Energy prices hike 10% for 12 million households

Energy prices hike 10% for 12million households, water saving freebies, last chance £150 bank switch bonus, Boots No7 deal and victory for mortgage prisoners. These are our Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis’ Deals of the Week.

Remember, deals can change quickly, even while I’m on the programme. So always double-check the terms and conditions before spending. Plus, while I hope these deals will save you cash, don’t spend if you can’t afford it, don’t need it, or won’t use it.

12 million households will see energy prices hiked 10% on Monday – switch and save up to £300/year

No joke, on Monday 1 April the regulator Ofgem will increase the energy price cap, for most people, from £1,137/yr to £1,254/yr based on typical usage. It'll be reassessed again for October.

Unsurprisingly, all the Big 6 firms (Brit Gas, EDF, E.on, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE) are hoicking prices to within a quid of it. Sadly this means the 50%-ish of the population on their standard variable tariffs will now pay MORE than before the price cap was introduced on 1 January.

So, if you're on a Big 6 standard tariff (if you don't know, you likely are), the odds are you don't like to switch, which is ripping yourself off. Yet I know it scares people - at my TV roadshows people often say "please just tell me who to switch to". But it really isn’t complicated. Just plug your details into Martin’s Cheap Energy Club or any Ofgem-approved site to find your cheapest tariff in minutes and switch to it now.

If you’re nervous, here’s a few firms to look out for in your comparison – while they may not the cheapest, mix good service and decent price – Bulb and Shell Energy’s best could both save someone with typical usage over £250 a year, or even British Gas has relaunched a 1year fix tariff that’s around £1,020/year and includes free £60ish boiler cover. It’s available to new and existing customers, though you can’t get it direct (not even by calling) only through a comparison site.

But as your cheapest depends on your location and usage do a comparison now to find your exact cheapest tariff – and do understand the saving will be larger than the price you’re shown as it is based on the current price not the one from April.

Water bills are rising on Monday too – could you save by switching to a meter? Plus 25,000 water saving freebiesFrom Monday (1st April), the cost of water bills in England and Wales is rising on average by 2% and some by 4% - that means an extra £8/year added on to the typical bill. Though there’s nothing you can do to stop it, you can check if you can save by switching to a free water-meter instead.

My general rule of thumb is if your home has the same number or more bedrooms than people, then it’s likely you’ll save by switching to a water meter. Use the Consumer Council For Water’s calculator to see if you can save; and savings here can be huge like Anne who tweeted me “@MartinSLewis The best household saving I've ever made was to use a water meter. Bills reduced from £83 a month to £18!” – that’s a saving of over £700/year.

And this week 18 water firms across England, Wales and Scotland has boosted the number of water-saving freebies it's giving out, to over 25,000 – it’ll help you reduce water usage if on a meter, and if not it’ll save you on energy bills on heating excess water. Depending on your water company you could get a free shower head (which helps regulate water usage, worth £20), tap inserts (to regulate the flow of water from your tap, worth £5) and Save-A-Flush bags (that you place into your toilet cistern so each flush uses less water, worth £2). To see what areas in your house you can save water on, and what freebies are available plug your postcode in the Save Water Save MoneyaqKWa savings engine.

Martin’s Quickies:

Last chance, free £150 to switch banks: The biggest free cash bank switch deal is being pulled at 11.59pm on Monday. Switch to the HSBC Advance account right now and you get £150, plus access to a 5% fixed regular saver, where you can save up to £250/mth for a year. You’ll need to use its switching service, have 2 direct debits and pay in a min £1,750/mth (equivalent to a £25,900/yr salary going in).

£12 for £40ish on No7 skincare: Buy two selected Boots number 7 products (in-store and online) – the cheapest combo is two £6 nail polishes – you’ll get a free 'Step into Spring’ gift set, which contains primer, serum, eye cream and a voucher for a free lip product, valued at around £26 based on full-sized versions. So you could get £38 of beauty products for £12. The gift set will be automatically added to your basket online, but you’ll need to pick it up from the shelf and take it to the till in store.

And finally a quick note of a campaign win – for existing mortgage holders. For four years I’ve been campaigning, with great support from my team, to get the affordability rules changed for those remortgaging. The problem is some are told ‘you can’t afford a cheaper mortgage’, as they are being stress tested the same as first-time buyers, to see what’d happen if interest rates rose. But this is ridiculous as they want to switch to a CHEAPER mortgage.

Finally, the financial regulator the FCA, has agreed to support our proposals, and suggests that affordability tests be changed, so that as long as you’re meeting your mortgage repayments for a year, then as long as the new deal is cheaper, and the repayments are lower, you will be deemed to pass the affordability test. This still needs to be implemented, but it’s a great hope for mortgage prisoners.