More than 5 million people in Britain have no idea how much their mortgage is costing them, according to research released today by habito, the world’s only digital mortgage broker.

With 7.6 million active mortgages in Britain, the study found one-third (33%) of UK mortgage holders don’t know what interest rate they are paying – despite it being one of the biggest financial commitments that most Brits have. The research has exposed the widespread lack of knowledge among homeowners over the basic details of their mortgage, potentially caused by the complexity and hassle of the mortgage application process, and a reluctance to manage mortgages effectively over the long-term. This is estimated to cost consumers £29 billion a year.

The research also revealed of the mortgage owners surveyed:

  • One in eight (over 1.8 million mortgage holders) don’t know if they have an interest only mortgage;
  • Almost one in ten (over 1.4 million mortgage holders) don’t know if their mortgage is a fixed or variable rate;
  • Almost one in ten (over 1.3 million mortgage holders) don’t know how long their mortgage term is;
  • One in every 20 mortgage holders (over 700,000 mortgage holders) cannot even name their lender

Mortgage holders in Wales are the savviest in UK when it comes to knowing what interest rate they are paying on their mortgage, with far more people in the region (79%) knowing this than in other areas of UK. That compares to just 65% of mortgage holders in London and 63% in the South East, where house prices are often higher. The research also revealed a stark gender gap. Less than two-third of women (61%) know how much interest they pay on their mortgage, which rises to almost three quarters (73%) among men.

Daniel Hegarty, CEO of habito, said: “For most people, a mortgage is the biggest financial commitment of their lives, yet the application process is opaque, slow and untouched by technology. It’s no wonder there is such a widespread lack of awareness among existing mortgage holders and such reluctance to manage their mortgages over the long-term. Applying for a mortgage with a traditional broker is stressful and confusing – people just want it to be over as quickly as possible and then forget about it.

While traditionally slower to adopt new technology than younger generations, when it comes to contactless, the UK’s over 60s are well and truly bucking the trend.

Data released by Barclaycard today shows that the number of ‘silver spenders’ using ‘touch and go’ payments increased by 116 per cent in the last 12 months. The figures show that the older generation has finally jumped on the contactless bandwagon that their younger counterparts joined several years ago.

In comparison, the number of contactless users among all other age groups is also rising, but as usage is already high, the rate of growth is slower. Among the 18-24 age group, users have risen by 49 per cent, while for 26-45 year olds the figure is up 65 per cent and among 46-60 year olds users has climbed by 97 per cent.

The findings come as the UKCA reveals that contactless spending passed £1.5 billion for the first time in March, increasing from £1 billion per month in November. This upward trend in the popularity of contactless is supported by Barclaycard’s data showing that overall spending has more than doubled in the last 12 months, rising by 123 per cent.

Britain’s love of a bargain continues to go from strength to strength with the nation’s savvy spenders helping discount stores see a 431 per cent surge in transactions made contactlessly in the last year, more than any other sector. In second place were gift card & novelty stores up 261 per cent, followed by service stations in third, where spending has climbed by 245 per cent.

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.

Another option in this market comes from MBNA with its credit builder card at a representative APR of 25.9% 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.

“It wasn’t my fault” said almost a quarter of car hire drivers who have had to claim for damage on a hire car.

iCarhireinsurance.com, the leading provider of specialist car hire excess insurance, analysed its claims from 1 January 2014 until 30 September 2015, and found that in 23% of claims, the claimant said the damage to the hire car was not their fault.

Returning to a parked car and finding it scraped, scratched or damaged in any way accounted for over three-quarters (74%) of these ‘not my fault’ claims, demonstrating that it doesn’t matter how good a driver you are, a simple visit to the supermarket can result in someone scratching the car with their trolley.

Other ‘not my fault’ excuses included a collision with an animal (a deer / kangaroo / dog and boar were all given); vandalism or theft (Italy and Portugal had the highest number of incidents); and the hire car having pre-existing damage in the hirer’s opinion i.e., when damage was not recorded on the rental company’s check-out sheet but the hirer insists it was already there when they collected the hire car.

Many customers are unaware, until they collect their hire car, that in the event of damage or the car being stolen, even if it’s not their fault, they are liable for excess charges of up to £2000.  At this point, unless they purchase excess protection from the rental-desk, they are left exposed. These policies are usually expensive, approximately £15 a day and limited in scope.

iCarhireinsurance.com’s excess insurance costs from £2.99 a day and it also protects vulnerable parts of the rental vehicle that are usually excluded in the rental companies’ policies.  For example, a consumer would save over £100 with an iCarhireinsurance.com policy, costing £23.92, compared to buying an excess waiver product for £138 from Europcar in Tenerife this Easter (26 March to 2 April 2016).

Ernesto Suarez, CEO and founder of iCarhireinsurance.com, said: “It doesn’t matter how good a driver you are, if your hire car gets damaged you will be held liable by the rental company whether it was your fault or not.  When a small scratch down the side of the car can cost hundreds of pounds to fix, it’s important that hire car drivers protect themselves against a high excess with a specialist car hire excess insurance policy, like iCarhireinsurance’s, whilst also saving money at the rental desk.”

As well as daily cover from just £2.99, iCarhireinsurance.com also offers annual cover from £37.99.

Key Benefits of Stand-Alone Car Hire Excess Policies

  • Annual or Daily cover
  • Protect yourself against excess charges for damage and theft
  • Cover for damage to areas usually excluded by the rental company such as windscreens, tyres, roof and undercarriage
  • European or Worldwide coverage
  • UK automatically included for UK residents
  • No distance from home restrictions
  • Cover for additional drivers named on the rental agreement

We’re a nation of competitive gardeners, investing more than £17,000 in our gardens over a lifetime to impress neighbours and keep up appearances, according to new research from Policy Expert.

Nearly one in four (23%) of the 2,205 people surveyed complained of a green-fingered neighbour whose garden always upstages the rest of the street, with over one in ten (13%) claiming it’s their own garden that’s the talk of the town.

People admitted to gardening because they’re worried about what their neighbours might think of unkempt lawns, with more than a third (37%) of those surveyed stating they pulled weeds and potted plants in fear of others thinking their garden looks a mess. A further 40% admit that they keep their garden pruned out of sheer pride. 3% of those surveyed admitted they spent time and money in their garden just to win competitions.

The research found that the average UK homeowner spends £350 a year on flowers and ornaments for their garden. When asked what would be at the top of their gardens wishlist, nearly a third (30%) would opt for the perfect lawn, with 20% plumping for a water feature.

 

Top features that embody an English garden as voted for by Policy Expert customers:

Popularity Feature
1 Garden shed
2 Roses
3 Patio
4 Striped lawn
5 Bird bath
6 Vegetable patch
7 Greenhouse
8 Water feature
9 Pond
10 Gnome

 

Reassuringly, 86% of us have a fence at the very least to protect these cherished gardens, but only 57% have installed lighting as a precaution and just over half (58%) have locked gates. Further still, one in three of those surveyed were unsure if they were covered against garden damage and theft in their home insurance policy – leaving thousands of pounds worth of hard work left vulnerable across the UK should burglars come calling.

 

Adam Powell, Head of Operations at Policy Expert commented:

“Thousands of Brits choose to spend serious time and money on their gardens – whether it’s for a genuine love of the pastime, or a case of keeping up with the Jones’. Either way, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and keep your garden and its contents secure. It’s also really important to make sure you’re clued up on what your insurance policy covers, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy your green fingered efforts… as long as the British weather holds up.”

 

Tips from Policy Expert to keep your garden safe:

  • Make sure you protect your garden with security measures e.g. outdoor lighting or a locked fence
  • If you have a shed or outbuilding, make sure your home insurance policy includes outbuilding protection, and check exactly what this includes
  • Make sure valuable items such as BBQs or sports equipment are shielded from view, under a cover or stored in a shed or garage
  • If you’re taking gadgets outside such as tablets or smartphones, ensure that they’re covered in your home insurance policy in case they’re lost or damaged

Half of people in the UK have never checked their credit score, according to research from RateSetter, with 53% doing something which may actually harm their credit score – potentially making it difficult or impossible for them to borrow money in the future.

In addition, three in ten (30%) people are worried about their creditworthiness and a similar number (32%) intend to take action to improve their credit score within the next 12 months.

Credit scores help lenders decide whether to lend money, how much to lend and how much interest to charge. By not knowing their credit score, people risk paying more interest when they take out a loan and may face limits on the amount they can borrow. In extreme circumstances, they may find themselves “locked out” of credit.

While eight in ten people (83%) know what a credit score is, half (50%) do not know their personal credit score and had never checked it. A further quarter (25%) say that they did not know their current score but had checked it in the past. Just one in five (20%) know their score exactly or approximately.

More than half of respondents (53%) are doing things which may harm their credit scores. For example:

  • One in five (22%) have paid a bill late in the last five years.
  • One in seven (15%) are not on the electoral register.
  • One in ten people under 35 (10%) have moved house more than twice in the last two years
  • One in fifty (2%) have a joint bank account with an ex-partner

Many other respondents were also doing things which may prevent them from building up a good credit history: for example, one in ten (11%) have never taken on any debt, which can result in what’s called a “thin file”, where underwriters do not have access to enough information to assess someone for creditworthiness due to a lack of borrowing history.

“Credit scoring is an imperfect science” commented Jay Magee, head of retail underwriting at RateSetter, “but it is a really important part of the decision of whether to give someone a loan.  By checking your credit score, which the likes of ClearScore, Equifax and Call Credit allow you to do for free, and taking a few easy steps such as getting on the electoral register, you can really improve your score and with it, your chances of borrowing more cheaply.”

Jay added “Some people think that by never getting into debt, they will automatically be seen as creditworthy.  But in reality, it’s by borrowing and paying back on time that you can build up a good score.  Our list of the seven deadly credit scoring sins is a mini-guide to help people improve their scores.”

Seven deadly credit scoring sins

  • Not being on the electoral register
  • Moving home too often
  • Not paying bills on time
  • Not building up any debt, ever
  • Sharing a bank account with someone with poor credit history
  • Having too much outstanding debt
  • Remaining a “financial associate” of an old personal or business partner

RateSetter has published a free guide designed to help people to improve their credit score, which is available at www.ratesetter.com/blog/article/know-your-credit-score.

 

The foundation of any strong relationship is said to be trust, yet apparently the principle doesn’t quite extend to your finances.

According to research from Defender Note, more than two thirds (67 per cent) of UK adults keep their bank card PIN hidden from their partner.

Men appear to be more careful with the numbers, with just 31 per cent sharing their PIN with their other half, compared with 35 per cent of women.

Split by region, couples living in London are the least likely to share their PIN with each other, with just 30 per cent doing so, while those living in the East Midlands are most trusting (42 per cent).

Londoners are more trusting when it comes to the workplace however, with four per cent admitting they had told a colleague their PIN before – a higher proportion than any other UK region.

The study also found that 54 per cent of UK adults have never told anyone their PIN, only five per cent have trusted their friends with the information, while four per cent have trusted their siblings.

Worryingly, five per cent of people surveyed admitted to storing their PIN on their phone to help them remember it, while two per cent keep a note in their wallet or purse.

Men are three times as likely as women to use an anniversary to remember their PIN, while more women choose to keep the random digits allocated to them by their bank.

Morgan Rothwell, CEO of counter-fraud company Defender Note, said: “It’s a little surprising that so many couples don’t trust each other with their PIN, but people are right to be careful when it comes to sharing their personal information.

“Criminals continue to come up with new and covert ways of defrauding consumers and the less people that have access to your account the better.

“In the last year alone, there’s been 26 per cent rise in card fraud in the UK, with last year’s total bill reaching £755million.”

ENDS

Average price rises for drivers renewing their car insurance have doubled in the past year as shopping around hits a three-year high,  independent data Consumer Intelligence shows.

Its data – used by the Government’s Office of National Statistics to calculate official inflation statistics – shows average renewal quotes have increased £22 on average compared to an £11 increase last year.

The price rises – driven by Insurance Premium Tax rises and wider market movements – have boosted shopping around to a three-year high with up to 11 million drivers expected to move insurer this year.

Consumer Intelligence’s data shows around 40% of motorists will switch and it advises all motorists to shop around at renewal to try to secure a more competitive deal.

A spokesman for Consumer Intelligence said: “The message on rising car insurance premiums is really hitting home and drivers are making the sensible decision to look around for the best possible deal.

“We are seeing a real acceleration in shopping around and up to 11 million of the UK’s 27 million private car owners will move this year.

“Customers really should be shopping around  which is being made easier as insurers need to make it clear what last year’s premium was when they send renewals.”

Consumer Intelligence’s analysis shows average car insurance premiums have increased 13% in the past year to £683 with more than half of that rise coming in the past six months.

Average premiums for over-50s are up by 15.3% compared to 9.3% for the under-25s but older drivers still pay considerably less than younger drivers – the average premium for over-50s is £298 compared to £1,600 for the under-25s.

One way for younger drivers to limit price rises is to look for telematics policies – so-called black box technology – which rewards good driving.

Consumer Intelligence’s analysis which focuses on the most competitive quotes from insurers for age groups shows 48% of the best deals for under-25s are from insurers offering telematics policies compared with 33% in October 2013.

Insurance Premium Tax was increased in the Summer Budget from 6% to 9.5% and again in last month’s Budget to 10%

Ends

At least one in every seven (14 per cent) people retiring this year has made no provision for their retirement and will be either totally or heavily reliant on the State Pension to provide a regular income when they retire, according to newly released research.

The findings are parts of a unique annual study carried out by Prudential which tracks the finances, future plans and aspirations of people planning to retire in the year ahead. This year’s retirees – the Class of 2016 – provide the ninth set of comprehensive insights into the post-financial crisis retirement landscape.

Prudential uses the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s (JRF) Minimum Income Standard for a single pensioner of £182.98 a week2 as the benchmark income to support an acceptable minimum standard of living in retirement. To illustrate the risks of relying solely on the State Pension, a pensioner whose retirement date is after 6 April this year and whose only income is the full new flat-rate State Pension will have a weekly income of £155.65, or nearly £8,100 a year – a significant shortfall on the JRF standard of £27.33 a week or over £1,400 a year.

Vince Smith-Hughes, retirement income expert at Prudential, said: “We are in the midst of some once-in-a-generation changes to pension rules – change that the State Pension has not been immune to. Most of this year’s retirees will be eligible for the State Pension under one of two very different arrangements depending on their retirement date. It is very important that they understand what this means for their total income after they give up work.”

The results of Prudential’s research also highlight the value of the State Pension to all of this year’s retirees – even those with retirement savings of their own. On average, members of the Class of 2016 estimate that the State Pension will account for more than a third (35 per cent) of their income in retirement.

Vince Smith-Hughes added: “Even those who receive the full new flat-rate State Pension will find that it alone doesn’t provide the level of income required to sustain a comfortable retirement. However, given the significant contribution the State Pension makes to most retirees’ incomes it is important to make sure people do everything they can to make sure they qualify for the full amount – for example by making voluntary National Insurance contributions to cover any career breaks.

“The clear lesson from our figures for anyone saving for retirement is that someone expecting to live in any degree of comfort needs to have made some sort of pension provision of their own. There are very few better alternatives than saving as much as possible as early as possible in our working lives and the majority of people will benefit from professional financial advice when planning for retirement.”

Hull, next year’s City of Culture has come bottom of a league table revealing average broadband speeds in 42 major UK cities and towns, according to price comparison service uSwitch.com.

The data, which shows actual speeds rather than available top speeds – and therefore provides an indication of fibre broadband take up across the UK – reveals that residents in Hull recorded average download speeds of just 12.42Mbps for a six-month period between August 2015 and February 2016. Meanwhile, Aberdeen and Milton Keynes are the UK’s second and third slowest cities for broadband, with speeds of 15.67Mbps and 17.10Mbps respectively.

While industry and Government have made ‘superfast’ broadband available to 90% of the country, 20 of the towns and cities in the league table have average speeds slower than the 24Mbps superfast threshold​. This suggests that barriers to the take up of fibre broadband, including awareness of availability as well as pricing, could be improved in urban areas.

Worryingly, the data also reveals that three in 10 tests (30%) logged actual speeds of less than 5Mbps​. Those attempting to spend a night in with a movie might have to resort to traditional TV – as downloading a high definition film at 5Mbps would take two hours​. At the other end of the spectrum, just one in ten (10.4%) consumer tests recorded speeds of above 50Mbps​.

Meanwhile, 22 towns and cities are enjoying superfast average speeds above 24Mbps, with Middlesbrough (34.46Mbps), Belfast (34.34Mbps) and Brighton (33.8Mbps) currently the UK’s fastest cities for surfing the web​.

Two glaring omissions from the superfast 22 are London and Edinburgh. Both capital cities fall short of expectation with residents recording average speeds of 22.44Mbps and 21.07Mbps​.

Some residents may find they have a very different broadband experience to friends and family in neighbouring towns and cities. In Huddersfield, for example, broadband users enjoy superfast speeds of 27.71Mbps, yet just 15 miles away Wakefield residents and businesses are recording a sub-superfast 17.49Mbps. And Brighton, known as ‘Little London by the Sea’ and less than an hour away by train, has starkly different speeds to the capital – 33.8Mbps compared to London’s 22.44Mbps​.