Beware of Booking a Secret Hotel

Written by Karen Bryan

£2 coins on top Beware of Booking a Secret HotelI recently had my first attempts at booking an unnamed hotel though lastminute.com’s ‘Top Secret’ hotels. Booking without knowing the specific hotel claims to offer large savings on hotel prices.

The secret hotel description gives you some clues as to the hotel’s identity, e.g. the TripAdvisor rating and the price when you are guaranteed to be booking that specific hotel. There’s a shaded section in the area map in which the hotel will be located.

My Experience

I was looking for a hotel in the Shoreditch area in order to be within walking distance of the venue for the Aegon Retiready retirement boot camp. I’d identified the 4 star RE London Shoreditch as a good option. It was under a 20 minute walk to the venue.

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How to Save Money by Pre-Planning Your Funeral

Written by Karen Bryan

uk notes 150x150 How to Save Money by Pre Planning Your FuneralIf you’ve been in the unfortunate position of having to arrange a funeral, you will know from bitter experience that it is a costly event both in terms of money and emotion, which is why an increasing number of people these days are looking to Prepaid Funeral Plans as a way of saving money and removing the pressure from the family.

Freeze Costs and Avoid inflation

Funeral costs have risen by an alarming 7% every year for the past decade and now average around £3,456. Prepaid funeral plans can remove the worry and impact of future price increases as you pay for your funeral services at today’s prices. So when prices exceed £6,000 in just 10 years time which by all accounts they could well do if previous trends continue, you’ll have saved yourself a few thousand pounds just by arranging everything in advance.

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Review of Newcastle Building Society Big Home Saver

Written by Karen Bryan

newcastle bs Review of Newcastle Building Society Big Home SaverThe Newcastle Building Society Big Home Saver is geared to attract people saving toward a mortgage deposit. You can save between £1 – £1,250 a month. After 12 months, it offers £500 cashback if you save between £5,000 – £9,999, or £1,000 cashback if you save £10,000, and then proceed to take out a mortgage with the Newcastle. You can operate the account online, by post or in a branch. The account is also available as a tax-free Cash ISA account.

The Newcastle Big Home Saver Issue 2 pays an underlying variable rate of interest of 1.4%, plus a variable bonus of 1% for each one month period during which at least one deposit and no withdrawals are made. You can make unlimited withdrawals with no notice, but you’d then lose the 1% bonus for that month.

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Q&A Session on NISAs with Neil Lovatt of Scottish Friendly

Written by Karen Bryan

neil lovatt 150x150 Q&A Session on NISAs with Neil Lovatt of Scottish FriendlyThe information provided in this article was accurate at the time of publishing and should be read in the context of the date it was published. Views in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the view of Scottish Friendly.

In this interview Neil Lovatt of ISA provider Scottish Friendly responds to my questions about New ISAs (NISAs).

1. Do you think that most savers are aware of the higher annual NISA limit of £15,000?

No it’s a chattering classes issue. Most people aren’t even aware that you are entitled to two ISAs in every year, let alone the overall limit. For the vast majority of savers £15,000 a year is way beyond what most people could afford or contemplate. That’s why our £10 a month or £100 one off payment levels are so different in the market.

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Hitting the Summer Sales? Make the Most of Your Money

Written by Karen Bryan

saleclothes Hitting the Summer Sales? Make the Most of Your MoneyIt may still be high summer, but fashion stores are already thinking about their autumn ranges, so their current stuff has to fly off the shelves fast. For bargain hunters, the summer sales are a great time of year and 2014 is no exception, with some great bargains to be had across the High Street. In some cases, retailers are offering up to 70% off across many lines of fashion, footwear and sportswear.

Here are some tips to make your hard-earned cash go further:

• Have a list and stick to it – what do you really want or need? It defeats the object of the exercise if you splurge on something you either don’t need or are never going to use. Be quite harsh about asking yourself whether you can really justify the price tag and wardrobe space before making each purchase.

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My Money Podcast #87

Written by Karen Bryan

The My Money Podcast #88 summarises the recent articles below.

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Poor Customer Service from Santander -  My husband bad experience transferring his Cash ISA to Santander.

Review of Premier Inn Dundee North – The room in this Premier Inn was unbearably hot even with an exterior temperature of only 15 degrees Celsius, the double glazing didn’t block the road noise, plus the bed was very uncomfortable.

Review of Simply Mobile BroadbandI bought a Simply Mobile Broadband 50GB SIM card, valid for 12 months, for £70 on eBay.

Nationwide Withdraw Regular Saver ISA – The Nationwide Regular Saver ISA has been closed to new applications and the rate has dropped from the 2nd time in 4 months.

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Nationwide Withdraws Regular Saver ISA

Written by Karen Bryan

nationwide signage Nationwide Withdraws Regular Saver ISA From 1 August 2014 the tax-free Nationwide Regular Saver Cash ISA is no longer accepting new account applications.

It sounds as though Nationwide decided that as they didn’t need/want to attract more money from ISA savers, so they’d withdraw the Regular Saver ISA.

I did wonder, if the increase in the annual maximum subscription to New ISAs (NISAs) would mean that banks and building societies wouldn’t make too much effort to attract saver’s money.

It’s very confusing when you look at the interest rates on the Nationwide website. The Regular Saver Cash ISA states an Annual Equivalent Rate (AER) of 2.24% and a Gross Rate of 2.59%. This is because Nationwide will transfer all the money in your Regular Saver Cash ISA into an Instant Access Cash ISA, which currently pays 1.5%, on 1 April 2015. The AER is based on opening an Regular Saver Cash ISA on 1 July 2014 and keeping it open for 12 months. Therefore, your money would earn 2.59% for the 9 months from 1 July 2014 to 1 April 2015 and 1.5% for the 3 months until 1 August 2015.

When I saw the AER quoted as 2,24%, I mistakenly thought that the Nationwide had reduced the rate of interest paid on their Regular Saver Cash ISA. My error was pointed out by a reader.

I’d recommend that holders of the Nationwide Regular Saver Cash ISA account put a note in their diary for mid March 2015, to research rate of interest payable on other accounts. This will allow them to judge if  the rate paid on a Nationwide Instant Access Cash ISA account is competitive and if they should transfer into a new account.

Rates of interest correct on 2 August 2014.

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Review of Simply Mobile Broadband

Written by Karen Bryan

simply mobile broadband Review of Simply Mobile BroadbandI was thinking of signing up to Three Mobile contract in order to access their ‘All You Can Eat Data’. Then I read that Three Mobile have now imposed a 2GB per month restriction on tethering (using your mobile phone to set up a personal WiFi hotspot).

I find that I can’t do much on my mobile phone, due to small screen size and keyboard. I prefer to use my netbook when travelling, connecting to hotel WiFi,  using a USB modem (dongle) in my netbook, or tethering with my mobile phone.

Hotel WiFi can’t be relied on, so I like to have a back up to the 1.5GB included in my Vodafone monthly contract.

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Review of Premier Inn Dundee North

Written by Karen Bryan

I stayed at the Premier Inn Dundee North for one night in May 2104. It cost £29 on an advance booking non-refundable rate. The hotel in located just off the Kingsway, the Dundee ring road, in Camperdown Leisure Park, alongside McDonalds, KFC,  the Ashoka Shak Indian restaurant, a cinema and an ice rink. Camperdown Park is close by.

I would’ve preferred to stay in the city centre, but the cheapest room which I could find there was £40 a night. I reckoned I could spend the day in the city, drive to the beach at Broughty Ferry for the evening and just use the Premier Inn as a bed for the night.

However rain changed my plans. I decided to give a wet Broughty Ferry a miss. Instead, I headed to the Premier Inn at around 5pm.

premier inn dundee north exterior Review of Premier Inn Dundee North

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My Bad Santander Cash ISA Experience

Written by Demetrius Vouyiouklis

santanderlogo My Bad Santander Cash ISA ExperienceMy Cash ISA with Birmingham Midshires Savings (BMS), which contained the majority of my savings, was coming to its maturity date near the end of the 2013-14 financial year. After this the money would be automatically transferred to another Cash ISA account with a very poor rate of interest.

I therefore made an appointment at my local Santander (STD) branch in order to start a new 123 Cash ISA with STD, to commence immediately after the BMS maturity date. Accordingly, a new Cash ISA account with STD was opened a few weeks before the BMS maturity date. At that time, I was told that I would receive confirmation of the transfer of the funds from BMS to the STD account in due course.

When I did not receive confirmation of the transfer of the funds and allowing for more than sufficient time from the agreed date of the transfer (for bureaucracy), I contacted STD to enquire what was happening. After a series of phone calls with lengthy waits, I was told by STD that the transfer had not gone through due to an error in the part of BMS. I was advised to contact BMS to sort it out.

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