CASHPOINTS: Cover up to foil thieves

A home is burgled every minute, and properties are particularly at risk during the holiday season. Churchill Insurance offers a number of simple tips for people going away:

Lock away steps, ladders and tools in garages or sheds - they could be useful for a thief to gain entry to your home. Tell trusted neighbours you are going away, and for how long. Ask them to keep a check on your front door for tell-tale circulars or post overflowing from the letter- box. Cancel milk and paper deliveries. Buy time-switches to activate lights and/or radios at various times. Ensure burglar alarms are switched on - even the sight of them should be a deterrent. Hide valuables, such as video recorders, away from windows. Make sure the front garden and any lawns look well maintained to avoid attracting attention to your absence. Check (no surprise here) that your insurance is up-to-date.

Lloyds Bank offers the fastest service among Britain's banks, Abbey National the slowest, according to a survey by Moneywise magazine. Among building societies, Bristol & West comes out best for speed of service. Moneywise says service in building society branches is generally slower than in banks. Bank of Scotland gives the best service overall among banks, TSB the worst. Among building societies, Birmingham Midshires is best, Halifax (now a bank) the worst.

NATIONWIDE is reopening its doors to new savers tomorrow. However, savers will need to stump up pounds 5,000 to open an account, or pounds 3,000 for a Tessa. Existing customers continue to be able to open further accounts with lower amounts - pounds 500 for the society's top-paying postal account, for example, or just pounds 1 for a Tessa.

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