Win with QuidCodes at Quidco!

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quidcode

Quidco are currently doing a daily promotion where you can be awarded a “festive Quidcode”, which gives you an additional bonus cashback on top of the current rates.

I’ve won £21.50 off Burton today, although everyone else I’ve spoken to who’s tried it so far hasn’t been successful yet… but there’s still quite a few days to go in this promotion.

There isn’t currently much info available on the Quidco site about it (doesn’t seem to be mentioned in their blog), but keep clicking the button each day to enter the draw – you’ll instantly find out if you’ve won. Edit: According to the Terms and Conditions, you can enter every day until the 12th.

Note that if you win, you’ve only got 24 hours to redeem your prize (you need to copy down your Quidcode and enter it onto the retailer’s page, then click through to the retailers site), so make sure you act fast. You’ll also need to spend a minimum of the value of the Quidcode to get the full amount credited to your account as cashback.

Not a Quidco member? Sign up here and we’ll split the £10 referral bonus when you earn £5, so you’ll get a bonus £5 once you’ve hit that threshold!

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.

Can you really turn cold calls into cash? Probably not

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smarttalk

I recently read a BBC news article reporting on a man who turned ‘annoying cold calls into cash‘. It’s an interesting headline, and I can see why it reached the top of the ‘most read stories’ on the site: after all, who doesn’t like an underdog winning?

Is it worth it to setup a premium rate number of your own? Probably not.

It’s mentioned briefly in the article, but 087X numbers are regulated by PhonePayPlus – they’re treated as a ‘premium rate number’ in the same way as 09X numbers are. As a result, if you do have an 087X number, there’s a number of regulations you’ll have to follow: for example, you need to advertise the amount that they cost to the caller.

Additionally, setting up an 087X number isn’t as simple as you might think: whilst there are a large number of companies that let you do this, they’ll mostly charge you a monthly fee. You’ve also got the problem of actually getting your calls – you could forward the call to another number, but that’ll take quite a large percentage of the money you get from callers (particularly if you’re diverting to a mobile), so you’re usually going to have to setup a VOIP system on your mobile or computer, which gets a bit fiddly.

0844 numbers aren’t as heavily regulated as their 087X counterparts, but of course don’t earn you as much money. I’ve had one of these for a couple of months, but discontinued its use shortly after my provider decided to start charging a monthly fee that would outweigh any of the money I’d make from the per minute charges – 3p a minute doesn’t really add up that quickly, no matter how many calls you get!

You can stop most cold calls free by registering with the TPS

In conclusion: if you’re bothered by cold calls, it’s not going to be worth your while to set up a premium rate hotline. Simply make sure that you sign up to the Telephone Preference Service to reduce the number of calls that you get. Telemarketers are then legally required not to call you without prior consent.

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.

74p frappuccinos at Starbucks until June 2nd

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LikeStarbucks Logo Frappuccinos from Starbucks (tax dodge allegations notwithstanding…)? Get them at 75% off until 2 June: by combining two different half price deals – that’s 74p for the cheapest one (a tall mango or blackcurrent frappuccino). £10 Starbucks Card for £5 from Bespoke Offers Bespoke Offers LogoUntil 11 July, you can buy a £10 Starbucks Card from Barclaycard Bespoke Offers. Despite the name, you don’t need to be a Barclaycard customer to benefit from this deal: unusually, they even accept American Express. You can even get 3p cashback by clicking through TopCashback (no purchase required). It’s limited one per customer, and you need to activate the card by 12 July (just one day after the purchase due date!). Make sure to redeem the card online by clicking through your account to the voucher and copying the code into the prompt. You’ll then be given a card number and security code, that you can copy into your Starbucks account. You then want to transfer the balance to another card on your account (you need to use an app for this), or spend it before 29 September to avoid losing your money. Half Price Frappuccinos  Most Starbucks are currently participating in a promotion for half price Frappuccinos between 3pm and 5pm. Combine this with the Bespoke Offers deal, and you’ve got yourself 75% off! If you miss this, there’s another promotion running with the Starbucks Frappuccino drinks found in supermarkets: collect one neck collar and two caps, and you’re also eligible for the half price deal in the coffee shops until 23 June. Not a Frappuccino fan? If you don’t like cold drinks, you can still save money at Starbucks with these general tips:

  • 25p off your drink when your bring your own cupBring in your own mug, and you’ll save 25p (the one time we seem to win in the exchange rate: in the US, you save a paltry 10¢!). Starbucks are now selling reusable plastic cups, which cost £1. You’ll save 25p straight away, so you only really need to use it three more times to make your money back (bonus: you’ll also help to save the environment!). Note that this usually doesn’t work in conjunction with other offers: for example, the half price Frappuccino deal
  • Use a Starbucks Card and earn loyalty ‘stars’It takes 15 ‘stars’ to earn a free, any-size drink, but you only earn a ‘star’ for each transaction with your card. You also earn status: get to 50 ‘stars’ in a year, and you’ll get free extra shots of expresso, selected flavour syrups, soy milk substitution and whipped cream. No fancy gold card like they’ve got in the US though! The trick with this is to split up your bill into individual items, and to always use up your card to a zero balance: using two cards (it just takes a few seconds to go through as an additional scan if you’ve got the app) will get you two ‘stars’ instead of one

 

Calling an 08 number from your mobile? Don’t dial direct

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If you’ve ever had to call a company with a non geographic number, you might find that it gets a little pricey. Companies make a bit of cash by getting a portion of the call costs when you call in on an 0844 number, but even with freefone numbers, mobile networks still charge for the call (although this is planned to be changed in the future).

Here’s some tips to save a bit of cash for those customer services lines:

Try seeing if there’s an ‘international number’

Since you can’t generally call 08 numbers from outside the UK, most providers usually offer an ‘international’ UK geographic number for you to call when you’re abroad.

Geographic numbers (01XX or 02XX) are included in the minutes you get as part of your mobile contract, so you won’t pay the 25p – 35p charge.

Unfortunately some companies have gotten wind of this, and detect if you’re in the UK. Withholding your number might work, but usually you’re going to have to find a different route…

BT SmartTalk lets you use your landline everywhere

BT SmartTalk logoRemember the warning for most phonelines where they say something to the effect of ‘mobiles may charge considerably more’? If you’re calling directly from your landline, you’ll usually end up paying a bit less.

Enter the new BT SmartTalk app: it works on Android and iOS devices. You can now use your landline anywhere you have an internet connection (preferably wifi, if you don’t want to use up your data allowance), and it even works abroad, potentially saving you a bundle on roaming charges if you’ve got a wifi hotspot nearby.

I’ve tried it out, and it the call quality seems pretty good – I couldn’t tell the difference from a normal landline call.

The great thing about using your landline is the inclusive 0845/0870 calls if you’ve got a BT calling plan and of course, freefone numbers are free rather than 10p – 30p, depending on your network.

You’ll need to be at home to set it up: they phone you with a confirmation code on your landline, send you a text to confirm your mobile number and they’ll post you a letter confirming the mobile has been added a few days later.

Changes from 1 July

From 1 July 2015, calls to 080 numbers are now free from mobiles, but 0500 numbers may still be chargable. You can get around those charges as follows:

Skype can call 0500 numbers for free

If you haven’t got a BT landline, simply download the Skype app for your phone, and use SkypeOut to call. You don’t need to top-up.

Usual caveats apply regarding data usage.

0800buster can get you free freefone calls from your mobile

0800buster0500 numbers may be chargable, but you can dial 0333 555 8800 and you’ll be prompted to enter the freefone number you want to call.

 

Saynoto0870 might help you find an alternative number

Saynoto0870 is a website which gives alternative geographic numbers: but this doesn’t always work: sometimes you’ll just get put through to a random person in the company, or you’ll just get through to a recording that tells you to redial the original number.

It’s worth a try though!

Summary:

Don’t call 08X (apart from 080) numbers from your mobile. Use an alternate service.

 Mobile call0800 busterBT SmartTalk / LandlineSaynoto0870
03XXYesn/aYes (if included in your landline plan)No
0845 / 0870Non/aYes (if included in your landline plan)If available
0808 / 0800 (freefone)Yesn/aYesn/a
0500 freefoneNoYesYesIf available
Other 08XXNon/aYes (it's probably cheaper than your mobile)If available

Car Clubs – a cheap way to get driving in the city

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If you live in London, you probably won’t be using a car everyday – but for shorter journeys, I’ve found the best solution is to join a car sharing club.

It’s environmentally friendly, and far cheaper than buying a car for yourself, especially if you aren’t driving much.

How much do they cost?

Here’s a quick overview of the prices of the different clubs:

 Hertz on DemandZipcarCity Car ClubCar2Go
Cheapest car cost per hour£4.50£5£4.95£14.90 (35p/minute minimum)
Included mileage per trip2040017
Cost per additional mile30p30p23p17p
Annual fee£0£59.50£60£0
Setup fee£0£0£0£29.90
WebsiteHertz on DemandZipcarCity Car ClubCar2Go

In general, most of the clubs are the same: Zipcar, Hertz, Car2Go and City Car Club all have parking, insurance, maintenance and fuel included in the hourly rental price, and Streetcar and Hertz also include congestion charge (as do City Car Club for cars parked in the zone).

Once you’re actually driving, there’s usually an element of included mileage per rental, and a charge per mile once you’ve gone over (this is a per rental allowance rather than an hourly allowance, which seemed a bit strange to me, since you can just return the car and take it out again to get more miles).

Hertz’s cheapest car is electric. I’ve tried it, and it’s a pretty quiet drive, to the point where a pedestrian walked into the road in front of me after failing to hear it. You get unlimited mileage with it, but I don’t really think you can get too far…

What do I need to join one?

You’ll usually need to have held a clean licence for a couple of years, depending on the company that you’re using.

How do I use one?

For all the companies apart from Car2Go, there’ll be a reserved parking spot where your car is parked: you need to reserve it in advance, and use your keyfob or card to open the car.

my new car keys

The keys will be in the car already – pop them in the ignition like normal, and away you go.

Usually, you’ll have to return the car from where you got it, and you’ll have to do it on time, so make sure you book the right amount of time at the start, as most companies will charge you extra if you’re late.

If you’re running out of fuel, there’ll be a fuel card to charge it back to the hire company.

Once you’re done, you usually need to end the rental from the in car device, leave the keys in the car, and lock it with your keyfob/card

Pay by the minute in home areas – Car2Go

Car2Go is a new concept in car sharing from Germany that works more like a Boris bike – once you’ve finished, you can park anywhere in a residents permit spot in the designated ‘home areas’, and you don’t have to return it to where you picked it up. This has both advantages and disadvantages: you only pay for the amount you travel, but you also are at the mercy of other members parking them up near to you. Additionally, you can only reserve them 30 minutes in advance.

The cars are all smart cars, and they cost 35p per minute (up to a maximum of £59 per day) – whether you’re driving or parked: this might sound a lot more expensive, but if you’re travelling within a home area, you can just end the rental once you arrive, so you just pay for driving time. You also have a limit of 17 miles per trip before they become chargeable.

Unfortunately they’re only located in small sections of London (around Angel and Islington, and around Stratford.

My recommendation

Join Hertz on Demand whatever you do – it’s pretty much a no-brainer seeing as there’s no setup or annual fee. It then depends on which car clubs have vehicles located nearest to you: you might have to end up paying an annual fee if there aren’t any Hertz cars nearby.

Best ISAs for 2013

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Now that the new tax year is here, it’s time to grab yourself a new ISA: unfortunately, there aren’t really that many great deals. Here’s my pick of the best of the bunch:

You can only open one cash ISA each year, so make sure you make the right choice!

Instant Access for new money – Poppy ISA from Coventry BS:

2.6% until 5 April 2014, including 0.6% bonus. 0.1% donated to the Poppy Appeal

This is the best rate I can see at the moment: the only caveat is that it doesn’t accept old money from existing ISAs.

You can still transfer your existing funds (if the initial bonus rate has expired) to another top paying ISA.

Instant Access accepting transfers in – Online Bonus ISA from Leeds BS:

2.55% until 30 April 2014, including 1.3% bonus

This account accepts transfers in. If you put the full amount in the ISA, this would be equivalent to £28.80 less interest each year (and a £57.60 donation to the Poppy Appeal) over the Coventry BS one. Whether this is worth you opening two accounts is up to you.

Two Year Fixed Rate accepting transfers in – Major ISA from Santander:

2.8% (3% for Santander 123 Current Account/Credit Card holders) for 2 years.

Additionally, you’ll receive a one-off bonus of 0.1% if Rory McIlroy wins an eligible golf ‘Major’. I’m guessing they’re a sponsor of his. I’ve had a quick look at the odds at the bookies, and it does seem likely that he’ll win at least one of them.

If you take your money out early, you’ll lose 120 days interest.

Why put money in ISAs when you could have them in a 3% current account?

Whilst you can get 3% on your current account, this is taxed at 20%, leaving you with 2.4%, even less if you’re a higher rate tax payer. Additionally, these funds will remain tax free for as long as you don’t withdraw them: so you could be saving up to a handy tax-free nest egg.

Cash ISAs vs Stocks and Shares ISAs

You can invest up to £5,760 in a Cash ISA and another £5,760 in a Stocks and Shares ISA. Alternatively you can invest all of it (£11,520) in a Stocks and Shares ISA.

 

Got some better ISAs? Feel free to recommend them in the comments!