Train companies release Christmas tickets - this is how to get a deal
If you're train-ing home for Christmas and New Year, now's the time to start looking for tickets.
Rail firms usually confirm timetables and start selling Advance tickets around 8 - 12 weeks before the travel date. So if you want to book the super-cheap Advance fares, the earlier you do it within that time the better, as it means you can ensure availability.
So this is about the time to start checking if you know when you’ll travel. Some firms including Greater Anglia, CrossCountry and East Midlands Trains are already selling super-cheap Christmas fares, others are due to launch them soon.
It’s worth doing, for example, an off-peak journey from London to Leeds return, departing on 22 December and coming back on 28 December, is currently selling for £39 (on the day this can be £110).
If your train hasn’t released its Christmas seats yet, you can get a free email alert when it does via the Trainline's ticket alert system. Plus the National Rail also has a future travel chart, showing the furthest date in the future you can buy advance tickets for each train firm.
More deals from Martin
Cheap Christmas train tickets, top 0% balance transfer cards, ‘free’ £6 Amazon credit, ‘free’ Halfords MOT check and half price activities for 16-17 year olds. 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.
Do you pay interest on credit card debt? 0% debt shifting deals rapidly getting shorter. Get over 30mths 0% NOW... in case you soon can't
For anyone with debts on existing credit and store cards, a 0% balance transfer is your key weapon. It allows you to get a new card that pays off debts on other cards for you, so you owe it instead, but with no interest. Yet these balance transfer deals are rapidly worsening. In May 2017 you could shift to a massive 43mths 0%, last week it was 36mths, now it's just 34mths. The direction of travel isn't good, so for safety, if you're paying interest, sort it now.
Before I go into the top cards, here’s my three key tips:
2) Go for the lowest fee in the time you're sure you can repay. Most cards charge a one-off fee on the amount transferred - try to minimise this (factor in cashback, more on that below). Yet if you're not sure how long you need, play safe and go LONG.
3) Some cards are 'up to' which means you could get a shorter 0% deal if accepted.So if your chances of getting the card are slim, it’s likely you’ll be given a shorter 0% deal; instead opt for a non-up to card, which you have higher chance on getting.
Ok on to the top cards...
The longest 0% card on the market is Halifax’s up to 34months deal for a one-off 3% fee. Yet my top pick is HSBC’s 32 month 0% card, which charges a 1.4% fee, and gives £25 cashback if you shift £300+; which for anyone shifting under £1,800 covers the fee. Plus as it’s not an up to if accepted you’ll get the full 32mths. Alternatively, if you can clear your debt in 27 months or less, then Santander’s 27month 0% card charges NO BT fee – so for larger balance transfers it can be cheaper than HSBC.
And remember my Golden Rules…
a) Never miss the min monthly repayment, or you could lose the 0% deal and it'll cost far more.
b) Clear the card or balance transfer again before the 0% ends, or the rate rockets to the higher APR.
c) Don't spend/withdraw cash on these. It usually isn't at the cheap rate.
d) You must usually do the balance transfer within 60 days to get the 0% and/or cashback.
‘Free’ £6 Amazon credit for some. If you’ve not bought Amazon gift vouchers in the past three years, you may be eligible for a free £6 credit when you buy £30 of Amazon gift cards. Click this Amazon link and log into your account.
For those who are, it will say ‘You have successfully registered for the promotion’. If so buy £30 of Amazon gift cards in a single purchase, and you’ll automatically be credited with £6 credit in your account (you should be notified by email in two days). As gift cards are valid for ten years, this is effectively a ‘if you’ll spend £30 on Amazon in the next ten years here’s a free £6’ deal. The £6 credit need to be used by Jan 2019.
Ends this Sunday, ‘free’ £55 MOT at Halfords. Until this Sunday (14 October), buy anything online or in-store from a Halfords and you can get a voucher code for a free MOT for your car, which normally costs up to £55. The cheapest item I spotted that qualifies was a 50p sponge, and as you've got until the end of October next year (2019) to claim the free MOT, even if your MOT isn't due until next year, you can still take advantage. You’ll need to book the MOT online at your nearest Autocentre and add your voucher code (which you’ll get via email or in your paperwork at delivery) during the checkout process.
This is best for those who are pretty sure you’ll pass your MOT. If you’re going to need repairs the MOT centre at Halfords Autocentre may not be the cheapest for repairs.
Teen half term activity programme £25 (or free for some). It’s the autumn half-term in a couple of weeks, and if you want to get your teenager doing something fun and productive, you can send them on a one-week National Citizen Service activity programme. It includes a four-day trip where teenagers (aged 16-17, they don’t necessarily need to be in school) can learn life skills away from home, such as cooking and managing a budget, as well as outdoor activities like abseiling and canoeing. They also take part in voluntary work in the community.
Usually, it costs £50, but enter the code AUTUMN25 by 11.59 Sunday 28 October, and you get 50% off, making it £25 (some may get it free if you’re on low income or receiving certain benefits). All food, transport, activities and accommodation is included. Unfortunately, if your child has been before they can’t go again. To apply, enter your details on the National Citizen Service registration page and it will contact you to explain more, or you can also call the centre directly on 0800 197 8010. Register as soon as possible as once places are gone, they’re gone.
I’ve had great feedback on this about previous years such as Dawn who said: “The change has been wonderful; it’s something that a parent only hopes to witness, their child growing into a better person.”