Cash in on the mortgage price war
There was some much-needed good news this week for homebuyers and those whose current mortgage deal is about to come to an end. A mortgage “price war” has intensified, with HSBC, Halifax and TSB among the many lenders cutting the cost of their new fixed-rate deals during the last few days.
HSBC said on Thursday that a number of its new deal rates were now below 4% for the first time since last April.
But while the home loans market might be hotting up, investment platform Bestinvest says this won’t fully ease the pain for the roughly 1.6 million existing borrowers with cheap fixed-rate deals expiring this year, who still typically face a big jump in interest payments when they switch onto a new product.
If your deal is not ending for perhaps nine or 12 months, your options are more limited, but for many others there are things you can do now.
Remortgage offers are typically valid for up to six months, so if your deal is ending in, say, five months, don’t wait – you can reserve a deal now and keep it under review. If the cost of new deals continues to come down, you are not committed to that mortgage offer and can hop on to a lower rate. However, it means you at least have a deal in your hand.
Meanwhile, Chris Sykes at broker Private Finance says: “These reductions mean action needs to be taken by those who have mortgages in place and have not yet completed. There may be significant savings to be had.” He says lenders will not necessarily approach clients about the fact there is now a cheaper deal available, and many brokers will not proactively do this either, so borrowers should review their situation and see if there is something more competitive available that they can move on to.
View image in fullscreenHow much do you still owe on your mortgage? Photograph: Kelvin Jay/Getty Images
Consider overpaying if you can
Those fortunate enough to have some spare savings cash may want to consider using some of it to reduce what they owe on their mortgage (although if they have other costly debts with higher interest rates, they should pay those down first).
However, there are sometimes restrictions on overpaying. If you have a fixed-rate home loan, many lenders will let you pay 10% of your mortgage balance as an overpayment each year without penalty.
Cut your credit card costs
Many people’s plastic will have taken a pounding during the last few weeks. However, many individuals with credit and store card debt could save hundreds of pounds – or more – by transferring these balances to another provider offering a better rate. Some credit cards are offering interest-free deals lasting for more than two years.
The main benefit of a 0% balance transfer deal is that all of your monthly repayment goes towards clearing the outstanding balance, and therefore the debt can be cleared much more quickly.
There are a number of pretty good deals around. Barclaycard is offering 0% interest on balance transfers for up to 29 months (with a 3.45% transfer fee), while M&S Bank is offering 0% for up to 28 months (with a 3.49% fee).
View image in fullscreenYou can save money by transferring your credit card balance to another provider. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA
Some providers have calculators on their sites that quickly show you how much you may be able to save. For example, M&S Bank says someone transferring £2,000 from a card with a rate of 24% APR and who repays £80 each month could save £616 by switching to its plastic.
Credit card perks
Many savvy shoppers now use a rewards credit card for pretty much all their day-to-day and big-purchase spending – from their morning coffee to the trip of a lifetime and everything in between – but never run up a bill because they pay it off regularly, in some cases every day, via the app.
If you are looking for a credit card that will give you more bang for your buck, here are three of our picks.
Possibly the most valuable UK credit card benefit out there is offered by the British Airways American Express card, according to the Points Guy website. This card, which has no annual fee, lets you earn one Avios point for every £1 spent on purchases. Spend £12,000 in a year on the card and you get a “companion voucher”, which you can use to take someone with you on the same flight for free – so effectively it’s two-for-one travel. The vouchers can be used to book a BA, Iberia or Aer Lingus “reward flight”.
Meanwhile, the zero-fee Amex Platinum Cashback Everyday credit card typically lets you get 5% back on purchases (up to £100 cashback) – plus an extra £10 bonus cashback – for the first three months that you have it. After that, you get 0.5% on spending up to £10,000, and 1% on spending above that amount.
Finally, many people still swear by the John Lewis Partnership credit card where, for every 500 points you collect, you get a £5 voucher to use at John Lewis and Waitrose. You earn five points for every £4 spent on eligible purchases at John Lewis and Waitrose, and one point for every £4 spent elsewhere. If you take out the card by Monday 8 January and spend a minimum of £250 on eligible purchases at John Lewis and Waitrose within 90 days, you will get £40 in vouchers.
All prices and product details correct at time of writing