Money Mensch

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Money mensch: Reclaim on your payment protection insurance

By Martin Lewis, January 22, 2009

Have you had a loan in the past six years? If you have, and you were sold insurance with it, it has become far easier to reclaim these policies as countless firms have been fined for systematic mis-selling of them. Payment Protection Insurance is designed to repay the loan in the event of accident, sickness or unemployment.

Whether it’s Egg, fined close to £750,000 last December, or Abbey, which was fined £7 million, big companies have been handing out these policies without any need, and you need to get your money back.

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How to make yourself recession-proof

By Martin Lewis, January 14, 2009

It his year is likely to be the most financially unpleasant most of us will experience in our lives, so it’s crucial to change our attitudes and actions to prepare.

Job losses, pay cuts and overtime freezes are likely to happen to some. Yet even at the recession’s nadir, most people working now will still be in work. With some sensible planning, you can recession-proof yourself and hopefully get through it without too many problems. However, it’s important to understand that things will be different.

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Your new year financial resolutions

By Martin Lewis, January 8, 2009

inancially, 2009 could be the toughest year most of us will have ever experienced. Yet for many people, taking a deep breath and sorting out the finances will help them fight back. The average person in the UK can give themselves an effective 25 per cent pay rise by cutting bills . Here are my top money-saving resolutions:

1. Do a REAL budget

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Money mensch: Your credit card can protect you, too

By Martin Lewis, December 23, 2008

As the recession takes its toll on some of the high street’s biggest names, there are two little words I believe everybody needs to know: “Section 75”. This is a law that gives you massive protection for free.

Put simply, pay for something costing over £100 on a credit card, and the card company is jointly liable with the retailer if anything goes wrong. Therefore, if the company you’ve bought from goes bust before delivery, you can get your money back.

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