Archive for March, 2012


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Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, has a rejuvenated and upbeat feel to it. Set on the banks of the River Clyde, the city has enjoyed a remarkable overhaul since the 1980s and is a bustling 21st century city. Visitors to Glasgow will soon realise how cultured and dynamic the place is, with lots to see and do for those travelling on a budget. There are many city centre attractions that are very reasonably priced and some great places to eat and drink on a shoestring.

Britain on a ShoeString...Glasgow

Tourist Attractions
Amongst the best things to see and do when visiting Glasgow is the Necropolis Cemetery which is located behind Glasgow’s impressive cathedral. Inspired by the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, walking through this atmospheric cemetery is worth doing due to the amazing assortment of crumbling gravestones, urns, catacombs and temples. Visitors are also rewarded with stunning views of the city and its landmarks including the Tennents brewery and the cathedral and is worth a visit by those on a budget.

Glasgow offers plenty to those interested in art. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is highly recommended and free to enter. There is a wide and often bizarre range of works of art and museum exhibits on display. For example there are priceless paintings from the Dutch artist Rembrandt, a World War II Spitfire suspended from roof, ancient Egyptian relics and suits of armour. Most visitors will find the selection of paintings the most interesting and the gallery also contains some works by Salvador Dali. The building is also a great example of early 19th century lavish architecture and it is well worth taking a look. For the small entry fee of £6.50 visitors can take a trip around Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art. In characteristic angular style, the building is wonderfully designed and the student-led tours of the building will illuminate Mackintosh’s designs in some of the most impressive rooms.

The River Clyde which runs through Glasgow was once the world’s main ship building centre and is responsible for much of Glasgow’s former glory. Despite years of neglect since the ship industry left Glasgow, the riverside buildings are once again alive with activity. The Glasgow Science Centre, an icon for the city’s forward thinking image, is well worth a visit. The centre proudly claims to be one of Glasgow’s top visitor attractions and presents concepts of science and technology in inspiring and innovative ways. Tickets are priced at less than ten pounds and it is worth taking a trip down to the riverside to gain an insight into Glasgow’s rich and industrious past. Whilst down at the riverside, it is also recommended that visitors take a trip on one of Glasgow’s best-loved treasures – the Waverley paddle steamer. Best enjoyed in the summer, this paddle steamer (the last seagoing vessel in the world) takes passengers on a cruise up and down the water to various ports on the Ayrshire coast. Based at the Glasgow Science centre, taking a trip on this elegant vessel is a great way to see Glasgow.

Restaurants and Eateries
Glasgow’s city centre has a great range of budget eating options. One of most highly regarded restaurants that also represents great value is Bothy, offering uniquely Scottish dishes that pay tribute to traditional local food. Bar 91 gives patrons the opportunity to people watch and serves excellent meals – It is great to visit in the summer when it is possible to sit outside and get a taste of Glasgow city living. The Wee Curry Shop’s offers homemade curries and it is highly regarded amongst locals, whilst Cafe Source (in the basement of St.Andrew’s in the Square – Glasgow’s second old church) serves Cheesecake with Orkney Fudge that is as heavenly as the setting.

For those seeking evening entertainment, Glasgow’s selection of bars, pubs and music venues rivals all other UK cities. King Tuts Wah Wah Hut hosts live music every night of the week and the Uisge Beatha gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy a drink alongside stuffed animal heads and portraits of nobles. The Uisge Beatha offers a selection of 100 whiskies and there are four quirky rooms to choose from.

Glasgow offers a diverse and unique selection of fun activities for those who visit on a budget. The centre’s rich history and vibrant night life will appeal to many different sorts of people and it is worth a visit (or two).

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Jemma Porter - Signature


Jemma is a news & research reporter for compareandsave.com.

Having worked as a journalist on a number of personal finance websites; she now spends time researching and commenting on UK personal finance stories and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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If you are one of those people who think that having spicy food means you’d better make sure the fire brigade are on standby first, you will probably have heard of Blair’s. Products in his range of hot extracts now sell for hundreds of dollars. It’s rumoured that a bottle of Blair’s 4am Reserve, priced at $45 a bottle in 2000, sold for $5450 to a European collector four years later. Others in his range sell for almost fifteen times their original value.

Spicy Savings

Why is Blair’s so popular? Well, because they are the hottest extracts known to man. In order to truly understand why, you need to know a little about the Scoville scale. Wilbur Scoville created the Scoville scale, which is used to measure and rate Capsicum peppers according to units of pungency; pungency is measured according to what quantity capsaicin is found. Capsaicin is a colourless powder extracted from Capsicum fruits, and it creates heat when ingested.

Pure capsaicin rates at 16,000,000 scoville units (SHU). To put that into some kind of comparison, Jalapeño peppers are rated between 3000-6000 SHU. If you thought they were hot, the aforementioned Blair’s 4am Reserve weighs in a 4,000,000 SHU. And that’s not even his hottest make. The adequately named Blair’s Deathsauces go all the way up to the 16,000,000 maximum scoville rating, and even come with a warning on the bottle. In order to get a bottle of Blair’s 16million Reserve Crystals, you’re looking at spending around $600. Only 999 bottles of the Guinness World Recording holding crystals were ever produced, and each one is hand numbered and signed by Blair himself. All of Blair’s Reserve range is actually pure extract, not sauces.

But if you’re looking for sauce, Mad Dog 357 is one of those that claims to be the world’s hottest hot sauce, which rates at 357,000 SHU. According to the blurb on the bottle, this sauce is as hot as it gets without being pure extract, “any hotter and it can’t be called a sauce”. Mad Dog 357 is a popular choice and is widely produced, unlike Blair’s limited runs, meaning you can pick up a bottle for a reasonable $9.

If other claims are to be believed however, Mad Dog 357 isn’t even close. For £25 you can get yourself a bottle of Da Bomb, The Final Answer. Weighing in at 1,500,000 scoville units, this sauce truly separates the spice veterans from the amateurs. If you’re stuck for a comparison, think about this: pepper spray used in riot control contains capsaicin and is rated on the scoville scale at between 2 million and 5 million SHU. That makes The Final Answer like crowd control for your tonsils.

Magma 4 Hot Sauce, made by CaJohns, weighs in at a massive 4,000,000 SHU, yet is a sauce, rather than pure extract. Maybe this is because “This capsicum in Magma 4 is so thick and strong…that it does not float like the capsicum in regular Magma”. Don’t start stockpiling water just yet; only 129 bottles were ever made, and it has long since sold out. For $15 however, you can pick up a bottle of Pepper Palace’s The Hottest Sauce in the Universe, which comes in just short of Magma 4 at 3.5million scoville units.

Then again, who wants 4million SHU, when you can have 7.1million? If you’re intrigued, then The Source Hot Sauce is for you. For $85 you can pick up a bottle of this, which, compared to the price of some of Blair’s rarer and more demanding lines, will leave you plenty left over for the taxi ride to the hospital.

If you want the hottest extract, you have to buy Blairs. Blair’s extracts are rated the hottest across the board, right up to the maximum 16,000,000 SHU of Blair’s Special Reserve Crystals. Once you move down the chart a bit into a few million, others such as Pepper Palace and Mongoose Hot Sauce are waiting to scorch the inside of your mouth, and for a reasonable price, too.

There are a lot of people that would say that at 7.1million SHU, The Source Hot Sauce is much more affordable and as high as you ever need to go, for a fraction of the price of Blair’s Special Reserve Crystals. But if you are determined to go as hot as it can, you’re going to have to pay the price, with your wallet as well as the inside of your mouth.

Mark Scott - Image Written by :

Mark Scott - Signature


Mark is the Marketing Director at CompareandSave.com, having previously worked at a number of media agencies on various financial brands.

He now splits his time between promoting CompareandSave and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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When certain types of currency – not coins or paper money, but other tokens and vouchers with monetary value – are no longer accepted, most of us would throw them out. To an Exonumist, these are valuable pieces of history, and worthy of preserving. Exonumia is the collection of coin-like objects, such as encased coins, souvenir medallions, merchant tokens, casino chips and the like. Exonumia comes from the Latin “exo”, meaning “out-side of”, and “nummus”, meaning “coin”.

Exonumia

Credit cards are often highly collectible to Exonumists who believe that they are the next step up from money; that one day we will no longer use coins or paper money at all, relying instead entirely on credit cards. There are lots of factors to go by when determining the worth of a credit card. Like most collectibles, there are several factors that impact the value and worth in terms of collectability of a credit card. Older cards are more valuable, and condition is very important. Collectors often prefer that credit cards are unsigned, and unused.

How rare a credit card is also greatly affects its value; everyday issue bank cards such as those carried by all of us by a major bank are unlikely to ever be worth much, but limited edition cards, or those that weren’t in existence for very long, whose numbers are therefore limited, are likely to be very valuable.

Specific brands often carry much higher value than others – old and rare American Express credit cards can be worth a lot of money to collectors. Physical appearance is also important, with collectors favouring cards that feature patterns, interesting designs, or pictures over plain cards with a simple colour and brand logo on them. Cards with pictures of celebrities or famous landmarks are valued highly too. CNN Money reports that “a MasterCard or Visa issued in 1989 by Florida Federal Savings Bank, picturing the endangered manatee, is worth about $275 today”.

The AMEX Centurion Card, often called the “black card”, ticks a lot of these boxes, and is likely to become highly collectable. This card is only available to the more affluent customer segments, and requires the meeting of American Express’s strict entry criteria. Centurion Card holders have to pay an annual fee. Depending on the holder’s country, they may have to pay an initial fee as well. American Express is very secretive about the Centurion Card, and does not disclose the criteria that have to be met before being offered one of these invitation-only cards. Because of the exclusivity of the Centurion Card, combined with the card’s physical specifications – it is made of anodized titanium – it is likely to be highly valued by future collectors.

Other companies are now trying to gain footing in the luxury credit card market, and it is likely that these cards too will be highly collectible in future. “Black Cards” offered by NatWest, Barclaycard and Bank of America, also all tailor to high-end customers, making them rare and therefore of interest and value to an Exonumist. On Ebay right now, you can pay £160 to get your name on a plastic version of the American Express Centurion Card, which is just a normal credit card that looks like the famous “black card”, so they are already highly-valued.

Credit cards that used to belong to celebrities are also in high demand. CreditCards.com reports that “Auctioneers Butterfield & Butterfield sold Elvis Presley’s American Express card from the early 1970s several years ago at a jaw-dropping $41,400”. It was signed by Elvis himself. The credit cards of modern day celebrities and the famously rich, such as Bono and Madonna, could one day sell for thousands of pounds or dollars after their deaths.

With chequebooks seemingly on the way out, cheques themselves are also becoming collectible. There are many limited edition cheque designs that are already in high demand. Special edition cheques such as DC Characters, Hasbro Game, and Harley Davidson printed cheques, whilst novelty items at the moment, could soon become extremely valuable given the imminent disappearance of cheques as a viable payment option.

When our credit cards expire, we cut them up and throw them away. But it’s worth remembering, especially if you have a limited design or special edition card, that in the future it could be a highly collectible item. Once defunct, it becomes a piece of history, and collectors out there may be willing to pay a lot of money if you have to foresight to keep it safe and in good condition.

Mark Scott - Image Written by :

Mark Scott - Signature


Mark is the Marketing Director at CompareandSave.com, having previously worked at a number of media agencies on various financial brands.

He now splits his time between promoting CompareandSave and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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A money transfer is where you withdraw cash from your credit card and deposit it into your current account (MBNA credit cards are known for this service). Essentially you are borrowing money from yourself – you give yourself cash by taking out credit on your credit card, and then pay back the balance on your card when your next bill is due. The process is usually very quick, and most banks that offer this service allow you to do it at any time of day, any day of the week. You can make a money transfer usually online, or with automated telephone banking. Whether you just want a bit of spare cash, or if you find yourself with unexpected costs that your wages won’t cover, a money transfer is a quick and easy way to give yourself the money you need.

Payday or Money Transfer?

Whilst it is quick and easy, money transfers do come with a fee for using this service. Whilst credit is usually charged at 0% interest, for varying periods of time depending upon your provider, you will be charged a fee in the first place for transferring cash from your credit card to your current account.

It is important to be sure before you decide upon a money transfer that you will be able to keep up with the minimum payments. If you fail to make the minimum payments, you could find that your 0% interest rate on money transfers is withdrawn. You also need to make sure that you can repay the balance before the 0% interest period is over, otherwise you will find that your remaining balance becomes subject to standard interest charges, which can often be larger than on normal balance transfers.

A payday loan is a small loan designed to boost your finances until the end of the month. With the recession hitting wage packets hard, people are finding it more and more difficult to make their monthly money stretch until their next payday. Taking out a payday loan, usually for an amount less than £1,000, gives you a much-needed cash boost to help with bills, insurance, or any unforeseen costs you couldn’t have planned for at the beginning of the month. Payday loans are often extremely quick to apply for, and you can get the money into your account the same day.

Payday loans do have their drawbacks. The amount of interest on these loans is massive, sometimes as high as 2000% APR. The idea of a payday loan is that you pay it back the next month when your wages come in. The problem is, this leaves a big hole in that month’s finances. If you couldn’t make the previous month’s money last until the next payday without the help of a payday loan, you will probably find it even more unlikely that you will be able to manage with less money thanks to having taken out a payday loan. You could find yourself having to take out another in order to cover the cost, and it is very easy to get into a large amount of debt, at an incredibly high interest level.

Both an MBNA money transfer and a payday loan give you a quick way to get money into your account as and when you need it. Before deciding which option is right for you, there are a number of factors you need to take into account. Whilst a money transfer is quick, easy, and allows you to essentially borrow from yourself, it does come with a fee for doing so, and if you fail to meet your minimum monthly repayments you could lose your 0% interest rate, or if you don’t pay the balance back by the end of the zero interest period you could find yourself paying a high rate of interest.

Payday loans might seem to be a quick fix, but you need to be sure that your finances for the next month will be able to cope with the added burden of paying back the loan. The extremely high rate of interest on the loan should not be lightly ignored, and in the long run, you could find that taking out a payday loan is a quick way of getting into a lot of debt. Both MBNA money transfers and payday loans can be a great help financially, but if they are not used with caution, they can easily do much more harm than good.

Jemma Porter - Image Written by :

Jemma Porter - Signature


Jemma is a news & research reporter for compareandsave.com.

Having worked as a journalist on a number of personal finance websites; she now spends time researching and commenting on UK personal finance stories and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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Using gender to calculate insurance premiums is discriminatory! Kind of obvious really, but discrimination is surely the basis of the insurance industry otherwise we’d all be paying the same and have exactly the same policy!

Car insurance

However, the European Court of Justice has ruled (after a consumer group in Belgium complained) that gender discrimination crosses an (until now) unwritten line! Insurance companies traditionally justified gender based premiums based on the risk of a claim being made. Premiums were obviously higher for men because they were more likely to have an accident (and cost the insurer when a claim was made). Simple maths really. But from December 21st, 2012, gender will no longer be a factor taken into account by insurance providers when it comes to calculating risk assessments.

So what does this mean?
As a result of this ruling, women drivers will now have to pay more for the same insurance, has led many to claim that instead of freeing car insurance from gender discrimination, it has in fact meant that it will be women drivers who are penalised. They will now be paying more money for no reason, as the insurance companies have to recover the money they will lose by being unable to charge men more because of their gender. UK Treasury analysis has shown that female drivers will see their annual increases of around 25%, whilst men’s premiums will only reduce by 10%.

What’s the issue?
The problem with this issue is that it revolves around two seemingly fair and accurate ideas. The first is that men who are not dangerous drivers should not be penalised for their gender, just because some men are dangerous drivers. The second is that women should not be made to pay more for exactly the same premiums simply because men are now being let off heavier premiums.

As to whether or not the European Court of Justice was right to rule that taking gender into account when calculating insurance premiums is illegal, there are many things to consider. Firstly, most would surely agree that if a woman of a certain age, with a certain car and no record of dangerous driving is offered a certain premium, then a man with identical details and records should also be awarded the same criteria. To do otherwise is gender discrimination. Statistics might go against the man, but surely a driver’s history should count for more than the behaviour of other members of the same sex?

Where the issue becomes problematic is not that the above example is wrong, but that women are now going to suffer as a result of this ruling. People are now opposing the new ruling, with women asking why they should have to pay higher premiums just because some man can’t drive safely. The problem is men have been asking exactly the same question for years.

However, if your insurance premium is calculated on your likelihood to cause an accident, and therefore make a claim, then it is only fair that men have to pay more, as they are almost twice as likely to cause an accident by being careless, driving too fast, or through lack of experience (http://www.driving.co.uk/driving-news/male-drivers-more-dangerous-than-female-drivers). A lot of insurance companies have advertisements boasting about how they reward careful drivers with no claims discounts, yet women are now being rewarded for being more careful drivers with higher premiums.

In an ideal world, only dangerous drivers would have to pay the cost of being a dangerous driver, but of course we’re not in an ideal world. The recent EU ruling may be good for men, but it is most certainly not good news for women. Which raises the question, if one gender is now being punished financially because of a ruling that says gender discrimination is no longer allowed, how is this ruling a step forwards?

Bad news for men too!
As a quick side note men, this ruling is a kick in the teeth for us to. Expect considerably lower annuity rates for you pension. You might be statistically more likely to die early and have less time to spend your pension, but that no longer matters. We can pay in for ever longer periods and be rewarded with considerably less. Makes you wonder whether the European Court of Justice should change it’s name!

Mark Scott - Image Written by :

Mark Scott - Signature


Mark is the Marketing Director at CompareandSave.com, having previously worked at a number of media agencies on various financial brands.

He now splits his time between promoting CompareandSave and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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Liverpool is an English city with a very strong marine and naval heritage due to its position on the River Mersey. The expansion of the city and its urbanisation is largely down to its status as a major port. Liverpool is famous for sport and music, home to massive British bands such as The Beatles and Gerry & The Pacemakers, and two Premier League football clubs, Liverpool and Everton. Liverpool has seen major investment in recent years, transforming the city centre in a major shopping district and tourist destination.

Liverpool on a Shoestring

Free Tourist Attractions
The National Museums Liverpool Group is made up from a number of museums and art galleries on Merseyside, including World Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum and the National Conservation Centre. Every single gallery or museum within the group has free admission but some of the specific exhibitions may have a fee. If you want to brush up on your culture without it costing an arm and a leg, a visit to a couple of these museums with take up half your day and not cost a penny.

Liverpool is famous for its docks, and one in particular, the Albert Dock, which used to be home to Fred the weatherman. Comprised of a few little shops, cafes, and the museums, the Albert Dock is a fantastic day out on a sunny day, especially when topped off with a stroll down the banks of the River Mersey.

There are plenty of things to see in Liverpool, the architecture, dock area, and cathedrals are all beautiful examples of why this city was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. If that doesn’t float your boat, then days can easily be lost exploring the retail paradise that is LiverpoolONE.

If you’re a Beatles fan get your walking shoes on. The fab four took numerous references for their songs from the People and Places around Liverpool. The people might have gone, but you can still walk down “Penny Lane”, see the Childhood homes of Lennon (251 Menlove Ave, Liverpool, L25 7SA) and McCartney (20 Forthlin Rd, Liverpool, L18 9TN), see the site of the “Strawberry Fields” Salvation Army Children’s Home. Of course no self respecting Beatles fan could visit Liverpool without stopping at the Cavern Club (Mathew Street). The original “Cavern” may have been knocked down long ago, but there is a very passable replica which perfectly captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of the original – what’s more, you can go in and have a look around for free!

Paid Tourist Attractions
Whilst the free tourist attractions in Liverpool might be enough for a day or so, you don’t want to miss out on what the rest of the city has to offer. A great and affordable way to get the most out of Liverpool is with a ‘Your Ticket for Liverpool’ card. This card gives you free entry to the six most popular at attractions in the city for as little as £24.99 for a day of sightseeing. Free entry is great but the card also provides discounts on entrance fees to other places, deals and offers on dining, and even free bus travel in the city.

As a sports fan Liverpool is one of the best places to visit, not only is it home to Liverpool and Everton football clubs, it also has a strong connection to rugby with nearby St. Helens topping the league most years. It’s almost impossible to forget the Grand National which takes places once a year in Aintree, a fantastic time to visit this vibrant city.

Again, if it’s Beatlemania you’re after a visit to the “The Beatles Story” is a must. It’s a little pricey (Adult – £15.95/ Child – £7.00 – prices correct at time of publish), but it offers quick and easy way to get your Beatles “fix” and understand how four guys from Liverpool became the greatest band of all time.

Travelling for Cheap in Liverpool
The city centre of Liverpool is actually quite small and the majority of it pedestrianized so getting around on foot is the preferred option for most. If you would rather not have to walk for miles, or are exploring a bit further outside of the centre, black cabs and buses are in abundance. Both the rail and bus networks are very extensive and relatively affordable.

Liverpool is connected by a series of underground and above-ground train lines, so getting from one side of the city to another is fast and easy. The main train stations are Liverpool Lime Street and Liverpool Central which connect to the underground stations both in Liverpool and over on the Wirral. Tourists can purchase an all-day PLUSBUS ticket which allows you to travel on the buses and trains in the city, and costs just £3 – bargain.

Restaurants and Eateries
The new shopping area LiverpoolONE is also home to some excellent restaurants, including Zizzi, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Las Iguanas, Bar Burrito, Café Sports, and more. Most of these chains have discount codes and voucher codes which tourists can take advantage of to really cut the cost of an evening out. If you would rather get a taste of Liverpool than visit a chain outlet, try out one of the city’s favourite diners, The Quarter. This place serve delicious stone-baked pizzas and other homemade dishes, and the atmosphere is great, it’s full of families, creative types, students, and couple looking to get an affordable but yummy dinner. Meals at The Quarter range from £4.85 to £8.50.

Voucher and discount sites such as KGB Deals, Wowcher, and Groupon all have fantastic discounts on Liverpool restaurants and eateries. If you are planning a visit, make sure you check them out before paying full whack for your bill.

Jemma Porter - Image Written by :

Jemma Porter - Signature


Jemma is a news & research reporter for compareandsave.com.

Having worked as a journalist on a number of personal finance websites; she now spends time researching and commenting on UK personal finance stories and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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The way in which the banking system operates has been a focus of attention since the recession began in December 2007, but the sector has recently come under renewed fire from all quarters.
Banking insiders, consumer groups such as Which?, regulatory bodies such as the Financial Services Authority and even the government are levelling criticisms, but why?

Do we have duty to switch current accounts?

The banking sector is accused of lacking customer focus, with branches failing to compete with each other to offer the best deals to both personal and small business banking consumers. Although banks themselves have since claimed they want to get away from opaque pricing systems, customers are still being left in the dark.

When we think we are being unfairly charged for other services, such as utilities, often our first port of call is to check out rival suppliers and see what they have to offer. We hunt down the best deals to ensure that we are saving as much money as possible. Yet when it comes to our bank accounts, the same is not happening. Annual current account switches are being described by those in the industry as “very low”.

The banking sector repeatedly comes under fire for failing to make adequate information about current accounts available to consumers. “In banking markets, consumers frequently face difficulties in understanding the true cost of running their account and comparing deals”.

With banks failing to compete with each other, there is little chance of consumers finding competitive current account rates. A referral to the Competition Commission has already been suggested, perhaps within the next few years, if banks do not do something to change the way they have been doing business and to turn their focus back to their customers.

This lack of customer focus is cited in criticisms as being the most important problem the banking industry faces. The problem is, the banking industry may say they are committed to change, but when consumer champion Which? Money Magazine finds that not even a PhD Maths student can work out the correct fees for an unauthorised overdraft, why should we believe them?

Does the responsibility lie with us, as the consumer? In an ideal world, no. But the pressure on banks is intensifying, if anything, and yet they still seem to be slow to react. The Office of Fair Trading Chief, John Fingleton says that despite all the pressure banks are coming under, “progress has been too slow and incremental, and fundamental concerns remain about the competitive structure and performance of these markets”. That could be because, although there is intense pressure coming from many different angles, the group that is remaining silent is the most important one; their customers. As the people using these services, if we stay quiet and put up with these problems, the people at the top will not be inclined to change anything. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Perhaps it is about time we showed the banks that it is broke, and that it does need fixing. Thanks to the banks, current accounts are hard to understand, and rates of overdraft fees are practically indecipherable, so it is understandable that we all stick with what we have got, even if it doesn’t suit us. But there is only one way to get this problem fixed and that is to show the people and corporations who have the power to change things that we do not want to accept the problem anymore.

Whilst the pressures of consumer groups like Which?, and regulatory bodies and even the government, can go some of the way to forcing banks to change their attitude, the most effective way to get them to increase their customer focus is for their customers to go elsewhere. We have gotten ourselves into a vicious cycle, in which fewer and fewer of us each year are leaving our banks to seek out better deals, meaning banks do not need to put the effort in to make better deals. Our complacency is somewhat responsible for the current situation.

Not only that, but there are still good deals out there to be had. If we all go looking for them, the banks will have no option but to offer us more choice. The banks may have become apathetic to their customers’ needs, but they should have put money on the fact that their customers are not always going to be lethargic when it comes to keeping their money safe.

Jemma Porter - Image Written by :

Jemma Porter - Signature


Jemma is a news & research reporter for compareandsave.com.

Having worked as a journalist on a number of personal finance websites; she now spends time researching and commenting on UK personal finance stories and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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If you want to make sure that when you pass away, your loved ones will be able to pay funeral costs, or you simply want to leave them some money to help them out with their own lives, life insurance is worth thinking about. Like most other insurance, you pay a predetermined monthly payment to the insurers, who in return pay out either a fixed sum or an accumulated sum to your loved ones in the event of your death.

What you need to know about life insurance

There are two types of life insurance, and deciding which one will suit your needs best will depend on your own personal circumstances and how much you can afford to pay each month in premiums. The two types are term life and whole life.

Under a term life insurance policy, you pay a set amount to your insurers over a set length of time. The length of time could be anything from a single year, all the way up to a few decades. In the event of your death, the insurer pays out the sum that was agreed when you took the policy out. However, if the set amount of time on your life insurance has expired before you pass away, your insurers will not pay you.

With whole life insurance you are covered for however long you live. There are usually terms in the contract which say that if you live to a very old age, such as 90 or higher, your policy no longer covers you, so if you were to die at the age of 91, the insurers would not give you a pay-out. However, as whole life insurance policies cover you until your death, rather than a set length of time, you can be certain that your loved ones will receive a pay-out when you pass away. This makes it less risky than term life insurance, as you can be sure of pay-out, although the much higher monthly premiums are the price you pay for that.

The different policy types have different investment values. Term life policies have zero investment value. From the start of the policy, the pay-out amount is fixed, and you cannot borrow against the value of the policy. Like with other types of permanent insurance, with a whole life policy you can borrow at an interest rate that is usually lower than credit card or other loan sources against the cash amount value that has built up. Another difference with whole life insurance is that the cash amount builds up over time due to the interest earned on the premiums you pay.

Despite the lower rate of interest than credit cards, taking out a life insurance policy simply to borrow money is not considered a good investment. Be careful if you are considering borrowing money against the cash value of your whole life insurance policy, as you are essentially paying your insurers to borrow your own money.

Whole life policy premiums are much larger than term life premiums for the same coverage amounts. This makes whole life insurance policies much more expensive, but they do guarantee that your loved ones will get a pay-out in the event of your death. Term life policies only cover a specific amount of time, meaning if you die outside of that period, your loved ones won’t receive a pay-out at all. Whether you want to be sure that your loved ones receive a pay-out when you die, or if you want a life insurance policy with smaller payments and easier terms will be the main factor in influencing your decision over whether to buy term life or whole life insurance. Term life insurance policies do often have the option to renew the policy after the initial term has elapsed, however, so that is worth bearing in mind when making your decision.

Because of the enormous premiums of whole life insurance, most people buy a term life policy. Any spare money you have could be spent invested in other avenues that will provide money to your loved ones in the event of your death. A lot of people prefer this option, rather than trying to keep up with huge premiums on a whole life insurance policy. You might find the peace of mind more important, however. Remember to think carefully when choosing your life insurance policy, taking into consideration your own personal circumstances.

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Jemma is a news & research reporter for compareandsave.com.

Having worked as a journalist on a number of personal finance websites; she now spends time researching and commenting on UK personal finance stories and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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What could be better than starting spring with the warm glow inside that comes from organised and effectively managed finances? Now that you are out of the cold winter months, perhaps still trying to recover from the massive end of year costs, it is more important than ever to make sure your finances are in order. Planning and managing your finances means that by this time next year, instead of struggling to pay off excessive Christmas spending, or finding money a little too tight, you might even have some spare.

Time to spring clean your finances?

First of all, you need to discover exactly where all your money is going. You might think you know, but you could be in for a surprise. Fish out and dust off those bank statements and give them a good read. You might find that you were charged twice for a card purchase, or that your bank has charged you extra fees when they shouldn’t have. Who knows how much you could be due back? You, for a start, if you read your bank statements.

Knowing where all your money is going is the most important part of managing it, so it helps to have all your financial information in one place, and organised to make things easier to find. Get all your bank statements, bills and other financial information such as payslips together and arrange them with the most recent at the front. This way, instead of having to race around trying to figure out where page three of the bank statement you found underneath the sofa is, you can just go to the folder with all your financial information in it and look up what you need to.

The next step is to ask yourself if you actually need everything you are spending money on. If you have a subscription to a DVD rental service, either online or postal, but never have the time to watch any of the films you get sent, perhaps you should think about cancelling it. Your mobile phone contract is another expenditure item to consider. Are you paying a lot for a contract that includes large amounts of texts, minutes and data, yet you never use it to go online, and you only use a handful of texts, or make a few short calls, each month? Think about getting a cheaper contract that includes only enough minutes and texts to cover your monthly usage – You’ll save money and you won’t be essentially paying for nothing. Otherwise you might find that Pay-as-you-go is more suited to your needs – Read our Pay-as-you-talk unpicked for a more detailed understanding of that.

Ask yourself where you could be saving money. Bills always seem to creep up – that’s true of any provider – but have you considered that other providers might not be hiking prices quite so dramatically? You can often find that there are better deals out there for things such as utilities, so it’s worth shopping around until you find a price that suits you. And remember, just because you had a good deal at the time you signed up with a certain provider, doesn’t mean that it will still be as good. Become one of those eager new customers that companies are desperate to lure in, and you might find that bills for utilities, phone, television and broadband can all be reduced by switching to another company eager for your custom.

Your shopping bill is one place where a lot of money can sometimes be saved. As well as buying cheaper brands, or the supermarket’s own value lines, you may even find it is cheaper to do the same shop with a different supermarket. Try writing out a list of the things you need when you go shopping, then stick to it. This way you won’t be tempted by buy-one-get-one-free offers or other promotions on things that you don’t actually need.

Budgeting is a great way to sort out your finances so you can get your money on track for the spring. Make yourself a list of all the money going into your account each month, and do the same for everything going out. Taking away the outgoings from the income will give you how much you have spare, and then it’s just a case of trimming away excess spending and cutting back on everything but the essentials to give you some more financial room to breathe. Learning to live to a budget is a great way to keep track of your money and keep your spending in check.

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Mark is the Marketing Director at CompareandSave.com, having previously worked at a number of media agencies on various financial brands.

He now splits his time between promoting CompareandSave and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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The school prom is a big event and one you will likely never forget. But with costs rising and proms getting more extravagant and expensive, meeting the cost of these can be a daunting challenge. Luckily, there are several easy, hassle free ways to help you save money to cover all the costs without breaking the bank.

The perfect prom

The good thing is that you will know in advance when the prom will be. This gives you plenty of time to work out how much things will cost, and to set aside money for it. As well as saving early, there are ways you can make sure that the money you have put aside gets spent carefully, and doesn’t disappear as soon as you start spending it on preparing for the prom.

Shopping around is the most important thing. Just because there is a really nice dress in a certain shop doesn’t mean that another store or website may not have another, better or equally nice, dress at a much lower price. Not choosing the first dress you see could save you a lot of money.

You could even find material you like and get someone to make it for you. The cost of fabric and labour combined might still be less than a store-bought dress. Remember to think about the future; you can get extra value out of your prom dress by choosing one which can be worn for several occasions in the future, rather than one which wouldn’t be suited to any other purpose and will live in a cupboard for the rest of its life.

The same goes if you need a suit. Buying a suit just for the prom is a waste of money, and in all likelihood it will be too small for you by the time you next have to wear it. Does a friend or relative have one in your size that you could borrow? If not, renting a suit is much less expensive than buying one and only using it once (especially considering that by buying a suit for a one-off occasion you’re getting the same deal as renting, but at a much higher cost). Ring up rental companies and compare prices. Make sure they have all the accessories thrown in, too, otherwise you will end up having to buy these despite only wanting them for one night.

Consider how you’re going to get to the prom. You probably want to arrive in style, but renting a nice car to drive you there can be very expensive. Consider getting together with some of your friends and hiring a bigger car, or a limo. The more people involved, the smaller the cost each becomes. Split the bill at the end and you could have saved a hefty amount of cash. Even better, do you know someone who owns a nice car who would be happy to drive you themselves? Even if they want some petrol money from you, that would still work out a lot cheaper than hiring a car for the night.

Whilst you may think it would be a great memento to have pictures taken by a professional photographer, this can be expensive. With digital cameras being so small and cheap, you could easily keep it on your person without it getting in the way, and take photos throughout the evening. Instead of just one or two pictures that you paid a lot for, you can have hundreds taken all throughout the evening. Which would be a better memento; a standard posed picture, or a photo album of your own shots documenting the entire evening?

Proms can be very expensive, but the key is to take your time and shop around for the best deals. If you start early, you won’t find yourself panic buying, paying for expensive things because you are worried there won’t be any alternatives left. Ask yourself whether you need to spend money on each thing to make the night better, or if you are spending it because you think you need to. Ask yourself if you really need to go to such an expensive restaurant for a pre-prom meal in order to have a great night. Would you and your friends have just as much fun somewhere cheaper?

Jemma Porter - Image Written by :

Jemma Porter - Signature


Jemma is a news & research reporter for compareandsave.com.

Having worked as a journalist on a number of personal finance websites; she now spends time researching and commenting on UK personal finance stories and investigating new ways to help our readers save money.

For press enquiries, please visit our Media Centre page.

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