13 Aug 2018 New research shows financial branch closures are piling the pressure on local high streets with nearly half (46%) of shop owners interviewed admitting that losing a local bank in the past three years has had a negative impact on their business.

The study for The Nottingham Building Society among shop owners in areas affected by closures found owners estimate their annual revenue fell by an average of 20% after their local bank branch shut its doors.

Just one in five shop owners interviewed in areas hit by branch cutbacks say the loss of the bank from the High Street had no impact on their sales.

Research from The Nottingham shows the impact of branch closures on people visiting towns affected. Around 36% of people say they would visit their town or village less if their local branch closed with two out of five (40%) saying they would make three or more fewer visits a month.

Government figures show 1,270 bank branches have shut since 2014 with 650 being axed between 2016 and 2017. This year has seen further closures announced by NatWest, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland with a report commissioned last month by The Nottingham stating a further 2,400 more banks could close, risking 12,000 jobs.

The effects of branch closures are long-lasting, the research shows. More than half (54%) of owners interviewed in affected areas say they will have to take action over the next three years to address the fall in business. Nearly one in three (31%) say they will consider shutting and operating online while 15% are considering cutting jobs and 26% are considering moving their business either to a new area or to smaller premises nearby.

The society is campaigning to highlight the value of the bank branch to local towns and businesses and has doubled its network of branches to 67 over the past five years with the result that footfall has increased by around 10% potentially increasing visits to local shops.

08 Aug 2018 First-time buyers in just two regions of the UK intend to save enough money to get on the property ladder, with the rest underestimating the amount they are likely to need, according to new research.

The latest First-Time Buyers report from Yorkshire Building Society shows not being able to save enough money for a deposit is the main barrier to owning a home for more than a quarter of would-be buyers across the UK (28%), but the difference in amount buyers intend to save and might require varies significantly by region.

Based on average house prices for first-time buyers, and the corresponding average loan-to-value (LTV) required in nine regions of the UK last year[i], data analysed by the mutual reveals aspiring homeowners may be underestimating their upfront purchase budget by thousands of pounds.

London reveals the largest gap between intentions to save and the reality of purchasing a property, with almost £70,000 unaccounted for by potential first-time buyers currently saving for their first property. First-time homeowners paid on average nearly £415,000 in the area last year with an average deposit of £118,531, but the research shows potential first-time buyers intend to save less than half of this at £49,000.

Would-be homeowners in the South East may not be saving enough either, with an average first-time buyer house price of £276,930 and an average 22% deposit put down in the region, potential homeowners are likely to need nearly £61,000 to get on to the property ladder. However, the Yorkshire’s research highlights potential first-time buyers in the South East intend to save just under £43,000 to purchase a property creating a shortfall of over £18,000.

In contrast, first-time buyers in Yorkshire and the Humber and Scotland may be overestimating the upfront costs of buying their first property. For instance, market data suggests first-time buyers in Scotland paid £137,714 and put down a £24,000 deposit, nearly £1,500 less than current would-be homeowners in the region are intending to save.

Chris Irwin, from Yorkshire Building Society, said: “While our research indicates first-time buyers in the majority of regions across the UK could do more to manage their financial expectations of buying a house, it serves as a reminder to potential homeowners of the importance of budgeting.

“I’d encourage anyone with a dream of home ownership to really take time upfront to do the maths and work out how much they will realistically need to take that first step on the property ladder, including any up-front fees on top of a deposit.

“When you’ve got a more realistic figure, it’s easier then to review your savings habits and work out what you’re able to save and over what period of time, to achieve your required goal. Breaking it down in this way, early on in the home-buying journey could really help first-time buyers.”

27 Jul 2018 With holiday season upon us, Debenhams Personal Finance have conducted research on consumer holiday spending, to see how our holiday habits have changed over the years.

A survey commissioned by Debenhams Personal Finance found that the nation isn’t as good at sticking to a strict holiday budget in 2018, compared to previous years, with the nation splashing more cash on a trip away. In 2017, over a third of us claimed to stick to our original holiday budget, compared to just over 10% today.

The study also revealed that nearly half of Brits are now converting more travel money when going on holiday with 73% feeling that holidays abroad are even more expensive in 2018. This year, 40% of Brits claimed to have converted up to £500 for a week away, compared to just 27% in 2017.

Akhil Shah, spokesperson for Debenhams Personal Finance, said: “There are many ways in which you can be savvy with your holiday spending, especially when it comes to finding the best travel money rates. Travellers should take the time to research the best exchange rates on the market to ensure you are maximising the best deals. Don’t leave purchasing your travel money to the last minute as you won’t have the choice and are likely to be out of pocket!

“We have over 100 travel bureaus across our UK Debenhams stores where customers can benefit from competitive travel money rates and also host regular rate sales throughout peak travel periods, allowing customers to get more bang for their buck, helping to keep the overall cost of their summer holiday down as much as possible.”

When purchasing Debenhams Travel Money, customers will also be treated to a £5 voucher off any £20 to spend in store or online. All customers who return to store with spare spending money will receive an extra 20% when loading their leftover currency onto a Debenhams gift card.

For more information on Debenhams Travel Money, visit http://finance.debenhams.com/travel-money/.

 

25 Jul 2018 One in six (16%) of holidaymakers put off buying travel insurance until the day of, or the day before they go on holiday, according to Co-op Insurance

The insurer’s data reveals how Brits are leaving it until the last minute to take out travel insurance, putting themselves at risk financially, in the event a trip doesn’t go ahead as planned.

In addition to the one in six travellers who leave it until their holiday begins before taking out insurance, over a third don’t arrange cover until the week before their holiday.

The insurer is therefore advising Brits going away this summer to take out insurance as soon as a holiday has been booked, to avoid being disappointed and of pocket, should anything go wrong.

For families travelling with children, this is particularly important as Co-op’s research highlights that over a quarter of parents (26%) have cancelled or have considered cancelling a holiday because their child was unwell.

A spokesman for Co-op said: “It concerns me that two in five (37%) of people don’t take out travel insurance, but for those who do, it’s really important cover is taken out as soon as a holiday is booked. By doing so, people are covering themselves for scheduled airline failures, sickness meaning a holiday must be cancelled and accommodation cancellations.

“Children commonly pick up bugs which can result in families choosing to cancel a planned holiday. Where this does happen and there’s no insurance in place, families can be left out of pocket for the cost of their holiday.”

Top tips when taking out travel cover 

  1. Check your insurer covers you for SAFI (scheduled Airline Failure Insurance), this means that in the event the airline your flying with goes bust
  2. Be honest with any medical conditions you may have to ensure that if you do need to claim on your insurance, you’ll be fully covered
  3. Buy as soon as you book – When it comes to travel insurance, it’s always best to take it out as soon as you book a holiday. This way, if there are any unexpected changes or cancellations before the trip, you’ll be covered

24 Jul 2018 A estimated two million Brits regret jumping straight into the first car finance deal offered when buying their car, without shopping around first, according to a new report by AA Cars, the AA’s used car website.

The research, which was conducted through an AA-Populus poll of over 16,000 drivers also found that less than a fifth of drivers using car finance to buy their vehicle actually compared offers to make sure the deal they were selecting was the best one available to them

Twelve percent admitted that they simply couldn’t be bothered or didn’t have the time to shop around and so could have easily missed out on a more suitable finance option.

Nevertheless, most drivers (60% overall) agreed that they are happy with the finance they have chosen. But, there is a satisfaction age split: nearly three quarters of over 65’s are happy with their car finance deal, compared to less than half of 18-24’s – possibly reflecting the greater experience of, and wider range of options for, older drivers.

James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars says: “With complex jargon and a wide range of financial products and rates available through car dealers, banks, manufacturers and other providers, it is no surprise that car finance is baffling for many to understand.

“Although it is good to hear that 6 out of 10 people are happy with their deals, many of them could be paying a lot less if they had shopped around first. My advice would be to take some time to compare the options available both online and at your dealer before making any commitment. There some very competitive finance deals available in the market and small rate differences can add up to thousands of pounds over a number of years.

“Our research suggests that perhaps up to two million Brits have opted for the first offer available in order to secure the car they really want and may not know if they have got the best deal.  It’s really important to take time to consider what’s available – and not let your heart rule your head so that you end up making an impulse decision you might later regret.

“An increasing number of providers, including the AA, also offer a quick credit checking service that will give you a good indication of how likely it will be that you will be offered finance, but without leaving a ‘footprint’ on your credit record.

“Whatever finance option you choose, you should always make sure you fully understand what you are getting yourself into before signing on the dotted line – and don’t just take the first deal that comes along without looking at other options.  You should also read the small print, to understand all the terms. For example, if you think you might want to pay off a loan early, you should check that this won’t trigger an early payment penalty.

20 Jul 2018 As the great summer getaway begins in earnest this weekend, holidaymakers are being warned to plan ahead to avoid being stung by scandalous exchange rates at the airport as they are offered rates up to 20% lower than the market rate for euros, meaning travelers could end up losing out, says travel money expert FairFX.

New research by FairFX found that holidaymakers leaving their currency exchange until the last minute could lose over £100 worth of euros for every £500 exchanged, thanks to poor exchange rates at the airport.

Holidaymakers heading away as the schools break up for summer could be losing out on holiday cash by leaving it until they get to the airport to get their holiday money.

In some airports, currency exchange desks were offering as little as €0.89 euros to the pound, compared to live market rates of €1.117.

FairFX’s airport rate check – euros:

Airport Provider Euro Airport Rate

Euro Market Rate

Difference 

Difference in £

Belfast ICE

1.0200

1.11707

-8.69%

 £43.45

Birmingham Airport ICE

0.9800

1.11707

-12.27%

 £61.35

Bristol Moneycorp

0.9670

1.11707

-13.43%

 £67.17

Cardiff ForExchange

0.91

1.11707

-18.54%

 £92.68

Doncaster Robin Hood ICE

1.03

1.11707

-7.79%

 £38.97

East Midlands Travelex

0.92

1.11707

-17.64%

 £88.21

Edinburgh ICE

0.9625

1.11707

-13.84%

 £69.19

Gatwick Moneycorp

0.9439

1.11707

-15.50%

 £77.51

Heathrow T3 Travelex

0.9321

1.11707

-16.56%

 £82.79

Heathrow Underground T1-2-3 ICE

1.106

1.11707

-0.99%

 £4.95

London City Airport Travelex

0.92

1.11707

-17.64%

 £88.21

Luton ICE

1.0648

1.11707

-4.68%

 £23.40

Manchester Travelex

1.094

1.11707

-2.07%

 £10.33

Norwich ICE

1.08

1.11707

-3.32%

 £16.59

Southampton Moneycorp

0.90

1.11707

-19.43%

 £97.16

Southend Moneycorp

0.9154

1.11707

-18.05%

 £90.27

Stansted Moneycorp

0.89

1.11707

-20.33%

 £101.64

Average  

0.9786

1.11707

-12.40%

 £61.99 

 

 

 

18 Jul 2018 M&S Bank is urging holidaymakers to check their car insurance policy before driving abroad this summer as research* reveals that nearly half (48 per cent) of those planning to drive their car in mainland Europe believe they either aren’t, or don’t know if they are, insured to drive in the EU.

When it comes to breakdown cover, more than half (56 per cent) either don’t know if they are, or say they wouldn’t be covered, if they broke down on one of mainland Europe’s roads this summer. While many policies will offer some form of cover when driving in the EU, the level of protection offered may not be the same as when driving in the UK.

M&S Bank research into car insurance amongst British motorists planning to drive on the Continent this summer revealed that, of those planning to drive in mainland Europe, nearly all (97 per cent) said their main purpose for taking to these roads was for their main holiday (61 per cent), mini-break (27 per cent), or to visit friends / family (8 per cent).

Paul Stokes, Head of Products at M&S Bank, said: “Self-drive holidays are an increasingly popular option for many British holidaymakers, with nearly a third planning to drive in Europe over the next 12 months, compared to 11 per cent in 2017.

“However, before they take to Europe’s roads this summer, it’s important that they check whether they have adequate car insurance, and also breakdown cover in place, before they go on holiday, as some policies don’t offer like-for-like cover outside of the UK; only then will they have total peace of mind, should the worst happen.”

In addition, more than one in ten either don’t plan to, or don’t know if they will familiarise themselves with the road rules and regulations of the country they are driving in, with 11 per cent saying they don’t have time and three per cent believing that driving in mainland Europe is the same as driving in the UK.

However, many drivers may be surprised to find that driving regulations can differ widely across many EU countries. For example, if you are travelling in France, vehicles driving through regions such as Paris and Toulouse must display a ‘Vignette’ (sticker) in the windscreen due to low emission zones; failure to purchase and display the vignette when driving in these areas could result in fine between €68 and €135.

In addition, if you are travelling in Croatia, not only would you need to carry a first aid kit and warning triangle at all times, you must use dipped headlights in the daytime from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March, while those driving on Spanish roads and who require glasses, must always ensure that they carry a spare pair with them.

Paul Stokes continued: “As well as doing their homework into the driving laws of all the countries they will be travelling to before setting off, we would urge drivers to also consider the length of time they will be away, as part of their research; while some insurance policies include extended EU travel cover as standard, drivers should not assume this is always the case. By taking the necessary precautions before setting off, motorists can help to avoid unnecessary stress and further delays on the roads.”

M&S Car Insurance policies include travel cover within the EU for up to 90 days in any single cover period***. M&S Premier Car Insurance customers also benefit from UK and European breakdown cover, covering the policyholder not just their car.

Top tips for driving overseas this summer:

  • Check your car before setting off, ensuring the oil, screen wash, coolant and tyre pressures are all at the correct levels
  • Plan your journey beforehand so you know exactly which regions / countries you’ll be travelling through and then familiarise yourself with the local driving laws
  • Have a travel guide to hand that contains local phrases in case you need to ask for directions or for recommendations of places to stop
  • Make sure you have some local currency to pay for toll booths etc
  • Bring games/ entertainment when travelling with children to ensure they are kept occupied and do not distract the driver
  • Have refreshments in the car to avoid dehydration in the heat

17 jul 2018 If you’re claiming tax credits (Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit), ICAEW is reminding everyone to renew by the 31 July deadline. If you miss the cut-off date, your tax credit payments will stop and you may have to pay back the tax credits you’ve been given since 6 April 2018.

Jane Moore, ICAEW Tax Technical Manager, said: “If you claimed tax credits last year, you should have already received your renewal pack – if not, you should contact HMRC as soon as possible. The renewal process gives HMRC the information it needs to finalise tax credit awards for last year, and it will renew the claim for this year.”

If you don’t complete your renewal by the 31 July deadline it could mean:

  • Your payments will stop
  • You may have to repay all the tax credits you have received so far this tax year
  • You might even find yourself with a penalty

Jane says: “Not everyone will need to contact HMRC, but if your renewal pack contains an Annual Declaration form asking for details of your income in 2017/18, you must reply to HMRC. You should also let HMRC know if there have been any changes in your circumstances which you have not reported previously. If you are a couple and have made a joint claim, you need to give details of income and circumstances for both of you.”

You should ensure you have key documents relating to income when you renew, including payslips and business accounts as well as any childcare costs incurred. If you don’t have the final figures for your income – for example, if you are self-employed but your accounts aren’t ready yet– you can use estimates, but you must still renew by 31 July 2018 and provide the actual figures by 31 January 2019. HMRC may have already inserted income figures on the Annual Declaration using the information it already holds, such as payroll figures sent in by your employer – but you still need to check to make sure these figures are right.

16 Jul 2018 With over 23.8 million Brits jetting off on holiday this summer, Policy Expert warns holidaymakers to be vigilant, even at the airport, as more than one in ten say they have fallen victim to theft before even boarding the plane, or know someone who has.

The study of over 4,700 people showed that almost half (46%) will be going away this summer and this number may rise, as 13% are still undecided. For some, this holiday will be one of many this year, as almost a third (32%) of Brits have at least two holidays, while one in seven have three and a lucky 9% jet off more than three times. 36% have one holiday a year.

While travellers will no doubt be excited prior to their getaways, Policy Expert is warning holidaymakers to be cautious of pickpockets, particularly at the airport. The study found that more than one in ten (11%) have or know someone who has fallen victim to theft before even boarding the plane. Money/currency is the most common stolen item, followed by mobile phones, sunglasses, purses/wallets and cameras. One in 20 (5%) also say they have actually found a lost item themselves and handed it in before taking off.

The most common items stolen at airports:

  1. Money/currency
  2. Phone
  3. Sunglasses
  4. Purse/wallet
  5. Camera
  6. Hand luggage bag
  7. Jewellery
  8. Passport/travel documents
  9. Tablet/iPad
  10. Laptop

When it comes to going away, the average traveller takes luggage worth almost £400. A third state they pack valuables worth between £201-£500, while 20%pack items worth up between £501-£1,000 and 6% carry items valued between £1,001-£2,000.

The study also found that Brits aren’t always protected when going abroad, particularly as more than one in ten (11%) admit they don’t take out travel insurance, while a quarter (25%) of Brits don’t have away from home cover included in their home insurance policy and more than a third (37%) aren’t sure. For those falling victim to theft at the airport, many can potentially claim on their home insurance policy if they have away from home cover, however almost half (45%) are unaware of this.

Adam Powell, Operations Director at Policy Expert, commented: “For many holidaymakers, going away begins at the airport. The issue is that airports are busy and with the holiday excitement taking off, it’s easy to get distracted. But unfortunately, thieves are on the lookout for victims. So keep an eye on your luggage, currency and any items purchased at the airport and be vigilant around others. Also check whether your home insurance policy includes away from home cover – this will reimburse you should a personal possession be lost or stolen while out of the house at the airport. The last thing you want is for thieves to spoil your holiday before you’re even up in the air.”

Top tips for protecting your valuables at the airport this summer

  1. Consolidate your items before going through security. While you’ll need to remove some electronics such as tablets and laptops from your bag, you can keep your purse, money/currency, jewellery and your travel documents in your bag or jacket – as long as you put them in the bins provided. This will help to prevent any items being snatched or left behind.
  2. While you may feel pressured, don’t put your items through the x-ray machine before you’re ready to walk through the security scanner. Every moment you leave your items unattended is another moment that thieves have to steal your valuables.
  3. Be cautious of leaving small valuable items unattended, such as a phone or purse. Valuables left on table-tops at airport lounges, restaurants and coffee shops will be both easy and tempting to snatch and leave behind.
  4. You should never leave your bags unattended, particularly at the airport, so whatever you do, keep your bag where you can see it. Whether you’re having a pre-drink before take-off, grabbing some food or sitting at the gate, if you can, place your chair leg through a bag handle to make it harder to move.
  5. If you’re using a cash machine or purchasing currency, be wary of who is around you and make sure your pin is covered at all times.
  6. Thieves often work in groups, so try not be distracted by commotion or attention which could be a ploy.
  7. If you do notice a missing item, report it immediately. Theft at the airport is not uncommon and reporting it means that airport security can potentially catch the thief and recover your personal items.
  8. Check whether your home insurance policy includes away from home cover, so that if the worst does happen, you at least know you’re covered financially.

11 Jul 2018  M&S Bank is urging holidaymakers to take steps to protect their homes against opportunistic thieves before heading off on holiday this summer, as research* shows that nearly a third have had their current home broken into, with 15 per cent having been burgled more than once.

The M&S Bank research revealed that of those Brits planning a holiday in 2018, more than half are planning to go away for a week or more, while 29 per cent have plans to go away for a fortnight or more.

Paul Stokes, Head of Products at M&S Bank said: “With the peak holiday period approaching, our research shows that the average holidaymaker is planning to go away for 10 days, meaning many Brits could be leaving their homes unoccupied for extended periods over the summer months.

“While many of us look forward to the summer holiday period, and rightly so, unfortunately so do opportunistic thieves. That’s why it’s important to ensure that securing the home by taking certain security precautions, such as moving expensive or desirable items out of sight and away from windows, becomes a routine part of every household’s holiday preparations, just as buying holiday money or that new swimsuit is.”

Of those who had previously been burgled, seven per cent said that the thief smashed a window and six per cent said access gained to their home was by breaking a door lock. But four per cent admitted to accidentally leaving a door unlocked and three per cent a window unlocked.

Positively, more than two in five Brits currently have an alarm system (43 per cent) and 46 per cent having security lighting in place. These security features protect the home and act as a deterrent, yet nearly a third (32 per cent) of Brits have neither or don’t know if they have these security measures in place.

It’s important for holidaymakers to take a little time to prepare their home by taking some simple security precautions before they depart. The most popular security measure taken before going on holiday is asking a neighbour, friend or family member to keep an eye on the property (61 per cent), followed by locking the shed or outbuilding (50 per cent) and ensuring any objects in the garden, such as a lawn mower or BBQ, are securely locked away (45per cent). Nearly one in ten won’t, or don’t know if they will, take any security precautions for their home before going away (9 per cent).

Top tips to help secure your home this summer:

  • Inform a trusted neighbour, friend or family member that you’re going away – ask them to keep an eye on your property
  • Ensure windows are locked but keep curtains and blinds open – so it’s not evident that the home is unoccupied
  • Don’t leave expensive items in view – keep laptops and other desirable goods out of direct sight
  • Be cautious about who you tell – don’t broadcast the fact that you’re away, especially when using social media
  • Lock your shed / outbuildings – ensure expensive items, such as garden furniture, tools and BBQs are securely locked away
  • Install a reliable alarm system – security lighting can also be used to deter unwanted visitors.