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29th Nov 2017
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29 November 2017


The secret to picking a cheap energy firm from lots of providers you've never heard of

Are you one of millions burning £20 notes to heat your home? 

It's shocking. Millions are rolling up bundles of £20 notes and setting them alight to keep warm - or at least they may as well be - with 60% of homes sticking to Big 6 standard energy tariffs which typically means overpaying by £300/year. 

Some are put off switching by fear, others laziness, and some because there are so many new firms they've never heard of, choosing is a nightmare. So with temperatures dropping I want to show you 3 STEPS to pay less for your energy. And here's why...

Helen tweeted: "@MartinSLewis Just 5 mins' work and managed to save my 73-year-old mum £531/yr on her energy bills. I'm a good daughter." 

And Carrie topped that: "Thanks @MartinSLewis - by comparing energy, I've just saved £50/mth [£600/yr] switching tariffs."

STEP 1: How to find who YOUR cheapest is... 

Whether you pay by direct debit, bills or prepay your cheapest depends on your location and usage. To find it, spend 5ish mins on our Cheap Energy Club comparison site (sadly not for those in NI).

Unlike many comparison sites these days, it shows you the WHOLE of the market by default - many others hide all those that don't pay 'em. 

- It's best if you have your bills to hand. Then look at them to find the kilowatt hours used - if not just do it by your cost.

- Don't have your bills? Cheap Energy Club will estimate for you. The answer isn't perfect but the sin of doing nowt and overpaying £100s is far greater than at least getting a better deal.

STEP 2: How to pick a winner from firms you don't know

I'm always surprised by how many tell me switching is complex. So to learn why, I've observed people doing it at my TV roadshows - I think for most the problem isn't doing a comparison, it's picking a winner.

The cheapest tariffs are dominated by names few know, trying to build a customer base. Yet the service feedback on these firms is often limited or poor, as they can't handle the number of customers flooding in.

So the simple solution is JUST SCROLL DOWN to a name you know, or one with a good customer service rating. Many can scroll down a page and still find they're saving £100s. Here's a quick reference to some of the current top-pick options, then I'll explain them in more detail.

CHEAPEST switch and save options at a glance 
Prices for someone with TYPICAL use. Compare to find YOUR price.

  • Big 6 standard tariff (60% are on these): They average £1,132/yr
  • The cheapest: A couple of firms c. £830/yr so £300/yr cheaper
  • Cheap, top service: Bulb £855/yr + £25 MSE cashback = £830/yr
  • Cheap 1yr fix with good service: Avro Energy £847/yr
  • Big name fix: First Utility £898/yr + £25 MSE cashback = £873/yr
  • Cheapest Big 6 fix: E.on £929/yr + £25 MSE cashback = £904/yr
  • Cheapest 'existing customer' Big 6 deals: £929/yr to £1,032/yr 
Prices based on Ofgem typical dual-fuel DIRECT DEBIT use. Where we can switch you there's MSE cashback of £25 dual fuel / £12.50 single fuel. 

Most people's cheapest will be a small unknown provider. For regular confident switchers there's nowt wrong with going for this, yet if that scares you, let me run through some other options...

  • Cheap top service: Bulb - and it'll pay any exit fees for you. Save typically £300/yr. You can use our Cheap Energy Club 'Top Service Only' comparison (which factors in cashback) to easily filter out all but firms with top service.

    Your likely winner, Bulb Energy, is near market-cheapest for many, with a 95% 'great' service rating (295 votes) and an unbeaten 9.8/10 on the Trustpilot website (3,930 reviews).

    Yet unlike most cheap deals, its rate's variable, not fixed - though its only 2017 price moves have been two cuts and it has no early exit penalties, so you can leave for free. Yet it'd need to raise prices 30+% before it'll be costlier than a Big 6 tariff and current predictions are IF the market's up this winter it'll only be a small rise. Quick facts if they rise...

    - It pays any early exit fees for you. If you're leaving a provider with these fees, Bulb will pay them for you by crediting up to £120 to your account once you've switched.

    - It's a green tariff too. 
    100% of Bulb's electricity comes from renewable sources, as does 10% of its gas.

    - You get £25 MSE dual-fuel cashback.
    Like many tariffs, switch via our Cheap Energy Club and you get £25 cashback that you don't get direct.

    - Or get £50 if you know a friend on Bulb. If a Bulb customer refers you, they get £50 and you get £50 bill credit (but obviously you can't then apply through Cheap Energy Club). This was higher a couple of weeks ago as a one-off - we covered it then.

  • Cheapest 1yr fix with good feedback. Save typically £280/yr. Scroll down in that same 'Top Service Only' comparison, and you'll likely next find Avro Energy, typically another £20/yr more.

    The difference compared to Bulb is that the rate is fixed for a year, so you get peace of mind it can't rise in that time - but it can't fall either. Again there are no early exit fees. It got 73% 'great' (176 votes) in our latest service poll.

  • Cheapest name you (probably) know. Save typically £260/yr. You can use our Cheap Energy Club 'Big Name Suppliers' comparison (which factors in cashback) to filter out all but big name deals.

    For most, First Utility will win. On typical usage it's £873/yr (incl MSE cashback). It has a 60% 'great' service record in our latest poll (225 votes). You'll need to get a free smart meter installed as part of this deal and it has £30/fuel early exit penalties.

    The likely cheapest Big 6 deal is E.on at £904/yr on typical usage (incl MSE cashback). It also has £30/fuel early exit penalties, but only a 36% 'great' rating (347 votes).

  • Don't want to switch supplier? You can still save. Many people ask me questions such as "I'm with British Gas -  is it cheap?" Well, what you pay depends on which of a firm's tariffs you are on.

    For example, the British Gas standard tariff for someone with typical usage is £1,101/yr – yet right now it has an online tariff at £970/yr (incl MSE cashback).

    So if you won't switch firm, at least ensure you're on its cheapest tariff - all of them have cheaper deals than standard.

    Which is your firm's cheapest tariff for you depends on your usage and where you live. Our Cheap Energy Club 'My Current Supplier' comparison filters out all but your existing provider's tariffs (and sometimes there's the £25 MSE cashback). Or just call them and ask.
STEP 3: And now switch...

Don't worry, this is no biggie. The new firm will handle the switchover - you even give it your final meter reading and it passes it across to your old supplier.

When you switch it's the same pipes, gas, electricity and safety, and you don't lose supply. The only difference is price and customer service. No one needs to come to your home, unless you're having a smart meter fitted. Here are some common issues...

- I'm in credit with my current supplier, what happens when I leave? After you've given your final meter reading, you should be paid it. If it forgets (rare these days) chase 'em up.

- Will I be credit-scored? Often on direct debit you will, but it's not strict and most get through. If you fail, the energy company may ask you to put up say £200 as surety, but you can always stop the process then.

- Why's my direct debit gone up if it's meant to be cheaper? Your new supplier may be estimating your usage at a higher level. If you think it's unfair (eg, as you're usually in credit) just ask it to drop it. 

- What happens if my small supplier goes bust after I switch to it? Newish rules mean your energy stays on, you'll be transferred to a new supplier (but poss at a different price) and your credit is protected. 

- Does MSE make money when I switch? Yes. Like all energy comparison sites, we're paid by the firms we can switch you to. When that happens we give you about half in cashback (that you don't get if you go direct). See MSE Jason's blog.

A few more common key energy questions...
For more info & supplier feedback, see the full Cheap Energy Club FAQs.

Q. Is an MSE collective switch due soon? We tried but couldn't get a deal we thought good enough this time. We'll try again in Jan.
Q. I'm on prepay, can I switch? Yes, try our Prepay comparison - savings are smaller, typically about £50+/yr.
Q. Should I get a smart meter? Usually yes. They give accurate bills and you needn't read the meter. Yet cross-firm compatibility problems mean if you switch again they may go 'dumb'. See Smart Meters for more.
Q. Want a green tariff? We've a filter for that. Do an Energy Club comparison and click '100% renewable' in the options.
Q. I'm in energy debt - can I switch? You can usually still switch. See Switching in debt.
Q. And what if I've solar panels? You can still switch. The feed in tariff's unaffected - you choose if you want to move it to the new supplier. See Solar/FIT info.
Q. Is monthly direct debit cheapest? Yes, but do regular meter readings.


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New. Top 1.45% easy-access savings rate

Savings are finally worth shouting about with the best UK-protected rate we've seen in nearly two years

Update 1 Dec - you can now get 1.45%. We originally led this note on Tesco's 1.35% deal but as we predicted, it's pulled it from today for new customers (if you applied by Thu you still get 1.35%). But almost at the same time as that axe, Lloyds-owned Birmingham Midshires (BM) upped its 1.3% rate to a whopping 1.45%.

There are green shoots for savers, with rates gradually rising. Two months ago the top easy-access rate was 1.26%, now we've the first UK-protected bank offering 1.45% since Feb 2016. But most rates, especially the worst, aren't changing despite Nov's base rate rise. So we're urging everyone with cash in the bank to check now, and if you earn sub-1% - some get as little as 0.01% - STOP getting ripped off. All deals below have £85,000 per person UK savings protection.

  • New. Get 1.45% easy access. While many minnows have fought for top spot, there's been a battle of the biggies at the summit this week. Lloyds-owned Birmingham Midshires has boosted its rate from 1.3% variable to 1.45% on Fri 1 Dec. You can save from £1 and make unlimited withdrawals.

    Before Friday, the Tesco Bank's Internet Saver was our top pick as it was paying pays 1.2% variable (incl a 0.8% FIXED bonus for 1yr) but promised to increase that to 1.35% on Friday (1 Dec). But it's since pulled the deal for new customers who will now only get 1.2% ongoing. For more, see Top easy-access accounts. 

  • Get 1.95% FIXED if you lock your cash away for a year. The top 1yr fixed rates have also risen a touch this month. App-only Atom Bank pays 1.95% (min £50), while Charter Savings Bank pays 1.81% (min £1k). Full help's in Fixed savings, and consider these other fixed-rate options:

    - Get 2% in a sharia-compliant account. BLME (Bank of London and the Middle East) gives 2% for 1yr (min £25k). It's an 'expected profit rate' as Islam bars interest, but while not certain, it's always been paid by the banks we feature.
    - You can get more fixing for longer. But if rates rise again you'd be locked in, and wouldn't benefit. See 2yr+ fixes

  • Get up to 5% on smaller sums, and a 25% boost for some. Here are more ways to spice up your savings:
    - Earn 5% on smaller savings. Some current accounts give 5% on up to £2,500, though there may be strict criteria.
    - Earn 5% on regular savings. Save up to £300/mth via special linked accounts (and get up to £125 to switch).
    - Top cash ISAs - get 1.1% easy access. If you pay savings tax (most don't), you can shield yourself via a cash ISA.
    - Saving for a first home? Get a 25% savings boost from the state. See Help to Buy and Lifetime ISAs.

25-35% EXTRA off bedding code, eg, £9 dbl duvet, £6 for 2 pillows. MSE Blagged. The popular Boston Duvet deal's back. Stock's already up to 75% cheaper than in major stores - our code takes a further 25% off, or 35% if buying 5+ items. Ltd stock, ends Sun. Cheap bedding

Ends Mon. TSB free £200 bank switch. This mega-popular bonanza's about to close. Newbies who apply to switch via our TSB Classic Plus* link by Mon get a free £130 (nowt direct). Plus till June you get an extra £5 each month you pay out 2 direct debits + £5 each month you make 20+ debit card payments. You also get 3% AER variable interest on up to £1,500. How to get it: Switch incl 2+ active direct debits by Fri 22 Dec, pay in £500+/mth, register for online banking and go paperless, and allow browser cookies when applying, so the offer tracks. See Top Bank Accounts.

£44ish of No7 beauty products for £12 trick. Incl mascara, primer, serum and lip gloss. Ltd stock. Boots No7

Ends 8pm Thu. Hot iPhone 7 contract from Vodafone. MSE Blagged. If you're desperate for an iPhone but don't need the latest model, we've blagged Vodafone newbies a 32GB iPhone 7* via reseller for £25 upfront, then £27/mth for 2yrs (£673 in all). Just use code MSE100 at the checkout by 8pm Thu 30 Nov (press 'add' - not your return key - so it registers). It comes with 6GB of data + unltd mins & texts. It's the cheapest we can see at this level. Full options in Cheap iPhones

£10 Baileys, norm £20. Expected Thu. Cream of the crop. Please be Drinkaware.

Trick to make a 16-25 Railcard work on some commutes (works with the upcoming 26-30 Railcard too). They're not meant to work on peak-time trains but we've found a loophole. Railcard trick


New. Wallet Workout tool - analyses the best plastic for you

Our easy-to-use, 2-min 'chatbot' quizzes your spending methods to make sure you've got the right products

Our MSE Credit Club's been running for over a year now. It gives your Experian Credit Score and Report and shows what lenders really think about you. Plus it tells what cards and loans you're most likely to be accepted for before you apply, without marking your credit file. Yet navigating the maze of 0% or cashback cards is confusing, making it difficult to know whether you have the right plastic - and that's where Wallet Workout can help...  

  • New. Our Wallet Workout tool takes just 2 mins and analyses your, er...wallet. People often ask what's the right credit card to have. The truth is there are more than eight types of cards, all designed to do different things, so it's really about what's right FOR YOU. Many get it wrong and waste fortunes, for instance by using a 0% balance transfer card to spend on. Our chatbot-style Wallet Workout looks at your spending methods to make sure your cards work for you.

    - How do I do the Wallet Workout? Log in/register with Credit Club and click on the link in your dashboard to open the tool. It asks a few short questions about how you spend, and in just a couple of mins it'll analyse your replies to suggest the right types of cards for you or new ways to save money.
    - It's not just about credit cards. We call it a Wallet Workout but it's not just about the plastic in your pocket. It'll also show to beat debt, how to cut overdraft costs or even how to get cash by switching bank.

  • But that's not all... get your FREE Credit Report & Score too, plus tips to boost 'em. Once you've signed in to Credit Club you'll also get your FREE Experian Credit Report and Score, containing all your key personal financial information, which lenders use to assess how good a risk you are. Plus you get your MSE Affordability Score - whether you can afford to borrow - and MSE Credit Hit Rate, a catch-all measure which reveals how likely you are to get a basket of the top cards and loans.

Ends Thu. Free £45 in M&S vouchers when you spend £100. Via its credit card. Get a free £45 at M&S.

'£5' Ikea real Xmas tree. Not strictly £5, but if you buy one of Ikea's £25 full-size trees - they're real, not plastic - you get a £20 voucher to spend next year. '£5' Xmas tree (one of many we've got right in our Christmas Deals Predictor).

Stamp duty calc updated - now includes the first-time buyers' discount. Find out how much you'll pay following the Budget changes. Stamp duty calc

£10-£40 West End theatre tickets sale for ALL, incl Aladdin & Les Mis. About to become available for everyone, having been limited to Mastercard holders. Jan/Feb shows, limited tix. London Theatre

Last chance. FREE Santa letter for blind children. Send a letter to Santa by Fri and his elves at the RNIB should ensure a free reply in Braille, audio or large print. Free Santa letter. Alternatively you've until Fri 8 Dec if you just want a standard reply - see Santa replies for more.

£25 Ted Baker body care set, norm £50. Incl body wash, lotion and eye mask. Boots 'Star Gift' from Friday. Ted Baker 


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Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  3. Gocompare*
  4. CompareTheMarket*

Then check insurers they miss: 
Direct Line*

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Yorkshire Bank* 3.3% rep APR
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: TSB* 2.8% rep APR

Standard b'band & line rent: Sky equiv £15.50/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Sky equiv £23.89/mth

£130 to switch + £10/mth for 7 mths + 3% interest: TSB
5% interest fixed for a year: 
Nationwide FlexDirect


Married? Get up to £662 FREE (now widowed partners can get it too)

It's quick and easy cash for 2m, plus new rule hidden in last week's Budget allows widows/widowers to claim 

A whopping 1.9 million married couples or those in a civil partnership were already missing out on this payout and now the net has widened. From today (Wed) you could be eligible if you've a partner who's died since April 2015. What's more, it only takes minutes, as Cheryl emailed: "We applied - it took about 5 mins and we gained £432. Great result. Thank you so much." See our Marriage Tax Allowance guide for full info, here's a run-through...

  • Check if you qualify. 
    - Anyone born on or after 6 April 1935 (so younger than 82ish) and married or in a civil partnership qualifies as long as:
    - One of you is a non-taxpayer, ie, usually earning anything from £0 to £11,500.
    - The other is a basic 20% rate taxpayer, ie, usually earning £11,500 to £45,000.
    See full criteria and exclusions.

  • It's worth up to £662. The marriage tax allowance (MTA) started on 6 April 2015, and in year 1 was worth £212, in year 2 £220, and this year £230. If you're due it back to April 2015 you get all three years' worth backdated - hence £662.

  • It works by transferring your tax-free personal allowance. The standard personal allowance - the amount you can earn without paying income tax - is £11,500 for this tax year. The MTA lets the non-taxpayer transfer 10% of the allowance, ie, £1,150, to their taxpaying spouse. So the taxpayer now has a £1,150 bigger tax-free allowance on which they no longer have to pay the 20% rate - a £230 annual gain. If you're eligible, and haven't claimed it, you can get the cash back. See allowances explained.

  • New. You're eligible even if your partner died in the past two and a half years. We unearthed this key detail buried in last week's Budget papers. It means if your spouse has died since 6 April 2015, and you were eligible for the MTA when they were alive, you can claim. Plus, if they were alive for just one day in the relevant tax year, you get the full year's allowance. See MTA bereaved partners' benefit.

£15 A2-ish photo canvas via code (norm £58). MSE Blagged. Good Xmas gift, 60cm x 40cm personalised print. Ends Tue. Picanova

Naked Wines £35 for 7 bottles incl prosecco (norm £82) and 2 glasses. MSE Blagged. 1,300 cases of 7 bottles available for new customers. Naked Wines. Pls be Drinkaware.

"I followed your tips and booked travel insurance early. My husband then got diagnosed with cancer so we had to cancel three holidays - but I got back £1,847 of the £2,093 spent. Thanks."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)

Amex cardholders get £5 cashback at 1,000s of local shops. Register and spend £10+ at selected local shops, restaurants etc. Amex Shop Small



Hold your bank to account. The Banking Standards Board wants to help banks and building societies make sure they treat consumers fairly. Take this super-quick survey to let them know how your bank and/or building society is doing and how it could be better. 



If you could cancel Christmas, would you? It's nearly here. For some it conjures a picture of family, fun and festive frivolity; for others it means stress, present pressure, debt and chores (see Martin's Ban Unnecessary Christmas Presents blog). So if you had a CANCEL CHRISTMAS button that'd make the whole thing disappear (and just add days to your holiday entitlement), would you press it? If you could cancel Christmas, would you?

Customer service is slipping among the Big 6. Last week we asked you to rate your current energy supplier's service over the past six months. We received 4,852 votes - see who won and who took the wooden spoon. Tellingly, ALL Big 6 providers scored lower than they did in our last poll, with British Gas seeing the biggest drop - 30% voted it 'great' this time, compared with 53% in March. See how firms fared in our bi-annual energy customer service poll.



Should I buy my friend a wedding gift? All the bridesmaids at a friend's wedding (I'm one) agreed a budget for the hen party but we've gone way over, and the bride has also asked us to pay for our dress alterations. Can I get away with not buying a wedding gift? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I buy my friend a wedding gift? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: 2018 challenges
- Competitions thread of the week: Christmas indulgence hamper
- Old-Style board thread of the week: December 2017 Grocery Challenge
- Family, marriage, relationships chat: Company travel and hotel booking working away from home
- Discussion of the week: Help - outgoings are more than incoming


Covent Garden Soup - free £1 soup via coupon
Iceland - 10% off for emergency services personnel
Swagbucks - earn £5, get £15 M&S/Amazon voucher
WHSmith - FREE chocolate coins via app
Morrisons - £3 wonky veg box

Pizza Hut Delivery - buy one pizza, get one free
Zizzi - 30% off mains
KFC - free side for new app users
Mystery dining - Carluccio's, Wagamama & more
Giraffe - 2for1 on mains

Superdrug - up to 50% off beauty advent calendars, from £6
Asos - 30% off partywear
The Body Shop - £25 off £50 spend code
The Works - 10 kids' picture books for £10 mix & match
Aldi - £20-£100 Christmas hampers, are they good value?

Quick Forum Tips

Free printable snowflakes incl Star Wars, Frozen. Snow way
50% off beauty gifts at M&S. Beauty Marks
2for1 Krispy Kreme dozen doughnuts. Save some dough



Thu 30 Nov - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am. See previous 
Fri 1 Dec - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am
Mon 4 Dec - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 4 Dec - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon. Listen again
Mon 4 Dec - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm


Wed 29 Nov - BBC Cumbria, Money Talks with Ben Maeder, from 6pm
Fri 1 Dec - BBC South West stations, Good Morning with Joe Lemer, from 5am, first-time buyers
Tue 5 Dec - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire with Jeremy Sallis, 2.20pm



Q: I bought a pair of trainers for my husband in the Black Friday sales, but they don't fit. I bought them in a shop but it won't let me return them - it's only offering an exchange. What are my rights? Bev, by email.

MSE Sarah M's A: Unfortunately you have no LEGAL right to return something you've bought from a shop, unless it's faulty.

Some shops go over and above and do offer a more generous returns policy, but this varies by company, and their generosity is sometimes suspended for sales. You have many more rights when buying online, when you can usually return items for any reason, though only if you inform the store within 14 days. See Consumer Rights for more info.

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


That's all for this week, but before we go.. what's the oldest working appliance you have? After an elderly couple hit the headlines for getting rid of several appliances bought 50 years ago when they finally ran out of steam, we were inundated with tales from MoneySavers who still use their ancient items, including a kettle from the 1960s with no auto-off switch and an Italian hairdryer from the 1970s which is still used every day. Let us know the golden oldies you still use in our Facebook discussion.

We hope you save some money,
The MSE team

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