£150 bank switch bribes, new 26-30 Railcard, boosted January sales, know your tap water rights, and seek a debt counsellor now if struggling with debts. 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.
Bank bonuses are back – First Direct £100, HSBC £150
To kick start the New Year, two banks have relaunched their bonuses for switching accounts. Very useful if the coffers are a little short. Full details of all the options in Martin’s full top bank account guide, but in brief.
- First Direct has won every customer service poll I’ve done with 89% rating it great. Last year it stopped offering free cash and instead gave free gadgets, something I thought was a bad move at the time, and it seems now so does it. It rekindled its free cash offer and now gives accepted new switchers a free £100 (more via certain sites), you can also save up to £300 a month at 5% with its linked regular savings account, and most customers get a 0% £250 overdraft too.
Only do this if you pay in £1,000 a month though (for most people that just means a salary of £12,600+/yr going in) or eventually it charges a monthly fee.
- New switchers to HSBC Advance account get £150 within 30 days of switching. You need to switch minimum 2 direct debits and pay in at least £1,750/month, for most that just means paying in a salary of around £25,900/year. Here too you also get access to a 5% linked regular saving account you can put up to £250 a month in.
And don’t forget switching accounts is easy. Within seven days your old account is closed, any direct debits and standing orders are moved across and any payments going to your old account is auto-forwarded to your new one. Plus when opening a bank account you will be credit scored.
New. 26-30 year old railcard gives a third off travel, even during commuting times
From yesterday (Wed) 26-30 year olds can now buy the one-year 26-30 Railcardonline (not in stations) which costs £30 and gives a third off most rail fares across Great Britain.
The railcard works at any time including the peak commuting time, though there’s a minimum £12 fare between 4.30am and 10am from Monday to Friday (so to get the full third off discount your ticket needs to cost more than £18). Plus, you also get a discount on London travel – a third off off-peak single fares and off-peak daily caps on Oyster cards. But it doesn’t work on buying season tickets.
You can buy a 26-30 Railcard up to the day before your 31st birthday, do that and it’s still valid until the day before you turn 32 – so it’s worth diarising that – I’ll be certainly doing that when I get that old.
Alternatively, if you’re aged between 16 to 25, or a mature student of any age you can apply for the 16-25 railcard. It also costs £30 (one-year) or £70 (three-year) and also gives a third off travel on most rail fares (mature students can only get a one-year card, but can keep renewing it if you’re still studying). You can buy a three-year railcard the day before your 24th birthday to get the discount almost until you turn 27 – worth doing as it is cheaper than buying a one year card.
January boosted sales: For the past few years the traditional January sales have started earlier and earlier – with some starting on Christmas Eve. Now even by the first week of January, we’re seeing many stores increasing discounts on the remaining sales stock.
Some stores have already started to boost their discounts from the original 50% off. Of course it is a trade off between discount and availability – reductions can get larger, but stock gets smaller.
ASOS is now up to 70% off, Miss Selfridges up to 70% off, H&M up to 60% off (last year it boosted it to 70% off later in Jan so could do again), Gap up to 60% off (likely to rise to 70% soon), Topshop and Topman up to 70% off.
I’m expecting Dorothy Perkins to increase its sales from up to 50% to up to 75% soon based on previous years, and M&S to boost to up to 60% in the next week (currently up to 50%), and possibly boost further up to 70% from around the middle of Jan. And last year towards the end of January Body Shop released a 40% discount code to use on sale items, so it may do that again this year.
Doing dry January? Know your tap water rights. If you’re giving up alcohol this month, or you don’t drink it anyway, it’s good to know what rights you have when it comes to ordering tap water when you’re out and about – as not everywhere has to give it to you for free.
Legally any place that serves alcohol in the UK (except northern Ireland) has to give paying customers free drinking water – so that includes all bars, pubs, and restaurants that serve it (and in practice most do), yet not cafes as they generally don’t have a licence to sell alcohol. And even then, they only have to give if you’re a paying customer. In Northern Ireland, restaurants don't legally have to provide it for free, though generally many do give free tap water anyway.
It’s worth noting too that many take away restaurants which sell bottled water will give you tap water if you ask, including fast food joints like Burger King, McDonalds and coffee shops like Pret and Costa.
Not sleeping due to debts - make an appointment with a debt counsellor now. We’ve just passed the festive period, and in January more than any other time of the year people are feeling the pinch.
If you’ve non mortgage (nor student loan) debts of more than a year’s after tax income, or you can’t meet the minimum repayments, or you’re not sleeping at night then go and get help from a non-profit free debt-counselling help from the likes of National Debtline, Citizens Advice, StepChange or Christians Against Poverty. Book now though as they get very busy in January especially when the credit card bills come through. They're there to help, not judge. The most common feedback I get from people who've done that is 'I finally slept last night'.