As it’s the new year, many of us will be embarking on a new diet or fitness regime, hoping this will be the year we finally transform ourselves. But take the same energy and desire for change and apply it to your finances and you could be much better off by the time next Christmas rolls around.
First, consider moving your savings to the new personal banking arm of Goldman Sachs, Marcus (named after founder Marcus Goldman), and you could significantly improve your returns. The instant-access savings account pays 1.5%, compared with an average of 0.63% for no-notice savings accounts. And don’t forget your individual savings account (Isa) allowance. Virgin Money is paying 1.45% on its instant-access Double Take E-Isa. Isa transfers are accepted into the account, but you can only make two withdrawals a year. Longer term, Investec offers 2.35% on its two-year fixed-rate savings account and Atom 2.4% over three years.
If you’ve run up credit-card debt in 2018, move it onto a 0% balance-transfer card and you could save hundreds of pounds in interest. Santander is offering a 27-month interest-free balance transfer card with no fees. Shift £2,500 onto the card and you would save £272 in a year compared with the 23.1% annual interest rate on the average credit card (assuming repayments of £250 a month).
January is the busiest month for divorces. You might want to break up with your bank and find a current account that better suits your needs. For those of you with a healthy balance in your current account, Nationwide’s FlexDirect account pays 5% interest on up to £2,500. Check if any friends have the account because if they refer you, you will both receive £100 when you switch.
And if you dip into the red occasionally, opt for First Direct. You get an interest-free £250 overdraft plus a £125 switching bonus if you go via comparison site MoneySavingExpert (or £100 if you go direct).
Finally, don’t assume the new energy price cap means you can rest on your laurels. As many as 60% of the fixed-rate deals on the market come in cheaper than the cap, according to Compare the Market. So take some time to check that you’re getting the best deal.
Financial dates for the diary
1 January – The energy price cap came into effect at the beginning of this month. This means the bill for a typical dual-fuel customer paying by direct debit cannot exceed £1,137.
31 January – Deadline for filing your tax return and paying what you owe.
1 March – Broadband providers will have to start providing a minimum guaranteed speed when you sign up.
If they fail to provide that speed for a month, you can switch without penalty.
5 April – This is the last day of the 2018-2019 tax year. Use up your Isa and pension allowances before midnight.
6 April – The Personal Allowance (how much you can earn tax-free) rises from £11,850 to £12,500. The 40% income tax threshold rises from £46,350 to £50,000, except in Scotland.
6 April – The total minimum amount paid into workplace pensions will rise from 5% to 8%. State-pension payments will rise to £168.60 a week for those who retired after April 2016, and to £129.20 for those on the old basic state pension.
The pension lifetime allowance rises from £1,030,000 to £1,055,000. The annual allowance stays at £40,000.
1 May – NS&I will move the inflation measure for its index-linked savings accounts from RPI to CPI. The latter is generally lower, so returns will dip.
1 July – Mobile phone providers must make switching easier. There will be a ban on charges for notice periods and you will be able to start the switch process with a text.
29 August – deadline day for PPI claims.
30 November – Help to Buy Isas stop being available to new savers. If you already have one, you’ll be able to keep paying into it for another decade, and you’ll need to claim the bonus by 2030.