you switch: 1) Use Pick Me A Tariff every year (MSE Autoswitch). 2) Use Pick Me A Tariff just for now. 3) Use our DIY energy comparison.


Car insurance: 'Followed your tips and saved massive £520'

Beep beep. Don't ignore car insurance if you're sorting bills, even if you're not at renewal. 5 steps to save

Our car insurance cost-cutting system can save you £100s, though many mistakenly leave it out of a new year money makeover, thinking it's impossible to save if not at renewal. But whenever your policy expires, our system can help you drive down costs, and we get inundated with successes such as Penny, who emailed to tell us she'd saved pounds (sorry): "Thanks for your great tips on car insurance. I followed them and saved a massive £520 on my renewal. Keep up the good work." Our Cheap Car Insurance guide has full help - here are 5 key steps to kick savings into gear...

  • Step 1: The perfect moment to compare is 24 days before renewal - but if that's not now, check anyway. Our investigation of 50m quotes found that 24 days (a few days either side is no issue) before renewal was the sweet spot to compare prices - the later you leave it, the more prices go up as insurers may view you as higher risk. On average, those who get quotes at the last moment pay £546 more than those who get quotes at the cheapest time. As Ian told us: "Brilliant tip - best price about 21 days before expiry date was £340, but the day before expiry, £637."

    Even if you're not close to renewal, it's worth doing a check now. If you find substantially cheaper cover, as long as you've not claimed, you can often cancel your existing policy for a pro-rata refund - minus a £50ish fee, though you won't get that year's no-claims discount. See full switching mid-policy help.

  • Step 2: NEVER just auto-renew. Instead, combine comparison sites to scour 100s of insurers in mins. Insurers rely on people's laziness to jack up renewal prices, so comparing to find a better deal is key. And try as many comparisons as you've time for, as they don't search identical insurers, nor give identical prices. Our current order is: MoneySupermarket*, Confused.com*, Gocompare*, Compare The Market. (Why? See comparison order.)

  • Step 3: Check if Direct Line can beat your top quote. Biggie Direct Line* isn't listed on comparisons, and it can be competitive for some, so is worth checking.

  • Step 4: Tips & counter-logical tricks that can really up your savings. See if any of these work for you:
    Use trial & error to see if comprehensive is cheaper than third party.
    - See if legitimately tweaking your job description cuts costs.
    - Add a responsible additional driver to see if it cuts costs (even if they'll only drive the car occasionally).
    - Lockdowns mean you may drive less, so don't overestimate mileage + lower mileage is often cheaper anyway.
    - Once you've found your cheapest insurer, check if you can get cashback.

  • Step 5: If you've more than one car, see if you can save with a multicar policy. Often, multicar newbies get hot offers to suck 'em in, but that advantage can disappear at renewal, so we developed this rule of thumb - if you're currently on a multicar policy, check separate policies to see if you can save; if you're on separate, check multicar.

    If your cars have different renewals, some insurers let you set up a policy at your first car's renewal, while the other car(s) stay with their existing insurer until their renewal, at which point they're combined on to one policy. For full info on all of this, see multicar insurance help.

  • Always check the policy is right for you. And when claiming, if unhappy, you can go to the ombudsman. As with any insurance, check the policy details and check that insurers are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority before you buy. If a claim is unfairly rejected, take 'em to the free Financial Ombudsman.

PS: This is about cheap car cover, but if you're struggling due to coronavirus, see what help is available - eg, you can ask the insurer to review your level of cover to see if you can cut costs.


19 Netflix hacks to fight back against up to £24/yr price hikes. See our Netflix hacks.

Martin: 'How I averaged 24,300 steps (burning 3,910 calories) a day in 2020'. See Martin's new blog.

Virgin Media to hit millions with up to £54/yr price rises - how to beat 'em. Broadband, TV and phone customers affected - see Virgin price rise help.

"We used your tips to get back over £500 for cancelled flights after being given the runaround by the travel firm. We contacted our bank which immediately paid us in full through the chargeback scheme. Thank you so much."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

Get fit for free, incl yoga, cardio workouts and fitness apps. Jan is usually the month of new gym memberships. This year you won't be able to go just yet, so see our 13 tips on how to keep fit for free.

The MSE Charity's donated £58k to give debt & financial support to those affected by Covid. Find out more about the charity, primarily funded by this site and Martin, and what it's doing, on the MSE Charity website.


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Longest 0%: New. Sainsbury's Bank up to 29mths 0%, 3% or 4% fee + £20 voucher (check eligibility / apply*) (21.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: Santander 18mths 0%, no fee (check eligibility / apply*) (18.9% rep APR)

Cheapest variable: Green variable, save £157/yr
Cheapest fix: Simplicity Energy 12mth fix, save £154/yr
Cheapest big-name fix: E.on 12mth fix, save £119/yr
Want us to help you pick a tariff and switch you yearly? Try MSE Autoswitch

Savings include £25 MSE cashback, where available. 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 eligibility / apply*), 3.4% rep APR (1-3yrs)
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: Cahoot (check eligibilityapply*) or TSB (check eligibilityapply*), 2.8% rep APR

Standard b'band & line rent: Shell Energy equiv £15/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: Shell Energy equiv £17.25/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £19.50/mth

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



Parcel delivery firms: which are the best and worst? With more of us shopping online, parcel delivery firms are playing an increasingly important role in many people's lives. So it's time for our eighth annual poll to check how couriers are doing.

MoneySavers' favourite board game is... Monopoly. Last week, we asked what your favourite board games are. More than 6,900 of you voted and Monopoly was the most popular choice, with 30% picking it as one of their top three. Scrabble came a close second, with 26% choosing it, followed by Trivial Pursuit (16%) and Cluedo (15%). See full board game poll results.



Should my brother share his lottery winnings? My brother's girlfriend gave him a National Lottery scratchcard as a Christmas gift, and he won £500. She thinks he should give her some of the money as she gave him the card, but I think he should keep it as the card was a present. Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should my brother share his lottery winnings? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs



Wed 6 Jan - Ask Martin Lewis, BBC Radio 5 Live, 1pm. Listen again
Thu 7 Jan - This Morning, phone-in, ITV, 10.55am
Thu 7 Jan - The Martin Lewis Money Show Live, ITV, 8.30pm


Thu 7 Jan - BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Ben Jackson, from 11.35am
Sun 10 Jan - BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Summaya Mughal, from 10am
Mon 11 Jan - BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 2.25pm
Tue 12 Jan - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Mid-morning with Jeremy Sallis, from 12.20pm



That's all for this week, but before we go... you've been sharing your 2021 MoneySaving resolutions on our social media channels. Cutting out all unnecessary spending, saving £1 a day and clearing credit card debt were among the popular choices. Meanwhile, several MoneySavers plan to sell their clutter for cash too. If you need some inspiration, or have your own to add, see our New Year's resolutions Facebook post.

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