16 Dec 2019 The average household now has £38,000 worth of belongings; an increase of almost £3,000 in the last four years, according to analysis from home insurance provider, buzzvault. Total physical wealth – the value of household contents, possessions and valuables owned – for all households in Great Britain has rocketed to £1.3 trillion, up £185 billion in the same time period.

Analysis of the latest ONS Wealth and Assets survey from the home insurance provider reveals the South West has seen the biggest increase in the value of household contents, rising £8,000, or 20%.  Over one in ten (13%) households own ‘collectables or valuables’ such as antiques, artwork or stamps, Around one in six households (15%) own between £50,000 and £75,000 worth of goods.

While challenging economic conditions have caused consumers to approach shopping with caution, higher employment and continued growth in earnings have kept the tills ringing. The ease of online shopping and the ability to receive a new purchase at home within hours of clicking the ‘buy’ button is also a factor: total online spend in the UK is expected to reach over £75bn by 2023.

Becky Downing, CEO and founder at buzzvault, said: “We have more access than ever to the goods we want. A quick scroll online or stroll on a lunch break can lead to us returning home with potentially hundreds of pounds worth of goods, particularly after payday. However, this makes it all too easy to bump up the overall value of our contents without recognising how exposed this leaves us.

“Having up-to-date insurance is important, but so is having a policy that can be adapted as quickly and easily as buying the products in the first place without having to endure excessive fees. Should the worst happen, and you find yourself the victim of a burglary, the last thing you need is for a claim to be turned down because you’re under-insured and new purchases are not covered. Flexible insurance policies can take minutes to sort, and mean you’re not left significantly out of pocket.”

10 Dec 2019 Seven in ten Brits say they plan to make big cutbacks this Christmas in order to save money, according to new research from AA Financial Services. Overall, three quarters of women are putting plans in place to spend less, whereas only 66% of men have a Christmas budgeting strategy.

With the major retailers launching their Christmas TV ads – and with Black Friday for many signaling the start of a festive spending spree – the new survey from AA Financial Services finds more households are making budget cuts to keep the cost of Christmas under control than this time five years ago (71% in 2019 Vs 56% in 2015). For the 2,000 people surveyed, the top three money-saving plans for Christmas 2019 are to:

  • put a strict limit on how much per head will be spent on presents for family members (33%);
  •  cut down spending on non-essentials such as Christmas decorations and homely treats (25%);
  • knock Christmas cards on the head (14%). In the age of social media and Facetime, the tradition of physical cards is losing its allure.

Women lead the savings charge     

The research also found women are more proactive than men when it comes to doing Christmas on a budget and will be stricter when deciding what goes into the shopping basket.  Nearly a third of women say they are reining in spend on Christmas decorations and treats in a bid to keep costs down (29% Vs 21% of men).As well as setting a strict limit on present spending (40% women Vs. 26% men), women were more likely to:

  • buy things second-hand at the charity shops or at car boot sales (11% Vs. 6% of men);
  • ask guests to contribute food or drink over the Christmas period (8% women Vs. men 5%).

18-24’s trim back their Christmas costs

With the new John Lewis Advert depicting a baby dragon bringing a Christmas pudding to a festive gathering, the AA research also found that 18-24-year-olds were twice as likely to ask guests bring food or drink with them to contribute on Christmas Day (15% Vs. national average 7%). They were also the most likely to say that they wouldn’t be sending Christmas cards this year (20% Vs. 14%).

Warren D’Souza, Head of Insight at AA Financial services commented: “Recent news that UK retail sales have been hit by a surprise downturn despite big discounting could be the start of a trend this Christmas. Our research shows that millions of households are approaching the Christmas period keen to keep their spending firmly under control.

“Brexit and the General Election may both be factors at play here given the context of economic uncertainty. Our research tells us that many Brits already have clear financial resolutions in place to save more money in 2020 and to review or consolidate their borrowing.

“With financial health in terms of streamlining savings and personal loans a top priority for the New Year, it is understandable why so many people what to finish this year with a budgeted Christmas – one that celebrates a good time with family and loved ones but does give a financial hangover to take into the New Year.”

04 Dec 2019 The first biometric fingerprint payment fob issued by a UK bank begins a three-month national trial today (4 December 2019). NatWest is piloting the cutting-edge, biometric fingerprint technology with 250 customers.

The bank has previously piloted biometric cards, but this will be the first-time payments have been made possible over £30 without a bank card or mobile phone.

The biometric fobs will offer contactless payments using fingerprint verification for transactions up to £100, an increase on the current £30 limit. The fob is no bigger than a standard keyring and features a small fingerprint reader.

No hardware changes are needed to accept biometric fobs at the point of sale, so customers can use the fobs at existing contactless and Chip and PIN terminals. When a customer presents a fob, a light indicates that the fingerprint has been matched successfully.

Enrolment is simple and takes as little as five minutes. A customer registers the fob in the comfort of their own home using their mobile phone. If a fob was lost, it would not be possible for someone else to use it for contactless transactions and for extra piece of mind the fob can be blocked using the mobile app. Biometric data is never shared with the merchant or the bank and is encrypted on the device.

David Crawford, Head of NatWest Effortless Payments, said: “After the successful pilot of our biometric debit card we are looking at how we can further develop the technology and push the boundaries to integrate it into our customers everyday lives.”

NatWest is working closely with Visa and Giesecke+Devrient Mobile Security to bring the service to customers in the UK.

Jeni Mundy, Managing Director, UK & Ireland, Visa, said: “Following the launch of the UK’s first biometric debit card earlier this year, we are again pleased to collaborate with NatWest on this pilot. Our research tells us that people have a strong interest in biometric technologies which can make their lives easier as well as increasing the security of their payments. At Visa we are constantly looking for ways to innovate with our partners to give consumers greater choices in how they pay.”

Axel Lange, Managing Director Giesecke+Devrient Mobile Security GB Ltd, said: “With the changing requirements in payment Authentication, G+D Mobile Security welcomes the opportunity to pilot different ways to pay and we see biometrics as a key enabler to do secure and yet convenient payments.”

03 Dec 2019 Research from auto-switching energy service, Migrate found that energy suppliers are charging customers an average of £87 a year to pay on receipt of a quarterly bill rather than pay monthly via direct debit.

The largest difference between payment options comes from Utility Warehouse, who charge customers £93 a year to pay on receipt of a bill. All ‘Big 6’ suppliers charge PORB customers £86 a year more than those who pay by monthly direct debit.

Customers that choose to pay on receipt of bill will be sent a quarterly bill for the energy that they have used, and will usually have the option to pay online, by phone or by cash or cheque.

Many people, particularly older people, prefer the discipline of receiving a quarterly bill and having the option to pay by cash or cheque to help them manage their budget. And while suppliers typically offer a discount for prompt payment, those who chose this payment method will likely still pay more for their energy than those who pay via direct debit.

While energy customers save an average of £315 a year by migrating their supplier with auto-switching service Migrate, research from the ONS found that 2.6 million people over the age of 75 didn’t use the internet at all in 2018. Meaning that those who are most likely to be paying a premium to pay on receipt of a quarterly bill are also the people least empowered to do anything about it.

26 Nov 2018 Paragon Bank has introduced new competition to the Lifetime ISA market, launching a Cash Lifetime ISA (LISA).

The Lifetime ISA currently pays 1.15% and can be opened between the ages of 18 and 39, allowing customers to save up to £4,000 a year tax-free and receive a 25% government bonus until they turn 50.

If they are willing to lock their cash up for longer, savers can earn more, as funds cannot be withdrawn without being subject to a 25% government charge, unless they are to be used for the purchase of a first home or for retirement.

If used for retirement, the funds can be withdrawn free of charge once the account holder reaches the age of 60, however the savings will stop earning the 25% government bonus and cannot be added to once the account holder turns 50.

Derek Sprawling, Savings Director at Paragon said: “The Lifetime ISA is a fantastic opportunity for savers to earn a considerable amount of money on their savings towards their first home or retirement.

“If you save the maximum amount into a LISA every year between 18 and 50, you will have earned a £32,000 government bonus alone.

“The imminent end of the Help to Buy ISA should increase the appeal of the Lifetime ISA scheme.”

Further information on Paragon Bank’s Lifetime ISA can be found here.

25 Nov 2019 Credit experts TotallyMoney reveal their top 10 tips for customers to keep their purchases protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act ahead of the season’s busiest shopping period. The experts say:

  • Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act protects credit card purchases from £100 to £30,000
  • Section 75 gives people extra protection on faulty goods, items that never arrive, and services never fulfilled, including when companies go out of business
  • Nearly 1 in 3 people (29%) don’t realise they’re covered at all, according to a TotallyMoney survey
  • Shoppers forecast to spend £7 billion across Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  • 62% of adults plan to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act means credit card companies and retailers are jointly and severally liable when a product or service isn’t delivered. With 62% of adults planning on making a purchase over this hectic shopping period, the extra protection afforded to credit card purchases could prove invaluable in recouping losses should retailers renege on their promises.

TotallMoney says that Section 75 claims should be honoured providing the Debtor Supplier Chain isn’t broken. This means the exchange of money between customers, the credit card company, and the service provider must be maintained. Transactions through third-party sites such as PayPal would therefore not be covered.

Customers left in the dark

The credit experts are keen to spread the word about Section 75, following a OnePoll survey of 2,000 UK adults commissioned by TotallyMoney that revealed nearly a third of adults don’t realise such protection exists.

In light of the research, TotallyMoney has put together 10 tips on what Section 75 is and what shoppers need to do to make a claim.

TotallyMoney also warns that while Section 75 does provide extra protection, shoppers still need to use their credit card responsibly — especially when shopping online.

They advise only spending what you can afford, paying off the full credit card balance using the money saved in your bank account for such spending, and only buying from reputable sites that have the padlock symbol in the web browser, to show the site is secure.

Alastair Douglas, CEO of credit experts TotallyMoney, comments:

“In the lead-up to Christmas, it’s only natural for people to spend a bit more than usual, which is why it’s so important for customers to make sure they protect themselves as much as possible during this busy shopping period.

“With more and more of us poised to snap up bargains online, the potential for fraud is greater than ever. At this time of year, there’s nothing worse than your goods not turning up or being charged for something you didn’t buy, and being left out of pocket as a result. Section 75 gives consumers an extra level of security.

“Section 75 doesn’t mean you can be care-free with your credit card spending, though. You should only buy what you can afford and use the money left in your bank account to pay off your full balance.

“At TotallyMoney, we’re on a mission to improve the UK’s credit score. Checking your free report is the first step towards making sure your score doesn’t suffer at the hands of fraud. With this, customers can easily make sure everything is as it should be — helping them move towards a better financial future.”

Top 10 Section 75 tips

1. Limits on claims

Individual items and purchases costing more than £100 and up to £30,000 are covered under Section 75. So, whether it’s a pair of £100 shoes that fall apart on the first wear, or a swanky new £20k car that comes complete with faults, as long as you paid on credit card you could be reimbursed the full amount.

2. We’re talking credit, not debit

Section 75 doesn’t cover anything bought using a debit card. Chargeback protection is as good as you’ll get with debit.

3. They’re bust. You’re not broke

Buying from a company that goes bust before they deliver, doesn’t mean your money’s lost. Section 75 requires credit card companies to get your money back.

4. Pay a deposit, get full value cover

When a deposit for goods or services is required, use a credit card — even when the deposit is less than £100. Should anything prevent you from settling the balance (like the company goes bust or the seller vanishes), Section 75 lets you claim the full amount. Not just the paid deposit.

5. Pay part credit and part cheque, get full value cover

The same goes if you decide to pay part of the balance by credit card and the rest by cheque. Consumers can reclaim the full value of the qualifying goods and services even if the total balance wasn’t paid using credit card.

6. Stay protected on closed cards

Say you buy an item, close the credit card you bought it with, but something goes wrong with the qualifying goods or services, Section 75 means you can still make a claim.

7. Extra expense cover

If you book a holiday and the flight is cancelled, through Section 75 you could claim back additional accommodation and food expenses, providing those consequential losses were reasonable.

8. The Section 75 loopholes

Buying through a third party (like online marketplaces or travel agents), additional cardholder purchases, or cash that’s withdrawn from your credit card account won’t offer Section 75 protection. You need to have paid the company directly (so purchases made through PayPal, for example, aren’t covered).

9. Section 75 applies to all credit cards

When it comes to Section 75 there’s not one rule for one credit card company and something different for another. All credit cards come with Section 75 benefits.

10. The claim process

First port of call: the retailer you bought the goods or services from. Failing that, go to the credit card company — this might be your bank or building society, not Visa, Mastercard or AMEX. They’ll get you to fill out a claim form and voila! Your money is back where it belongs.

19 Nov 2019 In October 2018 there was a total of 17 credit cards offering interest-free periods lasting more than 20 months. The top 10 leading cards avoided adding interest for at least 26 months (Clydesdale Bank), while the best deal delivered 30 months (Santander).

A year later only five credit card companies offer shoppers 0% purchase terms greater than 20 months: MBNA (26 months), Santander (26 months), Barclaycard (25 months), Sainsbury’s Bank (25 months) and Tesco Bank (24 months). 

Extended interest-free periods give shoppers greater financial flexibility when using a credit card to buy big ticket items or during times of increased shopping activity. For example, around Black Friday and in the lead up to Christmas.

Last year consumers could spread the cost of major purchases — cars, house renovations, holidays, Christmas shopping — over the course of two years or longer, potentially easing any financial strain.

A year later, TotallyMoney and Moneycomms’ research shows the average 0% purchase duration time has dropped to just 9.8 months. The average in October 2018 was 13.5 months. This is a fall of 27%, suggesting credit companies are squeezing consumer finances harder as they look to recoup payments in full, in less time.

Despite cutting the number of interest-free months offered, consumers can still find favourable terms. With the average credit card rate at 19.9% APR, putting £1,000 on an interest-free card for 24 months, for example, may result in £398 saved in interest charges.

TotallyMoney is working to improve the UK’s credit score and help people move on up to a better future. With the help of a free credit report, customers can better understand their position in the credit market and understand if and where credit score improvements are needed.

Armed with this knowledge, there’s a higher chance of someone being accepted for purchase cards with longer offers, making it easier to spread the costs of any festive spending or upcoming big purchase.

Alastair Douglas, CEO of credit experts TotallyMoney, comments:

“Seeing a fall in the number of credit cards offering a 0% purchase deal and a drop in the number of interest-free months is disheartening. There’s little doubt both of these factors will impact some shoppers.

“Christmas is already a financially stressful time. People may spend more in the next few months than at any other time of the year and, as such, they may choose to lean on their credit card. It’s during these times that 0% offers come into their own and really benefit customers.”

He continues: “Used sensibly, these cards give you more breathing space as you can spread big expenses over longer periods of time, without worrying about interest. Just remember to make repayments in full and on time. This way you avoid late payment fees and get to enjoy the maximum number of months of your interest-free offer.

“At TotallyMoney, we’re on a mission to improve the UK’s credit score. Checking a report is the first step of this process and can help people to understand their score. With this, they can get better rates and more choice — helping them work towards a better financial future.”

18 Nov 2019 Money remains one of the UK’s least favourite topics of conversation, it’s unsurprising then that research has found that 54% of UK adults don’t have an appropriate will; either they’ve never had one or their current will is out of date.  For many people, thinking about what will happen once you’ve passed on can feel too hard, unnecessary or just not a priority amid busy lives and careers.

Shona Lowe from 1825 discusses the most common reasons people have for not making a will and why these shouldn’t be an excuse.

  • I’m too young/I’ve not got anything to leave: It can seem unnecessary to think about what will happen in years to come but you’re never too young to take control of what will happen in the future. Even if you don’t own a property and have no money in the bank, whatever age you are, you do have things to leave.  It might not be money or property but what about the photos on your phone, your online bank account or your social media accounts? Our digital assets take many forms and can have real value, not only sentimental value Making a will allows you to have the final say on who inherits your possessions, no matter how small.
  • I’m single and don’t know who to leave it to: Whether it’s a brother or sister, a parent, a niece or nephew, a godchild, a friend or a charity, we all have people or causes we care about. A will allows you to clearly state who you want your estate to go to and can be amended at any time, should your circumstances and wishes change.
  • My partner and I have lived together for years, so everything will automatically pass to them:  There’s no such thing as a common law spouse so your partner will only get what you say in your Will you want them to get.  If you don’t have a Will or it doesn’t include them as a beneficiary, they’ll have to go to court and make a claim instead.
  • I’m married so I don’t need a Will for my spouse/civil partner to get everything:That might work in some cases, but certainly shouldn’t be relied upon.  The value of your estate and whether you have children can affect that so don’t take the chance – if you want your spouse or civil partner to get everything, say so in a Will.
  • I’ve got a young family and don’t have time: Life can be hectic with school trips, days out and sports clubs taking up a lot of parent’s time, however, making a will is crucial to ensure that your children are properly supported if you were to die before they reach 18 (16 in Scotland). A will allows you to appoint guardians and makes sure that  Social Services or the family courts won’t be left having to decide what’s best for your children. This could end up being someone that you wouldn’t have chosen.
  • I’m separated so don’t need a will to make sure my ex doesn’t inherit: While you may have separated your physical assets and no longer live together estranged spouses can still have an entitlement to part of your estate. If you made a will previously but have not updated it to reflect your new circumstances, there’s a risk that your ex may be able to inherit what you have previously said you wanted them to have or make a claim on your estate.  And even if you’ve got divorced, if you live in Scotland, that doesn’t invalidate your Will so you have to make a new one to override it.

When you decide to make a will it’s important to get it right. While you can write a will yourself or do it online, speaking to a professional that understands the intricacies of will writing and can advise you based on your needs both now and in the future gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out accordingly when the time comes.

To find out more information about the financial planning services 1825 offers please find further information at www.1825.com

13 Nov 2019 Individuals who look after both children and elderly parents, described as being part of the ‘sandwich generation’, are struggling the most to save money, according to Aldermore’s Annual Saving’s Tracker research.

Almost a third (32%) of individuals who have adult children living at home and who care for elderly parents, are unable to save money, the highest proportion of non-savers of any group.

On average, last year individuals within the ‘sandwich generation’ saved 7% of their annual income, a measure known as the savings ratio. In comparison, the population on average saved 9%.

Aldermore says that saving even small amounts of money can be hugely beneficial for individuals in later life, especially when they come to retire. Such is the stress of being stretched financially that one in five individuals within the sandwich generation say they are kept up at night worrying about their lack of savings.

Many within the sandwich generation for instance (35%) are worried their children are not saving enough with 78% believing it is their responsibility to teach them the importance of saving.

Not only are parents educating their children about money, they are also tangibly helping them too. 28% of parents aged 45-54, regularly give their children money to help them save, while one in four (25%) have helped or plan to help their children with a deposit on their first home.

Ewan Edwards, Head of Savings at Aldermore comments:  “Many individuals are finding their finances stretched wafer thin by supporting both their children and elderly parents.”

“Added to the difficulty for people is having their children still living in the family home after the age of 18, which can often place a further financial strain if they are not yet working.”

“We find it is concerning that such a high percentage (34%) of this group feel they are unable to save enough to ensure a stable financial future. It is crucial that when facing such demands, people prioritise their financial security and make small changes to their savings habits, in order to provide protection for their own future.”

12 Nov 2019 Halifax customers can now benefit from a service feature to protect themselves from gambling-related harm. The gambling card freeze, which is a feature of the banks’ mobile app[s], was developed in recognition of the ways in which the bank can support customers to manage their money and gamble responsibly.

Halifax is the first UK bank to enable customers to apply the gambling freeze to any of their debit and credit cards, with an accompanying ‘defrost’ period that means if customers want to reverse their decision to freeze gambling transactions, they must wait 48 hours.  This time period allows customers to thinking time to ensure their decision isn’t made in haste or under duress.

This is part of a broad set of activities to protect customers from gambling related harm. This includes providing additional training to customer facing colleagues the branch network and telephony services, and sharing further support information for customers online. Halifax is also working with Warwick University to review and analyse the impact of gambling related harm and will be sharing findings with the Gambling Commission and other external organisations in the coming months.

Elyn Corfield, Managing Director, Consumer Finance, says: “We know that people who gamble a higher proportion of their income are more likely to face financial pressure – so we’ve introduced the freeze tool to help them manage that. Importantly, by also introducing a defrost period we’re helping to protect those who might otherwise make an impulsive return to gambling.”

Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland and MBNA also offer card freeze features providing customers more choice and support in this area. Over 15,000 debit and credit card customers across these four brands have already signed up to the new gambling card controls since launch at the end of October.