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Money News: Drive down premiums with a little black box

Motorists can now take outinsurance on a "pay as you go" basis along the lines of the system favoured by millions of mobile phone users.

Norwich Union launched "pay as you drive" Last week, a policy that rewards drivers for avoiding roads at busy times.

Motorists aged between 25 and 65 who use motorways outside rush hour will pay from 1p per mile; during peak hours from 7am to 10am, charges start at 2.5p a mile on dual carriageways and 6p a mile for trunk roads.

These prices are only a guide, though. If you have a poor driving record and a lack of no-claims bonuses, expect to pay several pence more per mile.

For drivers from 18 to 23, Norwich Union has introduced a different price structure. It will cost £1 a mile to use the car between 11pm and 6am - the peak hours for accidents - against at least 5p a mile at all other times.

Norwich Union claims that letting motorists take charge of their insurance will allow them to lop up to a third off their premiums.

A "black box" fitted in vehicles allows the insurer to log how far the vehicle has travelled, at what time, and what kind of roads customers used.

Norwich Union's policies are based on a mix of accident statistics from the Department for Transport. For example, motorways are up to 10 times safer than low-speed urban roads, and we're 50 per cent more likely to be involved in an accident during the rush hour than at weekends or in the evenings.

Interest rates: All quiet - but a rise is on the way

The Bank of England left interest rates on hold at 4.75 per cent last week, but many industry observers expect a rise in November. "The Bank's decision to leave rates unchanged today is unlikely to be repeated next month," said Milan Khatri, chief economist at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. "A strong housing market has been sustained despite the August rate hike, and prices are rising at around twice the rate of increase in average earnings.

"While overall inflation and wage rises in the economy are moderate, we expect a pre-emptive rate rise in November of 0.25 percentage points," he added.

Earlier in the week a report from the Halifax, Britain's biggest lender, revealed that house price inflation in September was running at 8 per cent - a drop from August.

Meanwhile, it emerged that homeowners were releasing less equity from their homes. Bank of England figures for the period from April to June showed £11.3bn was released - against £12.9bn in the first quarter.

Chip and pin: Fraudsters serve themselves at Tesco

Tesco has been rapped on the knuckles by consumer champion Which? for delays in the installation of chip-and-pin terminals at self-service checkouts.

The absence of the new technology - introduced in the UK last year to clamp down on signature fraud - is allowing criminals to use stolen and cloned cards to buy thousands of pounds worth of goods, the consumer group has warned.

Without being challenged, Which? researchers used the debit and credit cards of other people in a number of the 200 Tesco stores with self-service tills.

"It's highly irresponsible that Britain's biggest supermarket makes it so easy for criminals to use stolen credit cards," said a Which? spokesman.

Tesco admitted it was behind schedule with chip and pin but denied that the fraud was significant.

It added that it was preparing to install the terminals at all its self-service tills by December.

'Basic' accounts: Dwindling ranks of the 'unbanked'

More than one million "basic bank accounts" have been opened since April 2003, it emerged last week.

"We have passed a milestone in our commitment to the goal of halving the number of adults in households without a bank account by November 2006," said Ian Mullen, chief executive of the British Bankers' Association.

Basic accounts are designed for those on very low incomes as well as the "unbanked" - those who would rather keep their cash under the mattress than in a financial institution. The rise in take-up follows intense pressure from MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, whose inquiry into "financial exclusion" aims to encourage people to join mainstream financial services instead of using local credit lenders.

Last year banks were accused of failing to push basic accounts to customers and making it hard for them to jump through administrative hoops - by demanding pieces of ID, such as passports, that many applicants didn't have.