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Weekly Email
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21st Oct 2015
Warning! This info may be out of date. Read this week's email

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"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 October 2015
Martin's Briefing: Urgent Easyjet cheap flights trick + 15 more holiday tips
27mth 0% spending card: longest-ever
Are you in the wrong council tax band? How to safely check: 'I got £1,500 back'
Can you defend yourself online? quiz
Rumour: eBay 20% off £20+ code Thu
Sainsbury's ALL toys min 20% off
'I got £471 AI cheque' - are you due?
Personalised photo mug £3.50 all-in
Do you really need to spread savings for safety?
Free X Factor live show tickets
Check for 'free' Amazon £7 code
100 shopping coupons worth £100+
Is M&S loyalty scheme any good?
Free £700 insulation & £25 J Lewis
100+ half-term treats, eg, 'free' Shard

Martin's Weekly Briefing: For more tips, alerts & puns, follow Martin on Twitter

This Thursday - the CHEAPEST time to book millions of Easyjet summer 2016 seats?

- 16 cheap flight, hotel and holiday booking tips and tricks
- And a warning: don't book a holiday naked

It seems odd to be talking summer 2016 before we've got to winter. Yet there are a couple of urgent booking tips taking off right now, so I thought why not bring you a plane-load? Whether it's for half-term, Christmas or next summer, if you want to go abroad, I've 16 key tips to ensure it's cheap and financially safe...

1. wrong bandThis Thu - the CHEAPEST time to book millions of Easyjet summer seats? It releases seats four times a year, and when it does the super-savvy pounce to bag tickets at what is usually the cheapest possible price. Tomorrow is its June-Sep 2016 tranche. Full pros, cons & tricks to max it in our Easyjet flight launch info.
2. Flash Avios sale: 40% fewer points needed for long-haul. On economy flights to 60 destinations, incl Johannesburg, Hong Kong & New York. Book until Mon 2 Nov for travel up to 20 Mar 2016. Full info in Avios Sale.
3. Slash flight costs using the RIGHT comparison. Our 27 Cheap Flight Booking Tips show how to truly slash flight prices. If you know when & where you're going, picking the right comparison site is the key... we like Kayak* and Skyscanner's* tools.

Yet for traditional package holiday destinations, use TravelSupermarket* and Flights Direct* as they include many more charter flights (spare seats on tour operators' bespoke flights).
4. Find the cheapest rate for the hotel you want. If you know which hotel you want, try Trivago* and TravelSup* comparisons to track down the cheapest. For far more tips and how to find the right hotel, see our Cheap Hotels guide.
5. How to uncover secret 5-star hotel discounts. A number of sites offer huge discounts on 3-5 star hotels in the UK & worldwide, but you take a risk as you don't know the exact hotel till you book. Unless, that is, you turn detective & follow our uncover secret hotels tips.
6. A warning... don't book your holiday naked. Last week Hayles sent me two tweets, saying: "Purchased annual travel ins in March to start in Oct for Oz trip. No point doing before, so I thought. Fractured ankle in Sep and insurer won't cover as policy not begun. Anything I can do?"

Sadly the answer's no. I often hear of people exposed and uncovered (naked is hyperbole, but I wanted you to read this), without active insurance from the day they book - in the event of cancellation, injury or illness, or death in the family, you've no recourse.

Of course you can try to throw yourself on the airline's mercy, but most flight tickets aren't flexible. And just as if you bought a tennis racket and broke your arm you can't say the racket is faulty, nor is your airline ticket. It's these eventualities that Cheap Travel Insurance is there to protect you from.
7. Travel insurance for a year's trips for £13 (£19 with winter sports). If you go away two or more times a year, annual travel insurance usually wins. Your price depends on who's going and where - these are no-frills policies.

Eg, a 25-year-old's Europe-only cover is £13 (£19 with basic winter sports), while for a family worldwide policy (oldest person 45) it's £56 (£74 with winter sports). The battle is between Holidaysafe Lite* or Leisure Guard Lite* to be cheapest, but if time check Coverwise* too. Full info in Annual Travel Insurance.
8. Get travel insurance just for one-trip for £5. Exact prices depend on who and where, but Leisure Guard Lite* usually wins, eg, it's £5.40 for a week in Europe for someone under 36 (£11 with basic winter sports) rising to £38 for a week worldwide for a family, oldest person 50. Yet for belt & braces check Holidaysafe* and PYB* too. Full info in Cheap Single-Trip Travel Policies.

More adventurous winter sports, eg, stunt skiing, aren't covered by basic policies - you'll need (costly) specialists like BMC or Snowcard.
9. If you're over 65 or have pre-existing conditions, get clever to get travel insurance. And as getting clever needs explanation, no brief tips here - instead please read our Cheap Over-65s' Travel Insurance and Cheap Pre-Existing Conditions guides.
10. Find the perfect time to book flights. The 'Flight Insight' tab on comparison site Momondo* shows the cheapest time to book for a range of destinations - on average, 53 days ahead is the winner. Yet it's a guide not a science - first wait until an airline's seats are launched (if you're thinking of summer 2016 flights, with airlines like BA and Virgin, often there's a chance of Jan sales).
11. For packages, booking late wins, but if you can't do late, do early. The cheapest time to book is within 8 weeks of travel as prices come down in the 'lates' market. The risk is limited choice & flexibility. The alternative if you've a specific need, eg, a kids' club, is to try to grab early bird discounts (summer bookings are often on in Jan). See Cheap Package Holidays.
12. One card to rule them all - for cheap spending abroad EVERY time. Bag a cheap overseas spending card, which saves money & hassle each time you go abroad. On a day when €1,000 from M&S travel bureau costs £763, spending on the cheapest card costs just £735.

Our long-term winner is the Halifax Clarity* Mastercard credit card (eligibility calc). Use it to spend and you get the same perfect exchange rate the banks get - just ensure you repay IN FULL each month so there's no interest.

The new Creation Everyday* Mastercard equals Halifax on spending, and on paper is a smidgeon cheaper on ATM withdrawals. Yet we don't have any feedback, so do let us know if you try it. Again, pay both cards off IN FULL each month, or you'll pay 18.9% rep APR and 12.9% rep APR respectively.

If you don't want a credit card, top prepaid cards can match them. See the full 15 cheapest ways to get travel money and our Travel Cash Comparison site.
13. Haggle down the cost of package holidays. Don't ignore the good old-fashioned package holiday, especially for 7, 10 or 14 days in traditional resorts like Majorca, Mykonos & Malia (and some that don't start with an M).

These can still undercut DIY web bookings. Yet it's important to understand tour operators make holidays, travel agents sell them. So one operator's holiday is often sold at many travel agents - the question is who'll sell it to you for less. Full help in Slash Package Holiday Costs.
14. Sneakily get package holiday protection on DIY web bookings. The ATOL scheme protects package holidays, so if something goes wrong you get your money back (or help coming home). However, the law also states that if you book a flight plus separate hotel and/or car hire within 24 hours from the same travel (not airline) site, you also get ATOL protection.

This works with online travel agents like Expedia*, Lastminute*, Travelocity* & Ebookers* that also often discount if you book flights & hotels together. Yet do check if it's more costly than booking flight & hotel separately.
15. Book car hire from £4/day. Usually, early booking wins. Right now you can get £4/day for Malaga in December (a bit of sun, plus drive to ski in Sierra Nevada) or £12/day in Majorca in June. Find your winner at speed in Cheap Holiday Car Hire. And when you pick the car up, beware a £20/day hard sell on excess insurance - instead stand-alone cheap excess insurance bought beforehand can be £2/day.
16. Cut airport parking 'from £123 to £59'. Book as early as possible before you go and use these special discounted links to comparison sites: Holiday Extras 10-30% off*, Looking4Parking 10-31%*, SkyPark Secure 13-30% off* & Airparks 12-25% off*. As forumite Mark told us: "Other quotes were £123 for 20 nights - your link got me down to £59 including airport meet & greet."

For more tips, eg, hotels giving a week's parking for a night's stay, see the full Cheap Airport Parking guide.

PS: CLOCKS GO BACK 2AM SUNDAY. So for those of you who don't have young children (or aren't on night shifts), enjoy the extra sleep.

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New. Longest-EVER 0% spending card - 27mths' FREE borrowing

If you need to borrow, nowt beats doing so interest-free (done right) & this new card smashes owt we've seen before

0% spending credit cards let you spend and not pay any interest. As they're fee-free, provided you make at least the monthly minimum repayment and clear the debt within the 0% period, they're the only NO-COST way to borrow, beating loans or any other card type. Even so, be careful - only borrow what you need and what you're sure you can repay. PS: If you think you've seen longer 0% deals, they're for balance transfers, ie, for shifting existing debts, and they have a fee.

  • New. Longest-EVER 0% borrowing. Just a year ago the longest 0% spending deal was 20mths - today the Post Office* offers accepted new card holders 27mths 0% (you must spend within first 3mths to get this). If you can repay quicker though, as the table shows, you may as well go for a card giving reward points for spending too.

    Don't just apply in hope, that hits your credit file - first find the odds of getting top cards via our 0% eligibility calc.

Card Purchase deal Rep APR after (1)
New. Post Office* - longest 0% card EVER 27mths 0% (2) 18.9%
Clydesdale* - next longest 0% (prior leader) 26mths 0% 18.9%
New. Sainsbury's* - longest 0% with reward (Nectar) points 25mths 0% 18.9%
Halifax* - top dual-use - same 0% on balance transfers too (for a 0.8% fee) up to 24mths 0% 18.9%
Tesco* - earn Tesco reward points when you spend 21mths 0% 18.9%
M&S* - earn M&S reward points when you spend 19mths 0% 18.9%
Aqua* - for poor credit scorers (but be careful, read how to use Aqua help first) 4mths 0% 34.9%
(1) The fact it's 'rep' APR sadly means only 51% of accepted applicants need get that rate. (2) If you make a purchase within 3mths. Otherwise 16mths 0%. More info: 0% Cards & APR Examples

  • The 0% Spending Cards Golden Rules. It's not just about picking the right card, it's using it the right way...

    a) Never borrow unless it's needed, minimised and you've budgeted and planned for affordable repayments.
    b) Never miss the min monthly repayment or you can lose the 0% deal and pay far more.
    c) Clear the card or balance transfer again before the 0% ends, or the rate rockets to the rep APR.
    d) Don't withdraw cash on these. It usually isn't at the cheap rate & cash withdrawals hit your credit file.


Rumour. eBay 20% off £20+ code Thu. Not 100% - may happen, may not. Info & updates on our Ebay deals page.

TODAY. Sainsbury's ALL TOYS reduced by min 20% (some 50%). It's one of the big toy sales pre-Xmas bargain hunters wait for, incl branded goods, eg, Lego, Barbie, Leapfrog. Till Tue 27 Oct. See Toy sale.

Big AI Scheme payout £471 - have you claimed yet? If you received an AI Scheme (Sentinel) compensation letter and haven't sent it back, fill it in - see free AI scheme reply templates. As AWF_AFC tweeted: "@MartinSLewis AI cheque for £471 arrived today. Thx for highlighting this, can't let the banks get away with OUR money. AGAIN."

Personalised photo mug £3.50 delivered (norm £10.50). MSE Blagged. Truprint code. Good for Xmas. Mug deal

Do you really need to spread savings to keep them safe? Read Martin's new Spread for safety? blog.



- Free £700 insulation & £25 J Lewis/Argos vch. Ends: 7 Dec

- £3.50 personalised mug delivered. Ends: 30 Nov


- £10 glasses with code

- 3-min briefing: Is the state pension top-up worth it?

- 32 free house price valuation tools

- Molton Brown £15 off £30 (in £4 mag)

- Get a YEAR's tube overcharges back


Are you in the wrong council tax band? - 'It's saved me £1,500'

Headlines last week read "Hull street's council tax hiked after one neighbour complains." BUT do it right & you win

The papers splashed the story of a woman in Hull, in a higher band than her neighbours, who asked for it to be checked. Theirs went up, instead of hers going down. We've warned of this risk ever since Martin came up with the council tax check & challenge in 2007. It's why we urge you to do TWO checks before asking for a drop. 10,000s have succeeded.

  • wrong bandWhy are there so many Robbies (ie, in the wrong band)? In 1991, provisional council tax bandings were allocated by temporary '2nd-gear valuations' - literally someone driving down streets in 2nd gear with a clipboard. Yet this stop-gap assessment has never been redone (in Eng & Scot - Wales has & NI don't pay council tax). So up to 400,000 may be in the wrong band.

  • 'It's saved me over £1,500.' If your band's lowered, as well as a bill cut you get a backdated payout since when you moved in - as far back as 1993, when council tax started. We've had 10,000s of successes, such as Chris's this week: "Massive thanks. Challenged my banding & it's saved me over £1,500."

  • Check 1 - The Neighbours Check: Are you in a higher band than neighbours in similar/identical properties? This is all publicly available info. For easy instructions just see brief steps in our Neighbours Check help.

  • Check 2 - The Valuation Check: Your home's value in 1991 still dictates your band. To work this out we've a Valuation Check Calculator. While this can't be used as evidence, it's this check that gives you the peace of mind a 'Hull' shouldn't happen.

  • If you've passed BOTH checks, and think your band's too high... You can ask for a band review (you can’t just ask for it to be lowered). Of course nothing's 100% risk-free, though if you passed both checks it should mitigate the risk. If you think the decision’s wrong you can appeal.

PS: It's worth noting those in the Hull council tax hike case say they've checked and believe their upbanding is unfair based on 1991 values - if you're ever in that situation, you can challenge it.


Free tickets to X Factor Wembley live shows. Up for grabs from this week, see our X Factor tickets blog.

Check your Amazon account for a 'free' £7. Selected customers get £7 code. How to check for Amazon £7

New. It's not just a loyalty scheme, it's an M&S loyalty scheme. M&S launches its 'Sparks' scheme. Is it worth it?

100 supermarket coupons you can print worth £100+. Last week we told you of our updated page that lists over 100 coupons, eg, £3 off cat food, £1 off Fairy non-bio. If you missed it, here's the link again. 100 supermarket coupons. Related: Extreme couponing.

Free insulation worth around £700 plus £25 J Lewis/Argos vch. MSE Blagged. It's back. Anyone in a suitable home (not NI) can get free loft & cavity wall insulation & a £25 J Lewis/Argos/Homebase etc gift card. Insulation


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100+ free or cheap things to do with the kids this half-term. Eg, 2 'free' kids' Shard tix with grown-up (£26), free woodland guides, free £5 kids' crafts, £1.60 cinema tix, £10 book bundles, Legoland 2for1. 100+ half-term treats.

FREE £1.50 dog treat - if you know the secret word. 400+ stores, starts Fri, while stocks last. Free dog treat

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"I heeded Martin's warning about a possible PPI deadline and finally got around to claiming. A couple of phone calls and a PPI form later & I've £6,800 back. Thank you - great, as I'm about to retire."

You may not think you had PPI, but it's worth checking. Full info: Reclaim PPI for FREE

New cheapest Sim card - unlimited texts & mins and 6GB 3G data. A new Sim from The People's Operator* (uses EE's network) is £14.99/mth - already joint-cheapest for this many mins, texts & data, but a promo means newbies now pay £3.99/mth for the first 2 months. And as it's a rolling one-month contract you can stop whenever you want. Full info in Hot Sims.


Can you defend yourself online? - Take the quiz

We've just exposed a huge Halifax online security flaw. So it's important you know how to protect yourself

Last Thu, we exposed a huge security flaw in Halifax's online banking. If banks' own procedures are flawed, it means we all need to tool up to ensure we're fraud-savvy; more important than ever as the latest crime figures show 5m incidents of online fraud and 2.5m of cybercrime. Our 30 online self-defence tips guide will help, but try this for a bit of fun to start...

  • Defend yourselfWhere does this link take you - As you'll see if you click, the text is irrelevant. Instead, hover your mouse over it. See Martin's Spam Spotter Rules.

  • What's the difference between 'https:' & 'http:'? Only when the first of these is in the address bar is it secure, meaning info sent is encrypted. Check when paying.

  • What do you pay for anti-virus software? There's professional free anti-virus software available. Without it, if a fraudster accesses your bank, you may be liable due to negligence.

  • Where does this link take you - It goes where it says it does, but it's the last bit of the hyperlink before the .com (or, etc) that counts, so this is to the non-existent

  • When in the year does HMRC email about tax rebates? Any answer but 'never' is wrong. If you get a tax rebate email, it's spam or a scam - don't click, delete. See our HMRC email warning.

  • How do you spot ads on Google? It's become more difficult as it's muted the difference between real results and those anyone can pay to be top of. Check for the little 'Ad' by the side of the text. Be especially careful clicking tax, passport, EHIC, driving licence and holiday visa sites as here you need to beware copycat sites which unfairly charge.


Free or cheap flu jabs. Some can get them for free - if you have to pay, we've the cheapest (legit) ways in free or cheap flu jabs.

'Free' £10 Morrisons voucher in £4.50ish newspapers. Collect 10 tokens, get £10 for groceries. Morrisons deals

FREE £8ish rum cocktail or £4ish beer. Via Pitcher & Piano voucher. Please be Drinkaware.

Have you received a crisis-type grant or loan from your local council? If you've used a local support scheme (eg, if you've been struggling with an emergency), a group of MPs wants to hear from you. They want to know what works, what doesn't, and if there's a postcode lottery. Whether or not you've used one, tell us what you think in the MSE forum and we'll pass on your comments.

What flights have 'hidden' stopovers? MSE Nick recently thought he'd snagged a bargain flight to Bali with one stopover in Jakarta, only to discover when he got to the airport that it also stopped in Amsterdam to 'refuel'. We want to know what flight routes and airlines have disguised stopovers. Have you experienced any? Share yours/read others': What flights have 'hidden' stopovers? Past topics: View all

Should the UK stay in the EU? Should we stay or should we go? The campaigns for both sides of the EU debate have now launched with the referendum due by the end of 2017. The wording of the question is unlikely to change, so we want to test your current view based on that exact wording.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Last week 6,706 voted on who was most likely to complain in their household. On his roadshow Martin found it was men most likely to complain (in straight couples). However, the first thing we learned was that the people most likely to vote in an online poll are also the most likely to complain.

Factoring that out we found that 70% of women claim to be the principal complainer compared to just 9% of their partners, while just 53% of men claim to be the main moaner compared to 15% of their partners. See the full results.



- Top story: Giffgaff tops mobile phone customer service poll as minnows beat the networks

- Stonebridge to axe life insurance cover for thousands: consider alternatives now

- Sainsbury's to cull its mobile service: what it means for you

- British Gas to shake-up Nectar loyalty scheme

- Energy provider Utilita blocked 40,000 households from switching

Is it OK to earn cashback for friends' payments? I'm going to a restaurant with a group of friends later this week. They usually pay with cash and I'll be paying with my cashback credit card. Would it be wrong to ask if they minded giving me the money so that I can pay the bill myself to earn the cashback? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Is it OK to earn cashback for friends' payments? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Roadkill Rebels 2015
- Competitions thread of the week: Tech bundle
- Old-style board thread of the week: Soft towels
- Freebie of the week: Comfort Intense sample
- Game of the week: 3 Little Heroes
- Discussion of the week: Opinions on wedding invites


- Bigger savers - do you really need to spread your savings?


- Why I've started borrowing my neighbour's car


- Free tickets to X Factor Wembley live


Wed 21 Oct - Countdown, Channel 4, 2.10pm
Thu 22 Oct - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am. Watch previous
Fri 23 Oct - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am. Watch previous


Fri 23 Oct - BBC Radio Manchester, 4.50pm
Tue 27 Oct - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, 2.15pm


Q: Can two parents book discounted train tickets using a Family & Friends Railcard if they travel with their nine-month-old baby? Blinkbox via forum.

MSE Jenny's A: A Family & Friends Railcard gets you and up to three other grown-ups a third off, providing you're travelling with one to four kids, who all get 60% off.

Most of the railcard's marketing states kids must be aged five to 15, as those under five travel free. Yet hidden in the T&Cs it states those travelling with little'uns under five can still get a third off - they just need to buy one discounted child ticket (just one, no matter how many kids). So do the maths. Buying a ticket for your bubba to grab the discount could well add up in some cases.

However, alternatively you could buy a Two Together railcard, which gives a third off rail tickets for you and a partner/others you often travel with, eg, footie mates. See our 20 Cheap Train Tricks guide for more sneaky ways to save on rail fares.

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


That's it for this week, but before we go, on a recent holiday MSE Sam discovered some unfortunately named Indonesian biscuits (we can't write their name here or this email'd be in your spam filter). We wondered what other piquantly-named foodstuffs you've spotted. Do share your pics via the link.

We hope you save some money,
Martin & the MSE team

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