With Remembrance Sunday a little over a week away many of us will again be doing our bit to help support the Royal British Legion.

As well as popping your cash into a collection box you can also donate a little extra cash throughout the year via a couple of charity linked financial products

For example Coventry Building Society has just launched its latest Poppy Bond.

This is a three year fixed rate savings bond paying a competitive 2.35% AER. As part of the deal the Coventry will donate the equivalent of 0.15% of all balances held in these accounts as at 31 December 2015 to the Royal British Legion.

Another way of giving as you go about your daily life is by using a charity credit card.

MBNA has partnered with the Royal British Legion since 2006 via an affinity card where customers earn funds for the charity as they spend.

The Royal British Legion receives an initial payment of £20 when a card is taken out through its website. On top of this it benefits ongoing revenue at the rate of 25 pence for every £100 spent on the card as well as a further £2 every year that the card account remains open.

While it may possible to earn more with a credit card paying cashback and then donating it yourself, in reality many people aren’t organised enough to follow that idea through.

In light of the £15.4m fine handed out this week, to Dollar Financial UK, owner of the Money Shop brand, people frozen out by mainstream lenders shouldn’t fear the demise of the payday loans industry as there are better options available even if your credit rating isn’t the best.

Specialist Credit Cards

The big credit card companies will give you the cold shoulder if your credit record is below par but there are a number of specialist credit cards that can help you get back on your feet.

The interest rates are higher than standard credit cards but much less than payday loans. Tesco Bank for example charges a representative APR of 28.9% on its Foundation Credit Card and Marbles comes in at 33.8% APR.

To rebuild your credit status, you need to show that you can manage a credit card in a responsible manner, and by making payments on time EVERY month then over time your credit score will gradually start to recover..

Paying the full statement balance each month is even better as you’ll be improving your credit score without paying any interest charges in the process.

Guarantor loan

Another cheaper payday alternative is a guarantor loan with sums of between £500 and £5,000 available from Amigo Loans at a representative APR of 49.9%.

You will need to find a creditworthy friend or relative to act as guarantor for your loan and if for some reason you are unable to pay, then the guarantor becomes liable for the outstanding balance.

Amigo feeds back your payment history to the credit reference agencies, so again paying on time every month is another step towards a healthy credit score.

Finally, don’t forget your local credit union.

Although you’re unlikely to be able to borrow more than £1,000 until you’ve proved your ability to save, it’s another low cost avenue to explore if you’re shut out by mainstream banks.

Many credit union loans will cost you no more than 1% per month (12.7% APR) on the reducing balance of the loan.

To find a local credit union visit www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk and simply enter your home town and postcode details or alternatively give them a call on 0161 832 3694

If money is tight a payday loan may look like an easy solution but it’s not – always check out the smarter options first.

Broadband bill payers who stay loyal to their providers have seen their monthly bills rise significantly, according to research by uSwitch.com.

Broadband and home phone prices for loyal customers have increased by an inflation-busting 40% since 2011, costing households an extra £61 million per month.

While new customers can cash in on competitive opening offers and a record-breaking number of free broadband deals, existing customers have experienced steep increases in the cost of their broadband and home phone.

Bill payers who have loyally stayed with their broadband providers following the end of their initial contracts are paying on average £8.59 a month – or £103 a year – more now than they were four years ago. With almost a third (30%) of people having never switched provider, this amounts to at least £61 million each month.

More than four in 10 (44%) people are unsure when their broadband contracts end, leaving them at risk of rising bills. But introducing end of contract notifications could encourage broadband users to shop around for a better deal and make savings of up to £151 per year.

The energy market introduced end of fixed deal notifications in April 2014 and, as a result, almost six in 10 (58%) energy customers ending fixed term contracts now look into switching tariffs, either with their existing supplier or by moving to a new one.

Most broadband users would like to see something similar in the broadband market. Three in five (60%) say they would like to receive reminders from their providers when their contract comes to an end. More than six in 10 (61%) claim it would make them more likely to switch if this reminder explained what the monthly charges would be increasing to.

A spokesman for uSwitch commented:“There are no prizes for loyalty. Broadband users who take the time to switch provider or tariff are quids in, but it’s a very different story for the old faithfuls who end up penalised for their inertia. And due to rising prices it’s getting worse. Broadband customers pay 40% more for their loyalty now than four years ago.”

Bank customers could save an average of £70 a year by switching their current account to another provider, And heavy overdraft users – who’d benefit most from switching – are the least likely to do so, despite the fact they could save up to £260, according to a new report from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Andrew Hagger of Moneycomms said:”We may well have a slick and efficient current account switching mechanism in place, however until something is done to make it easier for people to compare accounts and identify one that matches the way they run their day to day finances people will remain reluctant to move banks.”
He added: “The crux of the problem is that people simply don’t have the confidence to uproot their banking relationship because they don’t know which account to move to – the array of different in credit and overdraft tariffs is so confusing many don’t bother no matter how slick and polished the switch process has become.”
“There is the Midata comparison tool, but how many people actually realise this exists? – a more straightforward comparison option such as traffic light labelling would help people narrow down their search for a new bank account at a glance, plus it doesn’t involve having to go online to download your data as with Midata.”
meanwhile, research from Aimia which has monitored consumer attitudes quarterly since 2013, shows that there’s been a significant fall in apathy among customers towards banks. Only 14% of customers currently remain with their bank because they ‘can’t be bothered to change’. This is a significant drop from the one in five (20%) who said the same in 2013, before the Current Account Switch Service* was introduced.

Consumers spend more £7.8bn each year in total on tradesman visits, according to new research that explores the fear of picking up the toolbox. In the last 12 months, Brits have spent £294 on average employing a tradesperson to carry out minor repairs within their homes.

 According to research from Swinton Insurance, the majority of Brits shy away from DIY, with less than half (48%) feeling brave enough to carry out minor repairs in the home themselves. A quarter even admit that they don’t feel confident at all carrying out DIY tasks of any description. When Brits were asked what odd jobs they do feel confident undertaking, just 49% said putting up a shelf, 35% said fixing a leaking tap, 17% said fitting a sound system and 60% said unblocking a drain.

 Tradespeople are in agreement with the view that people shy away from basic DIY, with eight in ten (83%) believing Brits are too quick to ask for help. They estimate they spend an average of three fixing jobs their customers could do themselves.

 Swinton’s research also brings to light the cost of getting it wrong when it comes to home improvements. Tradespeople believe they spend an average of two hours 21 minutes a day repairing DIY tasks that have gone wrong. The research found Brits have a tendency to get their wires crossed when it comes to electrical based odd jobs in particular. According to tradespeople, the number one botched job they spend time fixing is changing a fuse, closely followed by wiring and changing plugs. When asked how much money they’ve spent on hiring tradespeople to fix a botched DIY job in their home, Brits admitted to over £150 on average in the past 12 months.

Swinton wants to help Britain get more DIY savvy. The UK’s largest high street insurance has teamed up with tradespeople to help Brits with some of the most common jobs they are likely to face when looking after their homes. This includes useful, practical advice from professional plumbers, builders and electricians.

A spokesman for Swinton Insurance, said: “The findings make it clear that much more needs to be done to educate Brits on basic DIY. It’s absurd that we spend hundreds of pounds on odd jobs we could do ourselves, particularly when family budgets continue to be stretched. But we understand that DIY can be daunting. That’s why we’ve launched our Tips from the Trades online hub, to help Brits get up to speed with their DIY knowledge.

Of course the need for professionals is always going to exist, and there are some tasks only experts should handle, especially complicated electrical and plumbing jobs. It’s also vital that when you do hire an expert, you ensure they are a qualified tradesperson – if not you run the risk of invalidating your insurance.”

Figures from The Co-operative Insurance have shown a huge spike in home and motor claims when the clocks change and daylight saving time ends.

After reviewing claims data since 2013, The Co-operative Insurance can reveal that home theft claims increase by 38% in the five months after the clocks go back – this year scheduled to be on 25 October.

Thefts are most prevalent in the winter months on a Friday.

With winter nights often making it easier for burglars to hide under the cover of darkness and unoccupied houses easier to spot as they may not have lights on theft claims increase.

According to the data, home thefts between November and March are more likely to be via forced and violent entry than in the summer months. In comparison thefts which are more opportunistic or deceptive, and are non-forcible are more prevalent in summer than winter months.

The Co-operative Insurance’s top tips to protect your home from burglary

  1. Leave a light on when you are out or invest in a light timer
  2. Install exterior security lights at the front and back of your property
  3. If possible, invest in a CCTV system
  4. Don’t post your location on social media sites
  5. Ensure doors and windows are locked
  6. Set your burglar alarm
  7. Ensure outbuildings/sheds are secured
  8. Don’t leave valuables on display
  9. Never leave car keys within easy reach of a letterbox
  10. Don’t leave ladders outside your home

A spokesman for The Co-operative Insurance said: “Darker nights unfortunately lead to an increase in home burglaries, so when the clocks change this coming weekend we are urging people to be more vigilant when it comes to home security.

“Nobody should have to go through the trauma of having their property burgled. Whilst in a lot of cases it is simply a case of bad luck, there are things that homeowners can do to deter thieves such as ensuring lights are left on when no one is at home and installing CCTV cameras, or at least dummy ones, to make burglars think twice.”

New research from Castlefield, one of the UK’s leading specialists in responsible investment, reveals that investors are becoming increasingly savvy about risks and the consequences of damaging the environment.

Following the increase in high profile individuals and pension funds looking to pull their investments out of fossil fuel companies, the survey found that 56% of investors were concerned that they could lose money by investing in these so called ‘stranded assets’, like oil and gas.

The Castlefield survey suggests that investors are beginning to recognise that sustainable funds with long term vision are likely to do well. 51% of investors think that companies which are trying to make a positive contribution to society and the environment are more likely to succeed long-term and their investments are likely to perform better over the long term.

Consumers want their money to ‘do good’ and say they would be cautious about investing in green wash or funds with ethical claims that are not substantiated. 74% of respondents said they would be shocked if companies claiming to be ethical were found to be investing in companies that negatively impact the environment.

Surprisingly, nearly half (45%) of British investors do not know that there are ethical and sustainable options available when it comes to investments.   Six out of ten people (60%) would like to be offered an ethical and sustainable option when choosing their investments.   But despite this growing interest in doing something positive with their money, 58% do not know where to go to look for advice.

John Ditchfield from Castlefield said: “We understand the desire to invest in the right funds but there is more to it – than just looking at financial performance.   You need to know and understand your investment and your investment choices, a specialist ethical adviser can help you to consider your values, look at your risk profile, and recommend funds that suit your particular needs.”

Olivia Bowen, Partner at Castlefield, commented: “Our Survey clearly demonstrates current demand from the public for more thoughtful investing, and by bringing our businesses together under the Castlefield umbrella, we now have the resources and expertise to respond to this.

Buying and renewing your home insurance ought to be a straightforward job, but with different prices charged depending whether you buy direct from an insurer or via a price comparison site trying to get suitable cover at the right price has become a real chore.

However things may be about to change as Virgin Money this week launched its home insurance product with the promise that their customers will be offered the same price whether they buy by phone, via the internet or through a price comparison provider.

Another welcome promise from Virgin is that it’s fair and transparent pricing structure means they won’t play games at renewal by quoting a higher price and then backing down if challenged by the customer – Virgin is taking the stance that it will offer its best price at the first time of asking.

Its research found that more than 80 per cent of people shop around for a better deal on renewal but when they go back to their insurer to cancel after finding a cheaper deal elsewhere, their insurer suddenly offers a lower price in an attempt to retain their custom.

A further plus point is that these products won’t have any hidden nasties buried in the small print with Virgin eliminating the annoying charges often levied by insurers for cancellation or if you want to make minor amendments to your cover.

Customers are fed up with the games that insurers play in order to extract maximum profits from them, let’s hope Virgin provides the wakeup call the industry needs so there’s no longer that feeling of despair when the annual renewal papers land on the doormat.

 

The latest figures from the Sainsbury’s car buying index  which tracks consumers’ car purchase intentions, reveal that over half (53%) of those planning to buy a car in the next six months intend to use an unsecured loan or credit card to purchase it. The main motivator for doing so for two in five (38%) is the belief that they can get a better interest rate compared to a finance deal.

When given multiple choice, other reasons included:

I want to have the freedom to buy a car from whichever vendor or dealership I prefer 35%
Overall I think the cost of borrowing will be lower 34%
I want fixed monthly payments to fit in with my budget 29%
It’s easier to understand / more straightforward than car finance 29%
I don’t need to worry about saving for a large balloon payment at the end of the term 25%


Simon Ranson, Head of Banking at Sainsbury’s Bank said:
“Doing your homework into the different options you have to fund or repay a new car is essential. A personal loan allows buyers to stick to their monthly and total repayment budget as well as removing the balloon payment often included at the end of a vehicle finance deal. We’re currently offering our lowest ever personal loan rate.”

Sainsbury’s Bank also offers a Price Promise Guarantee which means that if customers are offered a “like for like” personal loan that has a lower APR with another lender, the Bank will beat it by 0.1%. This is subject to qualifying for the Offer and customers must not have already accepted its loan offer by signing and returning a Sainsbury’s Loan agreement. Car dealership loans and finance are excluded.

AA Financial Services this week launched a new ISA which enables savers can split their tax free savings between fixed and variable rate products within one online account.

The one year fixed deal pays 1.76% and the two year fixed pays 2.01%. The easy-access variable product offers 1%, with no introductory bonus and transfers in are permitted.

A spokesman for AA Financial Services said: “This proposition is at the fore of the savings market and offers a remarkable level of flexibility for savers.  It allows the customer the opportunity to divide their funds between a higher interest fixed rate and an easy-access variable rate, which can all be managed easily online.

“The AA ISA also accepts transfers in, enabling savers to consolidate their ISA savings under one roof and get competitive interest rates on their entire ISA pot.”

Andrew Hagger, personal finance analyst from Moneycomms.co.uk, said: “This is an innovative move from AA and will appeal to consumers looking for a competitive fixed rate but with the added option to keep an element of their tax free funds in an easy access account in case they need to get at it in a hurry.

“Usually it’s a choice of a variable or a fixed rate option, but with this new AA ISA the customer has the flexibility to be able to apportion their savings in a way that works best for their circumstances.”