Free tube travel with Contactless

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London underground by doug88888

London underground by doug88888

There’s currently two deals on the London Underground to welcome their acceptance of contactless card payments in addition to the Oyster Card.

If you’ve got a contactless MasterCard or contactless American Express card, you can get some free travel simply by tapping in using your credit card rather than your Oyster…

American Express: £5 off when you spend £5

With a contactless American Express card, you can travel around London up to the value of £5. You’ll need to spend £5 in a day, as TfL charge you at the end of each day. Sign up on the Cardmember Offers website, and use your card before 30th November to get your credit

MasterCard: Free travel on Friday 14th November

If you’ve got a contactless MasterCard (remember that the Metro Bank card is a MasterCard debit card), you can get around London completely free simply by tapping in and out using your card this Friday. You don’t even need to register! Full terms available on the MasterCard website

via Londonist

American Express: Drive a car? Get £10 off a £50 at Esso

There aren’t usually that many deals on petrol, so if you drive a car, this one’s for you. Simply sign up on the Cardmember Offers website, fill up with £50 of fuel and you’ll get a £10 credit. It’ll probably work with non fuel items too, if you’ve got one nearby. Expires 24th November

London Restaurant Festival is back – 3 course meals from £10

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London Restaurant Festival

The London Restaurant Festival is back in town for 2014 from 8th October – whilst the offers don’t seem to be quite as good as it was last year (the only place that you can now get a £10 meal is now Prezzo…) it’s got a pretty wide variety of cuisines across Central London. Like last year, you can get a number of the already discounted menus at half price (if you manage to spend exactly £25 in two different restaurants over the course of the festival).

If you’re not a fan of set menus, then a number of these restaurants also accept Taste Card/other discount vouchers, but you need to make sure you’re spending around a multiple of £25, and ensure you go to two different restaurants between 8th – 27st October.

So, to take advantage of the offer:

  1. Register your American Express card(s) for the offer here (excludes corporate, prepaid and non-UK issued cards)
  2. Book your table on the website, and check that they’re on the participating merchants map
  3. Go to the restaurant, and make sure your bill (including service) comes to around a multiple of £25, and that you’ve got a registered card for each £25. Ask the waiter to split your bill into £25 chunks on your Amexs
  4. Repeat at another restaurant on the deal (before 27st October – you’ve only got two weeks!)

P.S. – haven’t got an Amex? You’ve probably still got time to apply – check out my recommended card blog post

Bon appétit!

£5 off £10 in Tesco and more with 4sq Amex deals

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foursquare logoFoursquare Amex deals are back – whilst they’re not as good as they’ve been in the past (especially that infamous £5 off £5 deal back in November 2012 which got me writing this blog), £5 off a £10 spend at Tesco is still a pretty good deal.

Here’s the deals that are available:

  • Tesco: Spend £10, get £5 back
  • Argos: Spend £30, get £10 back – remember, a lot of Argos stores stock gift cards – you’ll therefore be able to use this offer on more than what’s in the catalogue!
  • Primark: Spend £30, get £10 back
  • Ask, Pizza Express, Zizzi: Spend £30, get £10 back – you can use this with any other offer, such as vouchers, Taste Card or Orange (EE) Wednesdays at Pizza Express, as long as you charge £30 to your Amex – you could end up getting £60 of pizza for £20 (hopefully not all for yourself!). Alternatively, most of these restaurants sell gift cards, so you can just come back another time.

You’ve got until 31st July to claim these.

How do I sign up?

  • To use the foursquare offers, you need to register an account with foursquare, then sync your foursquare account with Amex,
  • Open the app on your smartphone and sign in. Either search for the shop by name, or hit the search bar, and select specialsspecials
  • Pick the shop you want to redeem the offer for. Don’t tap the ‘Special’ link yet!specials
  • Scroll down on the checkin screen, then tap the ‘Special’ linkspecials
  • Hit ‘Add to Card’. You’ll be notified that your offer has been addedspecials
  • All UK issued Amex cards are valid for this offer, including those from MBNA and Lloyds. You won’t get an instant notification about the credit if you’re not using an Amex issued card though, but it should still show up on your statement.

Tips and tricks

  • If you’ve already signed up but can’t remember which card is linked to each account, search for “Your card is synced” in your email
  • If you’re signing up for multiple foursquare accounts with gmail, try adding a ‘+amex1’ after your username, such as [email protected] Gmail treats the +amex1 as a label, and delivers it all to your inbox!
  • There’s a limit on the number of cards that can claim these offers. Make sure you grab the offers you want to use quickly – once loaded they should stay on your account (try to leave the ones you know you won’t use for other people…)
  • You can use this offer on each supplementary card you have too (unless its an MBNA one which has the same number…)

via David Lyness

Metro Bank to charge for non-EU transactions from 18th March

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metro-bank-logo

If you’ve got the Metro Bank account, you’ll have received a letter informing you that they’ll be charging for using your card outside of Europe: 1.9%, plus an additional £1 fee each time you use a cash point.

To be honest, this possibly shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Visa (as does MasterCard, I believe) charge a 1% fee for handling non-EU transactions, and banks that offering 0% were simply absorbing that fee. In an age where profit margins (especially on current accounts) are being squeezed (and remember that Metro Bank is currently losing money), this was probably unsustainable.

What isn’t great is the additional charges that have been placed above and beyond the 1% fee: Metro Bank will charge 1.9% for non-EU transactions, with an additional £1 fee for using a cashpoint. Whilst this is lower than many of the other banks (they usually charge around 3%), it’s still 0.9% above and beyond what they’re getting charged by MasterCard.

What’s your alternative?

Norwich and Peterborough are still offering a current account that offers free overseas usage, but they come with usage rules or a monthly fee of £5 applies. You’ll need to:

  • Pay in £500 a month, and:
  • Either make at least five transactions a month (you may be able to cycle money through there using standing orders), or keep a balance of £5000 in your account (this really isn’t worth it, as it’s a non-interest bearing account. If you kept it in a Lloyds Vantage or Santander 123 account at 3%, you’d be earning £10 a month after 20% tax)

Interestingly, their “light” account where you wouldn’t have to pay in the £500 monthly is being withdrawn from tomorrow – I wonder whether this is in response to Metro Bank’s new charges.

Personally, I’m lucky to still have the Santander Zero Current account, which is unfortunately closed to new customers, but the future of that account is probably also in question too.

This really isn’t great news if you’re travelling outside Europe after 18 March. It’ll probably be cheapest to purchase travel money in advance of going abroad (try TravelMoneyMax from MSE for a comparison – usually the best rate is by prebooked your currency exchange and picking it up in London), and try to keep spending to one of the credit cards that offer better rates.

London Restaurant Festival – 3 Course meals from £5

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The London Restaurant Festival is back in town, and with menus starting from £10 for three courses, it’s got a pretty wide variety of cuisines across Central London. Whilst this is a fairly good deal in my book, this normally wouldn’t warrant a post on my blog… but when you combine it with offer Amex is offering, you can get those already discounted menus at half price (if you manage to spend exactly £25 in two different restaurants this week).

If you’re not a fan of set menus, then a number of these restaurants also accept Taste Card/other discount vouchers, but you need to make sure you’re spending around a multiple of £25, and ensure you go to two different restaurants before 21st October.

So, to take advantage of the offer:

  1. Register your American Express card(s) for the offer here (excludes corporate, prepaid and non-UK issued cards)
  2. Book your table on the website, and check that they’re on the participating merchants map
  3. Go to the restaurant, and make sure your bill (including service) comes to around a multiple of £25, and that you’ve got a registered card for each £25. Ask the waiter to split your bill into £25 chunks on your Amexs
  4. Repeat at another restaurant on the deal (before 21st October – you’ve only got a week!)

It’s unclear whether it has to be two separate restaurants. To be safe (and to keep in the spirit of the promotion, and to get you trying something new!), I’d recommend trying two different restaurants.

So, to achieve the headline figure: dine out with a group at two different £10 menu restaurants, and it’ll work out to around £5 once you get the cashback.

Bon appétit!

Need to reach your Amex threshold spend? Get some Amex Gift Cards

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Amex Gift CardMany of American Express’ cards come with an introductory offer or annual bonus – for example, the Preferred Rewards Gold card gives you 20,000 membership rewards points if you reach the £2,000 spending target in 3 months. The problem comes if you can’t make that limit in a short time – you’ll lose out on the bonus.

Here’s where the Amex Gift Cards come in: you buy a gift card now, helping you to reach the target, yet giving you the flexibility to spend your money later. Additionally, until the end of the year, there’s no issue or postage fees when you use the code GCNF1 on the online checkout.

How do I get it?

Go to the Amex prepaid website, and choose the amount of cards you want – you can buy up to 5, with a maximum value of £100.

Enter the code GCNF1 when you’re checking out. You should see the postage charges disappear (the code doesn’t cover gift wrap, so avoid that). Make sure to pay with your Amex, and you’ll also receive the normal cashback/membership rewards points. From my past experience, this transaction has gone through as a normal purchase, rather than a cash transaction (which wouldn’t give you any cashback/points).

Interestingly, it’s the only place I’ve ever seen where you sign up with Amex SafeKey, the equivalent of Verified by Visa or Mastercard SecureCode.

What do I need to know?

There’s a couple of caveats with this card: I only really recommend it if you’re going to be short on your threshold spend, otherwise the rewards aren’t really worth it…:

  • You must use these cards within a year of activation, or you’ll pay a £1.50 monthly fee. You really don’t want that to happen, so I recommend spending the money as soon as possible…
  • You won’t be earning interest on the money on your card (although with interest rates currently at a historic low…)
  • Don’t lose the card. If someone else finds it and forges your signature, you have no recourse
  • You have no chargeback rights with this card – don’t use it for large purchases (not that you’ll get very far, since the maximum load is £100…)
  • It’s a magnetic stripe and signature card, so be prepared to sign (you need to wait for the assistant at self-service checkouts)
  • Since you’re paying for the card in one go, you’ll earn cashback on the full £100 – usually if you make a number of small transactions, you’ll lose out on a few pence of cashback if your transactions aren’t exactly divisible by £1 (or £4 on the Platinum Cashback one)

How do I use up small balances?

You can cash in the card by calling the customer services number for no fee (and they’ll make a transfer of your remaining funds into your bank account), but I’ve found it much easier to just buy an Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificate for the exact amount and send it to yourself – they don’t seem to make a £1 hold on your account (unlike PayPal), and you’re bound to buy something from Amazon within a year!

Once your card is empty, you can just throw it away: you can’t reload these cards at all.

Which Amex should I get?

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gold_card_largeUpdated for September 2014

At the moment, I recommend you get a Preferred Rewards Gold Card: whilst it has an annual fee, you get the first year free. Plus, if you sign up through Top Cashback, you’ll get £10.50 cashback, and if you spend £2,000 in the first three months, you’ll get 20,000 Membership Rewards points, worth £100 in Amazon vouchers (other retailers, frequent flyer and hotel schemes are also available). You’ll also get two airport lounge passes, useful if you’re travelling and want somewhere to relax with complementary drinks and snacks before your flight.

That’s a total of £110 worth of free stuff (plus the 2 Lounge Passes)!

You should put something in your diary to cancel the account after one year to avoid getting charged the £125 annual fee, and I don’t recommend you use this card after you reach the £2,000 threshold: the cashback is equivalent to 0.5% (if you convert the Membership Rewards points into Amazon vouchers – it might be more if you convert them into airline miles), and there are a few other cards on the market that can beat this cashback.

Please note that I earn a £7.50 commission if you are a new Top Cashback user and click through the link above, at no additional cost to you.

Shop Small Returns – get 50% off your shopping with Amex

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shopsmalllogoIt’s the offer that got me to start this blog, and it was such a great deal that I thought it would never be repeated again… Shop Small from American Express is back this July!

Unfortunately, there’s been a few changes this year: it appears that Amex have learnt their lesson in regards to unlimited cashback. You can only get up to ten transactions reimbursed per card (up to a value of £50), and you only get £5 off when you spend £10, so you’re getting a discount rather than a freebie. Still, 50% off is a pretty good deal in my book!

There’s a variety of shops, food stalls and pubs on the list, so I’d highly recommend you take a look, and make sure to register your card before you head out.

How it works

  1. You need to register online with your card(s) before you shop.
  2. Check out the list of eligible locations by popping in your postcode on the Amex Shop Small site.
  3. Spend £10 in store on your registered Amex.
  4. You’ll get an email confirming your purchase shortly (this will take longer if you’re using ExpressPay contactless).

Tips to get the best value (based on last year’s promotion)

  • You can use this offer in conjunction with any other offer, so long as the spend on your Amex is over the £10 threshold – e.g. Taste Card, Vouchers, etc.
  • Cards on the same account (supplementary cards) are eligible for the promotion in their own right. I’d recommend getting your relatives to add you to their account and returning the favour…
  • The discount probably won’t work if you try to use it in different branches of the same shop. To stay safe, use it only in one of the locations.
  • If you have multiple Amex cards (including cards issued by Lloyds TSB and MBNA – mostly frequent flyer rewards cards), each of these are treated separately. Make sure you register each one!
  • If you don’t see the credit in a week or two, or the merchant doesn’t take Amex, get in touch with customer services: call the number on the back of your card, or send an email using secure messaging: they were pretty good in getting the credit added manually last time.

Don’t have an American Express card? 

gold_card_largeI recommend you get a Preferred Rewards Gold Card: whilst it has an annual fee, you get the first year free. Plus, if you sign up through Top Cashback, you’ll get £60.60 cashback, and if you spend £2,000 in the first three months, you’ll get 20,000 Membership Rewards points, worth £100 in Amazon vouchers (other retailers, frequent flyer and hotel schemes are also available). You’ll also get two airport lounge passes, useful if you’re travelling and want somewhere to relax with complementary drinks and snacks before your flight.

That’s a total of £160.60 worth of free stuff (plus the 2 Lounge Passes), and you haven’t started with Shop Small yet!

You should put something in your diary to cancel the account after one year to avoid getting charged the £125 annual fee, and I don’t recommend you use this card after you reach the £2,000 threshold: the cashback is equivalent to 0.5% (if you convert the Membership Rewards points into Amazon vouchers – it might be more if you convert them into airline miles), and there are a few other cards on the market that can beat this cashback.

Please note that I earn a £12.50 commission if you are a new Top Cashback user and click through the link above, at no additional cost to you.

Getting a copy of your credit report

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When you’re applying for credit: whether that be a mortgage, an overdraft, a credit card, or even a mobile phone contract, your credit report will be checked by the lender to make sure that you’re a good credit risk.

Your credit report includes a history of the accounts that you’ve used in the past: from credit cards to bank accounts, each of these is reported back to one (or more) of the three Credit Reference Agencies in the UK.

You should check your credit report at least annually, just to make sure that nothing untoward is on there: if you don’t recognise something on your report, you could be the victim of identity fraud.

 

How can I check my report?

There’s a free service called Noddle, run by CallCredit, the smallest of the three credit reference agencies. This allows you to get a free copy of your credit report, as well as a score out of five. There’s also a few paid add-ons, but the free service is the easiest way to get a copy of your file from CallCredit.

There’s two more credit reference agencies (Equifax and Experian), which may have slightly different information about you. Unfortunately, neither of these offer a free service, and whilst both Equifax and Experian offer online credit monitoring (Credit Watch and Credit Expert), they both charge a monthly fee after the free trial is up: plus you usually have to go through a sales pitch over the phone to cancel.

For a small fee of £2, you can get a copy of your credit report, but without a score. For Equifax, you can view it online instantly, but for Experian, they’ll send you a code in the post if you request to view your report online: so it’s probably best to just ask for the whole thing by post.

You might also want to check whether credit monitoring is included with your credit card – some Capital One credit cards includes a limited version of Equifax Credit Watch that doesn’t include your credit score, but does let you refresh your credit report twice a year, and sends you alerts when your account changes.

UK Amex Deals – January/February 2013

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Whilst it might not be as good as the Shop Small promo, there’s a couple of new offers from American Express and foursquare. Most of them start in February, but there’s a few that are good to go now.

It’s the same deal as the last foursquare promo: you need to register an account with foursquare, sync your foursquare account with Amex, check in at the location using a mobile app (it doesn’t seem to work on the Windows Phone app), and activate the offer by checking in and selecting the special, and tap “add to card”. Additionally, you can use these in conjunction with any other offer, so long as the spend on your Amex is over the threshold.

Here’s the deals that have been on so far. In my opinion, the best method of getting the most value is to get a gift card for the exact amount (e.g. £50), so you can spend your money in chunks, and you have a bit longer to spend your money! Make sure you read my top tips on gift vouchers if you’re going down this route though.

Amex Deals - Feb 2013

  • Spend £50 at Shell, get £15 back (until 18 Apr) – this is a great deal if you drive, since petrol is generally never discounted
  • Spend £30 at Pizza Hut, get £15 back (until 6 Mar)
  • Spend £10 at Starbucks, get £5 back (until 13 Feb)
  • Spend £25 at Carphone Warehouse*, get £10 back (1-28 Feb)
  • Spend £50 at Harrods, get £25 back (1-28 Feb)
  • Spend £50 at Gap, get £25 back (1-28 Feb)
  • Spend £50 at House of Fraser, get £25 back (1-28 Feb)
  • Spend £50 at Banana Republic, get £25 back (1-28 Feb)

* Special tip for Carphone Warehouse: Grab some topup cards for O2, then credit these towards your O2 PAYG sim. You get 5% bonus credit (going up to 10% after 6 months), and you can apply these towards your monthly bill if you transfer your PAYG phone over to contract.