This year saw a crackdown on payday lenders, cheaper mortgages, bigger loans and an increasingly competitive consumer banking sector.
This year everything seemed to be costing less and getting bigger, the trends are on track for a good 2015 for consumers, take a look back at the numbers that made the year for your finances in 2014.
0.99 – Lowest ever mortgage rates
For many homeowners and buyers, 2014 was the year that mortgages hit rock bottom lows as the cheapest ever mortgage was unveiled by HSBC, offering initial rates of just 0.99%.
These rates reflect a wider trend across the consumer credit industry with the cost of borrowing becoming steadily cheaper as 2014 draws to a close. The Bank of England kept interest rates at historic lows which did much to keep credit cheap.
1|2|3 – The credit card that does it all
There are almost too many numbers to comprehend in the offerings of the Santander 123 credit card. The improvements to this card brought out in December lead the market in combining credit card functions:
- 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 23 months
- 0% balance transfer fees
- Cashback given in increments of 1,2 and 3%
However, there is a £24 annual fee unless you already have a Santander 123 current account.
2.2% – Financial services “most improved” customer service
Financial services improved their customer service more than any other sector this year, according to a comprehensive index of UK brands, improving their ranking by 2.2% against 2013.
The online bank First Direct offers the best customer service of any brand, ousting John Lewis from the top slot. Matching the findings of the uSwitch 2014 current account awards, where 10,000 uSwitch consumers voted that First Direct offered the best current account.
35 months – Longest period of 0% interest
Sneaking in with a last minute Christmas present the Barclaycard Platinum Balance Transfer Visa had its 0% interest period extended to 35 months in December, making this the longest period you can go without paying any interest on your credit card debts, but it costs a fee of 2.49%.
98% – Homebuyers to save on stamp duty
The big personal finance announcement from the 2014 Autumn Statement was the change to stamp-duty, which will cut the tax on house purchases for 98% of homebuyers who will pay it under a new tiered system. The old limits were a flat cut off at £250,000 the new proposed limits are tiered at:
- 0% up to £125,000
- 2% up to £250,00
- 5% up to £925,00
- 10% on the remainder up to £1.5m
- 12% on everything above that
396 – The number of payday lenders to shut down?
Up to 99% of the UK’s 400 payday lenders are likely to shut down after new regulations come into effect in January, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
In July the FCA announced that from January 2015, interest and fees must not exceed 0.8% per day of the amount borrowed. Fixed default fees cannot exceed £15 and the cost of a payday loan cannot exceed 100% of the amount borrowed.
+12,000 – People supporting free credit reports
After our research found that 15 million people UK have never checked their credit report we launched the ‘It’s My Report’ campaign, with the aim to empower people to make better choices about their borrowing and managing their credit. Over 12,000 people have joined the campaign so far.
The campaign has three main aims:
- Free access to full credit reports once a year.
- Make it mandatory for a person to be given the specific reasons why credit was refused.
- A standardisation of the credit score scale used in the UK.
If you support these aims join our campaign and sign the petition.
£35,000 – The largest personal loan
In October Sainsbury’s Bank became the first lender offering a personal unsecured loan of £35,000.
At the time, David Mann, Head of Money at uSwitch, said: “This new loan is a sign the personal loan market is coming back to life.”
330,000 – How many Wonga loans were written off
Payday loan lender Wonga agreed a forbearance plan with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to write off the debts of more than 330,000 customers.
The plan came after the FCA found that ”Wonga was not taking adequate steps to assess customers’ ability to meet repayments in a sustainable manner.”
1.2 million – The number of current account switches
There were 1,203,334 current account switches in 2014, an increase of 22% from 2013.
The increase is attributed to the Current Account Switching Service, introduced in September 2013 which makes it easier to change bank accounts. You should get all your direct debits, payments and balances transferred automatically for you withing 7 days.
What will the future bring?
Consumer credit deals became increasingly competitive towards in the end of the year. Every month brought cheaper, bigger loans, credit cards with better cashback and longer 0% offers, as mortgage providers jostled to offer the lowest rates.
Whether these prices wars will continue into 2015 is hard to say, but there is a trend of increasing competition (meaning better deals for consumers) across all financial companies as regulators continue to shake up the industry and new-comers enter the market.
What will you do in 2015…
- Find a better current account?
- Hit the sales with a 0% purchase card?
- Clean up your 2014 hangover with a balance transfer card?
- Do something big with the best value personal loans?