28 Mar 2018 In the last five years, millions of drivers have risked a £1,000 fine because they have forgotten to renew their MOT certificates, according to new research from AA Cars, the AA’s used car website.

In the first instance those driving without an MOT risk a £100 fixed penalty notice – and then £1000 if they are taken to court.

The AA-Populus poll, which surveyed over 21,000 drivers, found that two million Brits have been late renewing their MOT by up to a week, while more than a million forgot to renew it for up to a month.

It is not uncommon for a vehicle to be considered unroadworthy as according to the DVSA over a third of cars fail their initial MOT tests. On top of this our data shows that almost two million drivers have been alerted to a serious fault that they were unaware of before the test.

Which means those who are forgetting to renew their MOT certificates could be driving a car with a serious fault – most likely considered a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Irrespective of whether you’ve got a current MOT or forgotten briefly to renew the MOT, if your car’s in a dangerous condition then you are risking a £2,500 fine, three points on your licence and being banned from driving.

Although two thirds of drivers usually pass their MOT with no problems, some 5% of drivers frequently fail and their cars have to be repaired and retested.

Simon Benson, Director of Motoring Services at AA Cars, says: “For drivers across the country, MOT tests should be part and parcel of car ownership – or so we’d have thought. Despite the MOT test being an annual statutory obligation for cars over the age of three, it’s the sort of thing that can easily slip through the cracks.

“It is crucial that drivers book their test in advance – they are not just a routine checkup, but a legal imperative to make sure your car is still fit to be on the road.

“From the 20th May there will be new categories for MOT test faults – failures will be categorised as either dangerous or major – which should bring some clarity to the “can I drive it away from the test centre” question.

“You can get the MOT up to a month early and still keep the same renewal date – so there’s nothing to gain by leaving it to the last minute.

“Either set your own reminder or sign up to the government’s MOT reminder service – you just need your vehicle registration number, email address and mobile number at the ready.

“It is worth noting that your MOT is a snapshot of time and regular servicing is vital to keep your car in a safe condition all year round.

“It’s also worth carrying out a few quick checks on your car before your MOT to avoid failing your test and being stung with expensive repairs ”

Checking your car before your MOT to avoid costly repairs:

  1. Headlights and Indicators: Have a quick scout around the car and check your headlights, sidelights, indicators and number plate lights are working. If not then head to your local garage to replace the bulb or contact your manufacturer to source a replacement. It should be quite straightforward to replace them yourself using the handbook but if you are unsure then ask your garage to fit them for you.
  2. Brake lights: You can either get someone else to help with this or park your car so you can see a reflection so you can stand on the brake pedal and see if your brake lights light up and then turn off as you release it.
  3. Number plate: Make sure your number plate is clean – you can fail due to your number plate being dirty or unclear to read. Just a quick wipe with a cloth could save you time and money further down the line.
  4. Wheels and tyres: Make sure your tyres meet the minimum legal tyre tread depth that is 1.6mm. You can measure this using a device that you press into the tyre tread to measure the depth for you. If your tread depth is below the legal limit or your tyres have cuts or bulges then they must be changed.
  5. Seats and seatbelts: You will need to check all your seatbelts are in working order and make sure the driver’s seat can adjust backwards and forwards.
  6. Windscreen: Check your windscreen to make sure it is not chipped or cracked. The maximum damage size is 40mm anywhere on the windscreen but cannot be wider than 10mm in an area in front of the driver’s seat.
  7. Windscreen wipers: Make sure the wipers actually wipe your screen clean – any tears or holes in the wiper rubber will cause a fail. You will need to buy new ones and replace them using the instructions provided.
  8. Screen wash: Make sure your washer bottle is topped up – if you don’t have any screen wash left top it up with some water.
  9. Horn: Check your horn is working and if not get it repaired or replaced.
  10. Fuel and engine oil: Make sure you have enough of each. You could be turned away from an MOT without suitable levels of fuel and oil as they will need to run the car to test it’s emission levels.

28 Mar 2018  Nearly one in eight people retiring this year have made no provision for their retirement, including 10 per cent who will either be totally or somewhat reliant on the State Pension, according to new research from Prudential. This leaves them starting their retirement with an income of around £1,452 a year below the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s (JRF) Minimum Income Standard for a single pensioner.

The findings are part of Prudential’s unique annual study – now in its 11th year – which tracks the finances, future plans and aspirations of people planning to retire in the year ahead.

There is good news as the numbers retiring without a pension is lower than the 14 per cent in 2017 and now nearly half the 23 per cent recorded in 2008. Women are more likely to have no retirement savings – 18 per cent will retire without a pension this year compared with seven per cent of men. The gap is narrowing over time – in 2016, 22 per cent of women had no retirement savings compared with seven per cent of men. While in 2008, the year our research began, a third of women (32 per cent) were planning to retire without a pension.

10 per cent of those retiring in 2018 will either rely somewhat or solely on the State Pension, which for those retiring after April will mean an income of £164.35 a week, or just over £8,500 a year. Taking the JRF’s Minimum Income Standard of £192.27 a week for a single pensioner, which is a benchmark of the income required to support an acceptable standard of living, those relying on the State Pension will fall short of the minimum standard by £27.92 a week, or £1,452 a year.

Stan Russell, retirement income expert at Prudential, said: “The long-term trend for the number of people retiring without a pension is down and that is good news. But there is still some distance to go and it is worrying so many people will be entirely reliant on the State Pension for their income in retirement.

“While the State Pension is an important part of retirement income, it shouldn’t be the only part and those still in work should if at all possible be contributing to a pension and saving towards their retirement. It is never too early to start saving into a pension and even a small amount each month can make a difference and help from a professional financial adviser can be invaluable in helping plan for retirement.”

The research highlights the significance of the State Pension to people in retirement including those with pension savings of their own. On average, people expecting to retire this year estimate that the State Pension will account for more than a third (33 per cent) of their income in retirement.

26 Mar 2018 New research1 from Retirement Advantage sheds light on how consumers have reacted to the pension freedoms, and reveals one in five (19%) people have withdrawn cash from a sense of concern over the regulations changing. 43% of those polled who had used the freedoms to take some cash felt it was nice to have a bit extra to spend, while 36% said they needed the money.

Reasons for using the freedoms to withdraw cash include:

–      29% put the money in a savings account

–      25% used the money for home improvements

–      18% paid off non mortgage debt

–      17% went on holiday

–      14% paid themselves a regular income

–      12% bought a new car

–      11% paid off the mortgage

–      8% gifted some money to children

–      6% helped family members onto the property ladder

–      2% gave a gift to grandchildren

Andrew Tully, pensions technical director, Retirement Advantage commented: ‘A picture is emerging of significant taxable cash sums being withdrawn under the pension freedom rules, driven by desire and necessity.

‘More worrying is the significant number of people telling us they are taking the cash because of a concern that the regulations will change in the future. Taking money out of a tax advantaged pensions environment to put the money in a savings account is rarely a great idea. But I can understand why people are concerned about moving goal-posts as pensions have been a political football for many years.’

Recent HMRC data2 shows that £6.54bn was withdrawn in taxable cash payments from pensions last year. That is almost £1bn up on the previous year (£5.69bn in 2016).

Free online calculators are available to help people understand the tax implications of pension withdrawals including: http://www.retirementadvantage.com/pension-tax-calculator

Commenting on the third anniversary of the pension freedoms more generally, Andrew said: ‘The pension freedoms are clearly popular with customers. We are seeing more people flexibly access their pension savings, and often before planned retirement age. DB transfers are also increasingly popular as people look for extra flexibility from their savings.

‘However, with freedom and choice comes a whole new level of complexity to catch out the unwary. Cash is king, and Government coffers continue to benefit from the additional up-front tax take. More people are going it alone with DIY drawdown, rather than seek professional financial advice, while scammers and conmen continue to prey on the market.’

23 Mar 2018 Our high streets are set to see an increase in footfall next week as shoppers take advantage of the lighter nights, according to predictions based on historic transaction data from credit card provider, MBNA.

Despite the convenience of online shopping, transaction data shows a trend towards increased high street shopping as we enjoy longer daylight hours. Conversely, the data shows a dip in online transactions during British Summer Time (BST) compared to Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT).

Across the seven months from April to October, correlation analysis shows that for every transaction recorded online two and a half were recorded in store. Conversely, online transactions increased by 13% in the darker months of the year when daylight hours are significantly reduced.

The most pronounced change is seen on a Thursday evening, between 3pm and 8pm, when instore transactions increase by 11.5% in volume and 17% in value in the weeks following the change to BST, compared to the final weeks of GMT.

Clothing and household/DIY stores see the biggest rise. The volume of instore transactions in clothing stores on an evening increased by 20.6% in the first month of BST, while in household stores the volume of instore transactions on an evening increased by 12.8%.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, spend in pubs and restaurants also shows a steady increase as the nights draw out. In the first month of BST in 2017, transactions between 3pm and 8pm rose by 6.6%, with the biggest rise seen on a Monday (24.9%) and a Thursday (10.5%).

Richard Whatmough, marketing and digital executive for MBNA, said: “The correlation of transaction data with daylight hours shows a preference for shopping in-store as consumers enjoy lighter evenings on the high street, perhaps using their evenings to shop ahead of the weekend. Equally, the reverse is true for online transactions, suggesting that despite the convenience of online shopping, in the summer months when the nights are lighter and the weather is kinder the high street wins out.”

20 Mar 2018 More than one in five are saving or investing less because they cannot access advice on how to handle their money, research for the Nottingham Building Society shows.

Its study found 21% of adults believe they are not saving as much as they could and would be able to put away an extra £134 a month on average if they were able to get financial advice. Around a fifth believe they would be able to save or invest £200 or more extra a month.

It is younger savers and investors who need the support with their finances the most, The Nottingham’s research shows. Nearly one in three (30%) of under-35s believe they are not saving enough because of a lack of advice compared with just 12% of the over-55s questioned.

The society’s research shows there is strong demand for advice on savings and investments but customers are struggling to find advisers. Around 20% say they have struggled to access advice on savings in the past two years and 11% have struggled to get advice on investments.

Banks and building societies are increasingly being considered as a potential source for independent advice – around 73% of adults say they would consider becoming a customer of a bank or building society which provided advice services. However, branch closures are making it more difficult to access advice, The Nottingham warns.

It has responded by transforming its branch proposition to offer a wide range of independent financial advice-based services including support on savings products, and independent whole of market advice for mortgages and financial planning.  It also provides support and access to insurance, estate planning and estate agency services.

David Marlow, Chief Executive of The Nottingham, said, “It is worrying that people are saving or investing less than they could afford simply because they cannot access advice on their finances.

“The increasing competition among providers means there is more choice for savers and investors but at the same time people clearly need more support on deciding what is right for them and their individual circumstances.

”Banks and building societies can play a role in making face-to-face advice more accessible but branch closures are making it harder for customers to get the advice they need. The Nottingham is committed to playing its part by expanding its branch network and offering more services.”

Since 2013 The Nottingham has taken over 19 branches from competitors and has recently taken on seven new branches in market towns across the Midlands which were previously operated by the Norwich & Peterborough Building Society

For more information about the Nottingham Building Society (The Nottingham) and the services it offers visit a branch or go to www.thenottingham.com .

19 Mar 2018 As Brits prepare to lose an hour of sleep this weekend, Co-op Insurance is urging homeowners to stay alert, in light of its new claims data released today.

Data analysed by the Co-op looking at break-ins over the last four years found that burglaries categorised as opportunistic increase by a quarter when the clocks go forward, which this year will fall on the 25th March.

During British summer time, opportunistic thefts account for almost two fifths of all break-ins. This is in stark contrast to the darker, winter months as from October to March, just under a third of break-ins are described as opportunistic.

When delving into the days where people are most vulnerable, the majority of home thefts take place on Friday.

However, Sunday is the least common day for break-ins in the summer months, with 13% less break-ins occurring on this day.

Furthermore, the Co-op found that on average, claims relating to opportunistic burglaries cost an average of £1,208.

For this reason, Co-op is urging homeowners and renters to take extra precautions when enjoying the longer summer evenings.

Caroline Hunter, Head of Home Insurance at Co-op commented: “When the clocks go forward, we see an increase in opportunistic burglaries, as people relax their home security.

“Most people carry expensive, high-tech personal devices such as smart phones, laptops and tablets. Whilst it can be tempting, especially when the weather is warmer to leave windows and doors unlocked for long periods of time, it’s really important that such items are kept out of sight from opportunists.”

Caroline Hunter’s top five tips for deterring burglars:

  1. 1. Use strong padlocks to secure shed doors
    Whilst away, ask a neighbour to check in or set lights to a timer
    3. Keep windows and doors locked
    4. Don’t share your whereabouts on social media
    5. Keep valuable outdoor items such as a bike locked away

15 Mar 2018 Save Water Save Money (SWSM), the global business which specialises in helping people save water, has launched a new energy switching tool, enabling consumers become more sustainable while cutting down their bills across the board.

The free tool compares current usage to price plans offered by all gas and electricity providers, giving customers an unbiased and simple overview of all options available. Once they’ve selected the best deal for them, it will complete the switch, so they’ll never be paying more than they should. In addition, consumers who switch their energy through SWSM will be offered a free water savings kit (usually £14.95 plus P&P), saving on average 30,000 litres of water and £100 off their bill each year. For consumers who do not want a water saving kit, SWSM will donate £5 to a charity of their choice.

Over five million customers switched their electricity supply and four million switched their gas in 2017, putting energy switching at a nine year high, on average saving £250 a year.

This tool comes following the successful launch of the aqKWa Savings Engine™ which so far has helped more than 170,000 households save water, equating to £88 a year on average. The Engine provides a detailed breakdown of your water usage, and tailored advice on saving water, bespoke to each individual.

Tim Robertson, CEO of Save Water Save Money, commented: “Our mission is to build awareness of water and energy efficiency in the UK, and help consumers make small changes that can have a profound impact on cutting down their bills, as well as benefiting the planet too.

“The aqKWa Savings Engine™ puts consumers back in control of their bills, water and energy usage, making for a more sustainable lifestyle. Society is starting to wake up to environmental challenges like never before, and becoming increasingly aware about the potential benefits of switching energy providers. We’ve already helped over 170,000 households save water, and now we’re excited to further this with gas and electric bills.”

To see how much you could save, visit: www.aqKWa.co.uk

14 Mar 2018 New research from Charter Savings Bank reveals multiple Cash ISAs are not adding up for savers, who are risking leaving their money to stagnate in low interest rate paying accounts.

Its study found one in five of savers aged 55 plus have five or more Cash ISA accounts, but less than half (48%) know exactly how much is in these accounts and actively check and manage their savings. Women over 55 are more aware of the amount they have in savings than men (54% compared to 44%).

The amount of money sitting in low interest rate paying accounts is substantial. A fifth of those who don’t know how much is in their Cash ISA accounts, estimate that they have between £10,000 and £30,000 sitting in them. An average of one in seven estimate that they have more than £30,000 in inactive accounts, of which 18% are women compared to 13% of men.

Over a third of those who have opened more than one ISA, did so because they had different rates. For others, however, the number of ISAs they hold has increased because they’ve opted to open a new account each tax year.

Charter Savings Bank is offering more choice with its Mix & Match ISA, enabling savers to open as many different types of Cash ISAs as they want within one wrapper, and is using the industry’s eISA system to ensure most savers switching providers will benefit from a fast transfer.

 

Table one: Reasons for holding multiple Cash ISAs

Reason Percentage of over 55s who have multiple ISAs for this reason
ISAs have different rates 36%
The number has built up as I have tended to choose to open a new ISA account for each new Tax Year 27%
ISAs have different product features 26%
I forgot I had some 5%
Too complicated to transfer them to one provider 2%

Source: Charter Savings Bank 2018

One of the reasons savers over the age of 55 do not have multiple ISAs, is because it can be difficult and frustrating managing multiple accounts with different providers. Nearly three in ten find it annoying managing different rates, while a similar number find managing multiple fixed-term maturities frustrating.

Around a quarter (24%) do not like managing the administration side of multiple accounts and remembering various log in information, while two in five struggles to remember bonus expiry dates (22%) and different notice periods (21%).

Charter Savings Bank’s research found 59% of savers would like the option to split their savings across a range of different accounts to suit their needs.

Paul Whitlock, Director of Savings, Charter Savings Bank says: “It can be easy for savers to lose track of accounts once they’ve been opened, and the longer they’ve been open the more likely it is that something might have changed. Savers could be missing out on better returns if they forget about their accounts.

“With ISA allowances increasing over the years, it’s possible for savers to have substantial deposits in them so it makes sense to take action. It’s easier than ever to transfer Cash ISAs and so it makes sense to make the most of the simplicity to bag a better rate.

“Our Mix & Match ISA enables customers to split their allowance among different types of accounts so they can fix the rate on some of their ISA allowance while leaving the rest in easy access, all with highly competitive rates.”

13 Mar 2018   When it comes to planning your retirement, the idea of living abroad is a dream for many. To help bring those fantasies one step closer to reality,  credit experts TotallyMoney have ranked the places Brits should really be considering to retire abroad, making it easier than ever to find a destination that is both budget-friendly and accommodating.

Spanning across the majority of European hotspots, the research explores a number of different key decision-making factors including the average property price; the average year-round temperatures and the happiness index of your new home. Other important influencing aspects that have also been factored in, with everything from the number of shopping centres and restaurants, to the number of other British expats within the area included in the ranking.

The only question left is: which destination is the best for you?

Look Out Spain: The Top 5 Best Locations to Retire

  1.  Lanzarote, Spain – Lanzarote takes the top spot as the best place to retire abroad. The easternmost  Canary Island boasts beautiful beaches and national parks, a sunny climate (the only one in our top 5 that offers winter sun) and a low average property price (£245,572),  a variety of entertainment with 350 activities to choose from.
  2.  Tenerife, Spain – Ranking second only to Lanzarote, Tenerife is listed as the best destination for shopping with 28 shopping centres, while also offering an average property price of £435,294 and 4,404 restaurants to enjoy.
  3.   Malaga, Spain – Located in the famous Costa Del Sol, Malaga ranks as the third best destination. With warming temperatures of 26.5°C in Summer, 152 museums and activities, and 1,754 restaurants, you’ll never be short of things to do. 
  4. Alicante, Spain – Ranking as the second-largest Valencian city, Alicante comes in fourth due to low property cost (£435,172) and offers Gothic architecture, natural landmarks and sunny weather (29°C).
  5.  Tuscany, Italy – A tourist favourite, Tuscany is home to sensational landscapes and filled with Italian traditions and culture. With 219 museums and activities to experience, and 2,114 restaurants to experience the local cuisine in, Tuscany ranks as the fifth best destination.

Planning your retirement can often be a stressful task, one that requires a lot of research” said Joe Gardiner, TotallyMoney’s Head of Brand and Communications, “It’s important to consider all of the factors before making the move, but we aim to make this easier and alleviate some of the pressure when making such an important financial decision.”

For the full breakdown of the best locations to retire abroad, you can view the full 19 destinations here.

Thousands of UK adults are completely perplexed by how credit scores are calculated, actually finding it easier to explain how a rainbow is formed or indeed the offside rule.

According to a new study from Amigo Loans, almost a third (31%) of Brits believe they can confidently explain how a rainbow is formed compared to just one in ten (11%) who could explain how a credit score is calculated.

In fact, it appears that people find it easier to explain why we put the clocks back (43%), the workings of a pension (18%), the possible existence of ghosts (13%) and even the Big Bang Theory (12%).

Things people feel most confident explaining:

  1. Why we put the clocks back in Autumn – 43%
  2. The offside rule – 35%
  3. How a rainbow is formed – 31%
  4. Pensions – 18%
  5. The possible existence of ghosts – 13%
  6. Annuities – 12%
  7. The Big Bang – 11%
  8. The workings of an internal combustion engine – 11%
  9. The existence of UFOs – 11%
  10. Credit score –11%

In fact a credit score is about as easy to understand as the workings of an internal combustion engine.  The research also found that men (13%) are more clued up than women (9%) when it comes to discussing how credit scores are determined.

A credit score is a number that helps lenders decide whether or not to approve a loan, and what types of loans to offer. The score is created by taking your credit history data from a credit reference agency (lenders will use different credit reference agencies) and then added to a set of variables determined by every lender, each completely unique to that lender. For example, a customer may score more points for being age over thirty, than a twenty year old.

Kelly Davies, Chief Communications Officer at Amigo Loans, says: “Credit scores are confusing for people because there isn’t one central source, which means we don’t have one single credit score. This means each credit reference agency could score you differently, meaning some providers will consider you risker than others.  This is plain ridiculous.  With such a convoluted system, it’s no wonder people find credit scores difficult to understand.  The fact is, if people don’t even know what a credit score is, how can we expect them protect it from being inadvertently damaged?

“Once a credit score is damaged, it takes years to repair.  And if people need to improve them, it’s better to do it sooner rather than later. An Amigo loan can help build or improve a person’s credit score.’

You can check your credit score for free with TotallyMoney and Clearscore.

Top tips for improving your credit score:

  1. Double check you’re on the electoral register. Lenders use the electoral register to confirm an individual’s address and location and fight against identity fraud.
  2. Try not to have a high balance on your credit card. Lenders may view this as excessive debt and think you have an inability to repay.
  3. Make sure to pay your bills on time, or ahead of time, a good credit score will be built up over time.
  4. Do not make multiple applications for credit as this can impact your record negatively.
  5. If you notice anything unexpected on your credit report you could be a victim of identity fraud, i.e. someone could have applied for credit in your name, contact the credit reference agency who will try to resolve the issue, alongside the lender.
  6. Only apply for credit which is necessary – applying for more than four a year can lower your score.
  7. Cancel old credit card agreements and out of date credit cards, such as store cards you no longer use, as this will still show on your file. Lenders will be cautious about the possible size of your debt.
  8. If you are divorced or separated, cut all financial ties and make sure your former partner’s details are eliminated from any joint accounts. The credit history of anyone you are financially associated with, such as a joint bank account with a spouse, can affect your credit rating.