Money Mensch

Money mensch: Time for direct debit spring cleanout

By Martin Lewis, April 2, 2009

It is time to seek and destroy wasted direct debits. Many thousands of people across the UK let cash seep from their accounts in direct debits for things they do not use. By tracking these down, you could discover long forgotten payments you have been shelling out for over years.

Do not get me wrong — regular payments can save you cash. For example, paying by fixed monthly direct debit saves around 10 per cent on energy bills, and credit card direct debits mean you cannot be hit by late or missed payment fines and the ensuing hit to your credit score.


Money mensch: New grant for mums-to-be

By Martin Lewis, March 26, 2009

It is not just a bulge you get if you are pregnant; there is now a financial boon too. Expectant mums can now claim a new Health in Pregnancy Grant (HipG) worth £190. The idea is that you must be having regular check-ups with a midwife or doctor to get it, and they need to sign a form to confirm this. Its aim is to keep people fit and healthy in the last trimester of pregnancy.

Anyone with a due date on or after April 6th 2009 can claim it once they’re 25 weeks pregnant. It’s paid as a one-off tax free payment, which is not means tested, so all women are eligible.


Money mensch: How to get the best broadband deals

By Martin Lewis, March 19, 2009

It is now much cheaper than before to get online, with a couple of dirt-cheap stand-alone home broadband packages that cost not much more than a fiver a month.

There are two main types of broadband: ADSL, where your broadband goes through the phone line; and cable, where the broadband is provided by the cable operator. Cable usually means Virgin, and the broadband comes as part of a package. Yet the real competition is for phone-line broadband.

New to broadband?


Money mensch: Charity credit cards are a hideous scam

By Martin Lewis, March 12, 2009

I want you to stop donating to good causes… if you are using a charity credit card. I’m not being mean. I know as well as anyone that charities need all the help they can get these days, as donations dry up.

Yet the reason I say get rid of your charity credit card is that they give only a paltry amount to the charity itself.

There’s a way to give more to charity that won’t cost you a penny more. In fact, it is possible to increase the donation tenfold or more.

Charity cards are poor value


Money mensch: Good news for holders of student loans

By Martin Lewis, March 5, 2009

If you or your kids have a student loan taken out since 1998, congratulations — it’s unexpectedly got a lot cheaper in recent months.

Normally, the student loan interest rate changes annually, at the start of the academic year, and is set at the rate of inflation for the prior March.

Last September, it dropped from 4.8 per cent to 3.8 per cent. A small saving, but still in the current climate, quite a hefty rate.


You could be missing out on childcare benefits

By Martin Lewis, February 26, 2009

Juggling a career and kids is one of the toughest challenges parents face, so the last thing you need is worries about childcare costs on top.

The good news is there’s a plethora of help out there. If you are a working parent and you haven’t already checked out what cash you might be eligible for, you need to act.

One of the big problems is that most people perceive benefits and tax credits to be only for those who are unemployed.

Yet people on family incomes of up to £66,000 can still get benefits. But people who work rarely bother to check out what they might get.


Get £100 for opening an account

By Martin Lewis, February 18, 2009

Nab £100 FREE and a zero per cent overdraft with the new top bank account.

Alliance & Leicester has boosted its already market leading current account. It’s now offering a £100 sign-up bribe, a year’s interest-free overdraft and annual European travel insurance.

This is specifically for its Premier account. Don’t confuse it with other similarly named accounts.

To qualify, you’ll need to pass a credit check, earn more than £6,100 a year and pay your salary into the account each month.


Win on the Premium Bonds? Unlikely

By Martin Lewis, February 12, 2009

Would you leap around the room cheering “I won, I won” because your savings account had been credited with monthly interest? I doubt it. Yet this is effectively what happens every month around the UK when people celebrate small Premium Bond “wins”.

Premium Bonds are the nation’s favourite savings product, with over £30bn held in them. Yet sadly, the return is pants. Most people are losers, not winners, as in real terms money in premium bonds is shrinking and returns are beaten by the top savings.


Jetting off to the States? Read this first

By Martin Lewis, February 5, 2009

Here is a warning for anyone who is planning to go to America.

If you have bought yourself a cheap flight to the US this year, watch out. It is no longer a case of simply filling out the form when you get on the plane.

Now, in advance, you need to fill out an online Electronic System for Travel Authorisation form (ESTA). If you don’t, you are likely to be sent straight back home by the United States immigration department.


Watch out for cash-grabbing energy firms

By Martin Lewis, January 29, 2009

In these tough times, many would think twice about lending money, even to loved ones. So why would you give an interest free loan to your energy provider?

Thousands of people have got letters from their energy companies, telling them that the amount they need to pay will double or treble. While energy costs have risen by 50 per cent in 2008 alone, that’s still only a fraction of the rise many are seeing. What’s the cause? Greedy energy companies unnecessarily hoiking the direct debit levels.

Has your payment risen?