The Financial News You Need To Know with Sarah Pennells – February 10 2016

Sarah Pennells is a personal finance journalist and the face behind 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.

Ongoing card payments

Recently, I’ve received a steady stream of emails from people who’ve signed up for what they thought was a free trial, only to find that payments have been taken from their card, or who’ve had trouble cancelling payments for something like a subscription.

If you make regular payments using your credit or debit card (rather than paying by direct debit), you are protected by rules that say you must be able to stop the payments if you want to. The problem is that some rogue companies try and flout these rules and bank staff aren’t always aware of them. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Contact the company in question if you want to stop making recurring payments using your credit or debit card. Cancel the contract at the same time (watch out for any early cancellation penalties).
  2. If the company won’t stop taking the payments, get in touch with your bank and say you’d like the payments to stop.
  3. Once you’ve told your bank, they must refund any money that’s taken from your account after that date.

SAVVY TIP:  If you’ve signed up for a trial that you thought was free, you may be able to get any payments you’ve already made refunded through something called ‘chargeback’. The company may challenge the chargeback on the basis that you agreed to them taking regular payments. The enticing details of the trial are usually in big letters, but the details of the payments you’ve committed to making are often in small print on the website.

Current account fraud texts

Some banks are paying high rates of interest on current accounts and now it seems that fraudsters are targeting these accounts. One man was duped into handing over £22,700 after he received a text, which he thought was from his bank. It appears the fraudsters had impersonated his bank’s number.

There’s been a rise in these scams – so be extra careful if you receive a text or a phone call that’s supposedly from your bank (or the police). My advice is not to call the number on a text, but to ring the number you already have for your bank.

SAVVY TIP: Be extra cautious if you’re asked to transfer large sums of money to a different account due to ‘suspicious activity’. This is the scammer’s favourite trick.

£400 cashback for a Boris boiler

If you’ve got a creaky old boiler and you live in London, you could qualify for £400 off a new one. A new scheme launched by the Mayor of London will give homeowners (and landlords) £400 towards the cost of a new energy-efficient boiler.

You’ll only get the £400 cashback if your existing boiler is in working order but is 70% efficient or less. You can find out how efficient your current boiler is by typing the make and model into a special database on the website. It’s likely to qualify if it’s a mains gas boiler that’s at least 15 years old or at least 25 years old if you’ve got an oil fired boiler.

Funds are limited, so apply quickly if you’re interested.

Npower cuts gas prices

Npower became the fourth energy supplier to cut its gas prices. As with Eon, SSE and Scottish Power, it will cut its gas prices by around 5%. It’s a shame that only Eon’s price cut has already taken effect.

Scottish Power’s price cut won’t kick in until March 15th, and you’ll have to wait until the end of March (err, that will be when it’s spring, then!) to benefit from SSE and Npower’s price cuts.

Wholesale gas prices have fallen by far more than 5% and, even taking into account the fact that other costs make up our bills, I think the energy companies could cut prices by more than 5%.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re on the standard tariff, you can definitely get a better deal by switching – either to a different tariff with the same company or to a different supplier.

Could £50 notes be banned?

A former bank chief executive has said that £50 notes should be banned to cut down on crime. Apparently (and – I guess – logically), criminals and tax evaders prefer high denomination notes (such as £50, $100 and €500 notes) to tenners and fivers!  Banks in the UK have already been told to stop accepting €500 notes.

Be my Valentine..

It’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday, which might induce a warm glow or have you rolling your eyes (or worse!). If you and your partner are planning on pooling your finances, make sure you know exactly what you’re agreeing to. Far be it from me to put a dampener on proceedings, but, as soon as you take out a joint bank account, joint loan or joint mortgage, your credit rating will affect your partner’s and vice versa.

There, I bet that’s put you in the mood for a romantic meal out with your true love!