Cyberspace and the planet cash

Stephen Pritchard begins a new column on finance over the Internet by looking at the web sites that may help to improve your money management

ANYONE who bought a home computer for Christmas or in the January sales knows that it can blow a hole in the household budget.

An appropriate way, therefore, to recoup some of that money is to put the PC to work managing your finances. The Internet, especially, is becoming a useful mechanism for improving your financial wherewithal, although there is also plenty of worthless rubbish knocking around cyberspace.

A survey published last year by Mori on behalf of ICL, the computer company, says that more than one-third of British adults expect to use a computer for at least some of their banking and financial transactions within the next five years.

All the clearing banks and a host of smaller lending and savings institutions have web sites, electronic banking or both. The logic is clear enough: for most of us, managing our finances is a chore. If computers or, specifically, the Internet, can make that quicker or easier, then people will use them.

Connecting to the Internet is cheaper and easier than ever. Most new PCs come with a free trial period with an Internet service provider. Armed with a modem to connect the PC to a phone line, this is the best way to see if the Net is useful. Subscriptions start at as little as pounds 5, for services such as that of AOL, but most cost closer to pounds 10 a month.

The best way to find a service provider is by personal recommendation, or through a specialist publication such as Internet magazine or .Net.

There are thousands of financial web sites. The Net's size is at once its biggest downfall, as well as its greatest advantage. Even experienced users can find it hard to locate a particular web page.

Unless you know or can hazard a good guess at a site's name (also called its URL) the best starting point is a general web site covering the field, or a search engine.

Search engines are the Internet's librarians. They let users hunt for a site by keywords, using huge databases of Internet addresses. Search engines including Lycos, Yahoo!, Alta Vista or Excite (www.excite.co.uk; www.yahoo.co.uk; www.lycos.com) will produce hundreds of suggested sites if you type in "money" - one of the most searched-for terms after, you guessed it, sex.

Specialist personal finance sites are another rich seam of information. Some are commercial, but all contain lists of other web sites, or links. Moneyworld (www.moneyworld.co.uk) is a slick and professional web site, with regular financial news updates, and links to share information, posted just 20 minutes behind the London Stock Exchange's "real-time" (up-to- the minute) pricing. A quirkier approach is MoneyWeb (www.moneyweb.co.uk) which has its own, sometimes opinionated, views on the financial industry, as well as an excellent set of links.

The high-street banks and large insurance companies have their own, often highly corporate, sites. Barclays (www.barclays.co.uk) offers a little more, with connections to its Barclaysquare electronic shopping mall, while Nationwide (www.nationwide.co.uk) customers can carry out the vast majority of standard banking tasks using the site's link to their current account. Would-be house buyers can also use Nationwide's web site to calculate their mortgage repayments.

Insurers are experimenting with on-line quotations for travel, motor and household insurance, but there are few places, as yet, where you can buy more complex financial products on-line. Legal & General (www.legal- and-general.co.uk) operates a system where its sales staff will call you back and Norwich Union (www.norwichunion.co.uk) encourages visitors to e-mail their details, for a more detailed quotation.

Elsewhere, if you cannot find a cashpoint, but have access to a computer, Link, the cashpoint network, has a search facility (www.link.co.uk/machine/html).

Property owners are catered for by a growing band of estate agents listing their wares on the Net. Winkworth's, the London estate agency chain, (www.winkworth.co.uk) scores for being comprehensive, with a fast search engine and a useful mortgage calculator, even though the details sometimes lag behind London's overheated housing market. Firms with a wider geographical scope include Chancellors (www.chancellors.co.uk) and Woolwich Property Services (www.wps- property-seeker.co.uk).

The Net has a reputation for the off-beat, and on-line finance is no exception. If windfall hunting is your bag, the pressure group Members for Conversion (www.carpetbagger.com) lists seemingly every building society, along with the probability of conversion and the minimum deposit required.

The wider economy is not forgotten, either. Predicting the Government's next move is an inexact science, but if you want to outwit Gordon Brown, Be Your Own Chancellor, a tax simulation provided by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, is safer and cheaper than standing for parliament. The site (www2.ifs.org.uk/byoc97_in.htm) lets you vary the tax and benefit rates at will. My attempts to set a 5 per cent basic rate of tax and keep benefits level resulted in instant crisis and a call from the IMF, but I still have a while to hone my policies.

Over the coming months this column will monitor what is new, what is good, and what is bad, in finance on the web.

If you come across any sites you either love or hate, feel free to e- mail the details to me: stephen.pritchard@dial.pipex.com.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Consumers given power to choose a green deal

How would you like to be able to choose how your electricity is made and even where it come from? It may sound futuristic and fanciful but the independent supplier Co-operative Energy has made it a reality this week.

'Scrap the trap': calls for change grow as banks are told to play fair with loyal savers

City regulator says existing customers suffer worst rates

Motor insurers divided on proposals for whiplash ban

MPs want medical evidence for claims. Will this bring higher premiums?

British Gas repays £1m for mis-sold deals

British Gas was yesterday forced to pay back £1m to its customers after mis-selling them energy deals.

Bare necessities of life cost a pensioner £10,000

Pensioners now have to spend £10,387 a year on basic necessities such as food and fuel. new figures published today reveal.

Six months since its introduction, Obamacare has set market's pulse racing

As America's health reforms take effect, some firms look well placed to benefit, says Simon Read

Holidaymakers warned over hidden charges when opting to pay in sterling abroad

Fresh warnings emerged this week that overseas retailers and hotels aren't playing fair.

Employees will be able to request flexible hours in drive to make workplaces family friendly

From next week employees will be able to request changes to working hours. Rob Griffin weighs up the options

E2Energy's wind-turbine scheme offers green investors 7.5 per cent a year

If you're fed up with paltry returns on your savings and are interested in green energy, a new loan-based crowdfund launched this week could be a better home for your cash.

Why miss the chance of tax-free returns as Isas raise their game?

The tax-free limit of £15,000 is a big jump and rates for savers are starting to edge up, writes Simon Read
More and more trade drivers are falling prey to fraudsters

'Crash for cash' gangs target white van man

"Crash for cash" accidents are reaching record levels. The insurer Aviva trawled through its claims data to discover that fraudulent "slam-ons" – accidents deliberately caused in order that claims can be made for whiplash compensation – rose by 51 per cent in 2013.

Lenders lose their appetite for debt forgiveness

Banks may be getting tougher with people who fall into financial difficulties, a debt charity has warned. Statistics from The Money Charity reveal that the amount of personal debt written off by banks and building societies reached an all-time low during the first quarter of the year.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Sales Executive - Central London /Home working - £20K-£40K

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Executive - Ce...

    HR Advisor - 6 months FTC Wimbledon, SW London

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - 6 Months Fix...

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Day In a Page

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor