The Financial News You Need To Know with Sarah Pennells – August 2015

Sarah Pennells is a personal finance journalist and the face behind SavvyWoman.co.uk. We think she does a great job at explaining financial subjects in a very clear and accessible manner. You can find her column below where she writes about the latest financial news, and helps you get more from your money.

Airport shopping tax rip off

Have you been shopping at the airport before you’ve caught your flight? Of course you have! And have you been asked for your boarding card? Most definitely! It turns out that this isn’t a legal requirement at all or something that’s for security.

Instead, airport shops ask for your boarding pass so they can tell if you’re flying within the European Union (EU) or are going further afield. If you’re travelling outside the EU, the retailer doesn’t have to pay VAT to the tax man.  But, currently, shops still charge VAT.

Now a government minister has said they shouldn’t charge VAT to shoppers who are travelling outside the EU. And I agree!

Unclaimed airline compensation

Meanwhile, figures from the consumer organisation Which? show that up to 500,000 airline passengers could be missing out on a payout of around £280 – or possibly more – because their flight has been delayed.

Under the rules, if your flight is delayed by more than three hours, you can claim compensation from the airline. But figures analysed by Which show only four out of ten people actually do claim. It found that 9,000 flights were delayed by more than three hours in the last year.

Off to university?

In a few weeks, hundreds of thousands of students will be off to university for the first time. Sorting out a bank account and insurance probably aren’t exactly the most exciting aspects of university life, but if you pick the right account and policy, you could be £££ better off. Here are my tips:

  1. Choose a bank account that offers the biggest interest free overdraft. The amount of interest free overdraft varies from around £1,500 to £3,000 (for a three year course). Some banks will limit the overdraft depending on the term or year you’re in, others will let you run up a bigger overdraft in the early months.

SAVVY TIP: I know this sounds obvious but whatever you borrow will have to be paid back. It might feel like free money, but it isn’t!  If you don’t need a big overdraft, don’t feel you have to pick a bank that offers the biggest 0% overdraft.

  1. Consider the freebies. These shouldn’t be the main reason you choose one account over another, but it’s worth seeing what’s on offer and what it could save you. Freebies include a four year 16-25 railcard or a four year coach card, and Amazon vouchers.
  1. Most banks offer budgeting information and text alerts that let you know if you’re close to your overdraft limit.
  1. When it comes to insurance, you may be able to be covered by your parents’ policy, but it may not be the best option for you. Some standard home insurance will cover a student son or daughter’s possessions in university halls or a shared house, but the cover may be limited.
  1. You’ll probably get free insurance if you live in purpose built student accommodation. Endsleigh, the student insurance specialist, supplies insurance to 80% of student accommodation. Check whether this insurance is enough for your needs.
  1. If you have a lot of tecchy gadgets or a bike, you may be better off taking out a standalone specialist policy, or your own separate insurance.

SAVVY TIP: Bear in mind that you’re only covered for theft if there’s been signs of forced entry. So, if one of your housemates (or one of their friends) wanders into your room and steals something – you may not be able to claim on your policy.

New ombudsman service

I don’t want to sound rude, but are you a complainer? Or do you prefer to grit your teeth, mutter under your breath and vow never to go back to that shop/garage/restaurant again?

A new study found that in the last year there have been more than 66 million complaints were made in the UK last year. The figures come as a new ombudsman service has been launched, which will deal with complaints about any kind of consumer complaint, from car repairs to retailers.

Up until now the only option, in some cases, has been to go to court. The website, consumer-ombudsman.org aims to provide an online one stop shop for complaints about a wide range of retailers and service providers. There are still separate schemes if you want to complain about your bank or other financial company (the Financial Ombudsman Service) or your solicitor (the Legal Ombudsman).

Claims company fined

A claims company has become the first business to be fined under new powers after it made millions of so-called nuisance calls. The Hearing Clinic, which deals with claims about hearing loss has been fined £220,000 after it made calls to people including those who had signed up to the Telephone Preference Service because they didn’t want to get cold calls.

The law changed at the end of last year and the Claims Management Regulator can now fine companies up to 20% of their annual turnover – and, in extreme cases, have their trading licence suspended or removed.