Apr
07
2021

Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

07 April 2021

Over 50 ways to save, incl... new 2021/22 WFH tax claim, get PAID to recycle, beat energy hikes, find new take-home pay, 'free' MOTs, £19/mth FAST b'band, Sky warning, 2 specs £14, £4k bank fee reclaim, cheap plants

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails
Plus... Sky warning, 2 specs £14, £4k bank fee reclaim, cheap plants
                                                           
 


 

10 (Happy) New Tax Year must-dos, incl...

Claim TWO years' tax breaks for working from home, find your new take-home pay, ISAs vs savings & more

Big Ben isn't chiming, fireworks aren't fizzing, but financially the 6 April new tax year is a key date. Tax allowances change, benefit and state pension payouts go up, and more. This means you should take action and make some important resolutions. Here's our new 2021/22 tax year checklist to get you started...

  1. Martin Lewis's blog on claiming working-from-home tax reliefSTOP PRESS: Need to work from home, even for a day? We've just had it confirmed you can claim tax relief for ALL of 2021/22 (as well as the last tax year). We spotted HMRC had updated its site late on Tue to make this possible, and after pushing, we got official confirmation from it just minutes before we sent this email (so we speedily wrote this, and delayed the send a few minutes). Essentially, if your employer requires you to work from home, even for a day, you are eligible for a whole year's worth of tax relief. This is a special pandemic rule that was introduced for the 2020/21 tax year (which ended on Mon) but has been extended for 2021/22.

    Over 2m claimed it for last year (if you haven't, you still can), likely as Martin shouted it from the rooftops, both here and on his show. If you're eligible for both years, the total gain is up to £250. Full help, pros, cons and who's eligible in Martin's Working-from-home tax back blog.

  2. New. Income Tax Calculator 2021/22 - find your NEW take-home pay. We've updated our Income Tax Calc to include the new allowances for this year. Pop in your details and it'll tell you what'll be in your April pay packet and beyond.

  3. Cash ISA allowances have reset - but most can earn more tax-free in a normal savings account (eg, 1.25% easy access). Cash ISAs are just savings accounts where the interest is never taxed, and you can save up to £20,000 in one this tax year. Yet as fewer than 5% of people pay tax on savings interest anyway, what matters for most is the rate. And top normal savings currently beat ISAs...

    With NORMAL accounts, for easy access, Marcus* and Saga* pay the top 0.4% AER variable rate (min £1). Or newbies to autosaving app Chip who apply by 11.59pm on Thu can get 1.25% easy access on a max £10k (+ up to £25 cashback) via a special MSE code, if they do some legwork. The top 1yr fix is from Ahli United Bank at 0.65% AER (min £1k), though it's only available via 'savings marketplace' Raisin. If new to Raisin, some can also claim £5-£50 cashback. More help and deals in Top Savings.

    For comparison, the top CASH ISAs can't beat the deals above and even when neck and neck, they've more restrictions. For easy access, Charter Savings pays 0.4% AER variable but only on a min £5,000. Paragon Bank also offers that rate on a min £1 but you're limited to three withdrawals a year. The top 1yr fix is 0.45% AER from Yorkshire BS (min £100) and Paragon Bank* (min £500). More help and deals in Top Cash ISAs.

  4. Free tax code calculatorCheck your new and old tax codes via our free tool - it's your responsibility to ensure they're correct. A wrong one can cost you £1,000s. A tax code is a series of letters and numbers, eg, 1257L, which tells your employer or pension provider what tax to deduct. 

    All 13 million 2021/22 code notifications have been sent so should have dropped on to doormats or into inboxes by now. However, millions of current and past years' codes are wrong. So you could have overpaid and be due money back, or you could be underpaying and may owe tax (which you legally must pay). Use our Free Tax Code Calc to check this year's code and those going back four more tax years. 

    Charlie emailed: "After reading your article on checking your tax code, I phoned the tax office and got a £567 rebate and my tax code changed - a huge difference. Thank you, Martin."

  5. Want to invest? Stocks & shares ISAs are a clearer-cut decision and the same 2021/22 ISA allowance as for cash applies. The £20,000 ISA allowance for this tax year applies across cash AND stocks & shares, meaning you can save in one, both or neither. While it's questionable with cash savings whether or not to go for an ISA, using one is a no-brainer for most when it comes to investing. Full help in our Stocks & Shares ISAs guide.

  6. Pension credit payouts are up - but 1 million households fail to claim this benefit worth £1,000s. Check NOW. If you're over state pension age and earn less than £177.10/wk as a single person or £270.30/wk as a couple - from work, pensions or savings - then the main element of pension credit tops up your income to those amounts. Plus you can earn more via the 'savings credit' element.

    Aside from the payout - worth an avg £3,000/yr - pension credit may also entitle you to a host of discounts such as cheaper council tax or a free TV licence for over-75s.

    Yet a staggering number don't claim, so make the new tax year your trigger to check for yourself or for a friend/loved one, in case they could claim too - as many who could get it won't see this. See Pension Credit help. Janet emailed: "I applied and got £100+/wk and reduced council tax, TV licence, water rates and more. I'd say to anyone, apply - you never know." 

    Related: The full state pension for those who retired after 5 April 2016 rises this month from £175.20/wk to £179.60/wk. For those who retired earlier, the full basic state pension rises from £134.25/wk to £137.60/wk.

  7. Universal credit and other benefit rates have risen - check NOW what you can get as millions miss out. It's not just pension credit that vast swathes of people miss out on, as over recent years a whopping £15 billion in means-tested benefits has gone unclaimed.

    The financial effect of the pandemic sadly means many more are now eligible to claim - some with family income up to £73,000/yr are entitled. Try our 10-min Benefits Calculator to see if you're one of them.

    Pamela emailed: "I used your calculator which said we were entitled to a council tax discount so we applied to our council and three weeks later received a £268 refund and we've a £979 annual discount against future bills. Result - thank you."

  8. Guide on marriage tax allowanceStart the new tax year as you mean to go on - apply for the marriage tax allowance NOW and you could claim back up to £1,220. If you qualify for the Govt's marriage tax allowance, once you sign up, you get it every year. To be eligible...

    - You must be married or in a civil partnership (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 £1,260, to their spouse so they pay £252 less tax. Backdate it the full four years, and in addition to the current tax year it can be worth up to £1,220. While there's no urgent deadline, do it now while you remember.

    Full help in our Marriage Tax Allowance guide. For most it's simple and quick, as Laura emailed only last week: "Thanks to your page I applied. A week later my husband received a cheque for £947. We're so grateful."

  9. Aged 18-39 and planning to buy a first home? You've a new £4,000 Lifetime ISA allowance. A LISA gives first-time buyers using it towards a home a 25% bonus (up to £1,000/yr) on everything they save in it. You can put in up to £4,000/tax year. Read our Top LISAs guide for full help (incl info on the LISA's other use - for retirement savings).

  10. A warning to all paid without tax deducted - a third of that cash probably isn't yours so don't spend it. This mainly affects freelancers and the self-employed, and while we know it's been a tough year for many, plenty still have income. Yet the psychology of how tax works can cause financial havoc so it's crucial to get it right at the start of the year.

    If you pay basic-rate tax, then for every £100 you're paid, about £30 probably isn't yours as you'll need it to pay tax. Of course, you may need to alter the amount if you're not a basic-rate taxpayer, you've complex finances or you've business expenses (as you're taxed on profit, not income).

    You can use our Income Tax Calc for a rough guide of what tax you'll pay, although it's mainly set up for the employed, and as you pay different national insurance if you're self-employed, it won't be exact. Then EVERY time you're paid, siphon off the tax cash into a separate savings account (see top rates above) and don't spend it.

 
 

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.

 

 
 

Ends Mon. The cheapest SUPERFAST broadband & line this year (that almost everyone can get) - 63Mb for '£19/mth'


High-speed internet access is more important than ever during the pandemic, and we've blagged a super-cheap, superfast 63Mb fibre deal from Shell which 96% of homes can get. We've not seen anything for less at the speedier end of fibre this year, other than a slightly cheaper deal from Virgin (which has now gone) - but only half of homes can get Virgin b'band. As usual, the top deals are short-lived so hurry if you're one of 9m out of contract, often paying a hideous £30-£45/mth for basic speeds

Top newbies' home broadband & line deals
All postcode-dependent, links go via our b'band comparison to check eligibility. You can also use the deals to haggle.
Cheapest FIBRE b'band & line deals 
Ends Mon. Shell Energy 1yr contract
MSE Blagged
- 63Mb superfast fibre '£18.74/mth'
Cheapest SUPERFAST fibre b'band & line. Via this Shell 63Mb link it's £24.99/mth, but we've blagged an AUTO £75 bill credit within 90 days, giving you 3mths free. It's a £224.88 outlay over the 1yr contract, equiv to £18.74/mth. MSE customer service rating: 'OK'.

It's even cheaper than the cheapest standard fibre deal - also from Shell, at 35Mb - which works in a similar way and is equiv to £18.83/mth (a different 35Mb Shell deal is a bit cheaper overall via cashback site Quidco - but cashback is never certain).
Ends Fri. TalkTalk 18mth contract
- 67Mb superfast fibre '£19.56/mth'
SUPERFAST fibre that's a bit pricier but a bit faster than Shell. Apply via this TalkTalk 67Mb link and it's £24/mth for b'band & line, but you can CLAIM (it's not automatic) an £80 prepaid Mastercard, which is almost as good as cash. Factor that in and it's equiv to £19.56/mth over the 18mth contract. MSE customer service rating: 'OK'.

New. Virgin Media 18mth contract
108Mb mega-fast fibre '£19.84/mth'

Cheapest MEGA-FAST fibre b'band-ONLY deal (no phone)For serious speeds and no landline (a plus for many), apply via this Virgin Media 108Mb link by Wed 14 Apr and it's £24/mth, but you can CLAIM a £75 Amazon vch (it's not automatic, so don't forget). If you'd spend that anyway, factor it in and this is equiv to £19.84/mth over the 18mth contract. This deal is only avail to 52% of households (you're told whether you qualify when applying). MSE customer service rating: 'OK'.
Cheapest BASIC speed b'band & line - usually fine if just web browsing and/or emailing
Plusnet 18mth contract
- 10Mb basic speed '£15.94/mth'
Cheapest BASIC b'band & line deal. Apply via this Plusnet 10Mb link by Wed 14 Apr and you'll pay £18.99/mth, but you can CLAIM (it's not automatic) a £55 prepaid Mastercard, which is almost as good as cash. Factor that in, and it's equiv to £15.94/mth over the 18mth contract. MSE customer service rating: 'GOOD'. (Note: There's an expected price rise in June, which may add about 90p/mth.)
Customer service ratings are from our Feb poll, and are relative as few b'band firms set the service world alight. To compare, we use 'equivalent costs' - adding all costs, deducting promo credits and averaging over the contract.


  • Firms can only advertise speeds if 50%+ of customers get them at peak times. All providers above also tell you the estimated max you're likely to get before applying. Do check your current speed and see our 8 speed-boost tips.

  • Switching usually means about 2hrs of downtime. You're told the switch time in advance and it's often quick.

  • Engineers won't usually need to visit, though they may with some switches involving Virgin. About 60% of people switching to Virgin won't need a visit (if in this group, you're told BEFORE signing up). Of the remaining 40%, an engineer may need to visit your home or may just need to visit the local exchange, though you won't know which at sign-up. Some leaving Virgin may need a new line installed if they don't have an Openreach one (it supplies most other firms), though currently that may be delayed as it's prioritising urgent issues.

  • Urrggh. Most firms hike prices a little during your contract. If your contract warns you, you're stuck with it. If not, most firms let you leave penalty-free within 30 days - though if you're on a hot promo it may still win as rises tend to be small. Of those above, we mention the June Plusnet rise. With Shell and TalkTalk, their prices rise every April so the rates above factor in the recent hike, and you're probably safe for another year. Virgin doesn't have set dates for hikes so, unlike the others, you'd be free to leave if one happens as it hasn't warned you.
 

26 quick GREEN MoneySaving tips - incl get paid to recycle, sell old mobiles & cut food waste. Going green doesn't have to cost the Earth so read our new guide where we've brought together and updated the mass of tips we have across the site on how to save & make money reducing, reusing and recycling. Green MoneySaving

Huge energy price hikes have now hit millions - switch & save £235/yr. As we warned last week, all the biggies raised standard prices on Thu by a typical £96/yr, so check NOW if you can save with our top picks for newbies. For firms with 'OK' or 'great' service feedback, the cheapest fixed rate is People's Energy's 1yr fix (typical saving £222/yr). Of the big names, British Gas's 13mth fix saves £176/yr and incl 1yr's 'free' heating cover. Bigger savings are possible with a variable rate (which can rise) via Igloo (typical saving £236/yr). Tiddlers with little feedback are a bit cheaper, so all links take you to our comparison so you can decide. Find choosing confusing? Use our Pick Me A Tariff tools.

Free Halfords MOT with ANY spend. Buy anything now (eg, £1 sponge), get MOT'd by Nov. 'Free' MOT

Urgent Sky price hike warning - many can leave penalty-free, but the window's closing for some. It's raising b'band, phone & TV prices this month by up to £72/yr. Check if you can beat Sky's hikes.

Only 1,800 avail. Get £40 cashback for investing £400. If you plan to 'robo-invest' - where investments are selected for you based on your attitude to risk - then after fees, this Wealthify deal for newbies is equiv to a 9.6% head start, provided you keep the full investment for a min 6-7mths. (This doesn't mean we recommend Wealthify, as we don't do investment tips - but if you're going to use it anyway, you can get cashback). Full help in Robo-Investing Cashback.

'I turned my flat into a jungle on the cheap - can you do it too?' With plant sales booming, MSE Laura F shares cost-cutting indoor gardening tricks that worked for her, incl how to dig up discounts & swapping tips. 'I turned my home green'

 
 

'I reclaimed £4,500 in packaged bank account fees going back 21 years using MSE's easy tool.' Check if you can claim too


Guide to reclaiming packaged bank account feesPackaged bank accounts charge monthly fees for extras such as travel, mobile or breakdown insurance. While they're good value for some, they've also been mis-sold on a mass scale - meaning many are owed £100s. Claims can even run into the £1,000s when they go back years. To help, we've a free reclaim tool to make it easy, as Olivier found with his remarkable reclaim: "I used your easy-to-use tool to reclaim fees from a packaged account I was sold in 2000 and got £4,500 back, in 17 days. Merci." Our Free Packaged Bank Account Reclaiming tool and guide has full info - here are the key details...

  • Check if you NEED your packaged bank account. These accounts are useful for some, so ask yourself if you need the insurance, and if so, check if you can get it cheaper elsewhere. Think of the costs yearly (so £15/mth is £180/yr), making it easy to compare against standalone insurance policies.

    - Cancel NOW if the account isn't worth it, to stop leaking cash. Then switch to a fee-free deal and earn up to £125 in the process. Doing this doesn't affect your claim if you were mis-sold. See Top Standard Bank Accounts.

  • Unless you're CERTAIN the account was suitable, check now if you were mis-sold. There are many reasons why you may have been mis-sold - such as wrongly being told you had to have the account to get a mortgage or overdraft, or if you wouldn't have been able to claim on the insurance anyway (eg, you were too old to be eligible for the travel insurance). Yet not everything is mis-selling: eg, if you willingly took out the account and now don't find the cover useful due to Covid. See the full 'What counts as mis-selling?' checklist.

  • If you were mis-sold, it's easy to reclaim for FREE (you don't need to use a claims firm). It's been more than five years since we launched our Packaged Bank Account Reclaim tool, which is part of our collaboration with the complaints site Resolver. The tool merges our template letters and experience with its technology. Enter your details and it helps draft the complaint, sends it, keeps track and escalates it to the Financial Ombudsman if necessary. Our tool is totally free - unlike using a claims firm which can take a third of your claim.
 

TWO pairs of specs for £14 delivered. MSE Blagged. It's the cheapest we've seen this deal. Cheap specs

Ex-GNE customers' move to EDF may take weeks - full help. EDF took on GNE's 360,000 custs after it went bust in Jan, but 250,000+ still haven't been moved, though many are at least on good energy deals. GNE help

Sending a parcel? Royal Mail will now pick it up for free. Till 30 May, norm up to 72p. Free parcel collection

21% off full-price Bobbi Brown code, eg, £32 eyeshadow palette for £25. MSE Blagged. Ends Fri. Bobbi Brown

Free £30 Amazon vch for doing quick online surveys. MSE Blagged. Forumite favourite Swagbucks is free to join, and newbies who go via our blagged link can get an extra £20 Amazon vch when they earn £10. Swagbucks

 
 

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

Longest 0%: M&S Bank 29mths 0%, 2.75% fee - min £5 (check eligibility / apply*) (21.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: 
Santander 18mths 0% + £20 Amazon vch (check eligibility / apply*) (20.9% rep APR)

Cheapest good-service deal: Igloo variable, save £236/yr
Cheapest good-service fix: People's Energy 12mth fix, save £222/yr
Cheap big-name deal: British Gas 13mth fix, save £176/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 and bill credit (where paid). 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 (10Mb+): Plusnet equiv £15.94/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent (55Mb+): 
Shell Energy equiv £18.74/mth
Megafast fibre b'band only (100Mb+): Virgin Media equiv £19.84/mth

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

 

PPI TAX RECLAIM SUCCESS OF THE WEEK:
"Thank you so much for your PPI tax reclaim help. We were able to claim £1,000 tax back on our successful claims."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

 

THIS WEEK'S POLL

How much are your typical monthly bills? April usually brings a raft of utility and public service price hikes - and this year's no exception. So this week, we want to know how much you usually spend on household bills every month.

Most MoneySavers have a TV streaming subscription. Last week, we asked what TV you pay for - over 8,800 people responded. Almost 90% shell out for a TV licence, but most also get other services too, with 62% paying for streaming services - Netflix and Amazon Prime were most popular. Among those with pay-TV packages, sport was a big draw for many - 56% of Sky customers and 35% of Virgin customers have added Sky Sports, BT Sport or both to their bundles (more than any other add-ons). See full pay-TV poll results.

 
 

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should I ask the neighbours staying with us for rent? They moved in with us while their home's being refurbished. It was expected to take just one month, but it's already been two months and it looks like they may be here for another two or three. They're contributing to utility bills, but if they're staying longer, should I also charge rent to cover additional wear and tear on our household appliances, carpets and so on? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I ask the neighbours for rent? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

 
 

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES (SUBJECTS TBC)

Thu 8 Apr - BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Ben Jackson, from 10am
Sat 10 Apr 
- BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Summaya Mughal, from 11am
Mon 12 Apr - BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 2.20pm
Tue 13 Apr - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Mid-morning with Jeremy Sallis, from 12.40pm

 

WOULD YOU PAY £9 FOR A BACON SARNIE?

That's all for this week, but before we go... we asked you to tell us about the most overpriced food you've seen on sale, and your stories didn't disappoint. From a £7.50 sausage roll and £9 bacon sandwich to £70 for a cheesecake, many of you have spotted some shocking price tags, while one MoneySaver admitted to splurging £8 on a gingerbread man (though at least it "tasted amazing"). Read the full list and add your own on our Food price horrors Facebook post

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

 

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