May’s top debt and money news

posted by in Debt news

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Know your rights

There’s been some troubling news this month with devious happenings coming to light that involve pension scams to con innocent folk out of their cash.

Not to mention controversial rip-off letting agency fees making renting a new home cost a small fortune and confusing energy bills bamboozling us into potentially paying more than we should.

On top of all that, we keep signing up to things, forgetting about them and continuing to pay for services we don’t use. How did it come to this? Luckily, we’ve gathered stories on each topic to help avoid such nightmares. Have a good read and make sure you know your rights.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. With a new tool to help compare bank accounts and the FCA banning opt-in insurance add-ons. At least some people have our backs!

How does your bank account compare?

I don’t know about you guys, but switching bank accounts seems like a hassle to me. I know I could be making a bit of money from it, with some banks offering incentives to switch. Not bad, but then I’d have to change my direct debits and how will I even know if the account’s any good? Can’t someone just tell me what to do?

Turns out they can. My bank switching fears have been answered. A new bank account comparison tool has been launched! The handy tool will allow you to compare bank accounts to your current one as well as helping you to switch if you choose to.

How does it work? Current account holders will be able to download a backlog of their statements. Then, you upload the information to the site and the tool gets to work finding an account that’ll benefit you. Things like your spending habits are taken into account so your result is personal to you. Don’t worry though, information like your name and address won’t be shared. It all sounds very sophisticated to me!

Pension problems

We talked about the changes to pensions last month. The new rules mean that many people will be given access to their entire pension pot when they reach the age of 55. Unfortunately, this new ruling has created a host of pension scams.

There are some pretty terrible people in this world. In this category are the ones trying to scam people out of their pensions. So how do they do it? Apparently there are different scams, but most seem to start with a cold call (this can include an email and visit in person, phone call or text) talking about ways you can invest your pension money. Although they may seem convincing, many of these schemes are an attempt to get you to transfer your entire pension to the person running the scam, potentially leaving you with nothing.

It’s really important to know how to identify a pension scam so you know what to look out for.

Rip-off renting fees

Moving home can be rather expensive. So when some letting agents start adding on additional signing and credit check fees it can be really annoying. Don’t even get me started on fees to “renew the tenancy”, or check out fees either. It seems there’s a fee for everything these days.

Having been subject to £90 signing fees in the past, I’m pleased to hear there’s been a call by Citizens Advice to stop these ridiculous letting agents’ charges. With some tenants being charged up to £300 for a simple credit check, a ban would be a welcome relief.

Debt and mental health

Debt in Mind written in textAccording to the Mental Health Foundation, there are clear links between debt problems and mental health. Dealing with money problems can be very stressful. What’s more, if you’re already suffering from a mental illness, managing money might be the last thing on your mind.

So how can we be certain that those experiencing mental illnesses are being treated fairly by creditors and banks? Well, the Money Advice Liaison Group has published new guidelines on helping people with debt and mental health problems to help with just that.

The voluntary guidelines help creditors, advisors, enforcement agents and councils to learn about best practice in this situation.

If you’re struggling with debt and stress, see if our new Debt in Mind campaign can help.

Confused by energy bills? You’re not alone

Are energy bills giving you a headache? Yep, me too! Actually, new research from Which? shows that 74% of us are confused by our bills. And only 30% of us could actually check the accuracy of our energy bills too. The result of all this confusion? We’ve got no idea if we’re actually getting a good deal on our energy supplies.

With these statistics in mind, Which? are calling for fairer energy prices (if you agree, don’t forget to sign their petition). Until then, could the 26% of people that do understand their bills give us a few tips? That’d be great.

FCA opts out of opt outs

Tick boxes are a pretty standard thing. Online companies often try to catch us out by advising you to tick one box to opt in to something and leaving a box empty to opt in to something else. Very confusing. Especially if, like me, you simply don’t have time to read things twice. We’re all far too busy for such nonsense.

Mostly subscription boxes are harmless, signing you up for emails and such. However, some sign you up to insurance add ons and without knowing it you’ve agreed to pay for a service you don’t actually want.

The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) has had enough of all this tomfoolery and has decided to end opt out selling once and for all in the financial services market. This means there should be no more pre-ticked boxes selling consumer add-on insurance. Hooray!

Forgetting something?

Got a nagging feeling that you need to do something but can’t think what? Perhaps, you’re one of many Brits who’ve forgotten to cancel a subscription.

According to TopCashBack’s survey 44% of Brits sign up to a free subscription only to forget to cancel it once the introductory offer is over. Oops! And 27% of us forget to cancel direct debits despite rarely using the service we’ve signed up for. That’s a lot of money down the drain. What are we like, eh? Don’t forget to regularly check your bank account for unnecessary direct debits and hopefully save yourself some pennies in the process.

Well that’s about it for this month’s debt news. If there’s a pressing issue you feel we’ve failed to address, please do let us know in the comments below!

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