January is a month of resolutions and self-improvement plans. But in the frenzy of clean eating, diets and alcohol abstinence, don’t forget to give your finances a bit of love too.
A few quick easy fixes at the start of the year could save you hundreds and leave you in much better financial health for the rest of 2017.
Clean up your credit score
If you’ve not checked your credit score in a while, it’s well worth taking the time to do so.
It’s important to check your credit file regularly to check nothings inaccurate and to keep an eye out for fraud, but it’s especially important to do so before applying for any new financial accounts.
If you think your credit score is looking a little less than healthy there are a few quick steps you can take to get it into shape:
- Make sure you’re on the electoral role at your current address
- Make sure you name is on a few household bills
- Close unused bank accounts and credit cards
- Build up a responsible borrowing history for at least 6 months (ie meet all repayments)
How to check your credit file
You can check your full credit file on a free trial basis with Experian and Equifax (who are the UK’s largest credit reporting agencies), but it’ll cost you around £15 per month after your trial ends.
It’s possible to access a free version of your credit report from other smaller agencies. However, it should only cost you £2 to access your statutory credit report whenever you want.
Are your finances in good shape?
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Money transfer to clear your overdraft
If you’ve overspent a bit in 2016 and you have an overdraft that where interest charges are stacking up, a 0% interest money transfer card could help.
A money transfer card enables you to transfer money from your credit card to bank account, effectively giving you a small cash loan. So it’s worth noting your overdraft won’t go away as such, it has just been transferred to your credit card.
But, as the best money transfer cards have 0% interest periods of over three years, you can avoid interest on your debts as you repay them. The main catch is you will have to pay a fee to transfer the money, which will be around 1% to 3% of the money transferred.
Compare money transfer cards
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Balance transfer to clear your credit cards
If you’ve got stubborn credit card balances that are proving difficult to clear, there’s no need to pay interest on these.
The typical credit card APR interest is around 18.9%, so a balance of around £1,000 would cost you about £189 a year.
By using a 0% interest balance transfer card you could avoid interest payments for as long as 43 months with the market leading cards.
But you will need to pay a transfer fee of around 3% to transfer the balance, as well as meeting the minimum monthly repayments to keep the offer. Though if you aim to repay the balance in full before the 0% interest offer expires you can avoid paying interest altogether.
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If you’d like to know more about how 0% balance transfer cards work, watch our video guide.
Remortgage to save on your monthly payments
If you’re on your lender’s standard variable rate (SVR), or your mortgage deal is about to expire, take a look at deals now you could likely remortgage to a significantly lower rate.
This could save you thousands over the course of a year with lower mortgage repayments.
With the lowest initial rate currently at 0.98% for borrowers who have at least a 35% deposit, so someone with a £100,000 mortgage could enjoy repayments of just £375.
But make sure to consider all the associated fees and charges that remortgaging can include, to double check that you will actually save money.
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Should you fix your rate now?
To fix or not to fix remains a difficult question to answer as 2017 kicks off. If rates fall further, fixing will leave you relatively out of pocket, however if they do rise you could be much better off.
Rates kept getting lower and lower over the course of 2016. For a while the cheapest fixed rate was lower than the lowest variable rate (which is unusual), but with HSBC pulling their market leading 0.99% fixed rate, the lowest rate is once again a variable rate deal.
But with fears of turbulent times ahead and speculation around the economic policies of US president Trump (named “Trumpflation“), mortgage rates seem to be creeping up again.
Thinking of fixing your mortgage rate?
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Get a better bank account
Savers have been feeling the brunt of the Bank of England’s base rate cut to 0.25% in August 2016.
High interest accounts are dwindling, with the last bank account paying 5% AER interest to savers quietly disappearing just after Christmas.
There are still accounts offering rates of up to 3% AER available as well as other incentives such as cashback on bills.
It’s easy to switch bank accounts with the seven day switch guarantee still in place. This ensures that your new bank will bring over all your ingoing and outgoing payments to your new account and they will be held liable if any payments aren’t carried over.
Could your current account pay you more?
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