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

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.

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.

Foreign Spending – Credit, Debit, Cash, Prepaid or Travellers Cheque

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If you’re going abroad, you’ll need to have some spending money to spend on those all important essentials. Most cards will charge you a percentage to use them abroad, whilst others charge a flat fee – and some even charge both! These are my top picks of the cards you’ll want in your wallet when you’re travelling overseas.

When you use a card overseas, you’ll be paying a Visa/Mastercard interbank exchange rate, rather than the tourist one. For a card with fees, you’ll probably pay a comparable rate to one at a bureau de change, but if you use one of the cards recommended in this article, you’ll get an unbeatable exchange rate.

It’s also important to note that you should never accept “Direct Currency Conversion” – this is when the foreign retailer or cash machine offers to charge you in pounds – this always has a fee, which is easily beaten by your card.

Halifax Clarity Rewards Card

This is my favourite card for foreign spending – and one that I use on a day-to-day basis for  merchants that don’t accept American Express. With this card, you get both no fees for foreign purchases, as well as £5 cashback when you spend £300 a month.

Note that you will need a Halifax Rewards Current account to apply for this – but this is a great deal too. Simply pay in £1,000 a month, and you’ll get £5. You don’t even need to keep the money in the account.

You’ll need to go into branch to open this credit card, but if you just want the 0% foreign spending with no cashback, you can apply online.

Metro Bank Debit Card – now for Europe only

You should never be taking money out on your credit card, even if there is no cash withdrawal fee – you’ll be charged interest from the day you take out the cash, even if you pay off your statement balance on time – there’s no float period on cash.

The Metro Bank Debit Card is the best card to use in Europe – it won’t charge you fees for making the cash withdrawal. Just make sure to top up your account before leaving the country.

You’ll need to get to one of their branches in London to get this account, but they’ll make it up for you on the spot in the branch – useful if you’re travelling abroad soon.

Alternatively, try the Norwich & Peterborough Gold (Classic) Current Account (although, please note the funding and activity requirements) – this also offers free card usage abroad, and you can apply online. I haven’t tried this account though.

Cash

You should probably carry a bit of cash with you before you go: if you’re using Euros, there’s a euro denominated cash machine at the NatWest headquarters in Bishopsgate, which you can use your Metro bank debit card with.

Otherwise, try TravelMoneyMax to see the best exchange rates – it’s often at the Thomas Exchange Global stand in the Liverpool Street arcade.

It pays to plan ahead – you’ll get the worst rate at the airport, and you’ll get a slightly better rate at many of the bureau de changes if you book online first.

Prepaid Cards

I don’t recommend Prepaid cards – they don’t really have any advantages over a 0% debit/credit card, and there’s often a bunch of additional fees as well.

Travellers Cheques

Travellers Cheques have an advantage over cash, since they can be replaced if lost, but it’s often difficult to cash them in at your destination. Additionally, there’s a worse exchange rate than cash at the bureau de change, because the fees have to be built in.

Credit Cards – ten reasons to switch from cash

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There’s the old adage that “cash is king”, but when it comes to paying for things, as a consumer, it’s much better to pay by credit cards. You’ve got to ensure you’re using them wisely by spending within your means, and make sure you set up a direct debit to pay off the full statement balance each month (and you ensure you’ve got the money in your bank account to pay off your direct debit!).

Here’s ten good reasons to pay by credit card:

1. You get rewards for paying by a cashback/rewards card

There’s a bunch of different reward offers around which give you a credit for simply using the card for your day-to-day transactions: if you’re a member of a frequent flyer/hotel loyalty program, it can be useful to boost your miles or points.

Alternatively, you can earn cashback, usually around 1-1.25%, depending on the card. Watch out for annual fees though, as these will eat into your cashback if you don’t spend enough to make it worthwhile.

2. You have protection if the merchant doesn’t deliver

With a credit card, you have protection in law under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which makes the credit card company jointly liable with the retailer for transactions over £100 if the company you buy from doesn’t deliver. In practice, this is done through a chargeback through your credit card provider – they will investigate your claim, and then retrieve the money from the merchant’s bank, who will then debit their account, along with a handling fee.

If you’re using a debit card, you should be able to do a chargeback, but this isn’t enshrined in law.

On the other hand, if you’ve paid by cash or cheque, you’ll have to take it up with the merchant and hope you get your money back.

3. You get a record of where you’re spending your money

Your online statement is a great way to work our where you spent your money – it’s unlikely that you’re keeping a record of where you are spending all those cash withdrawals, right?

4. You’ll build your credit rating

Paying off your credit card on time helps to build your credit rating – this shows lenders that you’re a good credit risk, and should help you get credit in the future.

5. You get a ‘float’ period

You get up to around two months interest free credit. This is the period in between spending on the card, receiving the bill, and the money coming out through the direct debit. You can earn interest on this money if you’re using a top current account, like the Santander 123 Current Account.

6. If you’re spending overseas using a 0% fee card, you’ll get an unbeatable exchange rate

See more information about this in my Foreign Spending blog post

 

There are currently a number of cards that allow you to do this – both credit and debit, such as the Halifax Clarity Credit Card, or a Metro Bank Debit Card.

The benefit of using these cards abroad is that you’ll benefit from the interbank exchange rate, rather than the tourist one which is always a couple of points in their favour. Just watch out for dynamic currency conversion – this is when the machine will ask if you want to pay in Pounds rather than the foreign currency: you should always reject this offer.

7. Contactless is faster than cash

It’s a lot easier to pay by contactless than it is to by cash – you don’t need to fumble with change. In London, it’s accepted at a load of retailers – mainly chains, but they’re starting to roll it out. Plus it’s now cheaper to use your contactless card on the bus than paying by cash if you forget your Oyster.

8. You can occasionally get exclusive rewards and offers

If you’ve looked at my blog recently, you’ll have seen the multitude of offers that have been available for American Express card holders – whilst this isn’t a guarantee that they’ll come back again, there’s usually an offer or two about.

9. If you’re defrauded, there won’t be a hold on your funds

In the unlikely event that you do get defrauded, it’s the credit card company’s funds – if you were using a debit card, there’s the possibility that you could be without cash.

10. If you lose your card, you can get a free replacement

If you lose your cash, it’s gone – lose your card, and you’ll get a free replacement: and some card companies will even courier you a temporary card if you’re abroad

Of course, there’s some places that are cash only, but with the introduction of credit card payment machines that fit into smartphones such as iZettle, Square, mPowa, SumUp and PayPal Here, in the future, we’ll be paying by cash a lot less (on a side note, I have a card reader, so if you owe me money, you can now pay by credit card!)

So, ditch your cash and debit card, and use your credit card for all your purchases.