With many thousands already flooded over the festive season and with storm Frank on the way,  Skipton Building Society has today, opened a special charity account to enable anyone who wishes to support the flood victims, to donate in any of its branches across the country.

The money raised from all of the donation will enable Skipton to help people in the communities that have been affected by the recent flooding, including Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.

As well as opening a dedicated account to support those who have been affected by the flooding, Skipton branches which are located in flood hit communities are also accepting donations in the form of items, which the branch colleagues can then deliver to their nearest flood distribution centers, this includes:

  1. Blankets & bedding
  2. Cleaning items (including cloths)
  3. Brushes and mops Buckets and bins Heavy duty rubbish bags
  4. Food (dried and tinned goods only)
  5. Clothing (especially for children)

A spokesperson said: “Community is very important to everyone at Skipton Building Society, that’s why we want to help those who have suffered in their communities from the recent flooding. And with storm Frank now hitting our shores, which will causes further disruption to these communities, Skipton have made it possible for anyone wishing to support those affected by the flooding to make a financial donations in any of the Skipton Building Society branches across the country.”

As we head into winter, M&S Bank is urging homeowners to utilise the milder December temperatures and ensure their home is in a good state of repair. This comes after research revealed that a third of homeowners (33 per cent) admit to not carrying out any basic maintenance to protect their home against weather related damage each year.

While the M&S Bank research showed that the majority of homeowners understood that with most home insurance policies it is their responsibility to ensure the property is in a good state of repair (77 per cent) – a fall of six per cent on 2014 – 15 per cent haven’t undertaken any basic home maintenance measures in the last 12 months.

Therefore it’s not surprising that the number of winter weather related claims rejected due to a lack of general maintenance is increasing and has more than doubled since 2011 .

More than three in five (64 per cent) homeowners said they have not checked for loose roof tiles, while 44 per cent hadn’t cleared gutters – two basic maintenance measures – in the last 12 months.

Paul Stokes from M&S Bank, said: “Regularly carrying out maintenance on the home, even basic tasks such as checking for things like loose tiles, cleaning chimneys and clearing gutters, can help prevent damage from occurring, and should the worst happen, ensure a claim is valid.”

If leaving their home for an extended period of time over the winter months, more than half (51 per cent) said they wouldn’t keep their home’s central heating at a minimum temperature, while more than one in ten (12 per cent) wouldn’t take any precautions to prepare their home.  

Paul Stokes added: “It’s also important to remember that preventative measures, such as keeping your home at a minimum temperature when away during the winter months, could help to avert damage caused as a result of winter weather.”

Follow Paul’s top tips for preparing your home for winter:
·        Check  your  roof  for  loose tiles that could be dislodged in heavy wind
·        Keep  your gutters cleared of leaves to avoid blockages
·        Prune trees close to the home to prevent branches snapping
·        Check plants growing up the side of the house are not growing into the brickwork
·        Remove any hosepipes that may still be attached and isolate the outdoor taps to help prevent frozen pipe damage
·        Get chimneys swept and clear of debris that could start a fire
·        Insulate pipes and leave heating on a low setting at all times in freezing conditions

As the Government announces plans for increased penalties for those using handheld mobile phones while driving, the UK’s largest used vehicle marketplace, BCA, reveals the growing frustration of UK motorists towards careless driving habits.

Nearly 90% of motorists who responded to a BCA survey said the use of a handheld mobile device while driving was ‘very distracting’, with 95% claiming to have personally witnessed another motorist doing so.  And over half (52%) of those surveyed believed that penalties for using a handheld mobile device should be more severe.

However, the BCA data also revealed that there appears to be a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, with 42% of motorists admitting to having spoken on a handheld mobile device themselves while driving. Over a quarter (27%) admitted to texting while behind the wheel; 13% have taken a photo and 6% admitted to accessing social media whilst driving.

“The interesting thing about this study is that, whilst almost everybody was happy to vent their indignation at other drivers’ carelessness, a large number also owned-up to the very things that concerned them”, explained Tim Naylor, Editor of the BCA Used Car Market Report.

“But it is clear from our research that there is a groundswell of support for stronger penalties for using a hand-held mobile while driving – whether talking, texting or accessing social media.”

 

The nation’s 14 million grandparents could spend as much as £3 billion on presents for their grandchildren this Christmas, a new MBNA study reveals.

Grandparents polled across the country say they will spend an average of around £74 on each of their grandchildren this year.

Londoners top the spending poll, averaging more than £111 per grandchild, followed by the North East (average spend of £100), Scotland (£93), the East Midlands (£82) and Wales (£79).

“Our research shows that significant sums will be spent by the country’s generous grandparents this year, much to the delight of many grandchildren no doubt”, said Richard Whatmough, director of Marketing and Digital at MBNA.

More than 14 per cent of grandparents say they plan to spend more in 2015 than they spent in 2014, with only 5 per cent looking to cut back on last year’s spending.

The survey shows that grandparents plan to spend around £683 in total on Christmas this year. Many will opt to pay for presents for family and friends using their monthly income, savings or a combination of both this year, with around 20 per cent planning to spread the cost of Christmas using a credit card.

“If spreading the cost of Christmas is important this Christmas, then we hope people will take the time to consider the range products and services we provide at MBNA,” added Whatmough.

The MBNA Everyday Plus American Express® Credit Card has no annual fee and there are no fees for money transfers, balance transfers and ATM usage in the UK or abroad.

Analysis by Sainsbury’s Bank predicts that this December approximately £11.75 billion could be withdrawn from LINK ATMs, the UK’s cash machine network– equal to more than £379 million every day during the month.

The supermarket bank, which has over 1,635 free-to-use ATMs across the UK, estimates that the number of cash withdrawals carried out at LINK ATMs in December could reach 173 million – around three million higher than the same time last year.  It’s predicted that the average value of an ATM cash withdrawal carried  during December will be £68.

Usage is expected to peak on Friday 18th December, in terms of both number of transactions and total value of cash withdrawn. The Friday before Christmas is the typical peak day for pre-Christmas cash withdrawals; Friday 19th December was the busiest day in 2014 and Friday 20th December was the busiest day in 2013 for cash withdrawals.

 

As a result of the large volumes of cash being withdrawn during the festive season, Sainsbury’s Bank is encouraging consumers to be extra vigilant when withdrawing cash.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s Bank said: “With December typically being the busiest month of the year for withdrawing cash, we’re encouraging people to be extra vigilant when they’re using an ATM. Whenever you use one, take your time, don’t count your money at the machine, and put it away safely and out of sight before leaving the ATM.”

Five top tips to keep your details safe when using an ATM:

  • Only use an ATM in a well-lit, public area
  • If you see anything suspicious either on or around the ATM, do not use it and report it to the owner or business that has the ATM on its premises
  • Stand close to the machine and shield the keypad not only when entering your PIN but also when entering the amount of cash you are withdrawing
  • Always put your cash, card and receipt straight away, you can count your cash and check your receipt later
  • If your card is retained in the machine, report it to the card issuer immediately.

Last week the regulator (FCA) announced a package of measures to improve competition in the savings market.

The proposals included clearer information on interest rates, reminders when promotional rates come to an end and making it easier and quicker to switch accounts.

Whilst any move to try to get people earning a better return on their nest egg is welcome, you can’t help feeling that the proverbial horse has long since bolted.

The FCA wants to speed up processes but we’ve already seen from the current account switching service figures, it’s not about how quickly you can move your custom from one provider to another.

Another factor that makes people lethargic when it comes to finding a better savings rate is the level of reward on offer for taking the time and trouble to transfer their funds to a new account.

Many instant access savings accounts will have relatively small balances and these people particularly will question whether it’s worth the effort.

For example if someone with £1,000 in an easy access account paying 0.25% finds a no strings, no introductory bonus gimmick, FSCS covered, best buy account paying 1.40%, they will earn a mere £11.50 per year extra before tax.

When you see an increasing number of current account providers offering £100 golden hellos and still struggling to attract new business then it’s highly unlikely that savers are going to jump ship for a fraction of that reward.

The government has kept rates low as part of its strategy to rebuild the economy and we now have some of the lowest mortgage and personal loan rates on record so it’s no surprise that margins have been squeezed and easy access savings rates are much lower as a result.

With a number of current accounts paying between 3% and 5% on credit balances savvy people will be using these accounts as a vehicle for their ‘rainy day’ or emergency savings.

Naming and shaming via the new FCA ‘sunlight remedy’ tables will show which banks and building societies rank worst amongst a pretty poor bunch, but even if (and it’s a big if),  the information is seen by those who have savings paying miserly returns don’t expect to see a step change and people switching in large volumes.

With savings interest returns so low for so long now, it’s no wonder the big consumer Peer to Peer players like Zopa and Ratesetter are both currently pulling in between £40 million and £50 million of new money every month, particularly when RateSetter was this week paying 3.3% on its monthly access account.

Base rate slumped to its current record low level back March 2009 and until it awakes from its slumber then little will change in the UK savings market.

 

 

Research has revealed that 17% of learner drivers have acted as ‘designated drivers’ over the festive period and been relied upon to drive people home after a Christmas night out.

However, the Co-op Insurance is urging people rethink their ‘designated driver’ plans and to leave learners drivers out of the selection process.

The law states that learner drivers should be ‘supervised’ when they are driving with family or friends*. People supervising learner drivers have to adhere to road laws as if they were driving so, for example, you cannot exceed legal drink drive limits.

However, nearly half of the drivers questioned who have been festive learner ‘designated drivers’ didn’t believe that their passengers would have been in any fit state to help them out if they would have become confused or needed to ask a question about their driving. This led to these inexperienced drivers feeling anxious (28%) and worried (21%).

The Government’s website warns learner drivers ‘You can be fined up to £1,000 and get up to 6 penalty points on your provisional licence if you drive without the right supervision.’

Nick Ansley, Head of Motor Insurance at the Co-op, said: “The law is clear in that learner drivers have to be supervised when they take to the roads.

“Anyone who asks a learner driver to take them home after a festive get together where the other passengers are all under the influence of alcohol are putting these learners in an unfair situation.

“For the cost of a taxi fare, learner drivers are being put at risk of a driving prosecution and their licences being revoked, all before they’ve even taken to ‘L’ plates off the car.

“If you plan to have a drink, order a taxi or walk home, don’t drink and drive and don’t expect learners to take you.”

Couples across the UK are keeping millions of pounds worth of money secrets from each other and potentially threatening their prospects of a comfortable retirement later in life, according to new research from Prudential1.

The insurer’s annual survey of co-habiting couples over the age of 40 is now in its sixth year and found that huge numbers of people hide debts, savings and even income from their other halves.

The results reveal that one in 10 (10 per cent) have secret savings, investments and/or pension pots that their partner doesn’t know about, with an average value of £30,300. And one in seven (15 per cent) have hidden debts they don’t own up to, averaging £8,000 .

My other half doesn’t know what I really earn…

Meanwhile, one in eight (12 per cent) of those surveyed say their partner doesn’t know how much they earn.

Of those who keep some or all of their earnings secret, more than a quarter (27 per cent)  do so to maintain their independence, while 23 per cent hide their earnings to maintain their financial security in case of a break up. However, a generous one in 10 (nine per cent) say that they use their secret earnings to treat their partner.

A spokesman for Prudential, said: “Hiding such significant sums in savings or debts from a partner makes financial planning for the future very difficult. For example, taking unexpected debts into retirement could make a significant dent in the joint income that the couple was expecting to be able to live on.

“In addition, keeping income or stashes of cash secret could mean that couples are not making the most of the pension saving tax relief or allowances available to them. A consultation with a professional financial adviser should benefit most couples in planning for their retirement, provided they are open and honest with each other about their individual finances.”

I keep my finances secret because…

Prudential’s research also sheds some light on why people choose to keep some aspects of their finances secret.

Worryingly, given the potential tax benefits of joint pension saving, the most common reason cited for having secret savings is so they can be used to help fund retirement (29 per cent) – an approach more popular with women (36 per cent) than men (22 per cent). Ensuring financial security in the event of a relationship break-up (27 per cent) is the second most popular reason given for maintaining a secret stash.

How my secret debts came about…

The majority (60 per cent) of those with secret debts say they arose from general living costs. However, nearly one in seven (15 per cent) attribute their secret debts to overspending as the result of an emotional event such as a previous relationship break-up. Money spent on holidays and travelling is the main source of debt for one in eight (12 per cent).

I keep money secrets for both our benefit…

A lack of financial trust in their partner is a recurring theme among many of those who keep their financial affairs hidden. Eleven per cent of secret savers admit to keeping shtum because they don’t trust their partner to make sound financial decisions. Almost one in five (18 per cent) of those who conceal their real income do so for the same reasons.

For personal customers:

·         Mortgage and loan repayment deferral for up to three months

·         Customers can close fixed savings accounts to access cash with no Early Closure Charge

·         Refunds on credit card cash advance fees

·         Customers can apply for increased temporary credit card limit

·         Customers can request an increased cash withdrawal limit of up to £500

 

For business customers:

·         New or increased overdrafts with no arrangement fees for up to six months

·         Capital repayment holidays and reduced payments for up to six months with no arrangement or administration fees

·         Fee-free loan funding to replace assets.

 

The serious flooding across much of North West England and Southern Scotland is likely to have financially affected many people and businesses in those areas. This is a difficult time for those impacted, so NatWest and RBS have introduced a range of measures to support our personal and business customers and ease the financial strain caused.

Les Matheson, CEO of Personal and Business Banking at RBS and NatWest, said: “We want to help the people and business owners affected by the recent flooding by making banking the least of their worries.  We’re providing additional credit or access to finance where needed, so they can concentrate in getting their homes or businesses back to normal.

All of our branches in the affected areas have remained open, but we know some of our customers may not be able to get to us. We would urge our affected customers to get in touch with us, either by phone or in a branch, to discuss how we can help them get back on their feet.”

Further information on all the measures being offered, including specific contact numbers, are detailed in the notes to editors. Where a number is not specified, customers should call the following numbers or visit a branch:

NatWest personal banking                                                         03457 888 444

RBS personal Banking (with accounts in Scotland)            0345 6002230

RBS personal Banking (with accounts in England)             0345 900 0400

 

NatWest Business Banking         03457 11 44 77

RBS Personal Banking                    03457 888 444

Christmas is the one time of year when your bank balance can take a real hammering, so it’s a big help if your employer enters into the festive spirit and pays your December salary a week or two in advance.

This may initially prove to be a godsend particularly when faced with the extra cost of paying for presents, festive food and drink and those parties and extra nights out.

However the downside of getting paid a little earlier means it’s easier to lose track of your debit card transactions and direct debits, particularly when your next payday could be up to six weeks away.

Failing keep tabs on your current account balance with a ‘worry about it later’ attitude, could see you exceeding your agreed overdraft limit and facing a hefty bill for bank charges come the first few weeks of 2016.

That’s not the best way to kick off the New Year, particularly as you’ll have the post-Christmas credit card bills to deal with too.

If you don’t already have an agreed overdraft in place or you think you could do with a little more financial breathing space over the festive period, speak to your bank or building society now to arrange an authorised overdraft sufficient to see you through to the end of January.

It’s usually a simple and pain free process and can be arranged very quickly either online, by phone or if you prefer the face to face approach then pop down to your local branch.

Once you’ve got your safety net arranged, make sure you keep a close eye on your balance – there’s no excuse not to these days with the information available 24×7 online, on your Smartphone App or via an ATM.

To put into perspective the importance of staying within your agreed limit, we looked at how much it could cost you if your bank allows you to drift £200 over your limit due to two £100 debit card payments and then your account remains overdrawn by this amount for 7 days in a row.

The numbers are too big to ignore, with customers of Lloyds Bank account facing a bill of £76, NatWest and Santander customers £42.00 and Halifax and Barclays  both £35.00 – so it’s definitely worth being proactive and getting your finances organised otherwise whichever tariff you’re signed up to, it can end up hitting your pocket hard.