Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

26 May 2021

Over 50 ways to save, incl... Energy bill hike news, £125 M&S beauty £20, is ur employer's pension good?, Nike 30% code, reclaim council tax, loan loophole, make £5k doing surveys?, 29mth 0%, Sky TV warning

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails

Get our free weekly Money Tips email!

Grab the latest deals, guides, tips 'n' tricks directly from Martin and the MSE team. Don't miss out

Plus... loan loophole, make £5k doing surveys?, 29mth 0%, Sky TV warning


Martin's warning: Energy prices in crisis
- Bulb hikes prices for 1.7m custs, many should ditch it
- Wholesale prices back at a 3yr high, up a third since March
- All the very cheap fixed deals have been withdrawn
- Price cap (hits BG, SSE, Scot Power etc) likely to jump £50-£100/yr
- 100,000s coming off cheap fixes will face huge price rises

Check NOW or risk a heavy cost this winter

MSE's Cheap Energy ClubMartin: "That's the longest headline I've ever written. Yet as I added each line, it cemented my decision to call this a crisis.

"A fortnight ago we told you wholesale rates - those energy firms pay - were at a three-year high. They dipped a smidgeon after that, but they've risen again. Everyone should check if you can save now. There are huge consequences, including...

- Bulb increasing prices 6.5% for all but prepay customers, its second rise of 2021. From next month it'll be barely cheaper than the price cap, so check if you'd be better off elsewhere. We've also seen Pure Planet announce an increase to variable prices.

- We're two-thirds through the 6mth assessment period for the next price cap (that dictates standard prices for British Gas, Scottish Power, E.on, EDF, Npower and SSE customers). Provisionally, it's likely the current £1,138/yr cap for typical bills will jump by £50-£100 in Oct, though we're working on getting tighter data on the expected amount.

"All this means, while we're heading to summer, for safety, check now if you risk overpaying. We run through the options below, though most find the easiest way to compare is letting our Pick Me A Tariff tools do the choosing and show the saving for them.

"One warning though, on ours and any comparison site, if like most people you're on a big energy firm's standard tariff...

The savings shown when comparing (and below) are an underestimate. They're compared to the current price cap, which will almost certainly jump in Oct. The real saving is likely to be £50+/yr bigger.

"If you do take action to save now, in the event things reverse significantly so prices are cheaper, you can always switch again - many of the top deals below don't have early exit penalties.

"And for some pelicans (those with big bills), savings can be huge, as Emma tweeted: 'Thanks to @MartinSLewiswe've switched our energy supplier and are saving £76/mth. Happy days. That's £912/yr saved.' Now over to the team, to run through our top picks."

The top pick energy deals

See the top energy deal via MSE's Cheap Energy ClubThe tariff prices below are averages; yet real prices depend on region and usage. All links go via our Cheap Energy Club comparison, so you can see your exact winner, price and more tariff details.

Savings below are based on someone with typical direct debit use paying the current £1,138/yr price cap (so likely an underestimate):

Find choosing confusing? 

Most people prefer to let us help them through it. The MSE Pick Me A Tariff tools are great for those unsure or nervous about switching. They cover the whole market.

  • Ends noon Fri. MSE Blagged. Cheapest good service deal + 100% 'renewable' elec. Igloo Energy (variable): Avg price: £895/yr on typical use. Service rating: Top 4.4/5. Save: £243/yr.

    This Igloo Energy Pioneer tariff is by far the cheapest tariff of any firm with a customer service rating (there's one cheaper new tiddler firm we've no feedback on - it will appear in your full comparison). It's a decent-sized firm with more than 150,000 customers, and came top in our latest customer service ratings.

    Until Fri, we've got it to give an extra £47 bill credit on its normal variable tariff, on top of our usual £25 MSE cashback (both halved for elec-only) - this is factored into the price above.

    The big thing to be aware of here is that the rate is variable. So it can move, and our guess is it will announce an increase soon. Yet even if it went up 10%, which is bigger than most, it'd still be cheaper than today's cheapest fixed deal for those on typical use. And it'd need to rise an unthinkable 27% before it was at the price cap. Even if it did, there are no exit penalties, so you can just leave.

    - Who's it for? New dual-fuel (ie, gas & elec) and elec-only custs
    - Smart meters? Not required
    - Green? 100% 'renewable' elec, but gas isn't green. See green energy defined
    - Early exit fees? 
    - Payment? 
    Monthly direct debit only
    - Comparison link above: Filtered to include all but lower service firms or those with no feedback

  • Cheapest fixed-rate tariff. Avro Energy (1yr fix): Avg price: £986/yr on typical use. Service rating: 3.9/5. Save: £152/yr.

    The Avro Energy Simple and Savvy12M tariff is the cheapest fixed deal on the market. That means the rate you get is locked in for 12mths, so can't be subject to price hikes (though what you pay can still vary with usage). So if you're looking for the cheapest certainty, this and British Gas below are strong options.

    Avro has 500,000+ customers, and got a decent service score of 3.9/5 in our latest ratings. Be warned though, this tariff is not environmentally friendly.

    - Who is it for? New dual-fuel (ie, gas & elec) custs
    - Smart meters? Not required
    - Green? No. See green energy defined
    - Early exit fees? 
    - Payment? 
    Monthly direct debit only
    - Comparison link above: Filtered to include all fixes, excluding lower service firms or those with no feedback

  • Cheapest TWO-winter fix, and it's from a big name + 100% 'renewable' elec + a year's 'free' £138/yr heating insurance. British Gas Evolve (2yr fix): Avg price: £1,052/yr on typical use. Service rating: 3.4/5. Save: £86/yr.

    The British Gas Evolve Exclusive Energy Plus Cover v7 tariff is the cheapest 2yr fix on the market. That means the rate you get is locked in for 24mths, so can't be subject to price hikes (though what you pay can still vary with usage).

    It's an Evolve tariff, which is British Gas's new online-only brand - you must manage your account online too. It's ONLY available via comparison sites, so you can't go direct to British Gas to get it.

    For those who just want a tariff they can forget about for a while, and know they're protected whatever the market throws at it, this is a good option. Though if things do get cheaper elsewhere, you can leave without any early exit penalties.

    Homeowners also get a year's 'free' heating insurance if you don't already have its cover, but it auto-renews after 12mths for about £11.50/mth, so cancel before then if you don't want it.

    - Who is it for? New British Gas dual-fuel (ie, gas & elec) custs
    - Smart meters? Not required
    - Green? 100% 'renewable' elec, but gas isn't green. See green energy defined
    - Early exit fees? 
    - Payment? 
    Monthly direct debit only
    - Comparison link above: Filtered to include all longer fixes, excluding lower service firms or those with no feedback

  • How to ditch your fix via MSE's Cheap Energy ClubShould you ditch your existing cheap fix to get one of these?  Tricky call this, so over to Martin: "Assuming you're on a cheap fix, I'd say in most cases, no. Prices have gone up so much, the benefit of keeping your likely much lower rate is likely to be substantial. Unless prices continue to rise at unprecedented rates, that should outweigh locking in a new deal now.

    "Yet if you're in the last 49 days of your fix, when you can leave exit-penalty free, it is worth grabbing a new tariff now for safety - a switchover usually takes 17 days, so include that and you're almost done anyway."
Not on direct debit? Live in N Ireland? You can still save

If you don't pay by monthly direct debit, you can't get the deals above. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't act:

  • Billed (not prepay) meter but not on monthly direct debit? The cheapest thing to do is to switch to monthly direct debit, as the top deals are only via this payment method. If you're not happy to do so, you can still do a comparison based on your payment method.

  • Are you a prepay customer? Those on prepay sadly have a less competitive market to choose from, and usually pay more. Savings are smaller, but still possible, so try our prepay comparison. If you're willing to, it is likely you would make far bigger savings in the long run by switching to a credit meter. For help on that, see Cut prepay energy costs.

  • In Northern Ireland? Sadly our Cheap Energy Club - like all main comparisons - doesn't include NI as it has a separate energy market. But you can get more info in Cheap NI Electricity or do a comparison via the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland's tool.
Common energy-switching questions
Here's a quick Q&A - for more, see the full Cheap Energy Club FAQs.

Q. Is switching risky? Could I be cut off? 
No, as no one visits your home (unless you want/need a smart meter), and it's the same gas, same electricity and same safety. The only things that change are price and service. See our How switching works FAQs.

Q. Does MSE make money from this? Yes, provided it's a tariff we can switch you to. Like all energy comparison sites we're paid (though unlike others, we don't hide tariffs that don't pay), and we give you roughly half as cashback (£25 dual fuel, £12.50 single fuel).

You wouldn't get this going direct (not that all the deals above are available directly anyway), so it's a win-win. The rest helps cover our costs and hopefully makes us some profit.

More switching and energy help in the links below...

Switching with smart meters | Why's my bill risen when I've fixed? | Reclaim credit | Switching-in-debt help | Switching if I've solar panels | How direct debits are set | Can I pick a switch date? | How do you compare my rates?


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.



Lewis' Loans Loophole: 'How borrowing MORE, that you don't need, may mean repaying LESS'

MSE guide to cheap personal loansDon't worry, I've not suddenly changed my tune about borrowing. Emotionally, the rules stay the same - borrowing is only for those who really need it, have planned for it, and have budgeted affordable repayments. Always try to borrow as little as possible and repay as quickly as possible, except when taking advantage of the current technical quirk in the system. Here's a step-by-step guide...

  1. The more you borrow, the cheaper the rate. First, let me show you the current best-buy personal loans, as this underpins the trick. Though in practice don't just apply, as that hits your creditworthiness - first find what loans you'll be accepted for via our eligibility calculator.

    - £1,000-£2,999: AIB 12.3% rep APR, then Cahoot 13.5% rep APR* (credit card 0% loans are often cheaper here)
    - £3,000-£4,999: Ratesetter 7.8% rep APR*, then AA 8.3% rep APR*
    - £5,000-£7,499: Ratesetter 2.8% rep APR*, then Virgin 3.4% rep APR*
    - £7,500-£15,000: Cahoot is 2.8% rep APR*, as are MBNA* and Ratesetter*

  2. As you can see, rates nosedive at £3,000 and £5,000. This is the underlying point - there are currently two cliff-edges where the interest rate drops steeply. So the question is at what point is the cost of borrowing outweighed by the gain from a lower rate? To help, here's a table for loans over five years:

    Amount & Rate Monthly Repayment Total Repayment
    £2,726 at 12.3% £60 £3,610 (£884 of that is interest)
    £3,000 at 7.8% £60 £3,610 (£610 of that is interest)
    £4,454 at 7.8% £89 £5,360 (£906 of that is interest)
    £5,000 at 2.8% £89 £5,360 (£360 of that is interest)

    As you can see, for these loans, if you're borrowing over £2,726 up to £2,999, it's cheaper to borrow exactly £3,000 instead - and you get some extra money too. If you're borrowing over £4,454 up to £4,999, it's cheaper to borrow exactly £5,000. Use our loans calculator to work out your own figures. As for what to do with the extra money, stay disciplined and use it for repayments - when you're in debt, focusing on repaying is always best.

  3. The fly in the ointment... representative APRs. All personal loans are 'representative' APR - and, sadly, that one word has a big impact. It means only 51% of accepted applicants need to get the advertised rate. The rest may be, and usually are, charged more. Worse, it's usually only after applying - which marks your credit file - that you're told your actual rate (in a few cases, our loans eligibility calc gives you the actual rate pre-application).

    So there is some art as well as science in this. Acceptance is crucial, especially as a slightly bigger loan can be slightly tougher to get. Yet in general, these same thresholds apply with many lenders - so be cautious, but if you're borrowing just under £3,000 or £5,000, check if shifting up to that amount is a winner.

For more help, see our full Cheap Loans guide and APRs Explained.


From Thu - £20 M&S beauty bag (norm £125ish) if you spend £30. The 11-piece set sold out in a day last year. See what's in it and how to grab this M&S beauty bag.

Martin: 'Should you take up your employer's pension scheme?' Martin's blog is worth 5mins of your time, as getting it wrong could cost you £10,000s. See Auto-enrolment pensions - any good?

Can you earn £1,000s just by filling in surveys? Here are the top 25 online survey sites. Martin's Extreme Savers ITV show last week (watch it back) showed how Julie made £5,000 via her hobby doing surveys and mystery shopping. That's an extreme case, but many are keen to find out more, so we've updated our list of top sites in our Make £100s filling in surveys guide.

Shift credit card debts to 29mths 0% (2.75% fee) and get £25 cashback. A balance transfer is where you get a new card that clears old card(s) for you, but at a cheaper rate. Acceptance is key, so use our eligibility calc to check which cards you're most likely to get first. HSBC's 29mths 0% deal (2.75% fee)* is the longest and gives £25 cashback if you shift £100+ in the first 60 days. For smaller transfers (under £1,000ish), that makes it even cheaper than Santander's 18mth 0% NO FEE*. Never spend or withdraw cash on these cards, and always pay at least the monthly min. Aim to clear the card before the 0% period ends or the rates jump to 21.9% and 20.9% rep APR respectively. Full help in Top Balance Transfers (APR Examples).

Nike 30% off almost everything code. Ends Fri. For new and existing members of its free loyalty scheme. Nike code

Last chance. Apply for self-employed grant 4, ends Tue. DON'T ASSUME YOU'RE NOT ELIGIBLE. These grants have been a lifeline for many self-employed whose businesses have been hit by coronavirus. Yet the fourth grant has different terms, and 600,000 people are eligible who weren't before, so do check. Many have got in touch after our prompting, shocked they're finally due something, such as Viv who emailed Martin: "After watching your show, I have been informed I'm eligible for the fourth grant. Money being paid in this week - so emotional when I actually saw it with my own eyes. Thank you." See how to apply for SEISS 4.

Just where can you go on holiday? See Martin's updated 19 travel need-to-knows for pandemic times covering the UK and abroad.

Martin Lewis' Extreme Savers, ITV, Wed 8pm. In the third show we meet the 'Good Life' Watkinsons, 'fashionista' Lauren who never buys new clothes, 'luggage wearer' Lee and Rosie the super-supermarket shopper. Plus watch episodes 1 and 2 if you missed them.


'I got a £5,000 council tax rebate and £15,000 to adapt my home. Thank you'

Frank sent us an incredible email this week, prompting us to remind you to check if you're due council tax back

When the council tax bill arrives, many just assume they must pay what they're asked for. Yet actually 100,000s of people are overpaying in a host of ways. Before we get on to Frank's letter, a wee reminder of a few things to check...

- Are you in too high a band? Use our 10-min check 'n' challenge system to see if you're due £1,000s backdated.
- Single person or live only with students / under-18s? See if you're entitled to the 25% single person's discount.
- On low income / get pension credit? Check if you're due a reduction in our full list of council tax discounts.
- Got / know someone with a 'severe mental impairment' (common with strokes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's)...

Back in 2016, we launched a campaign to ensure that the 100,000s of 'severely mentally impaired' (SMI) people (those who have a severe impairment of intelligence and social function which appears to be permanent) across Britain would be aware of a major council tax discount that was so poorly publicised that even many front office council staff hadn't heard of it. Ever since, we've had huge numbers of successes, with many vulnerable people getting huge reductions and backdated payouts. Full help is in our SMI Council Tax Discounts guide, but here, in our Success of the Week, Frank from Wales tells us how important it is to spread the word:

Sent: 17 May 2021 12:00
Subject: SMI success PLUS

Dear MSE, 

About 18 months ago I was made aware by MSE that I might be eligible for an SMI reduction to my council tax. I have a neurological illness which affects my speech and communication, and has impacted my ability to socialise and relate to other people.

Armed with a covering letter from my consultant, I applied to the council for the SMI reduction. Shortly afterwards I received the news that the application had been accepted, and the reduction was backdated, meaning that I saved about £5,000, and of course more each year going forward.

Recently after a fall (and a stay in a hospital), we were faced with the prospect of having to convert a downstairs room into a part-wet room, part-bedroom. Though we're on a low income, we'd carefully saved our pennies over the years - and social services were about to say that we would have to pay for the entire conversion of the downstairs room ourselves.

Luckily, at that point we consulted an adviser who asked me about council tax reductions. When I remembered the SMI reduction, social services were able to confirm that we were 'liable for a nil contribution' for the cost of the conversion [this isn't a council tax reduction, but he qualified for a separate grant]. This means the council will cover the cost of the conversion - something that'll be around the £15,000 mark, on top of the previous savings.

I am writing to thank you heartily, and to let others know that the SMI reduction could have secondary benefits as well as the actual reduction in council tax.



Ends Thu. 108Mb (MEGAFAST) Virgin fibre broadband AND line '£20/mth'. MSE Blagged. Until 11.59pm Thu, Virgin Media newbies can get this 108Mb deal for £23.95/mth, with a blagged £75 bill credit on top - factor that in over the 18mth contract and it's equiv to £19.79/mth. Virgin's only available to 52% of homes, so the link takes you via our broadband comparison tool to check your eligibility, and from it you can check other deals too.

25% off six or more bottles of wine, prosecco or champagne at Sainsbury's, Asda or Tesco (with Clubcard). Online and in selected stores (excl Scotland). See Cheap wine deals. Please be Drinkaware.

WARNING. Sky TV won't tell you when your contract ends - so check now, or risk overpaying. TV-only customers aren't getting end-of-contract notifications from Sky, despite regulator Ofcom saying they should, so you may not know when you're free to switch or haggle to a cheaper deal. See how to check when your term ends in Sky TV warning.

£140ish Marc Jacobs sunglasses for £45 all-in. MSE Blagged. Via code on already-reduced sunnies. Or £35 for a pair of prescription specs. Low Cost Glasses

New. High Court REJECTS Amigo Loans compensation cap. See Amigo latest.


Tell your friends about us

They can get this email free every week



Longest 0%: HSBC (check eligibility / apply*) 29mths 0%, 2.75% fee (min £5) + £25 cashback if shifting £100+ in first 60 days (21.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: 
Santander 18mths 0% (check eligibility / apply*) (20.9% rep APR)

Cheapest good-service deal: Igloo variable, save £243/yr
Cheapest fix: Avro 12mth fix, save £152/yr
Cheapest two-year fix: British Gas Evolve 2yr fix, save £86/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 & bill credit (where paid). Assumes typical use vs price cap. Links go via Cheap Energy Club.

Top standard easy access: Atom Bank 0.5%, no min
Top one-year fix: 
PCF Bank 0.9%, min £1,000

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  1. MoneySupermarket*
  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 £14.83/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent (30Mb+): 
Shell Energy equiv £17.83/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent (55Mb+): 
Shell Energy equiv £18.74/mth

Free £100 to switch + top service: First Direct
Free case of wine + 2.02% interest: 
Virgin Money



With lockdown easing, what sorts of places are you comfortable going to? Pubs, museums, hairdressers etc are reopening. We want to know which places you now feel comfortable returning to - and which ones you'd still rather avoid.

1pMobile tops our mobile network poll. More than 4,600 people voted in last week's poll. Tiddler firm 1pMobile ranked best among providers with 75+ votes, as 91% of its customers rated it 'great' for customer service and 84% rated it 'great' for network coverage. EE was best of the biggies, with a 'great' rating from 45% of its customers for service and 49% for coverage. Virgin Mobile took the wooden spoon for service - 27% of its customers said it was 'poor' - while Three was worst for coverage, with 38% rating it 'poor'. See full mobile poll results.



Should I ask my neighbour to pay for the meat they spoiled? I recently ordered around £40 worth of meat online. I was at home when it was due to be delivered, but received a text saying it had been left with my neighbour. I went over 10 minutes later, and they told me via their video doorbell that they'd gone out and wouldn't be back until late. I picked up the parcel the next day, and it turned out they'd left it on a radiator, despite it saying 'perishable goods' on it and containing ice packs, so I had to throw all the meat away. Should I ask my neighbour to cover some or all of the cost? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I ask my neighbour to pay for the meat they spoiled? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs



Wed 26 May - Ask Martin Lewis, BBC Radio 5 Live, 1pm. Listen again
Wed 26 May - Martin Lewis' Extreme Savers, ITV, 8pm
Thu 27 May - This Morning, ITV, 10.30am, then phone-in from 11.10am


Thu 27 May - TalkRadio, Early Breakfast with James Max, personal finance news review with Steve Nowottny, from 5.35am
Sat 29 May - BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Summaya Mughal, from 11am
Tue 1 Jun - BBC Radio Berkshire, Mid-morning with Sarah Walker, subject TBC with Guy Anker, from 11.35am
Tue 1 Jun 
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Mid-morning with Jeremy Sallis, from 12.40pm



That's all for this week, but before we go... always keep warranty info safe or check for one if something goes wrong. MSE Guy bought a fancy £150 2in1 bin and recycler in 2016 to spruce up his kitchen, but the foot pedal stopped working earlier this year. He wasn't sure if there was a warranty (tut tut for not keeping the details), so he called the retailer and indeed it came with a 10-year one, so he got a free replacement. We asked on social media for more warranty successes, and had a huge response - users told us they'd had a Samsung fridge, Canon camera, Vax vacuum and Prestige pressure cooker all replaced for nothing. So if you're looking for some inspiration, head over to our warranty wins Facebook post.

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