Martin Lewis: Get your new year off on the correct financial foot

Take a leaf out of Dominic Littlewood's book and haggle. Photo credit: BBC
Take a leaf out of Dominic Littlewood's book and haggle. Photo credit: BBC
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It’s New Year, and we’re all supposed to create resolutions to become better people, better citizens, better eaters and better with cash. And, let’s be honest, most aren’t likely to last as long as the Christmas turkey.

Yet when it comes to finance there’s an advantage. There are a raft of resolutions that you can do now while the ‘I WANT TO BE A BETTER ME’ fervour is still in place, and the impact lasts all year.

I resolve to ... Finally ditch my crap bank account and earn up to £150.

More people complain to me about their bank than anything else, but only 2% of people switched last year. So stop bitching and start switching.

So many banks want your business right now they’re willing to pay you to switch – either straight cash such as £100 to move to them, or up to 5% interest on your savings.

Plus these tend to be the banks with the top customer service too. There’s a full rundown of best-buys at www.mse.me/topbanks

Earn cashback every time I spend and get £100s a year back.

Why not get paid every time you spend? You can do this with a cashback credit card. Yet set up a direct debit to repay the card IN FULL every month, so there’s no interest cost – or it’s pointless.

The americanexpress.co.uk Platinum Everyday card is the top fee-free payer, giving 5% back for three months (max £100), then up to1.25% after. If you don’t fully pay it each month, it’s 22.9% representative APR.

Sort out a power of attorney

One in three over-65s die with dementia. Younger people can get it too, or lose faculties due to strokes, accidents and more. If you do lose your faculties, don’t assume relatives can walk into the bank and access your money – even to pay for your care.

They’d need to apply to take over via the Court of Protection – this can drag on for months with fees of over £1000.

The solution is getting a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) while you have mental capacity, where you nominate a trusted friend or relative to take over your affairs.

It only to comes into effect if and when you’re no longer capable. I’m 43 and have done this myself purely as a precaution. You can choose the DIY route or pay a solicitor for advice – the Alzheimer’s Society’s has a useful fact sheet at http://tinyurl.com/jyrs8g2.

Check my iPhone to prevent huge data use.

If you’ve upgraded your iPhone to iOS 9, beware. It automatically turns on ‘Wi-Fi Assist’ which means if your WiFi connection’s weak it supplements it with pricey mobile data.

If you think you’ve started using data more quickly, this is likely why. To turn it off, go into Mobile Data in settings, then scroll down to turn ‘Wi-Fi Assist’ off.

Urgently check if you’re owed £100s after being mis-sold AI (Sentinel) protection.

Are you one of 2 million people who got a letter from the “The AI Scheme”? If so, it means you were mis-sold one of its Sentinal card protection plan policies via your bank.

All you need to do is fill in the form to get a refund (free template to help at www.mse.me/AI). Yet, unfortunately, many people thought the letters looked like spam and chucked them.

Like Patrick who tweeted me nearly did: “Just got £313 from AI reclaim. If it wasn’t for your email I probably would have binned it.” If you think you got one, then call 0800 678 1930 to get another sent.

Check if I’m due up to £212/year with the marriage tax allowance.

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you may be able to get up to £212 a year more in your pocket with the new marriage allowance. It’s a way for couples to transfer a proportion of their personal allowance (the amount you can earn tax-free each tax year) between them. You’ll be eligible if:

- You’re married or in a civil partnership

- One of you earns £10,600 or less

- The other is a basic 20% rate taxpayer

- You were both born after 6 April 1935

If so, you can shift £1,060 of their allowance to the other which means you don’t pay tax on it, a gain of £212. Register at gov.uk/marriage-allowance.

Haggle every time I renew a contract.

Whether its broadband, or breakdown cover, you can hack down the price with a bit of haggling. The trick is to threaten to leave so you get put through to disconnections – actually known internally as ‘customer retentions’. Full tips to slash costs in www.mse.me/callcentrehaggle

.Shop and saving for Christmas NOW

January’s the perfect time to plan Christmas. Grab gift wrap, decorations and cards in the sales, then store them for next year. On average, Christmas costs £800 per family. So put aside £70 each month to ease the pain.