At the end of last week, the Chancellor announced improvements to the winter support package to help small businesses struggling in the crisis. However, research from Tommys Tax app (www.tommystax.com) has revealed that nearly three quarters (73%) of people find the support from government ‘confusing’ and 85% say that the new package is still not enough.

On the Self Employed Business Support Group on Facebook, managed by Tommys Tax, many of the 11.5k small business owners in the group ranted about the new grant being a ‘disgrace’, as the support covered just 40% of their average monthly trading profits across three months, (with a limit of £3,750 in total), while many said they still weren’t eligible for any support at all.

With talks of tax rising by up to two or three percentage points soon, 55% of people thought they would really struggle to pay the extra costs, with 4% saying they would stop working completely as they could get more money on benefits.

Tommy McNally, Tax Expert and Founder of Tommys Tax says: “The new measures are welcomed as an improvement, but 40% still leaves the self-employed struggling to survive and too many (around a third) will be excluded due to the eligibility criteria. Small businesses and freelancers have seen their income drop dramatically during the pandemic. It’s a tough situation for everyone, but my clients believe they’re being treated unfairly compared to others. When you look at how little they’re still being offered, I have to agree with them.”

Tommys Tax (www.tommystax.com) was founded in 2015 and has since secured a total of £20 million in tax refunds for clients. They launched their free app in April 2020 and it so far has helped over 10,000 people. On average, they currently secure refunds of £3,000 for those on PAYE and £2,800 for the self-employed.

Tommy concluded: “It’s great that the government is helping small businesses but with the prospect of a rise in tax, they need to do more or we’re going to see a huge number of small businesses closing for good, which is not only bad for the economy, but devastating for individuals and their families who have worked so hard over the years.”

Tommys Tax App gives business owners all the tools they need to manage their finances – including bookkeeping, invoicing, tax calculators and the ability to get a tax refund that can come within as little as 72 hours.

As part of a survey of more than 8,000 customers, Paragon found that 40% of savers now want to prioritise spending money on experiences they can share with loved ones over material possessions, whilst more than a quarter (27%) felt they were less materialistic as a direct result of the pandemic.

Bank of England data showed that net new household deposits soared during the lockdown period, averaging around £17.2 billion per month between March and June.

Following this period of reduced spending, Paragon found that one in seven savers (15%) now felt they could live a fulfilling life on a reduced budget and would rather prioritise savings for the long-term.

Derek Sprawling, Savings Director at Paragon Bank, said:

“The ‘experience economy’ trend was on the rise long before Covid-19, but it looks like the pandemic has certainly accelerated this. It’s no surprise that the restrictions around socialising have made people value time with loved ones more, with 60% of our savers seeing their priorities change.

“This preference for spending money on experiences with our nearest and dearest over material goods is usually predominantly linked to the younger generation. Our data shows that this trend is indeed strongest amongst 18-24 years-olds, with half of young savers agreeing with the claim against an average of 40%, however it is also consistent across all age groups.”

A shift in spending priorities 

This change in attitude was reflected in spending habits across specific product categories during lockdown.

Paragon’s savers claimed to spend less on online clothes shopping now than before the pandemic, with 35% cutting down spending. The areas that people spent more money on during lockdown included groceries (42%), home improvements (33%), gardening (22%) and media entertainment (21%).

Sainsbury’s Bank has enhanced its Nectar Credit Card  with a new, enriched Nectar offer. Sainsbury’s customers can collect 10,000 Nectar points, worth £50, when they spend over £400 in Sainsbury’s, Tu Clothing or Argos in the first two months after opening the account.

The new credit card offer ranks highest for earning rewards compared to other no-fee reward credit cards on the market, according to top personal finance expert, Andrew Hagger, from Moneycomms.co.uk. 

The boosted credit card offering also enables customers to collect up to three Nectar points per £1 spent at Sainsbury’s, Tu Clothing and now also at Argos, when they use their Sainsbury’s Bank Nectar Credit Card and swipe their Nectar card . In other retailers, customers earn one Nectar point per £5 spent.

Jason King, Customer Director at Sainsbury’s Bank said:  “We’re committed to helping Sainsbury’s customers get the best value from their credit cards. Our new Sainsbury’s Bank Nectar Credit Card offer means customers could be collecting significantly more points on their everyday shopping, whether this is buying their weekly groceries or getting ahead on the Christmas list.”

Andrew Hagger, Personal Finance Expert from Moneycomms.co.uk said: “The new Sainsbury’s Bank Nectar Credit Card deal is very competitive in the current market and ranks highest amongst the no-fee rewards based credit cards. The card offers good long term rewards value for those customers shopping with the Sainsbury’s and Argos brands.

“It’s a good all round card, not only offering generous own brand rewards value but also up to 17 months interest free on balance transfers and purchases. Unlike a growing number of rewards based credit cards, this new deal doesn’t come with a monthly or annual fee.”

To apply for a Sainsbury’s Bank Nectar Credit Card customers should visit: https://www.sainsburysbank.co.uk/credit-cards/nectar-reward

Finance experts TotallyMoney reveal how much customers could save by avoiding finance options at car dealerships amid the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) crackdown on unfair commission agreements.

  • A staggering £300m is being lost every year across the UK due to commission-focused dealerships, FCA reports*
  • The majority of new car registrations (9 in 10) were financed through dealerships in 2018†
  • Nearly three quarters of people (68%) have accepted the first car finance deal offered to them at a dealership‡
  • Customers could pay an unnecessary £1,100 extra in interest over a four-year loan*

Figures from 2018-9 report the majority of people buying a car (91%) were persuaded by car dealerships into taking out credit to help them with their purchase.†

Research by the FCA found that buyers are typically sold a finance product based on a broker’s commission, rather than the customer’s creditworthiness. Dealerships receive their commission from lenders based on the interest rate a customer gets, therefore incentivising the broker to increase the rate to earn more.

This often results in customers getting a car finance deal that costs them more than they need to pay.

As a result, the FCA estimates that a customer could end up paying an extra £1,100 in interest on a four-year £10,000 finance agreement.

In light of their findings, the FCA has now put the brakes on these practices in the car finance market. Commencing in January 2021, discretionary commission models that are not in the customer’s best interests are banned.

 

A steer in the right direction 

The finance experts are shifting gears on the traditional, commision-based model by allowing TotallyMoney customers to check their eligibility for more affordable finance options before they head to the dealership, and all results are based on what’s best for the customer, not best for the dealership.

Customers can see a larger and more varied range of products than they would find at a dealership.

At a time when many people’s financial situation has changed due to coronavirus, finding the cheapest option, with the easiest payment plan, can make a considerable difference.

 

Alastair Douglas, CEO of finance experts TotallyMoney, comments:

“A car is often a lifelong necessity and a large portion of someone’s monthly expenses. This is particularly important at the moment, as more people may be keen to avoid public transport amid the coronavirus crisis. 

“But, car dealerships can sometimes seem unfair. The industry currently lacks competition, and at the point of sale the main focus is on the broker’s commission, rather than what is right for the customer. 

“We wanted to change this. Our new car finance eligibility platform brings in creditworthiness as a top priority, so customers can get finance options that are right for their situation. We work closely with our lenders, so that customers see market-leading products that will work for them.

“At TotallyMoney, we’re on a mission to improve the UK’s credit score and help our customers move on up to a better financial future. Checking your free credit report to better understand your financial situation could help you improve your credit rating, and help you find the best deals for your next car.”

In a survey involving more than 8,000 customers, Paragon Bank found that 21% of Gen-Z savers were spending more than before during the pandemic – this is 160% higher than the overall average of 8%.

Customers aged 18-24 years old were also twice more likely to have withdrawn money from savings to pay for essentials during lockdown, with 8% confirming they had made a withdrawal from a savings pot against an average of 4%.

However, nearly half (48%) of 18-24 year olds surveyed decreased spending during the pandemic, although this was 11 points below the average of 59%. Another 31% found their spending remained around the same as before lockdown.

Older savers were thriftier during the lockdown period, with 55-69 year olds proving to be the most cautious – 62% made an effort to spend less than before the pandemic while only 6% claimed to spend more.

This increase in spending amongst younger savers was likely facilitated by decreased outgoings during the lockdown period, with half of 18-24 year olds and 56% of 25-34 year olds agreeing that they were able to save more money as a result of the lockdown period.

In contrast, fewer than one in three amongst the over 55s felt like they were in a better position to save as a result of Covid-19, with more finding their financial position unchanged or worse off than younger age groups.

Building saving habits for the better

Despite having more of a tendency for spending, many young savers also felt that they had developed some good saving habits during lockdown that they hoped to transform into permanent behaviours.

Millennials were the most likely to learn good lessons about managing finances during the pandemic, with 43% hoping to convert lockdown saving habits into permanent behaviours, but Gen-Z savers were not far behind with 40% of 18-24 year olds surveyed also keen to do the same (against an overall average of 25%).

Younger savers were also the most likely group to build an emergency saving fund, with nearly a quarter of 18-24 year olds and 22% of 25-34 year olds building up a ‘cushion’ for the uncertain months ahead.

Derek Sprawling, Savings Director at Paragon Bank, said:

“During the lockdown period, many people will have found themselves with lower outgoings and more disposable income than usual thanks to money saved on commuting and other everyday expenses. Across all age groups, we’ve seen that most people have used this as an opportunity to save money, but for some savers, more disposable income means more money to spend!

“We know that young people are one of the groups worst impacted by the pandemic, but our survey suggests many are more resilient than people may think. It is encouraging to see that such a large portion of younger people feel like they are building positive saving habits for the long-term as a result of the pandemic. It’s also great to see young people building an emergency fund and making contingencies for the future.

“Paragon’s savers have, through their savvy financial planning to date, enabled Paragon to maintain our lending support for UK businesses and landlords. This is a great example of how our focus on attracting strong savers translates to support for the wider economy.”

More than a quarter (28%) of all British adults believe they may have lost track of one of their pensions or let it become dormant, according to a new study by Gretel, the free online service which helps people track down lost bank accounts, investments, life insurance and pensions.

Changing jobs is a common way that consumers can become disconnected from their company pension scheme, leaving them lost or classed as dormant.  When a worker moves from one company to another, they do not generally take their pension with them.

Gretel’s research has found that one in four (26%) of Brits have changed jobs 4-7 times in their adult life and a further 8% have changed jobs more than eight times.

The government is due to report back shortly on the dormant asset consultation which includes proposals to expand the dormant assets scheme to include new financial assets such as insurance, pensions and shares.  This would mean financial companies could channel funds from dormant savings and investments which meet the required level of customer inactivity (currently 15 years for banks)  towards good causes through an authorised reclaim fund (ARF).

Gretel estimates that 19.6 million people in the UK have become disconnected from financial services products and are sitting on dormant or unclaimed money with a collective value of over £50 billion1.  Lost or dormant pensions make up the greatest value with approximately £37 billion in total languishing in over 1.6 million lost or dormant pension accounts worth on average £23,125 per policy.

Duncan Stevens, Chief Executive of Gretel said: “Unfortunately it’s all too easy to become disconnected from a pension scheme.  For many workers it is something they don’t need to worry about until nearing retirement.  But few of us have a job for life now; our research shows that many of us change jobs multiple times during our working lives. Unless we actively consolidate our pension with each job move, our pension pots can quickly become lost or classed as dormant.  We estimate that there are over 1.6 million pension pots sat dormant with an average value of £23,125 – a sum that could have a huge financial impact on the retirements of the average person.”

In terms of those who believe they may have lost a pension or let one become dormant, Gretel’s research also found that:

  • four in 10 (42%) were aged 18-34 years
  • a third (32%) were aged 35-54 years
  • just 14% of those were aged 55 years
  • two-fifths (42%) are Londoners (the biggest by region)

Duncan Stevens continued: “At Gretel, we want to get dormant, lost and unclaimed money from savings, investments and pensions back into the hands of the consumer, where it belongs. Our belief is that consumers are entitled to receive all the money due to them and should not have to pay to get their own money back, nor face numerous complex barriers to access it. We are opening pre-registration now because this is a time of financial uncertainty for many and being reunited with forgotten money could make all the difference to some people.”

While many financial services companies have an obligation to reunite customers with their lost money, many only have part of a customer’s financial picture. The launch of Gretel reflects the recommendations of the Government’s Independent Commission on Dormant Assets which called for the extension of the scheme beyond banking to include the rest of the financial services industry and made it a priority for firms to attempt to reunify dormant assets with their rightful owners.

Once Gretel is fully launched consumers will be able to identify lost pots of money in old financial accounts in less than three minutes. Once lost accounts are flagged to the customer, Gretel provides an easy path for them to reclaim it.  Uniquely, once a customer has signed up with Gretel, the service will keep working for them to constantly look for lost monies and flag any new accounts as and when they are identified.

As Gretel prepares to launch and bring on banks, insurers and pension companies, consumers can log on and pre-register with Gretel by simply submitting their email address – www.gretel.co.uk.

Online car finance purchases are expected to rise by 33%, accounting for more than half (56%) of transactions for the first time ever. The move away from the traditional dealership model comes as Brits become more open to shopping around for their own finance deals, with 60% saying searching online for car finance is their preferred option and 63% think shopping online for car finance is more convenient.

And the financial rewards of the online alternatives are clear: those who arrange car finance options online could save up to £797, according to new figures released by car finance provider Zopa.

Potential buyers are also put off by the traditional process of a car dealership offering the finance deal as half admit they’re nervous about the prospect of negotiating costs with a dealer face to face. A further 49% of Brits surveyed suggest haggling simply isn’t a part of modern life and 13% of Brits say they’ve never negotiated when buying something.

And being uncomfortable can cause people to make uninformed decisions. More than one in 10 people who bought a car in the last five years admit they accepted a deal on car finance from a dealer that they didn’t feel was good value and nearly one in five decided to avoid the process altogether and put off buying a car.

The shift online comes as more people see the benefits of organising car finance themselves, with 61% of Brits saying shopping online gives them greater control and 72% preferring to shop at their own pace. The ease comes from access to information too, with a third (36%) valuing the transparency of comparing deals online and 28% the ability to research running costs at the same time as the car finance options, allowing them to manage the financial decision better. The Coronavirus was also a consideration, with nearly half of those questioned (45%) saying they would be more likely to shop online for their finance now than before the pandemic.

In line with consumer demands to take control and avoid the hassle of added negotiations with car dealers, Zopa now offers a ‘mortgage-style’ car finance product with the loan secured against the car. Customers arrange finance on the vehicle prior to going into a dealership. Zopa’s offering puts the customer in control of financing their car as it carries out all background checks, paperwork online and contacts the dealership about the money directly. This enables the customer to have peace of mind and certainty of how much the car will cost them before stepping foot on the forecourt.

Tim Waterman from Zopa says: “For a long time, dealers had control of the customers’ finance deal, and until recent restrictions put in place by the FCA, could be incentivised to offer a higher loan APR. While of course not all dealers are the same, this situation has caused consumer mistrust. Wider availability of online finance deals such as Zopa’s has shifted the control, making it possible for consumers to find a deal that truly works for them.

“A car isn’t a frequent or low value purchase, so it’s understandable that people want to take their time when finding the right deal and do it on their own terms. Zopa’s secured car finance aims to increase transparency and convenience as people can sort out their finance online before going to a dealership, putting them in complete control of how they finance their next car.”

Consumers are able to find a finance option from the comfort of their own sofa as drivers can go directly to Zopa’s website and apply for a Hire Purchase car loan in as little as 3 minutes. The customer also has certainty of price as Zopa provides them with a guaranteed loan rate and monthly breakdown before a full application is submitted. These personalised pre-approved details are provided on a soft search without marking the customer’s credit file, giving them added certainty and the ability to continue to shop around.

Zopa shares its tips for how to secure a good deal on a second-hand car and car finance: 

  1. Start by exploring all your options  with the range of different options available to customers, it can often feel overwhelming. Make sure to explore all options available to you via soft search and opt for one which offers complete transparency and aligns with your financial situation. Not all providers offer soft search, so you’ll need to check before you get a quotation.
  2. Get a pre-approved loan sorted – this allows you to know what options are open to you and you can be confident you’re getting the best deal available. Look at providers that do an initial soft search to give you confidence on approval and the rate you’ll receive.
  3. Think about timing – March and September see new cars released, which are often bought through part-exchange deals. This means dealers will have lots of cars to sell, which puts the consumer in a strong bargaining position.
  4. Research costs and see how much the vehicle you want is going for elsewhere – you will know what a good deal is if you’ve been able to compare costs yourself, so make sure you look around and see what other dealers are offering on similar vehicles to make sure you’re happy with the price that is being offered.
  5. If you want to go direct to a dealer, do your homework – it’s important to remember that not all dealers are the same. Ask friends and family for their recommendations or check out reviews online via Autotrader or Trustpilot.

Aldermore bank has today increased the rates on a range of its fixed rate business savings products.

The following business savings rates will be available immediately:

  • 6 Month Fixed Rate – increase from 0.55% to 0.75%
  • 1 Year Fixed Rate – increase from 0.75% to 1.00%

Ewan Edwards, director of savings, Aldermore comments: “We’re committed to offering competitive rates to savers and are pleased to be able to increase interest rates across our fixed rate business savings offering. Running a business comes with many different challenges at the moment, so it’s vital business owners get the most out of any surplus cash.

“Fixed rate accounts can be particularly useful as they enable businesses to get their money working harder for them until it is time to be used. For example, for new IT equipment in six months time, or to put towards those bigger costs you know are coming further down the line.”

Finance experts TotallyMoney have warned that consumers could be unwittingly losing hundreds of pounds by using certain financial products against their advantage. Research reveals:

A massive 20% drop in income and 10 million people on the furlough scheme during coronavirus has seen many turn to credit to get by.│

However, TotallyMoney has warned that with interest-free overdrafts and payment holidays coming to an end, recovering from the financial effects of coronavirus may be costlier than many realise.

True cost of borrowing exposed

The finance experts have said that increased awareness of more expensive types of borrowing could allow customers to find cheaper alternatives, which can help prevent them from spending more than they need to.

For example, some of the 27 million people offered an interest-free overdraft when the coronavirus pandemic started could soon face higher interest rates than before it began, with many reaching highs of 40%.

Furthermore, despite credit cards often being a cheaper alternative, many don’t realise the majority will accrue an average of £445 in interest due to not having a interest-free promotional offer.

Credit card fees further soar when a card is used for a cash advance transaction, which not only incurs a withdrawal fee, but also starts  accumulating interest the moment the transaction is complete.

Shining a light on borrowing blind spots 

TotallyMoney has launched a free and exclusive app-first feature to give customers an overview of how they use credit, including flagging types of borrowing that could be expensive, such as frequently using an overdraft, using a credit card for cash advance transactions, and carrying a balance on a card with no promotional rate.

Credit Assistant summarises why these could be expensive ways to borrow, so consumers can better understand how to use their credit and get more money in their pocket.

Alastair Douglas, CEO of TotallyMoney, comments:

For millions of people in the UK right now, finance is a real struggle. The uncertainty of coronavirus is still present and many people may have taken out extra credit products, or taken payment holidays, to help manage spending.

“However, credit can be confusing, and it’s not surprising that consumers don’t know what classifies as a cash transaction, what their interest rate is, or even how often they use their overdraft. With greater transparency about these types of borrowing, consumers can avoid unnecessarily paying out extra. 

“Looking at debt and borrowing habits can be daunting, though. With Credit Assistant, we’ve enabled customers to see their credit and how they’ve used it over time in a clear and meaningful way.

“At TotallyMoney, we’re on a mission to improve the UK’s credit score. Credit Assistant can help people look at all their borrowing behaviour, understand how they can make better decisions, and move on up to a better financial future.”

NS&I has this week announced that, starting from the December 2020 prize draw, it will start to move customers to having Premium Bonds prizes paid directly into their bank accounts – a quicker, easier and more secure way for customers to receive prizes. The issuing of paper warrants (like a cheque) for the payment of prizes won in the monthly Premium Bonds prize draws will be phased out completely by March 2021.

Premium Bonds customers can also continue to choose to have any prizes reinvested into more Premium Bonds, up to the maximum holding of £50,000. Customers will be notified of any prize win via their choice of email or text message.

Since 2011, Premium Bonds holders have been able to have their prizes paid directly into a UK bank account in their name. In the September 2020 prize draw, almost three quarters (74%) of the 3,856,040 prizes were paid directly into customers’ bank accounts or reinvested into more Premium Bonds.

Customers can check the Premium Bonds results by using the online prize checker at nsandi.com, the official NS&I prize checker app, and the Premium Bonds Alexa skill.

Ian Ackerley, NS&I Chief Executive, said:

“Paying Premium Bonds prizes directly into customers’ bank accounts is quicker, easier and more secure for everyone. It will also mean that we can reduce the number of Premium Bonds prizes that go unclaimed where we don’t have a current address for the winner. Customers can also continue to have any prize wins reinvested into more Premium Bonds up to the £50,000 limit to increase their chances of winning in future draws.

“There is an understandable affection for prizes being received by post, but since March, nearly half a million customers have switched from receiving paper warrants to having their prizes paid directly into their bank account or automatically reinvested. As well as being beneficial to our customers, this change will allow NS&I to manage Premium Bonds prize distribution more cost-effectively and with a much lower environmental impact.”

Customers need to provide NS&I with their bank account and contact details

To ensure the swift and easy transfer of prizes, Premium Bonds customers will need to ensure NS&I has their up-to-date UK bank account details along with an email address or UK mobile phone number, so that they can be notified of any prize wins. NS&I is urging customers to do this as soon as possible as the issuing of paper prize warrants will be phased out from December 2020, and will stop completely from March 2021. NS&I will never call customers and ask for their bank details.

As NS&I is phasing out the use of prize warrants, some Premium Bonds customers will not receive prize warrants from December 2020, with all customers not receiving prize warrants from March 2021. These customers will instead be issued with a prize claim letter, telling them how to arrange payment of their prize. The February 2021 Premium Bonds prize draw will be the last prize draw in which prize warrants will be issued by NS&I.

Customers already registered for NS&I’s online and phone services can input their bank account details quickly, easily and securely by logging into their account on NS&I’s website. They should visit nsandi.com and use the secure log in. They should go to ’Your profile’ and select ‘Your prize options’ and choose to have prizes paid directly to their bank account or to have prizes automatically reinvested into more Premium Bonds.

Customers who have not previously registered to manage their account online should register for NS&I’s online and phone services at www.nsandi.com/online-registration. They will then be able to manage their prize options.

Customers without internet access should call NS&I on 08085 007 007 to either provide NS&I with their bank details or register to manage their savings, including Premium Bonds, with NS&I.