29 Aug 2019 Time is running out for potential first-time buyers to take advantage of free money when they take the first step on the property ladder, as the deadline for opening a Help to Buy ISA looms.  

The ISAs were introduced in December 2015 to help first-time buyers saving for their first home by giving account holders a 25% government bonus. Savers can deposit a lump sum of up to £1,200 in the first month of opening the account and up to £200 each following month, up to a maximum balance of £12,000.

However it closes to new applicants on 30 November 2019, meaning would-be homeowners have just three months left to open an account.

Louise Halliwell, senior savings manager at Yorkshire Building Society, said: “Help to Buy ISAs have long had their supporters and critics but for anyone considering opening one to take advantage of the available bonus, time is running out.

“Buying a first home can be expensive so the bonus is likely a welcome relief towards new furniture or other new-home expenses for those who take steps now to open one.”

Anyone who opens an account before the November deadline can continue to make deposits until 1 December 2030, but any bonus must be claimed before this date.

Data shows more than 310,000 first-time buyers have used the savings account since it launched, and despite not receiving the government bonus until the property transaction has completed, buyers have received a £920 boost to their pot on average.

Louise added: “For anyone looking to save for a house and who doesn’t currently save money regularly, it could be daunting to know where to start.

“Building a healthy savings pot for your first home doesn’t have to be difficult though. Small changes such as paying money into a savings account regularly, for example by setting up a standing order, can be a good habit to build.

“Likewise, splitting your income into three manageable chunks could also help, with 50% allocated to essentials such as rent and bills, 30% spent on enjoying life and 20% of your salary being put into savings.

“Ultimately, no matter how little you manage to put away each month, it could make a big difference to your savings pot for your first home in the long-term. Above all, little and often saving is better than no savings at all.”

27 Aug 2019 Royal Bank of Scotland is offering £150 to new and existing customers switching their main bank account. The limited time offer launches on 27 August 2019 and will run until 29th November 2019.

The Royal Bank of Scotland’s Select account has no monthly fee and also has the benefit of GetCash which enables customers to withdraw money from a cash machine without their bank card using a passcode sent to their mobile phone.

Royal Bank of Scotland Reward, Reward Silver, Platinum and Black accounts are also eligible for the offer.

Bruno Genovese, Head of Royal Bank Current Accounts, said: “We are seeing more and more consumers taking advantage of our account benefits and our switcher offer gives consumers the opportunity to change accounts simply and easily using the Switcher Service.”

Switching bank accounts is simple and can be done through the Current Account Switch Service. Payments, such as Direct Debits and Standing Orders are automatically transferred to the newly opened account within seven days.

An account can be opened online at  www.rbs.co.uk or in any Royal Bank branch.

Switchers are required to use the Current Account Switch Service, close their existing account and transfer their main current account to Royal Bank of Scotland. Customers will then receive £150 by 7 February 2020.

It is simple to obtain the switcher offer. Customers must pay in £1500 to the account and log into online or mobile banking through the Royal Bank mobile app before 10 January 2019. Customers must be 18 or over and must not have received a cash offer from Royal Bank for opening a new current account and switching after October 2017.

22 Aug 2019 Shared Ownership mortgages are becoming increasingly popular with couples as a way to step onto the property ladder, new data from Leeds Building Society reveals.

First time buyers made up 89% of the Society’s Shared Ownership borrowers in 2018, with an increased demand from couples entering the property market.

In 2008, single buyers made up 55% of the Society’s Shared Ownership new borrowers, with couples representing 45%. A decade later, mortgages with more than one borrower now account for 65% of Leeds Building Society’s Shared Ownership customers, while single people make up 35%.

Shared Ownership enables people to purchase part of a property initially and pay rent to a landlord, usually a housing association, on the remaining share. If they wish, borrowers can then purchase further shares as and when they can afford to.

Matt Bartle, Director of Products at Leeds Building Society, said: “Shared Ownership as a method of purchasing has been around for 40 years and offers a different way of getting onto the property ladder. It’s a proven approach that helps people secure a home, even where a traditional mortgage is not an option, and the initiative’s longevity is testament to its success.

“At Leeds Building Society we’ve been supporting Shared Ownership for more than 30 years and are committed to helping those less well served by the wider mortgage market.

“The method is popular with first time buyers as it can reduce the size of deposit required, which can be a major barrier for many people. A deposit is required only on the share of the property being purchased, providing greater flexibility and reducing the time it takes to save for a deposit.

“We have the seen changes in the customer demographic using Shared Ownership in the last 10 years, with couples looking for their first home now making up the majority of our new borrowers.”

While more couples are turning to Shared Ownership as a way to enter the property market, the age at which these borrowers take out a mortgage has remained steady over the past decade, increasing slightly from 30 to 31.

19 Aug 2019 The UK’s leading fuel information service, PetrolPrices, relaunches its app this week, promising to save users up to £200 a year on fuel.                          

With daily fuel price fluctuations and motorway service stations charging the earth for fuel, filling up the tank of a car can sometimes feel like a postcode lottery, unless of course you are a user of the fuel comparison app, PetrolPrices. 

For the four months prior to 5th June, the UK saw consecutive monthly increases in both petrol and diesel prices.  It was the longest run of increases since 2016, and saw petrol become 11p a litre more expensive between the beginning of February and the end of May, while diesel was up 7p a litre over the same period. 

According to the AA, British motorists faced the highest petrol prices in July since 2014 with prices rising to a five year high. Petrol prices across the UK hit 128.72p a litre while diesel was at 131.61p. This added an extra £7 per tank of fuel added to an average car, and prices could rise again towards the end of the year due to the sanctions being placed on Iran by America, winter demand increases across Europe for heating fuel set to kick, tensions in the Middle East increasing, trade wars between America and China taking shape and Brexit continuing to create uncertainty.

For those who want to save money on fuel as these influences continue to affect pricing then the PetrolPrices app can help. Comparing both petrol and diesel prices at every forecourt in the UK for free, PetrolPrices informs users of where the cheapest station near to them is within a 20-mile radius.

Users can make dramatic savings by using the app, how this is achieved is because petrol stations price their fuel to compete in local markets and this creates what is called a “price spread” between the cheapest and the most expensive. By using the PetrolPrices app to always know the cheapest in any location, drivers can save hundreds of pounds a year:

Fuel type National Average Price Spread  Savings per Year**
Unleaded 24 pence per litre £225.94
Diesel 21 pence per litre £158.25
Super Unleaded 33 pence per litre £495.00
Premium Diesel 27 pence per litre £289.29
  ** These statistics are calculated based on common, average price-spreads by town. Full disclosure of the formula can be found here.

Relaunching this week, the app has undergone a major revamp and now boasts a new look and feel, additional services, plus increased functionality. It now compares fuel prices for all UK petrol stations, across all major fuel types, with up to 50 stations being delivered per search, which is more than any of its competitors.

For the first time ever, drivers can see a full page of information about every UK petrol forecourt and in return for sharing their ratings on the facilities and service, members will earn points that can be converted into rewards, such as a weekly fuel prize draw, which will become available in the next release of the app later this year.  

The upgrade comes as the motoring industry is undergoing some seismic and disruptive shifts. The face of petrol stations as we know it is also changing and he amount of dwell time on forecourts is set to increase. As it does, it is expected that petrol station operators will bring in a new range of services to cater to expectations around service, cleanliness, product offer and facilities. 

The latest version of the PetrolPrices app is available on iOS and Android now and completely free to download and use.  Anyone who submits a station review on the app in August will be entered into a prize draw to win one of ten free £30 fuel fill ups.

Commenting on the latest app release, Jason Lloyd, Managing Director PetrolPrices.com: “The latest app release is as close as we can get to the website service, which has helped millions of drivers save money on fuel since 2005. The next stage will bring driver rewards and an upgraded garage experience, the underlying purpose of these new features is to help drivers avoid paying full price for fuel or the things they need for their vehicle.”

PetrolPrices has over one million active members, saving up to £200 on average per year, and over the last thirteen years it has helped over four million people save money on their fuel. 

13 Aug 2019 In just a few weeks, thousands of students will be starting at university or college. For many young people, this is their first time away from home. Among other things, this means managing their own money for the first time.

TotallyMoney looks at some of the ways that students can save money as they start their university life. This includes:

  • Saving money on over 200 brands thanks to NUS TOTUM cards
  • An interest-free overdraft of up to £3,000 with selected banks and building societies
  • The first £12,500 you earn while studying will not be taxed
  • Train and coach discounts

Over the academic year, students can save hundreds of pounds thanks to offers and discounts. Staying on top of their finances and taking advantage of these offers now can be beneficial later down the line.

Students might not be thinking about mortgages or credit cards right now. But, being savvy with money as a student can help them to prepare for after graduation. Keeping your finances on track and managing money effectively leads to a good credit rating — favoured by banks and lenders.  

Alastair Douglas, CEO of credit experts TotallyMoney, makes his suggestions to students embarking on their next chapter at university: “For many students, university is the first time moving away from home and living independently. This means taking control of their finances.

“Checking in with your credit rating from time to time can help you keep track of your credit score. After university, a good score can help you get a credit card, car finance and even getting on the property ladder.”

Here are the top money-saving tips for students starting university in the coming weeks:

  1. Apply for a student bank account

There are bank accounts out there with perks for students, like an interest-free overdraft. That’s great for helping you out until the student loan drops, or covering you until you can work over the summer.

Some banks offer £1,500 or £2,000. But, HSBC, Nationwide and Barclays all offer up to £3,000.

Make sure you can pay off your overdraft within one year of graduation, though. Otherwise, you’ll have to start paying interest on what’s left.

  1. Get the NUS TOTUM Card

The NUS TOTUM card gives you huge discounts in stores and online, including 40% off at Las Iguanas, 10% off at ASOS, and 10% off at The Co-op. Check out the website to see the 200+ discounts available. And, it’s only £12 for one year — bargain.

  1. Draw up a budget — and stick to it

Track your spending with your bank’s mobile app or online banking. Contactless spending may be quick, but you could easily lose track of your payments. So, it might help to take out cash for a particular day — or a big night out.

  1. Sign up for your free credit report

After graduation, you’re likely to start thinking about your career and owning a home.A free credit report helps you track and improve your credit score in real time, so you can see how your behaviour affects it.

A good credit score helps you get the best deals on credit cards and loans — and even mortgages. So, acting now holds you in good stead for later on.

  1. Cut the cost of textbooks

Your university library should have all the books and resources for your course. But, if you need something extra, buying second hand is the cheaper option. Most campuses have a bookshop with a second-hand book section. Or, you could buy it off other students in the year above.

  1. Keep an eye on your tax payments

If you work alongside your studies, the first £12,500 you earn is tax free (2019/20 tax year). Check your payslip to see if your employer deducts tax from your pay. And, if they do, reclaim it.

  1. Be food smart

If you share a flat or house, buy food between all of you and cook at home. It’s cheaper than eating out or going solo on the groceries. 

You could also cook in bulk, freeze your meals, and buy from the cheaper supermarkets like Lidl or Aldi. Some supermarkets also reduce food that’s about to go out of date. If you visit the supermarket at the right time (usually in the evening), you can find some great deals.

But, of course you’ll want the odd takeaway and meal out. And, when you do, you can often find vouchers for Domino’s or Pizza Hut on campus, and Deliveroo or Just Eat often have deals on. Some restaurants have student and group discounts.

  1. Take advantage of cheap student software offers

You can get amazing discounts on Windows laptops as a student. On top of that, Office 365 Education is completely free, leaving you more money to spend on the things you enjoy.

  1. Apply for Council Tax exemption

In households where everyone’s a full-time student, you don’t have to pay Council Tax. If you get a bill, apply for an exemption.

To count as a full-time student, your course must last at least one year and involve at least 21 hours of study per week.

  1. Getting discounts on train and coach travel

16-25 railcard gives you a third off train fares, and only costs £30 for one year — or £70 for three years. A great way to save, if you use the train to get to and from uni, or plan to go home a few times in the academic year.

And, if you want an even cheaper option, you can get a 15% student discount on coach travel with National Express.

13 Aug 2019 Up to half of older homeowners are using equity release to repay debt as they struggle to meet payments, new analysis from UK’s leading independent equity release adviser Key shows.

Analysis of customer data suggests that 30% of people are using equity release to repay unsecured debt while 20% are using it to repay mortgages.  Debt is a growing issue with customers aged 55-plus owing an average of £10,319 on credit cards and £13,578 on loans. The UK average for people with unsecured debts is £11,830 meaning that some over-55s could have more than double the average amount of unsecured debt.

The biggest single debt burden identified is outstanding mortgages – customers clearing home loans on average owe £87,181, the data shows.   Further analysis suggests that the debt issue spreads across age group – customers in their 70s owe an average of £9,773 on credit cards compared with £10,926 for homeowners in their 60s. However, even some customers in their 80s owe money on plastic with average debts of £10,443.

A significant impact of carrying debt into retirement is the cost of regular repayments – customers are paying off an average £300 a month on credit cards; £282 on loans and £586 in mortgage repayments. That takes a substantial bite out of monthly income with those with credit card debt needing to use an average of 40% of the state pension (c. £730 per month) on repayments before meeting other regular costs such as housing, utilities and general living expenses.

The table below shows the average debts and monthly repayments.

CREDIT CARDS £10,319 £300
LOANS £13,578 £282
MORTGAGES £87,181 £586

Will Hale, CEO at Key said: “Juggling debt at any age can be stressful but with typically a fixed income, older people are likely to find it even more stressful than most.  Clearly people in their 70s and 80s are having to balance how to keep up these repayments alongside maintaining their standard of living in retirement.

“For homeowners, it makes sense to look at downsizing, equity release or other later life lending options to clear their debts and set them up for a more comfortable and less stressful retirement.  Good independent expert advice is key to ensuring that older homeowners receive the most benefit from their property wealth and use it in the most appropriate way for them and their families.”

13 Aug 2019 Latest research from Caxton FX, the international currency and payments specialist, shows that a family of four could easily blow around £390 of their holiday budget before leaving the UK simply by not planning ahead.

·         Sorting your currency card, a week or two in advance, and NOT buying currency at the airport – save £215.78

·         Not booking car parking online and paying on the day – save £139

·         Bringing your own food and drink instead of buying at the airport or motorway services – save £20.77

·         Topping up with petrol at the local supermarket rather than using motorway service station – save £12.00.

·         Total saving £387.55

Some summer travellers are needlessly shelling out a huge chunk from their summer holiday budget before they even set foot in their resort.

A lack of basic planning ahead and slipping into ‘holiday mode’ too early can eat into money set aside to pay for meals out, excursions, sangria, poolside beers and sunbeds – the things your holiday spend is really meant for.

Alana Parsons, Travel Money Expert at Caxton FX said: “many of us are travel savvy when it comes to getting a good deal on our holiday accommodation and flights.”

“However, because we live such busy lives with long working hours and family pressures, it’s easy to take your eye off the ball on the finer holiday details nearer departure”

The family holiday is a big deal and something you look forward to for months – so you don’t want to be putting a big dent in your spending kitty before you’ve even left the UK.

Alana’s 5 top pre-holiday tips are:

1.      Sort your currency out a couple of weeks before you travel – lock in the rate with a prepaid currency card instead of being stung by horror exchange rates at the airport.

2.      Pre book your car parking – those claims that you can save up to 60% compared with paying on the day are true.

3.      Always make sure you have travel insurance in place when you book your holiday just in case something crops up and you need to cancel your trip.

4.      Don’t waste money on expensive airport food and drinks or at rip off service stations – pack your own and you can easily save two thirds of the cost.

5.      Make sure the petrol tank is topped up before you set off – don’t risk running on fumes and having to pay through the nose at motorway services.

Alana added, “We’re not being party poopers and saying don’t relax and have a great holiday but it’s about spending your Euros or Dollars on the holiday niceties rather than the mundane expenses you can easily avoid before you set foot on the plane”.

06 Aug 2019 People on low-incomes are less likely to use credit than those on higher incomes and when they do borrow it is usually for essentials such as food and household bills.  However, people on low-incomes are more likely to use high-cost lenders when they do borrow according to a new study released today.
For example, UK consumer survey data shows that 38% of adults with household incomes less than £15,000 per year are credit users, compared with 56% of adults in the household income bracket £30,000-£50,000 and 55% with household incomes of £50,000 or more.

Research examining the UK, Germany and USA found that in all these countries consumer credit use was lowest amongst households in the bottom (income quartile).

The study, carried out by the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre for Standard Life Foundation, reviewed around 150 existing studies on borrowing behaviour. Researchers found that details such as credit card design, credit-limit increases and other marketing also increase borrowing.

When it comes to high-cost credit, speed, convenience and easy access attract people, particularly if they have few other credit choices.Researchers also found that young people today borrow more than their previous generations as debt becomes normalised.

The evidence shows that borrowing increases with age, typically peaking when people are in their 30s and 40s, and then declines.The study also raised concerns that young people, with lower financial literacy, are particularly at risk from poor borrowing decisions. However, increasing financial education for young people is not necessarily the answer.

The evidence is weak regarding the impact of financial literacy programmes (which tend to focus on financial knowledge) upon financial behaviour. 

Mubin Haq, CEO, Standard Life Foundation, said:“Contrary to popular belief, people on low incomes use considerable caution when borrowing money. They’re less likely to borrow than those with higher incomes, but when they do it’s usually for essentials such as food, paying the electric bill or rent – it’s not for luxuries.

However, those on lower incomes are more likely to use high-cost credit, partly due to the limited choices available. This report has brought together strong evidence on the impact borrowing has on the financial well-being of those struggling to make ends meet. It highlights the need for greater action including in relation to the cost of borrowing and the need to boost incomes.”

01 Aug 2019

Recent figures from a survey by Moneycomms show that consumers are often being tripped up at the final hurdle of their credit card application.

Customers could end up with a 0% balance transfer or purchase offer reduced by up to a year, or get an APR (annual percentage rate) nearly 10% higher than advertised.

Used properly, credit cards can help consumers get on top of their finances — transfer a balance, get access to cash, or cut the cost of a big or unexpected purchase. But all this uncertainty, on top of the risk of not even being accepted in the first place, makes it a monetary minefield.

Risk-based pricing, a method used to assess the risk of lending to certain individuals, is common practice by most lenders. However, it’s not common knowledge and can lead to poorly managed consumer expectation.

Alastair Douglas, CEO of credit experts TotallyMoney, comments on the latest research from Moneycomms, revealing the difference between advertised credit card deals and what the customer sometimes gets.

Douglas warned: “Lenders are not always clear enough when advertising rates. Only 59% of cards let consumers know that risk-based pricing will be used to make the lender’s decision — and even when they do, it’s not all too clear.

“Some customers will be offered a very different product. A 29-month 0% balance transfer deal could be slashed to just 16 months, and the 27.4% APR advertised balance transfer rate could be hiked to 59.9% APR.

“One way to ensure you get the advertised offer or rate is to apply for a card you’re pre-approved for — which you can check with TotallyMoney. Pre-approved means you’ll get the deal, providing you pass the lender’s fraud and identity checks, and that the information that you provide is correct.

“Otherwise, it’s hit and miss for card applicants, and it doesn’t help customers who are choosing the length of 0% deals for a specific purpose to suit their budget.”

Andrew Hagger personal finance expert from Moneycomms, who carried out the research, said: “It’s frustrating for customers to get a watered-down deal and the financial consequences only makes matters worse.

“If a borrower gets their 0% duration cut by the average 7 months, on a £2,000 balance, the shorter interest-free intro offer could cost them up to £256 in that time.

“From a customer perspective, it’s a bit of a lottery and being short-changed on a 0% balance transfer or purchase deal can play havoc with their financial budgeting.”

Table 1. Well-known high street lenders can cut their 0% offers by 12 months. Seemingly top offers can be cut down to sub-prime levels, and the market-leading length you apply for could become very mid-tier.

Provider 0% product type Advertised term months Could be down sold to (months) Difference
MBNA Balance Transfer 29 16 -13 months
Tesco Bank Balance Transfer 28 16 -12 months
Halifax Balance Transfer 29 18 -11 months
Post Office Money Balance Transfer 25 18 -7 months
TSB Balance Transfer 28 22 -6 months
Tesco Bank Purchases 26 14 -12 months
Halifax Purchases 20 9 -11 months
TSB Purchases 20 10 -10 months
Sainsbury’s Bank Purchases 28 22 -6 months

Table 2. When applying for an advertised low-rate card, you could end up with something nothing of the sort.

Provider Advertised Purchase APR Potential Purchase rate (APR) based on risk Potential increase in Purchase APR
NatWest 18.9% 27.9% +9.0%
RBS 18.9% 27.9% +9.0%
Bank of Scotland 6.45% 14.95% +8.50%
Asda Money 19.9% 27.9% +8.00%
TSB 19.95% 26.95% +7.00%
Creation Cards 18.90% 24.90% +6.00%
New Day – Aqua 27.4% 59.9% +32.50%
Vanquis 39.9% 69.9% +30.00%
Aquis 29.8% 59.9% +30.10%
Chrome 29.5% 59.9% +30.40%
Natwest Credit Card 9.90% 18.90% +9.00%
Halifax 19.95% 27.95% +8.00%
Tesco 19.9% 26.9% +7.00%
Tandem 18.90% 24.90% +6.00%

Research – Moneycomms.co.uk 26.04.2019

Survey research – TotallyMoney annual Financial Awareness Survey 2019 of 2,000 UK adults, carried out by OnePoll and commissioned by TotallyMoney