Playing your cards right
Go grab your purse or wallet. Â You need it next to you during the five minutes it'll take you to read this.
However, it should be lucrative. Our wallets are a treasure trove of financial information.
Money saving expert Martin Lewis tells how one of his party tricks is to take a look at someone’s and save them £100s in minutes. And now he wants to do it for you.
1. Pull out your debit card – do you have a winner?
A debit card reveals where you bank - and mistakes there are aplenty.
Do you pay a monthly fee? If so, work out its annual cost (£15/month = £180) and then ask yourself if the ‘extras’ the bank gives are worth this. If not, cancel it. Plus, if you were flogged it or told you had to have it, you may be able to reclaim all packaged bank account fees (see www.mse.me/reclaimpackagefees).
Does your bank make you happy? If not, www.FirstDirect.com is worth considering switching to. It’s a fee-free account (as long as you pay in £1,000 a month), pays switchers £100 and has a linked 6% savings account. It’s won every service poll I’ve ever done, with 92% of its customers rating it ‘great’. Or www.Co-operativeBank.co.uk is giving £150, plus up to £5.50 if you qualify for its Everyday Rewards scheme, and 70% of its customers rate it ‘great’.
Overdrawn? Debit cards can be debt cards too, and sometimes costlier than credit. For small overdrafts, you can switch again to www.FirstDirect.com which gives a £250 0% overdraft, and the £100 switch bonus will help clear some of it. Or the www.Nationwide.co.uk FlexDirect gives a 0% overdraft for the first 12 months. For larger amounts, you can use special 0% credit cards to clear it - see www.mse.me/moneytransfers.
Do you have savings? If so, use your bank account to max the interest, as some now pay by far the highest interest on savings. The top picks are www.Santander.co.uk’s 123, which pays 3% on up to £20,000 and www.LloydsBank.com’s ClubLloyds, which pays 4% on £4,000-£5,000. There’s also the www.Tsb.co.uk Classic Plus, which pays 5% on up to £2,000, plus up to £5-a-month cashback on contactless purchases.
2. Pull out your photo driving licence – is it valid?
A whopping 2.2 million licences have a picture that’s out of date. To check yours, look at section 4b on your photocard licence. If it’s expired, you risk a fine of up to £1,000. You can renew it online at www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence or at the post office.
3. Got a credit card(s) that you pay interest on? STOP
It’s possible to save £100s or even £1,000s a year by getting a 0% balance transfer credit card – that’s where the new card pays off debt on old cards for you, so you owe it instead, but at 0%. This means more of your repayments clear the actual debt rather than just paying the interest, making you debt-free quicker.
There’s up to 40 months 0% available with a fee, or 24 mths 0% fee-free. My full best balance transfers guide at www.moneysavingexpert.com/bts includes a free eligibility calculator which gives card-by-card odds of which you’re most likely to get.
4. Got a donor card?
It’s a big decision, but joining the Organ Donor Register could mean you save or improve up to nine lives. See www.organdonation.nhs.uk.
5. Got a credit card and always repay in full? Make it PAY YOU
Every time you use a card, the retailer pays the card firm a transaction fee. With a cashback card, you effectively get this put back in your pocket. As new regulations have cut these fees recently, cashback’s been cut too, yet Amex cards are mostly exempted, so still pay a good whack.
The fee-free www.AmericanExpress.com Everyday pays 5% cashback (max £100) for the first three months, then tiered up to 1.25% after. The best non-Amex is money.asda.com Mastercard which pays 0.5% cashback (1% in Asda). Yet only do this if you’ll set up a direct debit to repay IN FULL each month or you’ll pay 22.9% (Amex) or 18.9% (Asda) rep APR interest, which more than wipes the cashback gain.
6. Not got a credit card? You’re less protected
Pay using a credit card and you get extra protection under the ‘Section 75 law’ – which means buy something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, and pay for any of it (even 1p) on it, and the card firm’s jointly liable with the retailer for the entire amount.
This get-out-of-jail-free card is hugely powerful if the retailer goes bust or won’t play fair, as Michelle found. She tweeted: “Successful Section 75 credit card claim, refunded £125 for non-delivery of phone order, used template on your website, thanks.”
Martin Lewis is Founder & Editor in Chief of Money Saving Expert. To join the 10 million people who get his Martin’s Money Tips weekly email, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip