Mar
24
2021

Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

24 March 2021

Over 50 ways to save, incl... Earn 1.25%, hidden Amazon 30% off, top UK trav ins, new NO-FEE 18mth 0%, cheapest iPhone 12, £29 Travelodge, £130 makeup £34

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails
Plus... cheapest iPhone 12, £29 Travelodge, £130 makeup £34 & more
                                                           
 


 

Martin: 17 urgent things you need to check BEFORE April, incl...

Martin Lewis MSE founder

Forget April showers - the raft of changes coming this year feel more like a storm, peeing down on your bank balance if you do nowt. Yet act now and you can steal a March on many of them.  

Do scan down my WHOLE checklist as there are lots of little tips that can help large. If you find it easier to listen than to read, you can watch me explain the key ones from my TV show last week (the last in the series - another April change). 

The 'you can ONLY CLAIM BACK 4YRS so go quick' rule

Many tax relief schemes allow you to backdate claims by up to four tax years (on top of the current one). So with a new tax year starting on 6 April, that means reclaims relating to 6 Apr 16 to 5 Apr 17 need to be done before then - ie, now.

  1. Apply for marriage tax allowance now or lose up to £220. If you're eligible for the Govt's marriage tax allowance (MTA), once you sign up, you get it year after year. To be eligible you must...

    - Be married or in a civil partnership (just cohabiting doesn't count).
    - One must be a non-taxpayer, the other a basic 20% taxpayer.

    The non-taxpayer can transfer 10% of their tax-free allowance, currently £1,250, to their spouse so they pay £250 less tax. Backdate it the full four years and it's worth a total of £1,188, but do it now - as from 6 Apr, you'll lose the 2016/17 year, worth up to £220.

    Full help and pros and cons are in our MTA guide, but for most it's simple and quick, as Irene emailed: "We decided to apply for the marriage tax allowance. Within a couple of weeks, my husband had a cheque for £900. Thank you, MSE."

  2. Is your tax code wrong? If so, check now... A tax code is a series of letters and numbers, eg, 1250L, which tells your employer/pension provider what tax to deduct. It's your responsibility to check if it's wrong, and if it is (millions are), it can mean you're overpaying, and are due money back. You've until 5 Apr to do it for the 2016/17 year. Full help via our Free Tax Code Calc.

  3. Had a PPI payout? You're likely due tax back, but go quick. With successful PPI reclaims, you don't just get what you paid back - they must add 8% statutory interest on top, to put you back in the position you would've been in had you not got the insurance.

    This counts as savings interest, but unlike savings, with PPI, 20% tax is automatically deducted. As most people can earn £1,000/yr interest without paying tax, most are paying tax unnecessarily and are due it back. My Reclaim PPI tax blog takes you through it - but again, the clock's ticking for PPI payouts from the 2016/17 tax year.

    Sarah Ann's tweet shows why it's worth checking: "@MartinSLewis I sent an 'R40 form' in as you suggested and have recently got 
    £888 tax back from my PPI payout. Thanks."

  4. Claim the uniform tax rebate. If you wear a recognisable work uniform (eg, branded T-shirt) and wash or repair it yourself, you can likely claim a tax rebate. The minimum allowance is £60/yr (so it's worth £12/yr for a basic 20% taxpayer, £24 for a higher 40% payer). As you can backdate four years, go quick or you'll lose 2016/17. Full help in Uniform Tax Rebate.
Don't let 1 APRIL hikes make you a FOOL...

April first no jokeFool's day isn't the only April tradition - sadly each year there's a raft of utility and public service price hikes. This year is no exception, including...

  1. Council tax bills UP 5% (c. £90/yr) for many on 1 Apr. Over 50% of councils have signalled they'll raise bills by the max, usually 5%, adding a typical £90/yr for a band D property.

    You can't stop that, but do my 10-min council tax check 'n' challenge to see if you're in the wrong band and are due £1,000s back. Plus if you live alone (or with students/children), are on a low income, or have disabilities, see if you're due a council tax discount.

    Philip emailed about a severe mental impairment discount success: "My mother-in-law got a £5,083 refund dating back to 2018 as she unfortunately suffers from Alzheimer's. Thanks for keeping us informed, wouldn't have known otherwise."

  2. Energy price cap up from £1,042/yr to £1,138/yr on 1 Apr - take just 5 mins to save £200+/yr. If, like for most homes, your energy is provided by British Gas, EDF, Npower, E.on, Scottish Power or SSE and you've not changed tariff in a year, you're likely facing a hike of nearly £100/yr on typical usage. It's now easier than ever to sort...

    - MOST POPULAR. We do it for you: Use MSE Pick Me A Tariff.
    - Or do it yourself: Via our MSE full market comparison.

    As Heather emailed: "I've been with British Gas for almost 20 years. Fed up of rates going up frequently, I finally swapped and have made a staggering £900 annual saving. I owe you a pint."

  3. English prescription charges up 20p to £9.35 on 1 Apr. Yet our research show 100,000s who pay and get prescriptions could save with an NHS prescription 'season ticket', where you pay a one-off fee for all prescriptions. The price of these is going up in April too, but if you get 12+ prescriptions a year, it's worth it.

  4. BT, TalkTalk, EE, Sky and others hiking TV / broadband / mobile prices from around 1 Apr - yet many can HALVE costs. If you're one of 20m out of contract across the sectors, use this as an opportunity to ditch and switch. Many get improved service and can halve costs.

    Broadband & line is available from '£15/mth', check via our broadband comparison tool. For handsets & Sims, use the MSE Cheap Mobile Finder tool.

    Happy with your service and want to stick? Still do a comparison then use tips in our Broadband Haggling and Mobile Phone Haggling guides to try to get your existing provider to match it.

  5. TV licence fee goes up £1.50 to £159/yr from 1 Apr. Depending on how you watch TV or your age, you may not need to pay for a licence. See Who needs (& who doesn't need) a TV licence?
The USE 'EM or LOSE 'EM tax year allowances

Each tax year you're given a range of tax-free allowances. With the simplest, individual savings accounts (ISAs), you can't carry them over into the next tax year. And while 5 April is the deadline, in practice it takes time to do, so get your skates on.

  1. Fill up your £4,000 Lifetime ISA (LISA) allowance now. LISAs can be opened by those aged 18-39. They give first-time buyers using it towards a home (or those saving until age 60) a 25% bonus up to £1,000 a year on everything they manage to save.

    You can put in up to £4,000/tax yr. So if you haven't fully used this year's allowance, if you've the cash you could put up to £4,000 in today, and another £4,000 on 6 Apr when the new tax year starts. So that's £8,000 in total - meaning £2,000 free. Read our Top LISAs guide first to check the pros and cons to see if one is suitable for you.

  2. Got a LISA you definitely won't use? Withdraw money IMMEDIATELYLISAs are designed for first-time buyers buying a qualifying property or those saving until age 60+. Normally to take the money out for any other purpose you pay an effective penalty of 6.25%. Yet, due to Covid, this is waived until 5 Apr, though in practice many need to start the withdrawal by TOMORROW (Thu) to beat the deadline. So if that's you, go quick. Full help in beat LISA withdrawal penalties.

  3. Hope to buy a first home within a decade? Put £1 in a LISA (parents do it for kids too). The tax year deadline is irrelevant for this, but as I'm mentioning LISAs, just a note. To use the LISA as a first-time buyer it needs to have been open a year. So open one with £1 now to start the clock, so it's usable if/when needed. Parents tell your kids when they hit 18 too. Full help in Top LISAs.

  4. Big savings? Use your 2020/21 cash ISA allowance quickly. Cash ISAs are pointless for most, as the personal savings allowance (PSA) means the majority of people don't pay tax on any savings interest, and top savings accounts pay more than cash ISAs.

    Yet if you're a big saver who's used up your PSA, the fact cash ISAs are still tax-free is a boon. You can put up to £20,000 in per tax year, and have until 5 Apr to put it in. Charter Savings offers the top 0.4% easy-access account and top 0.5% 1yr fix. But Nationwide custs can get a 0.75% 18mth ISA and £50 bonus cashback if they transfer in £10,000+. Full help in Top Cash ISAs.
     
  5. Looking to invest? Stocks & shares ISAs are a clearer-cut decision. If you're looking to use your £20,000 ISA allowance to invest, unlike savings, investing first within an ISA is often a winner for most. For more read our Stocks & Shares ISAs guide.
Last chance COVID HELP deadlines... 

Working from home? Claim tax backWhile furlough and self-employment income support grants (no news on the timing of the 5th grant, I'm afraid) both continue until the autumn, there are imminent deadlines for some of the other coronavirus support schemes...

  1. Required to work from home, even for a day, since 6 Apr 20? Claim a YEAR'S tax rebate the easy way while you can. HM Revenue & Customs currently has a 'microservice' that automatically gives you a year's tax rebate, if you've had to work from home for even a day, this tax year. It's worth £60/yr for basic-rate taxpayers, £125 higher rate.

    There's no confirmation whether this will continue after 6 Apr, so it may be trickier to claim then, so best do it now. Full help in my Working-from-home tax back blog.

  2. You can apply for your first Covid payment holiday on mortgages, loans, cards, car finance until 31 Mar. The regulator's not extending the deadline. Full help in my 'Should I take a payment holiday?' blog but in short...

    Most struggling who have not had a payment holiday yet are due one of up to 3mths. These can then be increased to the shorter of 6mths or until 31 Jul. These payment holidays don't go on your credit file (but lenders can still find out in other ways). My simple rule is if you need one, do it, but only if you need it, as interest will still rack up.

    After that, or if you've had 6mths' help, you're due 'tailored support' - lenders can offer measures such as reduced payments or lower interest, but these will definitely go on your credit file.

  3. Last chance to apply for a bounce back loan is 31 Mar. These loans allow small-biz owners affected by coronavirus to borrow up to £50,000. They're interest-free for 12mths and repayment-free for up to 18mths. For those without other support, in some circumstances they can be used to replace lost personal income. Full help in our Bounce Back Loans guide.
 
 

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. The longest NO-FEE balance transfer just got better. Now shift debt to 18mths 0% and grab a £20 Amazon voucher

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

A balance transfer is the first thing anyone paying interest on credit or store cards should try. It's where you get a new card that repays debts on old cards for you, so you owe it instead but at 0%, meaning your repayments clear the debt rather than any interest - often saving you £100s or £1,000s. And thankfully deals are improving. Two rules to help you pick...

- Go for the lowest-fee card within the 0% time you need to clear the debt. So if you can repay in less than 18mths, go no-fee - but if you're unsure, play safe and go long.
- Don't just apply - find out which cards will accept you first. Use our 0% Balance Transfer Eligibility Calc to see.

TOP-PICK NEWBIES' 0% BALANCE TRANSFERS INCL...
Card Key info Who's it best for?
New. Santander
It's best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*.
- 18mths 0%.
- NO FEE + claim £20 Amazon vch.
- After the 0%, it's 20.9% rep APR.
Easy winner if you can clear debt in 18mths. Done right, it's totally free, and you can get the voucher on top. All accepted (regardless if you make a transfer or not) are sent an email between 30 Jun and 12 Jul with info on how to claim, which you need to do within 90 days, so don't forget.
Ends Mon. Barclaycard
It's best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*.
- 21mths 0%.
- 0.9% fee, yet £30 cashback if shifting £2,500+ in first 60 days.
- After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
Beats Santander for some due to the longer 0% and possible cashback. Yet it depends on your circumstances. While not a no-fee card, if shifting £2,500-£3,300, the cashback is bigger than the fee, so you're up a little. Plus you get a longer 21mths at 0%. However, you won't get the vch.
Sainsbury's Bank
It's best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*.
- Up to 29mths 0%.
- 3% or 4% fee (min £3) for transfers at application.
- After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
Need more time to repay? This is the longest 0% but there's a fee & it's an 'up to'. So some accepted may get 25mths or 21mths at 0% and/or the higher 4% fee.
Virgin Money
It's best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*.
- 28mths 0%.
- 2.7% fee.
- After the 0%, it's 21.9% rep APR.
Longest definite 0% period, also with a fee. As the 0% length is definite if accepted, and the fee is lower than on the Sainsbury's card, if our eligibility calc shows you've a decent chance, this may be a better bet.


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 will hit your ability to get credit.
d) The balance transfer must usually be done within 1-3mths to get the 0% and any cashback - 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).

 

New. 1.25% easy-access savings (and up to £25 cashback) via special MSE code. Our code lets newbies earn up to 1.25% variable on up to £10,000 via autosaving app Chip, far more than the normal, top 0.45% easy-access rate. Plus there's cashback. Yet this is far from a normal account, so read our full 1.25% savings first. If you click the link on a mobile, you may need to scroll down the page a little to find the Chip info due to a small technical issue.

EXTRA 30% off secret Amazon discounts on returned (often unused) items. Eg, £84 toddler's trike for £44, £250 off an HP laptop. Amazon's little-known Warehouse currently gives 30% more off 50,000+ items. Amazon Warehouse

New. Cheapest iPhone 12 contract we've EVER seen (& you get 25GB/mth of data). MSE Blagged. EE newbies (via this Affordable Mobiles link) can get a 64GB iPhone 12* with unltd mins, texts and 25GB/mth of data for £180 upfront (last week it was £195), then £29/mth. It costs £876 over the 2yr contract - £160 less than buying the handset outright with a similar data Sim. See Cheap iPhones. Note: EE is responsible for your contract, Affordable Mobiles for the handset. More options: MSE Cheap Mobile Finder Tool. 

Travelodge 2 million £29/night (or less) rooms. For stays from 17 May to 31 Jan, but there's limited supply so go quick and use trial and error to find them. Excludes Northern Ireland. Full help in Travelodge £29 rooms.

The MSE free Open University 'Academoney' Welsh course joins the English one. Six 2hr sessions for those who want formal learning on mortgages, retirement planning, budgeting, savings and more. 37,000 have already signed up to the English Academoney course (use that link to do so yourself, or get lots more info on it).

Mae cwrs am ddim Academi Arian y Brifysgol Agored a'r MSE yn lansio yn y Gymraeg wrth ochr y cwrs Saesneg. Mae'n cynnwys 6 sesiwn dwy awr o addysg ffurfiol ar forgeisi, cynllunio ar gyfer ymddeol, creu cyllideb, cynilo a mwy. Ymunwch â'r cwrs Academi Arian neu ddysgwch fwy amdano.

Scottish student loans shake-up - many will repay £500/yr LESS from 6 April. For a long time Scottish students have repaid more each year than English, as the repayment threshold is lower. Now the threshold is being substantially increased for existing and many past students. See Scottish student loans.

£34 for 22-piece make-up bundle (norm £130), incl 'dupes' for Fenty, Ciaté and more. MSE Blagged. Incl highlighter, lipstick, lip gloss and contour sticks. 7,000 avail. Lottie London

 
 

New. Cheap UK travel insurance - but is it worth bothering? 

With many more booking longer hols in the UK, what insurance should you get & what will it protect you from?

Our long-held rule for foreign holidays has been get travel insurance ASAB - as soon as you book - as it doesn't just cover your holiday, but also things that may happen in advance that stop you going. That's true too of getting travel insurance for a UK trip - except here, the bigger question is whether you really need it. UK travel insurance usually covers you if staying 2+ nights in booked accommodation at least 25 miles away from home. Full info's in our new UK travel insurance guide but here's a quick briefing to help you decide...

  • UK travel insuranceThe key is, if you're travelling in the UK, medical treatment is free. Holiday abroad and travel insurance's main use is to cover costly medical treatment for accident or illness. In the UK, of course, you have the NHS (or private medical cover), so it's less of an issue.

  • Are you covered for Covid cancellations? In a nutshell... yes if it's personal, no if it's due to lockdown. Here are the details:

    - You/family member can't travel as you've got Covid - most policies DO cover this.
    - You/family member can't travel after an NHS Test & Trace notification to self-isolate - SOME policies cover this.
    - Can't travel due to lockdown or accommodation being shut - NO mainstream policies cover this.
    - Can't travel as you don't feel safe going - that's 'disinclination to travel', which is NEVER covered.

  • Should I get UK travel insurance and what will it cover me for? There's no right answer - it's a balance between cost and peace of mind. First it's worth understanding what the main elements of cover are:

    Cancellation. Due to illness, injury, jury service, redundancy, bereavement or home emergency.
    - Curtailment. Where you need to cut your holiday short due to an emergency (such as those above).
    - Baggage and personal belongings. If your stuff is lost, stolen or damaged while you're away.
    - Sports, excursions and other activities. Some policies will reimburse you if you can't make use of your booking. Generally this is if you've had to cancel your trip for one of the reasons above (incl valid Covid claims).

    Delays are usually included with overseas travel insurance, but often aren't when you buy a UK policy, so do factor that in.

    We asked Martin what he'd do: "For a cheap weekend away, travelling without any valuables, and with easy cancellation I probably wouldn't bother. Yet if I'd booked a week away, as a full holiday especially with excursions, and could get some cheap peace of mind, I likely would."

  • The top cheap UK travel insurance policies. If you already have an annual (normally foreign) travel insurance policy, it likely already includes UK travel. If not and you plan to go abroad within the next year, it's worth looking at our Cheap annual (UK & abroad) travel insurance guide.

    If you're looking for a one-off basic UK policy (that meets our min cover levels), there's no one cheapest so we list three to try. Of our picks below, all except Staysure and Avanti cover you if the NHS tells you to self-isolate, but excursion refund policies vary, so check. These can be UNDER £8/wk for individuals, £16/wk for families:

    - Under-65s (individuals, couples or families): Try Coverwise*, Allianz Assistance and LV.
    - Over-65s (individuals, couples or families): Try Coverwise*, LV and Tesco Bank.
    - Pre-existing conditions (all): Try AllClear*, Staysure* and Avanti* (while this isn't about covering medical issues, they still need to be declared as they can increase the risk of other claims).

    More options in UK travel insurance. And as always, if your travel insurer unfairly rejects a claim, you can take it to the Financial Ombudsman.

  • Three need-to-knows as travel insurance won't cover you for Covid lockdown cancellations:

    1) The competition watchdog says providers should give refunds for lockdown-related cancellations, but that doesn't mean all do. The Competition & Markets Authority has said airlines and accommodation and attraction providers should refund customers where they can't provide a service due to Govt restrictions. But this is yet to be tested in court, and some put up a fight.
    2) Check for easily cancellable accommodation. Hedge towards offers with no/low deposits or those that give refunds or free rebooking if you can't go.
    3) Pay on plastic. Credit cards offer the strongest protection as Section 75 refund rules mean for items £100+ the card provider is jointly liable - though this doesn't usually work if you're booking via a travel agent. Debit cards have some protection too under the chargeback refund rules though firms do sometimes challenge these.
 

36 craft beers for £39 delivered. MSE Blagged. Newbies only, 1,500 boxes avail. Flavourly (pls be Drinkaware).

Morrisons to scrap 'More' loyalty points scheme - what you need to know. Full info in Morrisons pts overhaul.

CAR INSURANCE SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: 
"Thanks. Followed your guidance about the timing of when to get car insurance quotes and I compared multicar and individual policies. Saved over £500 for the two policies."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

Sales: Tesco half-price toys via Clubcard, H&M & Reebok up to 50% off etc. Shops may largely be closed, but some sales are still in full swing, mostly online. See sales round-up.

Want to work at MSE? Two new jobs available: money analyst & news reporter. Based in our London office (when we can go back). See MSE Job Opportunities.

 
 

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

Longest 0%: Sainsbury's Bank up to 29mths 0%, 3% or 4% fee - min £3 (check eligibility / apply*) (21.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: 
New. Santander 18mths 0% + £20 Amazon vch (check eligibility / apply*) (20.9% rep APR)

Cheapest top-service fix: Green 12mth fix, save £223/yr
Cheapest big-name fix: E.on 12mth fix, save £172/yr
Want us to help you pick a tariff and switch you yearly? Try MSE Pick Me A Tariff Every Year

Savings include £25 MSE cashback. Assumes typical use vs price cap over the next 12mths. Links go via Cheap Energy Club.

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

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

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Ratesetter (check eligibility / apply*) (2.8% rep APR)
Cheapest for £7.5k-£15k:
 
Cahoot (check eligibility / apply*), Ratesetter (check eligibility / apply*) or MBNA (check eligibility / apply*) (2.8% rep APR)

Standard b'band & line rent: Plusnet equiv £15.38/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £18.83/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £18.74/mth

Free £125 for switching + 1% regular saver: HSBC
Free £100 for switchers + top service
: 
First Direct

 

THIS WEEK'S POLL

What do you buy second-hand? Doing so is cheap and environmentally friendly, yet some people think only new will do. So this week we want to know, what items are you happy to buy second-hand?

Around half of MoneySavers spend more than 20% of their income on housing. Last week, we asked what proportion of your monthly take-home income you spend on accommodation - more than 12,000 people responded. Overall, 53% said they spend more than a fifth of their income on housing, but there was a sharp divide, with 83% of private renters but just 47% of homeowners falling into that category. See full housing poll results.

 
 

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should I open savings accounts for my nieces? Last year I wanted to give my two nieces, aged two and six, some money for Christmas (as well as presents). I researched opening a savings account for each of them, as their parents hadn't done so. But my husband told me I'm meddling and to stop, as it might make my brother and sister-in-law feel bad. Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I open savings accounts for my nieces? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

 
 

MARTIN'S APPEARANCES (WED 24 MAR ONWARDS)

Wed 24 Mar - Ask Martin Lewis, BBC Radio 5 Live, 1pm. Listen again
Thu 25 Mar - This Morning, phone-in, ITV, 10.45am

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES (SOME SUBJECTS TBC)

Sat 27 Mar - BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Summaya Mughal, from 11am
Sun 28 Mar - BBC Radio Bristol, Mid-morning with Joe Lemer, from 12pm, with our Guy Anker on beating April bill hikes
Mon 29 Mar - BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 2.20pm
Tue 30 Mar - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Mid-morning with Jeremy Sallis, from 12.40pm

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST WAY TO TEACH CHILDREN THE VALUE OF MONEY?

That's all for this week, but before we go... after we heard about a parent who pays their seven-year-old to do chores, then charges them rent and for utilities, we asked how you teach your kids the value of money. MoneySavers were divided over whether to pay for chores, but other top tips included encouraging kids to do price comparisons, paying 'bonuses' for good school reports and getting them to split their pocket money each week - "50p to spend, 30p to save and 20p to charity". See more tips and add your own in our teach kids the value of money Facebook post

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

 

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