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Weekly Email
This email was sent
21st Feb 2018
Warning! This info may be out of date. Read this week's email

Quick message from Martin - Get this emailed

"Hi. This free, spam free weekly email is the key way to save. We put all the latest deals, guides and loopholes in, yet many close within hours. Don't miss out, join the 12m who get it each week."

21 February 2018
Hi - here are your latest deals, freebies, tricks and messages to help you save.


Martin's urgent warning...
First-time buyers - decide NOW if your Help to Buy ISA should become a Lifetime ISA - some can gain £1,000s

For those saving for a first-time residential property, Help to Buy ISAs (H2B ISAs) and Lifetime ISAs (LISAs) are no-brainers, as an unbeatable 25% bonus is added. In other words you get an extra £250 per £1,000 saved towards a residential mortgage, on top of interest.  

Yet as you can only get the home-buying bonus on one of them, you need to pick which is right for you (LISAs can also be used for later-life saving, so you can have both).

About 1.1m people have H2B ISAs which were launched first, but it's likely fewer than 100,000 have LISAs, even though they're far better for some. And there's a big deadline a week away if you want to shift your H2B ISA into a LISA. First though, decide which is best for you...

Help to Buy ISA vs LISA. One way to decide: FIGHTTT

If everything else were equal, LISAs would be an easy winner, as you save far more in them, so get a far bigger bonus.

 - Help to Buy ISAs: up to £200/mth (£1,200 month 1): With H2B ISAs the limits are monthly, meaning the max saving is £3,400 in your first year, and £2,400 each year after that.

So a new H2B ISA saver starting today and putting in the max by mid-April 2019 would have £4,000 in, and a bonus of £1,000 to claim.

- LISAs: up to £4,000 per tax year (as lump sum or reg saving). That means with a LISA you could put £4,000 in today, £4,000 in on 6 April 2018 (the start of the new tax year) and £4,000 in on 6 April 2019 (the next tax year), so that's £12,000 saved, meaning a bonus of £3,000.

In this example, you'd get three times the bonus maxing out a LISA compared with the H2B ISA; therefore if it's suitable, it's the winner. Yet there are lots of other things to consider, so I've drafted this table to compare the two...

Lifetime ISA
Help to Buy ISA
Opening age
First-time buyers aged 18 to 39
First-time buyers aged 16+
Max contribution
£4,000 per tax year
£200 per month (£1,200 in first month)
Max property price
£250,000 (£450,000 in London)
Is there a penalty if I take cash out without buying a home?
Yes (1) (unless you leave it until age 60+)
No, you just don't get the bonus
How long before I can use it?
A year after the LISA was opened
Once you've £1,600+ saved (so as quick as 3mths)
When can I use the bonus?
Exchange and/or completion (2)
Completion only (2)
(1) The penalty is 25% of what you withdraw. Say you put in £800 and got a bonus you'd have £1k. The penalty's £250 so you'd get £750 back, a 6%+ loss.

(2) As the H2B ISA bonus is only paid at completion, it can't be used towards the exchange deposit, just towards reducing the mortgage borrowing. The LISA bonus usually comes in time to be used for exchange.

Hopefully the table gets you there. If not, in summary...

- If you'll DEFINITELY buy a home, for less than the LISA maximum of £450,000, you're aged 18 to 39, and you won't do it within a year, go for a LISA as you'll get a bigger bonus.

- If you're older, NEED TO BUY QUICKLY or you're not 100% sure you'll buy at all then it's safer to stick with (or get) a H2B ISA.

Still confused? Watch my H2B ISA vs LISA show. Some find it easier to watch and listen rather than read. If so, I did a full show on this topic on 29 Jan. You can still watch it on the ITV Hub for another week.

Want to change your Help to Buy ISA into a LISA? HURRY

If you've a H2B ISA, have read above, and realised a LISA is better for you as you'll get a bigger bonus... don't worry. You can transfer the money into a LISA. However, a big rule change is coming, which is all about whether the transferred cash uses up your £4,000/tax year LISA allowance. 

  • Transfers this tax year, ie, by 5 April 18 (in practice 1 March): All contributions you've already made to your H2B ISA this tax year will eat up this year's LISA allowance. Yet a special rule says any money you put into your H2B ISA before this tax year doesn't - and it's this exemption that's soon ending.

    So if you had £5,000 in your H2B ISA, £3,000 from the last tax year, £2,000 from this - only £2,000 counts towards this year's LISA allowance, leaving you a further £2,000 to contribute to fill it up.

    But while the official deadline is 5 April, the only cash LISA provider Skipton Building Society (there are stocks & shares LISAs) says you must start a transfer by 1 March for it to process in time, so you need to act quickly.

  • Transfers after 6 April. If you leave it until the next tax year, all money moved will eat up your £4,000 annual LISA allowance. That therefore risks reducing what you can put in next year, and at worst, if you're one of those with over £4,000 in their H2B ISA, means you can't transfer it all so will miss out on some bonus.

In terms of how you do the transfer, it's simple. Just open up the new LISA and as part of the forms you can ask to transfer your H2B ISA across. 

What are the best deals? 

These are covered in full in our H2B ISA and LISA guides. Obviously the critical one right now is the top (and only) cash LISA deal from Skipton BS, which pays just 0.75% interest.

You may be put off by the fact that this is lower interest than you get in your H2B ISA right now. Yet if a LISA is right for you, that's dwarfed by the fact you can contribute so much more. 

There are also stocks & shares LISAs available (not for H2B ISAs), though if you're saving for a home rather than retirement (be careful using LISAs for retirement), as it's likely for a short term, cash LISAs are safer.

- Why are there so few LISA providers? It's likely many banks are worried that if they offer LISAs and people inappropriately use them for retirement instead of pensions, they'll have a mis-selling case against them. So they prefer to stay out of the market.  

This really does need sorting out especially as H2B ISAs will no longer be available to new openers from December 2019.

Got questions on Help to Buy ISAs and LISAs?

Whenever I write or broadcast about this, I'm often swamped with the same questions, such as "Can my partner and I have one each?" (yes), "Can I get one if my partner isn't a first-time buyer?" (yes), "What counts as a first-timer?" (never having owned a property before in any way) and more.

I've deliberately focused on the urgent transfer deadline above. Yet for full answers to these questions and far, far more info, see our full LISA and H2B ISA guides.

Related: First-Time Buyers' Mortgage Guide | Ultimate Mortgage Calculator | Mortgage Best Buys | Boost Your Mortgage Chances


How to slash your council tax bill

We had record ratings for Monday's show on kids' savings and life insurance (watch again) with 4.3m watching, 21% of the whole TV audience. Ta if you watched. Next week it's the last in the current series and I'll be tackling the variety of ways you may be able to slash your council tax costs. Do watch or set your Betamax.


Saved cash? Shout it from the rooftops.

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British Gas customer? No-brainer £225/yr 5min saving
Everyone else? It's still a big saving from a big name

An easy win for Brit Gas custs. It's launched a new cheapest tariff, only via comparison sites

This dual-fuel British Gas All Online March 19 tariff which launched today (Wed) is far cheaper than any current BG deal and the cheapest of the Big 6. It's £876/yr incl £25 MSE cashback for typical use compared with its £1,101/yr standard tariff. It's only available via a comparison site such as Cheap Energy Club (our links take you through), plus you have to get a free smart meter which helps ensure you only pay for what you use. Here's how it stacks up...

  • BRITISH GAS CUSTOMER? This is a no-brainer. If you're determined to stick with British Gas through thick and thin, this is a sure fire way to save big. You'll save an average £225/yr compared with BG's standard tariff. Just use our 'My Current Supplier' comparison to see how much you could save. Switching takes just a few minutes, it's the same gas and elec, the same pipes, plus you'll be protected from any price rises till March 2019.

  • NOT WITH BRITISH GAS? It's still a cheap big name. It's the cheapest tariff from any of the Big 6 and one of the cheapest of all the big names, beating EDF, E.on etc. As energy prices vary by usage and region, use our 'Big Names' filter to see how it compares (though this BG tariff won't appear till 8am).

    Want the cheapest? The cheapest deals are often from small suppliers with limited feedback and start from a typical £807/yr on average use, so if you want to see how the new BG tariff stacks up against the whole of the market, do a full comparison to find your cheapest.

  • The new British Gas tariff in detail. It has £30/fuel exit fees, although the tariff is portable, so you can take it with you if you move home. You must pay by monthly direct debit and manage your account online, plus you need to sign up for (free) British Gas Rewards. You'll also need to book a free smart meter installation appointment by 31 July - these send automatic readings, so you get exact bills.

PS: Switching to British Gas can be glitchy for a few. If you go via our Cheap Energy Club and have problems switching, let us know and we'll try to help. 


Martin: 'Why cutting tuition fees bizarrely risks hurting not helping most students.' After news of a full review incl a possible cut from £9,250/yr read Martin's view on the tuition fees debate.

£37 of No7 beauty for £12. Incl eye shadow, blending sponge and free lipstick coupon. Ltd stock. Boots No7

Urgent. Fibre broadband price war. Three deals are now fighting it out - find the best available in your area via our Broadband Unbundled tool. If eligible, you'll see TalkTalk at '£19/mth' if you apply by Thu, Vodafone £20/mth till 28 Feb and BT, incl BT Sport, for '£21/mth' till Thu. All have line rental included. Which broadband is best for you?

5 Odeon tix £20 (or 2 for £10). Norm up to £17 each, can be used for one visit or multiple till 25 Apr. Cheap cinema

50+ free birthday treats, eg, free Body Shop £5, doughnuts, prosecco etc. It's our 15th birthday on Thu (woo-hoo) so we thought we'd share ideas for 50+ birthday freebies with you. Also, as part of our birthday celebrations, see your top reclaim successes over the years below.

Four Easter eggs for £3, incl Cadbury and Mars. Thanks to buy two, get two free. Where to find egg-cellent prices.


Longest 0% balance transfers are SHRINKING - if you've debt, sort it now

Last spring you could get a 43mth 0% balance transfer credit card, now it's 37mths and could drop further

Just a year ago lenders were competing to offer 'longest ever' 0% balance transfer credit cards with savvy borrowers grabbing up to 43mths 0%, transferring existing store or credit card debt to them to avoid interest and get debt-free quicker. Now because of tighter lending restrictions, the longest lengths have dropped by 6mths already and we hear some of the best deals could shrink further. There's no way of knowing when they'll stop, so if length matters, don't wait.

- Will you be accepted? Don't just apply willy-nilly - our Balance Transfer Eligibility Calc shows which cards you've best odds of getting, without hitting your creditworthiness. And for some cards you can be 'pre-approved', meaning you'll definitely get the card and offer shown, subject to an ID check.


Barclaycard (eligibility calc / apply*- Longest 0% 
Up to 37mths (19.9%)
1.85% (2)
Sainsbury's Bank (eligibility calc / apply*) - Longest non 'up to' (3)
36mths (18.9%)
2.89% (min £3)
HSBC (eligibility calc / apply*) - £25 cashback on £100+ transfers
32mths (18.9%) 1.4% (min £5)
Halifax (eligibility calc / apply*) - Longest NO FEE 
Up to 29mths (19.9%)
Sainsbury's Bank (eligibility calc / apply*) - Longest non 'up to' NO FEE 
28mths (18.9%)
None (2)
(1) % of debt shifted. (2) You pay a higher fee upfront, refunded to level shown. (3) Needs Nectar card.

  • Go for the lowest fee in the time you're sure you can repay. Calculate how long you need to clear the debt, add a bit for safety, then pick the lowest fee within that time. Unsure? Play safe and go long, even with a bigger fee.

  • Some have an 'up to' 0% length, so you may get a shorter deal even if accepted. That's why we include the best non 'up to' options, where you'll get that length if accepted (our eligibility calc says if you've good odds).

  • Balance Transfer Golden Rules. Full help and ALL best buys: Balance Transfers (APR Examples).
    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 on these. It usually isn't at the cheap rate and cash withdrawals hit your creditworthiness.
    d) You must usually balance-transfer within 30, 60 or 90 days to get the 0% and cashback.


Check NOW for old tenners. See how long you've got to spend 'em and what to do if left with one, in our £10 alert.

Last chance. Childcare Vouchers scheme, worth £1,000s, closing to new applicants. Check NOW if you can cut childcare costs with childcare vouchers, incl how to apply.

Beat EE, O2, Vodafone & Three price hikes. The biggies have announced rises this spring, yet you can beat 'em if not in a mobile contract. Full help in Cheap Sims incl this 4GB Sim deal, with 1,500 mins & unltd texts which ends today (Wed), from Virgin Mobile* (uses EE's network), for £8/mth for 1yr, if not in contract with it. For more see Mobile price hikes.

Laura Ashley 40% off almost all full-price items. From Thu, plus free furniture delivery. It's the strongest discount we've seen since last Black Friday. Full updates on what's available via our Laura Ashley sale page. 

Ending. £40 cashback on £400 'robo-investment'. MSE Blagged. If you plan to 'robo-invest', this Wealthify deal is equiv to a 9.55% head-start after fees. Most of the 1,000 deals originally available have gone - it ends when they've all shifted or by 28 Feb, whichever's sooner. Full explanation, plus pros and cons, in robo-investing cashback.

Virgin Wines 12-bottle mixed case £56 (norm £138). MSE Blagged. Newbies only. Incl red, white and prosecco. 1,000 avail. Virgin Wines. Pls be Drinkaware.


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Longest 0%: Barclaycard* up to 37mths 0%, 1.85% fee (19.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: Halifax* up to 29mths 0%, no fee (19.9% rep APR)

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  3. Gocompare*
  4. Compare The Market*

Then check insurers they miss: 
Direct Line*(till Sun) 

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Admiral* 3.3% rep APR
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: M&S Bank* 2.8% rep APR (1-7yrs)

Standard b'band & line rent: TalkTalk equiv £12.84/mth 
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
TalkTalk equiv £19.17/mth

£150 to switch + £50 if you stay a year: HSBC
5% interest fixed for a year: 
Nationwide FlexDirect


Happy birthday MSE - we're 15 and hope we've saved you billions - to celebrate and show how we've changed lives, look at these, incl a £153k win...

It's our birthday - yayyyy. was launched by Martin 15 years ago on Thursday for a MoneySaving £100 - see his birthday message for more about our birth, and the 'how our look has changed' video. The site's aim was "to cut your bills without cutting back" but within two years it'd become "cutting your bills and fighting your corner" as our zeal for campaigning and financial justice took hold. So while we're proud of saving you big cash on energy, savings, banking and helping millions out of debt, some of the biggest wins have come from our campaigns. We hope these inspire you...

  • PPI: 6m template letters downloaded, billions reclaimed. Our biggest reported win: £153k. PPI mis-selling was a cancer at the heart of banking culture that put profit before ethics. Yet with Martin as the 'big gob in chief', we launched the first template letters and reclaim tool (via complaint site Resolver), which many have used to get £1,000s back for free, such as Hugh and his wife last year: "The info on MSE and Resolver was simple. Each claim took 10-15 mins. 3hrs' work for £153k ain't bad." The PPI claim deadline is Aug 2019 but hurry to beat the rush. Do it via our Reclaim PPI for FREE guide & tool.

  • BANK CHARGES: 7m template letters downloaded. Our biggest reported win: £9,600. £35 for a bounced cheque used to be common - as were multiple fees for one indiscretion. They were grossly unfair and since 2005 our bank charges campaign has helped millions get them back. We've heard of a £36k business account reclaim but forumite njhsmiler's £9,600 win in 2009 is one of the biggest personal reclaims: "We paid our debts off and could treat the kids."  If in hardship you can still claim, see Bank Charges Reclaiming.

  • FLIGHT DELAYS: Our FREE tool makes it easy. Our biggest reported win: £3,300. We've been championing your reclaim rights if your flight is delayed for more than 3hrs since 2012, and seen some whopping wins. Deanne used MSE's Resolver tool when her flight was delayed for 5hrs and got £3,300 back for all seven in her group: "Thank you so much for the direction to use Resolver, so quick and easy." See our Flight Delay Compensation guide for full help. 

  • COUNCIL TAX REBATE: Our check 'n' challenge system has saved millions. Our biggest reported win: over £10k. Hundreds of thousands of homes were (and still are) in the wrong council tax band. We devised the council tax check 'n' challenge system to help you claim past overpayments and lower future bills. Jacki told her neighbour after watching Martin's show: "I noticed my neighbour's band was higher than the other houses'. The council agreed they've been in the wrong band for over 20 years. At approx £500 per year that's over £10k."  See our Council Tax Rebanding guide for full help incl the risks.

PS: Maybe some have reclaimed more - bravo. We'd love you to tell us your story if you haven't already.

PPS: As we celebrate, we've just heard of forumites Marleyboy and Tigsteroonie who have a celebration of their own. Having met on the forum, they're getting married later this year - hooray. Many congratulations to them (and their young son) from everyone at MSE Towers. 


£22 Ciaté nail polish set (£83ish indiv). MSE Blagged. 10 full-size polishes, incl glitter and shimmer effects. 1,000 avail

"Many thankshaggled with Sky and gently told it that as a pensioner, I couldn't afford my package and was considering cancelling. It reduced my bill by £350/yr."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

Could you pass the driving theory test? Official mock version is free online. Share with pals, whether learners or if they, ahem, need a refresher. Mock theory test



How do you rate your bank account's service? Every six months we ask for your help to track the quality of banks' customer service. By comparing your answers with last time, we can see which have got better or worse. How do you rate your bank account's service?

Younger groups find it more acceptable to use a 2for1 voucher on a first date. Last week we asked what advice you'd give Ashley if Robert pulled out a 2for1 voucher to pay on a first date. From over 8,000 responses, more than 40% of those under 34 considered Robert 'a keeper' - suggesting millennials are likely to cast romantic MoneySaving in a positive light. In comparison, just 24% of men and 20% of women in the 65+ age bracket felt the same. See how other groups judge those using a 2for1 voucher on a first date.



Can I keep grandma's cashback? I look after her finances now. She used to do everything in cash but I've set up a bank account in my name for her bills and cash, which generates interest on the money in there and cashback for paying the bills. Is it fair I keep it all? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Can I keep grandma's cashback? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: February's bring your lunch to work challenge
- Competitions thread of the week: iPad 9, speakers, Beats headphones
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Prepping: a new beginning 
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Two working parents: effect on child
- Discussion of the week: Good dog food at a reasonable price?


Caffe Nero - how to get 50+ free drinks a year by stacking deals
Wilko - 50% off pick & mix sweets
Heartier - £30 free-range roasting meat hamper
Waitrose - £10 Chinese & Asian meal deal
Nails Inc - £93ish of nail polish for £18 delivered

Burger King - meal deals, incl burger and fries for £2
Beefeater - 33% off food bill
Bella Italia - 40% off mains
Prezzo - 25% off food bill
Just Eat - 20%-30% off selected takeaways

£5 off fruit - Via £2ish spend on Weetabix
Dr Oetker - £1 off baking products
Benylin - £1 off tickly cough syrup
Aussie - 75p off shampoo or conditioner
Listerine - 50p off mouthwash 

Quick Forum Tips

NHS discounts via free or £5 Blue Light Card. Look Blue's Talking
Free fair-trade condom sample. Johnny Darko
£47 of Max Factor for £16ish. Mad Max (Factor)



Thu 22 Feb - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am. See previous
Fri 23 Feb  - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am
Mon 26 Feb - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 26 Feb - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon. Listen again
Mon 26 Feb - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm. See previous


Wed 21 Feb - BBC Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm
Fri 23 Feb
BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am. Lifetime ISAs
Mon 26 FebTalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am
Tue 27 Feb - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



Q: I'm travelling to Sweden, Denmark and Norway for a holiday - what is the most economical way of taking the three currencies? David, via email.

MSE Karl's A: When heading off anywhere in the world, a simple, cheap way to spend abroad is with a specialist overseas credit card, as you get near-perfect exchange rates and avoid the 3%-ish fee most other cards charge on spending. And if going to multiple places it saves having to get lots of foreign currency before you go. For top picks, see our Travel Credit Cards guide. 

If you prefer to take cash, our TravelMoneyMax tool compares 30+ travel bureaux so you can get the most bang for your euros, dollars or in your case, krona and krone. Do that and you'll avoid buying from the airport where rates are hideous.

Please suggest a question of the week (we can't reply to individual emails).



That's all for this week, but before we go... it pays to be a little greener and our MoneySavers are certainly a green bunch, especially when they share their bathwater and then water the grass with it, as one of our forumites does. Whether you just use a blanket rather than turning up the heating, or anything else, please share your top green tips in our how to be greener and save money forum thread.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team

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