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27th Mar 2019
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 This info may be out of date.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."

27 March 2019
         
Hi - here are your latest deals, freebies, tricks and messages to help you save.
                                                           
 


 

Urgent. 10% energy price HIKES hit 12m homes on Monday (up c. £120/yr). So we've picked FOUR EASY DEALS to switch to that'll typically save you up to £300/yr


Intro by Martin: No joke, on Mon 1 Apr the regulator Ofgem will increase the energy price cap, for most people, from £1,137/yr to £1,254/yr based on typical usage. It'll be reassessed again for Oct.

Unsurprisingly, all the Big 6 firms (Brit Gas, EDF, E.on, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE) are hoicking prices to within a quid of it. Sadly this means the 50%-ish of the population on their standard variable tariffs will now pay MORE than before the price cap was introduced on 1 Jan.

We know you don't like to switch, so we're making it easy

If you're on a Big 6 standard tariff (if you don't know, you likely are), the odds are you don't like to switch, which is ripping yourself off. Yet I know it scares people - at my TV roadshows people often say "please just tell me who to switch to". To help, the MSE team and I have picked four easy, reliable switches, explaining strengths and weaknesses.  

When you find the one that's for you, click through (the links go via our Cheap Energy Club comparison to double-check your exact savings), switch in confidence and most get £25 cashback too.

Savings can be huge, as Mike emailed: "Amazing result following your tips - saved £568/yr switching. This must be a record." And switching is easy. It's the same gas, same electricity, same safety - all that changes is customer service and billing. Now over to the team for the tariffs...

Four easy, reliable energy deals you can switch to & save

These deals and the price cap don't apply if you're on prepayment (which has its own price cap) or are in N Ireland. More info on that later... 

For ease, our prices are for someone on typical use - on average, a Big 6 standard tariff is £1,254/yr from Monday

  • Surprisingly we DON'T suggest you pick the very cheapest. Prices c. £890 - £950/yr. A few small providers are trying to build market share by offering very cheap, possibly unsustainable prices (see our whole-of-market comparison). But we have no feedback or bad feedback on them (eg, Outfox the Market's 74% 'poor' rating). So if you're not a confident switcher, these aren't for you.

  • Deal 1: Cheapest TOP SERVICE, 100% renewable elec - but the price is variable. Bulb - £950/yr on typical usage, incl MSE cashback & extra bill credit.

    Bulb's Vari-Fair tariff is extremely popular, with over a million customers now. The firm scored 76% 'great' (from 600 votes) in our recent customer service poll. It's also green, with 100% renewable elec and 'carbon neutral' gas.  

    Go via our Cheap Energy Club link, and it'll compare this deal to other 'superb' service deals. And as well as the usual £25 MSE cashback, until Thu 4 Apr we've bagged an extra £25 Bulb bill credit.

    The price is variable so can rise at any time. But while it's moved over the last few years, it's always remained on the very cheap end of the market - hence the fact those who switch to it from a Big 6 standard tariff can currently save over £300/yr on typical usage. If Bulb does increase prices, you'll get 60 days' notice and can leave at any time with no penalties. 

    Who can get it? Only new, dual-fuel (ie, gas & elec) custs, incl those on Economy 7, can get the bill credit. You need to pay by direct debit and take paperless bills. If you move home you can't take the deal with you. 

    PS: Bulb has a refer-a-friend scheme, which normally pays the referrer and newbie £50 each if the newbie switches to this tariff via Bulb. Our deal pays the same in cashback and bill credit but you don't need to know an existing customer.
      
  • Deal 2: Cheapest fix from a big name, 100% renewable elec & the rate's locked in for 16mths. Shell Energy - £951/yr on typical usage, incl MSE cashback. 

    Ironically, our big-name pick's a new name. First Utility, a long-standing well-known mid-sized supplier with about 700,000 customers, this week changed its name to Shell Energy. Yes, the energy giant bought it last year, so we're not worried about it going bust...

    The Shell Fixed July 2020 deal means typically you'd save £300+/yr and it's locked in for longer than normal for a cheap fix - well over a year, until 31 July 2020. Go via our Cheap Energy Club link, and it'll compare this deal to other big-name deals.

    It's the second-cheapest fix on the market, beaten only by Outfox the Market, which we're excluding due to its hideous customer service rating. Shell's service rating is a decent 48% 'great' (from 135 votes) and since its name change it's now 100% renewable elec.

    Who can get it? It's for dual-fuel and elec-only custs (incl Eco 7), paying by direct debit or via cheque/cash (though that's costlier) with paperless billing. There are no early exit fees and you CAN take it with you if you move home. Existing Shell Energy custs can get it, but you won't get the extra £25 Cheap Energy Club cashback, which is only avail to new custs.

  • Deal 3: Cheap British Gas tariff, £260/yr cheaper (for existing customers too - if you know how), plus many get 'free' boiler cover. British Gas - £995/yr incl MSE cashback. 

    The British Gas Energy Plus Boiler Cover March 2020 tariff is the cheapest Big 6 deal on the market on typical use, plus you get £25 MSE cashback. What's more, many also get a year's basic boiler cover. It's fixed until 31 Mar 2020. Go via our Cheap Energy Club link, and it'll compare this deal to other big-name deals.

    This deal's a no-brainer if you're already with BG and loyal - you'll typically save £260/yr and there are no exit fees for switching to it. But you can't call and ask for it - it's only available through price comparison sites.

    Who can get it? New and existing dual-fuel customers (incl Eco 7), managing their accounts online. You'll also need smart meters if you don't already have them, unless you can't get them for technical reasons. There are £30/fuel early exit fees. You can pay by direct debit or cheque/cash (though that's costlier). Plus you CAN take it with you if you move home (the tariff, not the boiler cover).

  • Deal 4: Cheapest TWO-YEAR fix - lock in your rate until 2021. Green Network Energy - £997/yr on typical usage, incl MSE cashback.

    This GNE 2 Year Exclusive tariff is the cheapest two-year fix on the market. GNE is a mid-sized firm with 240,000 custs, owned by a large Italian energy company. We've run deals with it before and they've gone well. Its customer service rating was a healthy 69% 'great' in our last poll (though from only 52 votes).

    Go via our Cheap Energy Club link, and it'll compare this deal to other long fixes. Those who switch to it from a Big 6 standard tariff can save about £260/yr on typical usage.

    Who can get it? It's a dual-fuel and single-fuel (incl Eco 7), monthly direct debit tariff, for new customers on paperless billing. There are £25/fuel exit fees. You can't take it with you if you move home. It ends on Thu 11 Apr.

On prepay or in Northern Ireland?

Unfortunately you can't get the deals above - but you can still save:

  • On prepay? Your prices are rising too. The price cap on prepayment tariffs is also rising - from £1,136/yr to £1,242/yr on typical use (though your max depends on usage). You can still switch and save £100s. The cheapest nationwide is Bulb (a few regional suppliers beat it) - if you're dual fuel you can also get the bill credit offer above - making it a typical £1,011/yr incl cashback and bill credit. That's still £230/yr cheaper than the Big 6 standard price. Do a prepay comparison to find your cheapest.

  • Live in Northern Ireland? Our Cheap Energy Club, like all UK comparison sites, doesn't currently include Northern Ireland. But you can do a comparison via Cheap NI Electricity or the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland's tool.
Common energy-switching questions

We've full help in our Cheap Energy Club FAQs - here are the key Qs:

Q. How does Cheap Energy Club work? See How do I compare?
Q. Can I switch if I've smart meters? Yes, but you may lose functionality.
Q. Can I pick a date for the switch? 
No. Providers don't allow this.
Q. I'm in credit. Will I get it back?
Yes. See Reclaim credit.
Q. I'm in energy debt. Can I switch? Usually, see Switching in debt.
Q. I've solar panels. Can I still switch? Yes. See Solar info.
Q. Why do you show a different cost from my supplier's? Enter your kilowatt hours and we show the avg each month, yet your direct debit's an estimate so can differ. See Direct debit help.
Q. I've an independent gas transporter - can I switch? 
Yes. See IGT help.

PS: Don't forget the clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday. We all lose an hour's sleep (grrr) but it means lighter evenings (hurrah). 

 
 

DON'T believe the fake ads on Facebook
Lots of scam ads that litter social media lie that we or Martin promote Bitcoin, binary trading etc. See Fake ads warning.

 

 
 

Martin asks: 'Are you due £2,000 PER CHILD to help with childcare costs?'

1.5 million families are eligible for this state boost, but only one in six of them have signed up. Are you due it? 

In April 2017, the confusing and somewhat inaccurately named 'Tax-Free Childcare' scheme launched. It was beset with problems, poor communication and technical glitches, and huge numbers of those who can take advantage have been put off. Yet now I believe it's time to look afresh. For those paying for childcare, it can be worth £2,000 annually per child towards Ofsted (or equivalent) registered nurseries, childminders, nannies, after-school clubs, play schemes and home care. Here are the need-to-knows:

  1. Do you even need to pay for childcare? If you've a 3-4 year old, you're entitled to up to 30hrs/week of free childcare.

  2. Family income under £40,000ish? Check if you're entitled to universal credit childcare help. If you're working (or in a couple where both works) and pay for childcare, then universal credit could cover up to 85% of your childcare costs (max £7,750/yr for 1 child, £13,300/yr for 2+).  

    The entitlement system is complex, so rules of thumb are difficult, but definitely spend 10 mins on our Universal Credit & Benefits Calculator if you've family income under £40,000 (I'm not saying you'll get universal credit, just that it's worth checking). If you've expensive childcare costs, you may be due it even at higher income levels. If you get universal credit you CAN'T get Tax-Free Childcare (but universal credit's likely worth more to you anyway).

  3. Tax-Free Childcare means for every £80 you pay, the state adds £20. This is a boost of up to £2,000/yr per child (£4,000/yr if disabled). To do it you need to pay for childcare via a special Tax-Free Childcare account. The gain is equiv to the income tax paid by a basic-rate taxpayer - hence the name - though higher-rate taxpayers don't get a bigger boost. Here are the eligibility criteria, but read our full Tax-Free Childcare guide for how it works and how to do it...

    - You must be paying for Ofsted (or equiv) childcare for an under-12 (under-17 if he or she is disabled).
    - You must work and earn £131+/wk - for couples, both must earn this. No one parent can earn £100,000+/yr.
    - The self-employed can also get this, as well as those who are employed.

  4. If you already get Childcare Vouchers, you may be better off sticking with them. Tax-Free Childcare was designed to replace the old Childcare Vouchers scheme that closed to new sign-ups last Oct (some are campaigning to bring it back), though if you were already getting them, you can keep them going. And they may be worth keeping, especially for couples where only one parent works, as then you can't get Tax-Free Childcare but can get vouchers.  

    Even if you're eligible for both, for those with lower childcare costs and fewer kids, vouchers can be better. See my Tax-Free Childcare vs Childcare Vouchers infographic to work out which is best. Also, while you can use Childcare Vouchers if you get universal credit for childcare, you can end up getting less through universal credit, so it's likely not worth it. 
 

Updated. How Brexit impacts mortgages, flights, your rights & more. It's been delayed until at least Fri 12 Apr, and there's still huge uncertainty. See facts where there are facts & Martin's analysis where there aren't in our 25 Brexit need-to-knows. PS: Next Tue at 8pm on ITV - Martin's live Brexit special. An important watch. He'll be covering the practicals not the politics in an ask-him-anything special.

250,000+ water-saving FREEBIES - eg, £20 shower heads, £2 Save-A-Flush bags. Cut your water use & bills, esp if you've a meter. This week water firms have boosted the number of freebies avail across Eng & Wal (& now Scot too), though it depends on your supplier. Free gadgets

£12 for £40ish of No7 skincare & make-up. Incl primer, serum & eye cream. Boots No7

VICTORY: Our mortgage prisoner campaign means mortgage holders should find cheaper deals easier to get. After four years the regulator has finally supported our call to redefine 'affordability checks' for those switching mortgage deals - making it easier, and freeing up 10,000s of mortgage prisoners. Full info: Mortgage affordability victory.

'Free' £6 box of chocs & more last-min Mother's Day deals. Eg, £2 flowers, £5ish prosecco. Mother's Day round-up

Confessions of a MoneySaving...Idiot - claiming for a train delay. Not a natural MoneySaver? You'll be surprised to hear that while we've many MoneySaving geeks on our team, not everyone is. Our features writer Kelvin is great at his job, but calls himself an idiot when it comes to his own cash. Yet after a double train delay he donned his MoneySaving cape & embarked on an epic battle to get a refund - read a MoneySavingIdiot's train delay reclaim tips.

 
 

Ends Mon. Biggest FREE cash bank switch - £150 (& linked 5% savings)

Banks pay to gain your custom, but the biggest upfront switching incentive is about to disappear

Yet another top free-cash switching deal is being pulled. HSBC pays new customers £150 - but only if you open an account by 11.59pm Monday. It's brought the offer back before, but we don't know if it will again. Firms switch these off and on, though if you want it, now gives you certainty. Switching is easy - it takes just 7 working days and the new bank moves all your payments for you. So if you're fed up with your bank or just want free cash, here's info on HSBC's offer and other top deals...

(All require you to pass a not-too-harsh credit check - with most, for the bonus and any ongoing rewards, you must move 2-4 direct debits and keep them active, register for online/mobile banking and/or go paperless.)

  • Ends Mon. Free £150 + access to 5% reg saverApply for the HSBC Advance* by 11.59pm Monday and switchers get £150 (until recently via our link it was £175). Plus you get access to a 5% fixed regular saver, where you can save up to £250/mth for a year.

    How do I qualify? Open the account, then start a full switch within 30 days. You need to shift 2+ direct debits/standing orders and pay in a min £1,750/mth - a £25,900/yr salary paid into the account would do. You can't have had an HSBC account since Jan 2016.

  • Free £100 + strong service + 5% reg saver. First Direct* is rated highly for customer service - finishing 2nd in our latest poll - and gives newbies £100 for switching. You can also access its 5% regular saver and most get a £250 0% overdraft. Pay in £1k+/mth (equiv £12,675/yr) for the bonus and to avoid a £10/mth fee.

  • Free £100 M&S voucher with NO min pay-in (+ £80 vch after 1yr if you pay in £1,250/mth). Newbies who open an M&S Bank* account and switch within 3mths can get the freebies and access to its 5% regular saver. Got an M&S Bank credit card? You'll get a boosted £120 vch after 1yr.

  • Quick free £50 with NO min pay-in (+ £85 after 6mths if you pay in £1,500/mth). Halifax pays £50 before the switch completes, then if you jump through some hoops, a £2/mth reward and 6mths later, £85. To get it you can't switch from Bank of Scotland or have had a Halifax switch bonus since Jan 2012.

Full eligibility info, incl exactly when the bonuses come, in Best Bank Accounts.

 

Can you take kids on term-time holidays without being fined? Many do it as holidays are cheaper then, yet the number of fines has almost doubled in the last year. To avoid being caught out, see our School Hols Fines guide.

How to get up to 50p off most Costa, Pret, M&S, Starbucks etc drinks EVERY time. We've updated our blog with 7 new chains where this trick works. Save a latte 

20,000 FREE £12 Grand Designs Live tickets. For London, 4-12 May. Grand Designs

Six craft beers for £6 delivered. Norm £25. 1,250 bundles avail via HonestBrew. Pls be Drinkaware.

£69 Ray-Bans, £25 Nike/Oasis/Ghost specs (norm £100+). MSE Blagged. Incl free del. SpeckyFourEyes

First Utility customer? Not any more - it's now Shell Energy & HURRAH, 100% renewable elec. If you're one of 700,000 customers of the mid-sized energy firm, it's all change. Full info in First Utility renamed.

 
 

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AT A GLANCE BEST BUYS

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

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

Then check insurers they miss: 
Aviva*
Direct Line*

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Zopa* 3.3% rep APR
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: M&S Bank* 2.8% rep APR (1-3 yrs)

Standard b'band & line rent: Post Office £17/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Vodafone £21/mth

Ends Mon. £150 to switch: HSBC Advance
Great for service + free £100 to switch: First Direct

 

Vodafone price hike, cheap iPhone XR and 100GB cheap Sim ending

Lots of news in the mobile world this week - hot deals and cold prices. So we've done a quick round-up...

Millions overpay for their mobiles, and with the last of the big networks announcing price hikes last week, that's about to get worse. Yet if you're out of contract, check now if you can cut the cost - either with a new handset or just by switching your Sim (don't worry, with both you can keep the same number). Many can save £100s a year. Full info in our 30 Cheap Mobile Tips (plus you can analyse your usage with a free tool). Here's this week's news...

  • Warning - Vodafone's raising prices for millions next month. You can beat the increase if out of contract though. See full info and your rights in Vodafone help.

  • Ends 5pm Fri. Cheapest iPhone XR and Samsung Galaxy S10 with decent data. The latest handsets are never MoneySaving. Yet if you're going to get one anyway, we've blagged a stonking deal which means over the two-year contract, you're only paying £120ish more than buying the iPhone XR outright (£50ish more with the S10) - much less than a similar allowance of calls & data would usually set you back.

    Newbies to EE can get a 64GB iPhone XR* or a 128GB Samsung Galaxy S10* with unlimited mins & texts + 9GB data via the code MSE25 for £175 upfront and then £28/mth. More help in Cheap iPhones and Cheap Samsung.

  • Ends noon Thu. Hot Sim with HUGE 100GB data for '£15/mth'. Most won't need this much data - in our recent poll 70% said they use less than 3GB a month. But if you do use a lot, this is a cracker.

    Newbies to Vodafone* can get unltd mins & texts + 100GB data for £20/mth (via Mobiles.co.uk). But use our blagged code MSE10AUTO to receive a £60 cheque within 2mths & over the 1yr contract it's an equiv £15/mth - and you WON'T be affected by next month's price rise mentioned above. For more options incl deals from £5/mth, see Cheap Sims.
 

B&Q rare £5 off £50 spend via code. Only online, but these don't come around often. Ends Sun. B&Q £5 off

STUDENT LOANS RECLAIM - SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: 
"Thank you so much for your article on student loan refunds. I've just been told I'm due over £1,000."
(Send us your successes on this or any topic.)

 

THIS WEEK'S POLL

How do you FEEL Brexit will affect your personal finances over the next few years? The UK's exit from the EU has now been delayed until at least Fri 12 Apr. We wanted to test your gut reaction about Brexit and its effect on your pocket, rather than the specifics. How do you FEEL Brexit will affect your finances over the next few years?

Most think the £30 contactless spending limit should be relaxed. Last week, we asked if the current limit should be increased, and 10,500 of you told us your views. Around a third said they wanted it to stay the same, and just 3% said it should be lower. A majority said it should be relaxed, with 30% wanting to increase it to £50, 10% backing a higher limit and 17% wanting to set their own personal limit. See the full contactless poll results.

 
 

MONEY MORAL DILEMMA

Should I start spending more to go plastic-free? I want to reduce my plastic use, and have made some easy changes such as switching to reusable bags. But sometimes it costs more to use less plastic, eg, buying bars of shampoo and conditioner instead of bottles. Should I fork out more for the planet's sake? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I spend more to go plastic-free? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

THE QUICKIES

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: What small Debt-Free Wannabe things will you do?
- Competitions thread of the week: Tech bundle including Apple iPad Pro & more
- Old-Style board thread of the week: The Bookworm's Thread 2019
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Private education or savings for children?
- Discussion of the week: Do you mind not having grandchildren?

 

No7 - £12 for £40ish of skincare & make-up
Grand Designs Live - 20,000 FREE tickets
Honest Brew - Six craft beers for £6
SpeckyFourEyes - £69 Ray-Ban, £25 Nike, Oasis specs
B&Q - Rare £5 off a £50 spend

Virgin Wines - 6 bottles of wine for £30 del (norm £70ish)
Just Eat - 15% off code
Thorntons - FREE £6 chocolate via O2 priority
Iceland - 10% off a £25 spend
Costa, Pret, Starbucks etc - Up to 50p off with reusable cup

PayAsUGym - 30% off Monthly+ Pass
Flying Flowers - 30% off couriered flowers
Eyewearbrands - Last chance up to 70% off designer glasses
Urban Decay - 20% off make-up
Debenhams - 'Blue Cross' sale

Quick Forum Tips

54p cookies at Lidl. How the cookie crumbles
Two Easter eggs for £2 at Morrisons. This is no yolk
NHS discounts via free or £5 card. Look Blue's talking

 
 

MARTIN'S APPEARANCES (WED 27 MAR ONWARDS)

Thu 28 Mar - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am
Fri 29 Mar - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am
Mon 1 Apr - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 1 Apr - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon. Listen again
Tue 2 Apr - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm

MSE TEAM APPEARANCES (MOST SUBJECTS TBC)

Fri 29 Mar - BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am
Mon 1 Apr - 
TalkRadio, Breakfast with Julia Hartley-Brewer, 9.45am
Mon 1 Apr - 
BBC Radio York, Beth McCarthy, from 7pm
Mon 1 Apr - BBC Radio Stoke, Perry Spiller, 11.10am, PPI
Tue 2 Apr - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm

 

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: My son is now the main driver of my wife's car. Can he be given the no-claims discount from the current insurer? Andrew, by email.

MSE Tony's A:  Unfortunately, no he can't. It's the policyholder who earns a no-claims discount (NCD) for each claim-free year. Assuming that's your wife, she'll be entitled to the NCD, not your son. Some insurers allow an NCD to be transferred to spouses, but not to children.

If your son gets his own new policy now he's the main driver, he won't benefit from your wife's no-claims discount, but he will be able to start earning his own.

However, if your wife keeps her policy but puts your son as the main driver, he will benefit from any NCD your wife's already earned (though the premium will likely go up). If she chooses this option, it's vital she contacts her insurer immediately to inform it your son's now the main driver. Not telling the insurer is known as 'fronting' and is fraud. For more help, see our Young Drivers' Car Insurance and Cheap Car Insurance guides.

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

 

SEVEN-YEAR STAMP STASH RETURNS RIGHT ROYAL SAVING

That's all for this week, but before we go... the price of stamps went up again on Monday, but one MoneySaver's had the hikes licked for the past SEVEN years, having bought a whopping £2,500 worth of stamps in 2012. Read all about Glenn's stamp stockpile - and see his back-of-the-envelope estimates of how much he's saved - in our 'I beat the stamp price hike' news story.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team

 
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