The Financial News You Need To Know with Sarah Pennells – June 1 2016

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.

Fed up with spam calls and texts to your mobile?

Last week I had two spam texts (sigh), but I used to get far more. If your mobile is plagued with spam calls or texts, what can you do to stop it? If you’re getting spam calls, it’s worth registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

Once you’re on the list you shouldn’t get cold calls. It’s not 100% effective but it does seem to reduce the incidence of calls and if a company calls you after your registration has taken effect – normally after 28 days – it’s broken the rules.

You can register landlines and mobile numbers, but most people don’t register their mobile. Figures show that whereas 85% of all UK landlines are registered with the TPS, fewer than 3% of mobile numbers are registered. If you want to register your mobile, just text TPS and your email address to 78070.

You can’t register your phone in the same way to stop spam texts, but there are things you can do.

  1. If you’re getting unwanted texts from a legitimate company that you’ve done business with before, it should give you the option to opt out of future texts if you text STOP.
  2. If you’re getting unwanted texts from a dodgy company or one you don’t recognise, don’t text STOP as this will alert them to the fact they’ve spammed a genuine number. Instead, forward the text to 7726 (or 87726 for Vodafone) together with the number of the company sending the text. That will get it to your network provider.
  3. You can also report the sender of the texts to the Information Commissioner (ico.org.uk).

SAVVY TIP:  You can report up to five messages at a time. It won’t investigate individual text complaints but can take action if a company has been misusing someone’s data (if, for example, they’ve been spamming thousands of people).

When changing a name costs hundreds of pounds

If you’re booking a flight for your summer hols, be aware that it could cost you more than the price of the original flight if you need to change the name of someone who’s travelling with you.

If you need to change the whole name of a passenger, you could be charged £100 or more. Some airlines charge much less than this (as low as £15 if the change is made more than two months before departure and is done online), but others charge a fee plus the difference between cost of the flight when you booked and the cost the day you change the name. If that’s quite close to the date you’re due to fly, the cost could be hundreds of pounds. Watch out!

It’s worth knowing that when you book a flight, the name you use should match the name on your passport (first and last names must be the same). If you need to change a name spelling, the process varies from airline to airline. You may be able to do this free of charge online or over the phone but it will depend on the airline, the extent of the correction and whether you booked your flight direct or via a third party.

Get free help with your pensions decisions

If you’re about to retire, in fact, if you’re aged 50 or over, you could get some free help about what to do with your pension. Last year the government’s ‘pension freedoms’ came in, giving people with a pension ‘pot’ style of pension the choice about what they did with the money when they retired. As part of this change, the government set up something called Pension Wise, which offers free guidance on what you can do with your money.

Figures show that most people – as many as nine out of ten – don’t get the free help that’s on offer. So, how does Pension Wise work and what could it do for you?

  1. You can get guidance from Pension Wise online, over the phone or face-to-face (in limited locations).
  2. It’s called ‘guidance’ because it’s not the same as independent financial advice. You won’t be told what to do, but your choices will be explained to you.
  3. You can ring for an appointment, or go online to pensionwise.gov.uk to find out more.

SAVVY TIP: Some fraudsters and scammers are ringing people in their 50s and 60s pretending to be from Pension Wise. Pension Wise will never cold call you.

Premium Bond chances down

Are you feeling lucky? Well, you may have to try a bit harder if you’re hoping for a win from Premium Bonds, because the odds of winning a prize have reduced from one in 26,000 to one in 30,000!

National Savings & Investments, which sells Premium Bonds, offers two £1 million prizes every month, but the reduction in odds means they’ve cut the number of prizes overall. So, is it still worth having Premium Bonds?

Well, part of the attraction of Premium Bonds is that payouts are tax free, but since April 6th this year you’ve been able to receive up to £1,000 a year in interest from savings without paying tax (it’s reduced to £500 if you pay tax at 40%).

The annual prize fund interest rate, which is basically the ‘equivalent’ interest that a Premium Bond owner with average luck (whatever that is!) would receive in payouts, is 1.25%. You can definitely do better than that with savings accounts, current accounts and cash ISAs, so if you’re after the best return, Premium Bonds probably aren’t the right option.

SAVVY TIP: If you have a lot of money (a nice problem to have!), it’s worth knowing that Premium Bonds, along with all other National Savings products, are 100% backed by the UK Treasury. Money in banks and building societies is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, up to a limit of £75,000 per bank, although up to £1 million can be protected. But you can only protect up to £1 million for up to six months if you’ve received money from something like a house sale.