Author Archives: Jafar Hassan

About Jafar Hassan

As our resident money-saving expert, Jafar is passionate about helping consumers get the facts they need to make sensible personal finance decisions. Jafar has a degree in journalism and a masters in global politics, and in his spare time can be found running or performing with his band.

uSwitch.com sees increase is current account traffic almost double for first half of year compared to 2013

money-economy-cash
  • The Payments Council today reported that it has seen almost 600,000 current account switches from 1st Jan to 30th June – a 16% year-on-year increase[1]
  • uSwitch.com reports current account visitors almost doubled during the same period compared to 2013[2]
  • Most popular accounts on uSwitch.com in the last six months – First Direct 1st Account, Nationwide Flex Direct and Santander 123 Current Account.

As figures from the Payments Council today reveal that current account switching in the first six months of 2014 increased by 16% compared to the same period in 2013[1], uSwitch.com reveals that traffic to its current account pages has almost doubled in the same period[2].

Commenting on this, Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert, at uSwitch.com, says: “We’re really encouraged by these figures – consumers are finally feeling confident enough to shop around and see what else is out there when it comes to their banking.

“While a 16% increase in switching may not represent a monumental behavioural change in the market, it is still a step in the right direction as it means that almost a fifth more consumers are switching compared to this time last year. What’s more is that we have seen  site traffic to our current account pages almost double in the first six months of the year, so it’s clear that consumers are becoming more engaged and the market is on the move.

“With some providers offering cash incentives of up to £100 as well as interest rates of up to 5% on in-credit balances, consumers have everything to gain by switching and it’s clear that providers such as First Direct, Nationwide and Santander are winning over consumers in the current account race.

“However, as we approach the one year anniversary of the launch of The Current Account Switching Service, switching will once again be high on the consumer agenda so we expect to see more people shopping around and thinking about making a move. As a result, providers will be upping their game in the run up to September in a bid to win over consumers – whether it’s through product or promotion.”

Top 5 Current Accounts on uSwitch.com between 1st January – 30th June 2014:

1. First Direct 1st Account

2. Nationwide Flex Direct

3. Santander 123

4. TSB Classic Plus

5. NatWest Select

— ends —

Notes to editors

1. Source: Payments Council – http://www.paymentscouncil.org.uk/media_centre/press_releases/-/page/2924/
2. Figures refer to a 91% increase in current account page views from 1st January to 30th June 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. ‘Page views’ are the total number of views to the uSwitch.com current account pages.

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

Cap on payday lending is welcome, but more still needs to be done

money-savings-coins

The Financial Conduct Authority has today announced a cap on payday lending. Commenting on this, Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert, at uSwitch.com, says: “The FCA has shown payday lenders that it has teeth – now it needs to show just how hard it can bite. These unscrupulous lenders need to be held accountable and made to adhere to the same transparency we would expect of any other financial services provider. The regulator needs to ensure that robust eligibility checks are in place and that vulnerable customers are treated fairly if they get behind with their repayments.

“Payday lenders have an important role to play in providing short-term credit, our research shows that almost half of customers (49%) who have taken out a payday loan say the experience was positive.

“However, it is important that the issues around the lack of adequate credit checking and providing support to those who end up in financial difficulties are addressed. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, huge lenders such as Wonga have resorted to using sinister practices of chasing up debt, and the FCA needs to set a precedent that these practices are simply unacceptable. Sorting out these problems will do even more to protect vulnerable consumers.”

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

Post Office proves that face to face service is still a priority

money-cash-coins

The Post Office has today expanded its current account offering to 239 branches. Commenting on the announcement, Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert, at uSwitch.com, says: “As traditional banks and new entrants such as Tesco are turning their attention to online customers, the Post Office is bucking the trend by making its current account available in more branches. This is a U-turn to be applauded and shows that face to face service is still at the top of many people’s priorities.

“The Post Office launched its current account in 110 branches last May and will bring this number up to 239 by September. Furthermore, with 40 mobile Post Offices which visit 250 rural parts of the UK – where slow broadband can make mobile banking a nightmare – the Post Office continues to build on its brand reputation of convenience, accessibility and simplicity.

“It will offer a 14.9% overdraft – one of the best on the market – meaning that if you regularly dip into your overdraft by £50 a month you will only pay £89 in interest over the year. Couple this with a £100 One4All gift card which can be used at over 17,000 retailers in the UK and the offering appears even more attractive.

“With the Current Account Switching Service celebrating its one year anniversary in September, switching bank accounts has stepped up a gear. But customer service, value for money and trust are as important as ever, and this is where the Post Office’s strategy could pay dividends.”

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

Every little helps Clubcard holders with new Tesco current account

money-savings-coins

Tesco Bank has today launched its long-awaited current account, offering one Clubcard point for every £4 of debit card spend in store and every £8 elsewhere. Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert at uSwitch.com, says: “When it comes to managing your money, every little helps, and the Tesco bank account should certainly appeal to loyal shoppers.

“The 17 million Clubcard customers will be swayed by earning points on their everyday spending when they use their debit card. Made even more tempting by the 3% AER on in-credit balances up to £3,000, this account is likely to grab the attention of those currently getting nothing back from their bank.

“There is also a relatively small list of barriers to receive the full current account service. The minimum monthly deposit of £750, no requirement to set up any direct debits and no fee should make the account more accessible to those keen to switch banks but previously put off by the long list of requirements and charges.

“It’s great to see people at last being offered some credible alternatives to the big banks. We wouldn’t be surprised to see more retailers follow in the footsteps of Tesco, M&S and Sainsbury’s and use their brand image and large customer base to offer financial products that rival the traditional institutions.”

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

New bank account from Marks may send sparks flying, says uSwitch.com

money-cash-coins

M&S Bank today announces that its first free current account is now available for applications[1]. Commenting on this, Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert, at uSwitch.com, says: “This is not just any current account. This is the M&S current account. Whether it will be a credible threat to high street banks remains to be seen, but it certainly has the potential to shake up the retail banking industry.

“With Sainsbury’s and Tesco focusing on online banking and traditional banks actually closing down branches on the high street, M&S is offering customers the chance to bank and shop under one roof. The ability to manage your money at an M&S store could be very appealing to loyal shoppers, especially with many branches open in the evenings and at weekends.

“As well as being offered face-to-face banking, customers will receive loyalty points when they spend on their debit card, plus the added sweetener of an £100 gift card when they switch. They will also benefit from an automatic £500 overdraft, although only the first £100 is interest-free – compared to First Direct’s 1st Account, where the first £250 is interest-free. People happy to do their banking online or over the phone should also consider accounts such as Nationwide’s fee-free FlexDirect, which offers in-credit interest of up to 5%.

“We’ll wait and see whether this new account from Marks sends sparks flying. But with this account almost open for business and more to come from other retailers such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, it’s clear that the dominance of the Big Four is being seriously challenged.

“Ultimately, a new current account means more choice and increased competition. It will be interesting to see if some of the larger players start upping the ante in the next few months in an attempt to prevent customers from switching.”

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

Retailers trump the Big Four in credit card customer satisfaction

credit-cards-stack

A uSwitch survey of over 7,000 credit card customers shows retail brands Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s stealing the limelight from the Big Four banks, as customers rank them higher in trust, value for money and customer service.  

  • Too big to fail? The Big Four banks fail to win a single award in credit card satisfaction survey 
  • Setting an example: card giant American Express voted Best Credit Card Provider by customers as well as scooping award for Best Rewards[1]
  • Every little helps: Tesco Bank scoops three of eight awards including Best Overall Satisfaction, Most Recommended and Best Value for Money[2]
  • Losing streak: Vanquis voted Worst Credit Card Provider, coming bottom in all eight categories[3] despite generating strong growth and profit last year[4]
  • Fall from grace: Co-op Bank drops six places in trust category ranking eighth overall compared to coming second in 2013[5]
  • A red start to 2014: One in five (20%) consumers started 2014 with over £5,000 of debt on their credit card[6].

With the FCA set to undertake a competition review into the UK’s £150 billion credit card market at the end of this year, and one in five consumers (20%) entering 2014 owing a hefty £5,000 or more on their card[6], the 2014 Credit Card Awards from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service, reveal that traditional banks and credit card firms are letting customers down.

The survey of over 7,000 credit card customers shows a 39% gap in satisfaction between the best and worst credit card provider[7], with the Big Four – RBS, Lloyds, Barclaycard and HSBC – failing to win any awards. Instead, American Express comes out on top, winning Best Credit Card Provider as well as Best Rewards, while coming second for Online Service, Value for Money and Customer Service[1].

M&S Bank, Nationwide and Tesco Bank are close runners up. M&S Bank has traded on its great brand values to grab the award for Most Trusted provider and places in the top three for four additional categories, while Nationwide wins the awards for Best Customer Service and Best Online Service. Meanwhile, Tesco Bank wins three of seven categories, scooping the top spot for Best Overall Satisfaction, Best Value for Money, and Most Recommended[2].

By contrast, with an overall score of just 28%, Vanquis is voted Worst Credit Card Provider by its customers. It comes bottom in all eight categories, making the brand the least trusted and least likely to be recommended as well as having the lowest scores for value for money and customer service[3]. Nevertheless, despite the brand’s poor score, it ended 2013 with about 1.1 million UK customers – about 22% higher than the previous year[4].

However, nowhere is the reputational damage more evident than with the Co-op Bank, which has taken a drastic fall from second to eighth place in the Trust category[3]. A combination of the bank’s failed bid to take over 631 Lloyds Bank branches which fell through in April 2013, and drug allegations towards its former Chairman, Paul Flowers, seem to have had a significant impact on customers’ perception of the brand.

Marks & Spencer, Nationwide, Tesco and Sainsbury’s credit cards all feature alongside Amex in the top ten best credit cards for 2014, winning over customers with generous rewards, tempting cashback offers, and good customer service. By contrast, the big banks and many of the credit card giants reserve seats at the wrong end of the table, with Halifax, TSB, Bank of Scotland, and RBS joining Vanquis in the bottom five.

Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert at uSwitch.com, says: “It’s great to see retailers redefining credit cards to meet the needs of today’s savvy shoppers. While some consumers have a credit card purely as a means of providing credit, there are other cards designed for everyday spending which offer great rewards and cashback to loyal customers. Combined with top-notch customer service and great value for money, it’s not surprising that retail brands are hitting a home run with their credit cards.

“In theory, the larger players should be the ones offering with the most competitive products and interest rates – but it’s clear that in practice this is not the case. RBS, Vanquis and TSB customers have had enough of not getting anything back from their card. The Co-op Bank’s dramatic fall from second place to eighth in the trust category is a telling reflection of the impact that recent headlines have had on the brand’s reputation amongst consumers.

“With a new tax year now in full swing, now is the time for consumers to review their finances and take a long hard look at their household budget. With some consumers owing well into five figures on one or more cards, it makes sense to check that they are not paying over the odds on their credit card debt and find the best card for their situation. However, consumers need to be aware before applying that the best deals are only available to those with good credit histories and that they may not receive the rate that they are necessarily applying for.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research referred to in the release was conducted online by Opinium from 7th to 17th January 2014 among 7,440 credit card holders. All figures are based on uSwitch.com analysis. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults aged 18+. uSwitch.com has been conducting the research since 2007. Last year’s awards were based on research conducted online by YouGov between 25/09/12 and 3/10/12 among 10,269 adults.

  1. American Express received the top score for Best Credit Card Provider and Best Rewards, and placed second for Best Online Service, Best Customer Service and Best Value of Money.
  2. Tesco Bank received the top score for Satisfaction, Recommendation, and Value for Money.
  3. Vanquis comes bottom for all eight categories: Satisfaction, Trust, Recommendation, Customer Service, Online Service, Value for Money, and Rewards.
  4. Morningstar article – 15th January 2014 – http://www.morningstar.co.uk/uk/news/AN_1389785914039605900/provident-financial-expects-to-meet-full-year-market-expectations.aspx
  5. Co-operative Bank comes eighth for Trust after placing second in 2013.
  6. Research carried out online with the uSwitch.com Consumer Opinion Panel in October 2013 amongst 1,212 consumers.
  7. Best Credit Card Provider is American Express with a score of 66%; worst is Vanquis with a score of 28%. Overall scores are the average of net scores (% satisfied minus % dissatisfied) for all individual measures.
  8. Just 3% of Vanquis card customers were satisfied with the rewards provided by their card, while 62% of American Express card customers were satisfied.

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

Inflation down – but consumers need to see signs of recovery in their back pocket, says uSwitch.com

money-cost-up-down-finance-interest-rates

Commenting on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures published this morning which reveal that inflation fell to a new four-year low in February[1],  Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert at uSwitch.com, says: “The inflation figures may look impressive, but are a stark contrast to the challenges facing those still struggling to make ends meet. Despite the Government’s optimism, an overwhelming number of us are yet to see any signs of economic recovery in our back pocket.[2]

“Household bills – especially rent, childcare and energy – have continued to soar, while the average pay rise across the UK is expected to be just 1% this year[3]. To make ends meet, people are being forced to cut back on basic essentials such as heating, food and healthcare.

“The challenge facing households to meet rising bills and living costs is by no means over. It’s our hope that the improving economy is reflected in people’s pay rises this year. In the meantime, consumers need to help themselves, by making sure that they are not paying over the odds on essential household bills.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

  1. Source: ONS – http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/cpi/consumer-price-indices/february-2014/consumer-price-inflation-summary–february-2014.html
  2. Research was carried out online with the uSwitch.com Consumer Opinion Panel on 20th March 2014 amongst a sample of 3,813 GB adults.
  3. Research referred to below was conducted by Opinium amongst 2,000 respondents in January 2014.

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

Three quarters of consumers have not felt the benefit of economic recovery

money-cheap-coins

Three quarters (74%) of consumers say they are yet to see tangible signs of the recovery, despite the Chancellor’s optimism that the economy will grow by 2.7% this year[1]. While the Government has pledged to share the benefits of recovery with savers and pensioners, an overwhelming number of Brits feel worse off than they did in 2010[2].

  • In the last year, over half (54%) of Brits feel their general standard of living has deteriorated and 83% say their essential household bills have shot up[3]
  • Over half (53%) have been forced to reduce their spend on food, 63% have cut back on heating and hot water and 23% have cut back on essential healthcare[4]
  • 70% of consumers feel worse off now than they did in 2010[2] and two thirds (66%) don’t think the Chancellor understands the financial fears of ordinary people[5]
  • Consumers say the cost of energy is the biggest issue the Chancellor failed to address, with 36% feeling indifferent towards the carbon floor freeze which will save households £15 a year[6]
  • The Government should also have tackled banker bonuses (63%), care for the elderly (56%) and payday loans (52%), say consumers[7]
  • Two in three households (66%) say they would need an additional £220 a month to ease the pressure on their finances and help them stay afloat[8].

Despite the Government painting a picture of a sustained economic recovery, three quarters (74%) of Brits are not feeling the benefit in their own financial situation, according to a survey by uSwitch.com of almost 4,000 consumers after yesterday’s Budget announcement[1].

The majority (54%) of consumers say they have seen a fall in their general standard of living over the last 12 months, with eight in ten (83%) witnessing an increase in essential household bills[3]. To cope, over half (53%) are reducing the amount they spend on food, 63% have cut down on heating and hot water while one quarter (23%) have even cut back on essential healthcare, such as dentist appointments and prescriptions[4]. In fact, the vast majority of consumers (70%) feel worse off now than they did in 2010[2].

The Chancellor may have announced the biggest overhaul to pensions and ISAs for a generation, but two thirds of consumers (66%) still don’t think that he understands the financial fears of ordinary people[5]. Furthermore, 62% don’t trust the Government to make the best decisions for their financial future[9].

Nonetheless, there were some crowd-pleasers in the Budget, with many welcoming the freeze in fuel duty and rise in personal tax allowance to £10,500. Changes to pensions proved popular with 65% of Brits and the creation of a ‘NISA’ with an annual limit of £15,000 was hailed by 66% of consumers[6]. Yet these ‘goodwill’ measures haven’t proved enough to win over the nation, with four in ten Brits (41%) now feeling more concerned about their finances following the Budget[10]. What’s more, two in three households (66%) say they would need an additional £220 a month to ease the pressure on their finances and help them stay afloat[8].

Consumers say that the cost of energy is the biggest issue that the Budget failed to address yesterday, with 36% feeling indifferent towards the carbon floor freeze, that will save households £15 a year[6]. Many also feel that the Chancellor should have tackled banker bonuses (63%), care for the elderly (56%) and payday loans (52%)[7].

Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert at uSwitch.com, says: “The Budget may have gone some way to appease pensioners and savers but ultimately it didn’t go far enough to address the rising cost of living. Soaring household bills coupled with inadequate pay rises has left a burning hole in our pockets. Consumers have been left hoping for the best, but planning for the worst.

“The biggest issue concerning people right now is the high cost of energy, and it’s clear that the Budget did not go far enough to address this. It is now vitally important that the Government looks carefully, through its competition test, at how to make the energy market work better for consumers.

“The reality is that in the last year, the cost of living has soared to such a level that, coupled with poor salary increases, families are being forced to jeopardise their health and wellbeing just to make ends meet.  However, consumers shouldn’t lose all hope as there are always things they can do to improve their finances, no matter how small. Households should use this year’s Budget as an opportunity to review their own finances to ensure they’re paying no more than they need to on essential bills.” 

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research carried out online with the uSwitch.com Consumer Opinion Panel on 20th March 2014 amongst a sample of 3,813 GB adults

  1. In response to: “Are you feeling the benefits of the economic recovery? (i.e. do you feel better off than this time last year?) 74% said ‘No’, 20% said ‘Yes’ and 6% said ‘I don’t know’.
  2. In response to: “Are you better off now than in 2010?” 70% said ‘No’, 24% said ‘Yes’ and 6% said ‘I don’t know’.
  3. In response to: “Do you feel any of the below have improved / worsened since this time last year?” 35% said their general standard of living has ‘worsened a little’ and 19% said it has ‘worsened a lot’. Total is 54%. 40% said the cost of their essential household bills has ‘worsened a little’ and 43% said it has ‘worsened a lot’. Total is 83%.
  4. In response to: “Have you done any of the following in the last 12 months to help cut the cost of living? (tick all that apply)” 63% said they have ‘Cut back on energy / hot water usage at home’, 53% said ‘Cut down on what I spend on food’ and 23% said ‘Cut back on healthcare (eg. Dentist appointments, prescriptions)’.
  5. In response to: “Do you think the Chancellor understands the financial fears of ordinary people?” 66% said ‘No’, 25% said ‘Yes’ and 10% said ‘I don’t know’.
  6. In response to: “How do you feel about the following which were announced in today’s Budget?” 36% answered that they are ‘Indifferent’ to ‘Carbon price floor frozen at £18 for rest of the decade, saving households £15/year’, 41% said they are ‘Very positive’ and 41% said ‘Somewhat positive’ to ‘Personal allowance to be increased to £10,500 from 2015/16’ Total is 82%.  32% answered that they are ‘Very positive’ and 33% said ‘Somewhat positive’ to ’Pensioners will be able to draw down as much or little of pension pot as they want’. Total is 65%. 36% answered ‘Very positive’ and 30% said ‘Somewhat positive’ to ‘Annual limit for ISAs will be increased to £15,000 available from 1st July’. Total is 66%.
  7. In response to: “What do you think the Government should have addressed today but didn’t? (tick all that apply) 63% answered ‘Banker’s bonuses’, 56% answered ‘Care for the elderly’, 52% said ‘Payday loans’.
  8. In response to: “If you could receive some additional money from the Government, how much would you need every month to just take the pressure off your household finances and stay afloat?’ The mean average for 66% of respondents was £220 a month
  9. In response to: “Do you trust the Government to make the best decisions for your financial future?” 62% said ‘No’, 26% said ‘Yes’ and 13% said ‘I don’t know’.
  10. In response to: “Taking into consideration what came out of the Budget today, how confident are you about the following?” 16% said they are ‘Very concerned’ and 25% said they are ‘Fairly concerned’ about their finances.

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

Tax changes bring big boost to savers in budget

money-savings-coins

Commenting on the changes to savings announced in today’s budget which will allow savers to combine cash ISAs with stocks and shares ISAs, and that the annual tax-free limit will be raised to £15,000 and £4,000 for Junior-ISAs, Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert at uSwitch.com, says: “Today’s announcement is a real crowd-pleaser for savers ahead of next year’s election.

“However, while this is great news for the one in three Brits who plan to use their full ISA allowance this year, the government still needs to do more to help the 19% of consumers who say they can’t afford to save into an ISA. With average earnings standing at just £26,500 per annum, I would question the number of savers that can afford to save £15,000 per tax year. Plus, with interest rates at an all-time low, anyone who does save the full amount only stands to gain an extra £25 or so in tax free savings.

“However, it is good to see the inclusion of peer-to-peer lending in ISAs as this will also offer consumers more choice when it comes to how they save. With regulation coming into force on 1st April, this will open up this relatively new platform of lending to a wider audience of savers.”

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.

uSwitch comments on new TSB Plus current account

money-savings-coins

Commenting on TSB’s new current account, TSB Plus, which rewards consumers with 5% interest on all balances up to £2,000, Jafar Hassan, personal finance expert at uSwitch.com, says: “This is the latest addition in an increasingly competitive current account market. Although the 5% interest rate only applies to balances up to £2,000, customers only need to deposit £500 each month to get the rate – much less than other high-interest current accounts. More good news is that the 5% rate is not limited to one year, unlike Nationwide’s account that offers 5% interest on balances up to £2,500, but only for the first year.

“The TSB account is an extremely attractive offer, particularly to those who are new to the concept of making the money in your current account work harder. However, for people with balances of £4,000 and over, the Santander 123 account with 3% AER works out better.

“With the six month anniversary of the current account switch service coming up this Sunday, it’s no surprise that banks are pulling out all the stops. The latest current account from M&S aims to capitalise on its brand appeal by offering £100 in gift vouchers to new customers. Don’t be surprised to see more great current account deals over the coming months as the banks fight for your money.”

— ends —

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

Energy customers have the option to create an account to automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2014, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £112m on their energy bills alone.

Broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and to identify the best broadband provider for their postcode.

uSwitch was the first comparison site to achieve the Plain English Campaign’s Internet Crystal Mark, recognising that it has clear language, is accessible and easy to use.

uSwitch has a UK contact centre which is manned by energy and broadband experts. The ‘Send Us Your Bill’ service allows customers to post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH in order to receive a free call back to be guided through the comparison process. Alternatively, consumers can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details. uSwitch’s address is Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9EU.

uSwitch is owned by Zoopla Property Group Plc (LSE:ZPLA), a digital media business that owns and operates some of the UK's most widely recognised and trusted online brands including Zoopla, PrimeLocation, SmartNewHomes and HomesOverseas.