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The UK PPI Deadline Is Abound: What You Can Do

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The Financial Conduct Authority had announced the PPI deadline on August 29, 2019 and UK consumers are on a frenzy. Banks have yet to streamline the claims process but still, the fact remains that consumers only have until 2019 to reclaim their refunds from a mis-sold PPI policy. Here are three things to remember to ensure you get all your refunds intact.

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Data Access Request

Consumers could have their bank send their entire interaction with their debt, which would include the repayments they made for their PPI policy. This would allow them to calculate the total expenses they have incurred with PPI and the amount they are owed.

Financial Ombudsman

The Financial Ombudsman Service is open to consumers who believe their complaints were not handled efficiently by their banks. Banks are known for rejecting even legitimate complaints and often have a 3 against 10 chance of successfully defending their rejection decisions.

PPI Calculator

To ensure that you get your complete refunds, make sure to use a PPI refund calculator to help you see how much PPI compensation and annual interest your insurance gained adding the 10 per cent PPI compensation banks must grant as mandated by the UK Supreme Court.


Become a Student for a Year of Discounts

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student discount cardA lot of places offer student discounts, ranging from online stores to supermarkets to tourist attractions. These can be a great way to save money, but the problem is if you don’t happen to be a student then you aren’t eligible for the discount.

But there is a way to become a “student” for a year and access most or all of the student discounts you would get. This is entirely legal at time of writing, and though it has become quite a popular trick there are no signs of a rule change. And if you’re wondering, it does not require you to hand over £9,000 for a year’s tuition fees.

Becoming a Student

The key point to consider is that many student discounts are, more specifically, special offers available to people who hold a National Union of Students or NUS Student Discount Card. Fortunately for the frugal, you do not have to be attending university in order to qualify for the card. They are available for £12 for a one-year card to people studying just about any course at a wide range of institutions, including most online learning providers. Even if your course only lasts a few weeks, you will be able to keep using the card to get disocunts until it expires at the end of the year. So to become a student and be eligible for the card, all you need to do is sign up for a cheap online course from a provider. Usually, these courses are advertised at around £200 each but are frequently made available on special offer or through daily deal sites like Groupon and Wowcher for a fraction of the price. For a course that could cost as little as £9 plus the price of the card, for a total expense starting at £21, you could get a whole year’s access to some quite significant discounts. To double check whether a course will qualify you, you can start the process of ordering a card and see if the provider comes up on the list.

Do I Have to Study the Course?

With the kind of online course providers that usually offer their courses at these prices, you don’t strictly need to even study the course. There should not be any negative consequences for never attending the virtual lectures, reading course materials, or completing the assignments apart from the fact you will not get your certificate at the end. That being said, it seems sensible to try to pick a course you might actually be interested in so that you can get your money’s worth by actually studying it, but of course that is up to you.

Is it Worth It?

Some of the discounts you get with an NUS card can be quite generous, so it is entirely possible to save much more than you spend on the course and the card itself before the year is through. You might want to take a look at what discounts are actually available, though, as this will help you assess how many of the offers you are likely to take advantage of and get an idea of how much you could save.


Claiming Compensation for a Delayed Train Journey

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train_delaysUnless train travel is a real rarity for you, you’ve almost certainly had more than one experience of a rail delay. When you just want to get where you’re going, there is nothing more frustrating than sitting at a platform while your train’s expected arrival time gets further and further away, or finding out at the last minute that your train is cancelled altogether and it is a whole hour until the next one.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that, if you have more than a small delay on your journey, you will likely be entitled to claim a refund on some or all of your ticket price. While rail companies are generally good at issuing these refunds, they aren’t exactly big on publicising the fact that the option is available.

While details may vary according to the company running the delayed train, the following information should be true in most or all cases:

How Much Could you Reclaim?

If you choose not to travel at all because of a delay or cancellation, then you should be entitled to have your ticket completely refunded. In normal circumstances, deciding not to travel means you can refund your ticket minus a £10 admin fee, but if disruption was the reason then you should be able to get back the full face value.

If you do travel, different rail companies set different levels of compensation, so check with the train operator’s website for exact information. However, if you were delayed by at least a full hour then the minimum that a company must offer is 50% of your ticket’s value. For more serious delays, many companies offer a full refund. Some companies even compensate for much shorter delays. For example Southern Rail – whose services have made headlines for heavy disruption recently – offer a 25% refund for delays of as little as 15 minutes, and refund the full cost of a single journey for an hour’s delay.

Where a ticket covers multiple journeys, the refund will only apply to the affected part. For example, if you were delayed on one leg of the return journey then your compensation will be calculated based on half the ticket’s total cost as you are being compensated for one journey out of two. Similarly if you hold a season ticket it will be calculated based on the proportional cost of one day’s travel.

Claims may be refused in some situations where the delay was outside the rail network’s control, such as severe weather or cases where the emergency services closed part of the line.

How to Claim

Like exact compensation levels, claim methods vary between different train operators. Most refunds can be claimed by filling out a physical form that can be picked up at train stations. You will need to send off the form with your ticket, a receipt for your ticket, or other proof of purchase. Some operators also allow you to make your claim online. In this case you will have to attach a scan of your ticket or proof of purchase. Links to the appropriate sections of all train operator websites can be found on this page.

Various methods of repayment may be offered by the operator including bank transfer, PayPal, cheque, e-vouchers for future travel, or direct refund to a debit or credit card.


Software and Websites Frugal People Should Know

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It’s good to be frugal, and being frugal is easier when you have the right tools at your disposal. There are a few bits of software, websites, and general tech tools that frugal people should know about if they want to take their money-saving efforts as far as possible for the least amount of effort.

Spotify

spotifySpotify is a music streaming service. There are various account plans available, but prices start at free. There is a huge catalogue of music available, which includes most big hits past and present as well as a range of more obscure, specialist, niche artists. Unless you have a paid account, adverts will be played every few minutes which is how the service is funded, but they are not intrusive. A few competitors such as Deezer can also offer a good experience, but Spotify is definitely the market leader. This essentially translates into free music. Spotify and most competitors also offer mobile apps for portability but these can be tough on your data plan and generally have restrictions. For example, the Spotify app allows unlimited free streaming, but only in shuffle mode. In other words, you can choose an artist or album but not which specific track to play or the order they play in.

Google Shopping Search

Google Shopping Search, also sometimes known by the catchy name of Froogle, is sort of like a price comparison for physical products. When shopping online, you can type in the name of the product you are looking for and Froogle will search a number of sites, including the likes of eBay, for the best prices. It’s not perfect and it shouldn’t be taken as gospel that the things it finds are the very, very best deals going, but it is still well worth checking if you are shopping around for a bargain on a specific product.

mySupermarket

The mySupermarket website is sort of like Google Shopping Search but for actual, physical shops. It is quite comprehensive, covering a fairly complete range of high street retailers and a huge variety of everyday items. You might not think your weekly shop really needs a price comparison site, but the website makes it easy enough that it can be well worth putting in your shopping list and seeing which store comes out as offering the best deal. It mostly focuses on the kind of things you would put in your trolley week after week, but does also cover a respectable range of other products such as electronics, books, and entertainment.


“Micro Job” and Survey Websites: Are They Really Worth it?

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The internet is full of websites that claim to offer you a chance to make money through your computer and from the comfort of your home. Many, especially the ones that pop up in adverts offering absurd paycheques, are outright scams. Some, however, are legitimate. Two of the main types of websites that really pay are micro job providers and survey sites.

While many of these sites do indeed pay you reliably and as promised, a question that is overlooked surprisingly often is that of whether they pay enough to be worthwhile.

What Are These Kinds of Websites?

Survey websites and micro-job or “crowdsourcing” websites are quite different, but they represent probably the two most prominent examples of genuine and relatively accessible ways to make money online from home. This is something that many people have, understandably, found attractive.

Survey websites are pretty much what you might think: websites where you get paid to take surveys. Those surveys are used to gather opinions for companies and other organisations carrying out market research. As market research is important to these companies, they are often willing to offer small payments as an incentive to complete the surveys.

Micro job websites give specific tasks to people to complete in a practice known as “crowdsourcing.” These tasks are usually small but difficult to automate, such as data entry or testing websites, so companies find that the most effective way to get them done is to hand them over to a “crowd” of workers on the internet. Payments are usually very small – often just pennies – but the tasks are small as well so the theory is that you can complete as many tasks as you want in order to build up your earnings. Some have hailed this concept as a way for businesses to get large tasks done quickly while making easy, flexible paid work available for ordinary people. Others have been more critical of the idea, particularly the low pay and the focus on getting things done quickly.

Are They Worth It?

This is the big question, and ultimately one that any individual who is considering these websites must decide for themselves. However, there are a few things that you really should think about before deciding whether to sign up for these kinds of sites.

The main consideration is the pay. Because payments are small but jobs are small too, it is hard to judge how good or bad the earnings are and many people who use these sites regularly do not really know what their effective “wage” is. The truth is, with most micro job and survey websites you are unlikely to make even the equivalent of minimum wage. This is legal because you are being paid per job and not for your time. However, legal or not, the idea of working for less than what would normally be the legal minimum is not one that will appeal to many people.

Many sites also do not really have enough work to go around the large numbers of workers who have signed up. This puts an automatic cap on your earnings, even if you find one that does pay well for the time a task takes, and requires you to spend extra time watching for new jobs to appear as they tend to be snapped up quickly.

The main positives are the flexibility and accessibility. You can work when you want, from home, using only an internet connection. For some, such as busy parents or those who are between conventional jobs, this may seem attractive enough to make it worthwhile, but it is important to weigh this against the pay in order to make an informed decision.


Your Guide to Using Daily Deal Websites

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DealsDaily deal websites are a group of sites that offer deals, coupons and discounts from various other businesses. The deals in question could be for physical products, services, days out, or even holidays. New deals, as the name may suggest, tend to be added every day but they all either have limited availability or are only valid for a certain time. By far the two most prominent of these sites are Groupon and Wowcher, though there are a number of other websites around that fall into this category too.

These sites can be great money-savers, but it is also possible to make mistakes with them. If you want to get the most out of these sites and ensure you get good value out of them, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Always Check the Newsletter

If you want to get the most out of these sites, then the first step will be to make sure you don’t miss deals you might benefit from. The easiest way to do this is simply to sign up for their newsletter (this will usually be the first thing they ask you to do when you visit their site), and make sure you take the time to look through it every time it pops into your inbox.

Check Postage

This is always good practice when shopping online, but especially with daily deal websites. Postage is generally different for every deal offered and is generally hidden in small print away from the main price. Often, a bargain deal comes with free postage. At other times, small items come with a seemingly excessive postage charge of several pounds, and this can represent a significant portion of the overall price and easily be enough to turn a good deal into a bad one.

Shop Around

When the item being offered is a physical product, it can pay to look around the web a bit. While all the items being sold on these sites are discounted, prices are only reduced relative to the price usually charged by the specific business that is making the offer, and this may not be cheap. It is not uncommon to find the exact same product cheaper elsewhere – notably on eBay or Amazon – and at the very least finding it on a site like Amazon may also give you a chance to see customer reviews.

Don’t Buy Unnecessary Things

These kind of websites rely partly on impulse buying, and while the newsletter might be a good way to ensure you don’t miss deals it can also serve to encourage unnecessary purchases. The idea is that you see something that looks nice or fun, the price seems good, and it has quite a big discount applied, so you buy it quick before the item runs out and worry later about whether you should have done so. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself sometimes, but for the most part you should actively avoid this kind of buying behaviour. Think carefully and try to be sure that an item is something that you would have bought anyway, something that will be genuinely useful, or just generally something you won’t regret buying later.


How Your Mobile Could Save you Money

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smartphonesIt’s not that long ago that mobile phones made texts, received calls, played basic games and browsed the internet at the speed of a heavily-laden snail. Then the first smartphones hit the market and everything changed. Now, many of us have phones that are really complete miniature, portable computers. However, a lot of people don’t realise quite how many ways there are to save money with their phones.

Turn it Into a Sat Nav

If you’re in need of a sat nav, you could just use your phone. Perhaps you’ve tried the in-built navigation app and found it pretty rubbish, but that’s not your only option. There are several excellent free and paid-for sat nav apps available in app stores. This includes apps from some of the major sat nav brands such as TomTom which, though they cost money, are much cheaper than buying an actual sat nav from that brand. With the right app, there is little or nothing your smart phone can’t do that a sat nav can. You will need to buy some sort of holder or cradle for your phone and ideally an in-car charger (sat nav functionality can be a big drain on the battery), but this will only set you back a few pounds.

Showrooming

Most people have been in this situation at one point or another: you’re in a shop looking at something you want and the price seems good. You think you could still probably get it cheaper online, but you’re not completely sure and you’re worried about missing out. Instead of just heading to the checkouts and hoping for the best, you should take out your phone and indulge in an increasingly popular practice called “showrooming.” This is as simple as using your phone’s internet browser to check prices online and see if you really are getting a good deal. If you don’t do this because you’re simply shy about whipping out your phone in a shop in case staff guess what you are up to (naturally, shops aren’t keen on this practice), then just leave for a wander around some other shops and come back if you do decide to buy.

Special Offers

It’s not uncommon for companies to offer incentives such as vouchers or discounts in order to get people to download their latest app. Assuming the app is free, or worth less than the incentive on offer, then this is definitely something to keep an eye out for. Unless the app is a genuinely useful one (often it is just an easy shopping utility for the company offering the incentive), there is no reason to keep it cluttering up your phone when you’re done. But when it would probably take a couple of minutes to install it and claim your reward, neither is there any reason not to get that free item or a voucher for 10% off your next purchase.


Days Out in Summer for Less

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Summer is officially here, and the sun is finally starting to catch on to that fact and coming out to play. Many of us will no doubt want to take advantage of the warm weather for days out or outdoor activities, especially if we have kids who are enjoying time off school. The cost of days out, however, can be quite hefty if you have a whole family paying entry fees.

However, there are a few tactics you can use to enjoy days out for much less than the standard ticket price. Some methods you might want to consider include:

National Trust: Go Scottish

Many of the country’s best parks, gardens and historic homes are in the ownership of the National Trust. However, membership of the National Trust can be expensive, and ticket prices for individual properties can get even more costly if you want to go to a few places.

A cheaper way to gain membership is to join the National Trust for Scotland. Members of Scotland’s national trust don’t need to live there and aren’t confined to Scottish properties. You get full access to National Trust properties throughout the UK, but is noticeably cheaper than standard National Trust membership. Family membership cost £104 with the National Trust but can be as little as £69.40 for its Scottish counterpart (including a first year discount if you set up a direct debit).

Clubcard Points

The Tesco Clubcard is one of the most popular and well-known loyalty cards in the UK, and it also happens to be one of the most flexible. Clubcard points can be spent and redeemed in exchange for a wide range of different things, and this includes entry to a wide range of attractions throughout the UK.

The best bit, however, is the “exchange rate.” Clubcard points convert very favourably into money off vouchers in this category, and quite often the value is 4:1. In other words, for very £2.50s worth of Clubcard points you convert into vouchers (in terms of their standard value as money off of shopping), you will get £10 towards entry to many of the attractions on offer.

The Beach

Beaches are the very archetype of summer days out, and they remain one of the most popular options. In July, August and, if you’re lucky, even September a lot of British beaches do a very passable impression of a sunny holiday destination. Sunbathing, swimming and – for younger family members – building sandcastles and exploring rock pools are all excellent summer activities, made all the better by the fact that beaches are entirely free.

Of course, in practice this isn’t going to translate into a completely free day out. If you don’t happen to have the seaside on your doorstep you will have the cost of getting there. Taking a picnic can keep food costs down, but it’s almost inevitable you’ll end up buying an ice cream or two. Even so, unless you have a very long way to travel on public transport, beaches still represent a much cheaper summer day out than most pay-to-enter attractions.


Getting the Best Bargains on eBay

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ebay logoOnline shopping has transformed the way we buy things, but eBay in particular is a marketplace unlike any other. Businesses and individuals with second hand items are found side-by-side. “Buy it Now” items from countless independent sellers alongside the auctions which form eBay’s flagship feature.

The auction and selling site can be a great place to find bargains, but it is also easy to get stung or carried away with an auction and end up paying over the odds. Tactics you can use to help make sure you get good bargains include:

Don’t Rely on eBay Alone

Very often, the cheapest prices can be found on eBay – but this is definitely not something you can assume. Look on other sites like Amazon to see if there are better prices out there, rather than relying on eBay alone to look for bargains.

Sort Your Results

Always sort your search results instead of leaving them on eBay’s default “Best Match” ordering. Which order you choose, however, depends on what you are looking for:

  • Cheap Auctions: Sort by “Time: Ending Soonest” to bring auctions that will finish soon to the top of the list. Look for items that are going to finish in minutes or hours and are still at low prices, and then items that you might want to add to your “Watch List” for later.
  • Buy-it-Now Bargains: Simply sort by “Price+P&P: Lowest First.” Don’t confuse this with “Price: Lowest First” which excludes postage charges and therefore doesn’t reflect the amount you will actually pay. With some items such as gadgets, however, you may find yourself sorting through pages of 99p accessories before getting to the item you want.
  • Second Hand Items: This is a little more complex. Most second hand bargains are listed as auctions, so sort your results accordingly. Buy-it-Now listings can and should also be checked as you would at any other time. However, if you have had a good look through the items and want to wait and see if you get a better deal another time, in future you should sort Buy-it-Now listings by “Time: Newly Listed.” This will bring listings that have been placed since you last looked to the top, and help you find bargain Buy-it-Now prices that might not last for long before being snapped up.

Bid Tactically

Don’t just bid at any old time – think carefully about when and how to bid. If you think the item may go for the starting price or not much more, it may be worth placing a bid as soon as you are sure that you want to. Other people are less likely to bid if they see that a bid has already been placed than if they see that nobody has bid yet, and this can put off competition. If you think other bids are inevitable, wait until the last day. This will help you see whether the price stays low enough to be of interest, and give other bidders less time to outbid you.

If you are outbid shortly before the auction ends and want to bid back, leave it until the most last-minute moment you can stomach. This significantly reduces the chance that the other bidder will simply, instantly outbid you again. However, don’t get carried away and pay more than you intend, or more than you would pay if you simply bought the item elsewhere.


Getting Things for Free

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freeThey say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, by which they really mean that everything has a catch. However, there are times when you might find you are paying for something when you could get it for free. It may be that there really is no significant catch, or it might simply be that the catch is outweighed by the money you save.

Anti-virus Software

If your computer doesn’t have anti-virus software, or it has software that is years out of date because you don’t want to renew the subscription, then you should get some ASAP. The internet is a far safer place with some security software tucked away on your hard drive.

The problem for many people is that anti-virus packages usually aren’t cheap as software goes, and you have to pay for them every single year. If you want a license that allows you to use it on multiple machines, this can be even more expensive. Fortunately, there are several completely free packages out there.

Before you balk at trusting your computer’s safety (and by extension your passwords and bank details) to a free package, several free security suites regularly equal or outperform the big names in tests and expert reviews. There is really no safety compromise involved in choosing a free package. The catch is that these companies all have paid products, and they will send you advertisements and offers to try and get you to upgrade. Ignore them; free protection should be more than adequate for home users.

Freecycle

Freecycle, and similar initiatives such as Freegle, are local communities designed to allow people to simply give things away. The idea is to reduce waste and recycle items that would either be thrown away or languish unused in a cupboard, rehoming them with people who want or need them. People who have such items can advertise them to the group, and those who want the item can get in contact.

You can see all sorts of things on Freecycle, from furniture to freshly-laid eggs. You can also post requests, so if you are going to buy something that you think somebody might be willing to give away you can try posting a wanted ad before spending your money. However, there are some rules of etiquette to follow. It is usually considered rude and irritating to other users if you post too many “wanted” ads, so try not to get carried away. It is also a good idea not to post ridiculous requests. This may seem obvious, but there are people who will seriously post “wanted” adverts for items like cars or high-value electronics.