Loose change

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Contents insurance premiums are still holding steady for the majority of homeowners, according to insurance brokers Premium Search, with 62 per cent enjoying a price freeze or fall in the second half of 1997, compared with 70 per cent in the first half of the year. Costs in most areas came down although there were some isolated increases especially for retired couples in bungalows, traditionally the lowest priced category. Rates should remain steady into next year.

Borrowers are tending to consolidate their debts and concentrate on a single lender in response to the 1.25 per cent rise in base rates this year, says Colonial Financial Services. The number of personal loan customers who consolidated their existing debts rose 27 per cent over the past year.

Abbey National has introduced a new capped mortgage rate at 8.39 per cent until the end of January 2003 for borrowers moving their mortgage to the Abbey. A deposit of 5 per cent and a pounds 250 booking fee is required but capped rates can fall but not rise. A new discount rate mortgage 2.5 per cent below the variable rate until the end of January 2000 is available with a 25 per cent deposit. Borrowers are locked in for a further year.

More than 15 million people will make a New Year's resolution, half of them financial, according to a survey for IFA Promotion, but only a quarter of the total will keep it. Almost half the financial resolutions involve saving up for specific items such as a car or holiday, a quarter intend to spend less money and a fifth want to clear outstanding debts.

New year resolutions should remember to submit their tax return by the deadline of 31 January to avoid an automatic penalty of pounds 100, say chartered accountants Clark Whitehill. The end of January is also the deadline for paying outstanding tax bills in order to avoid interest.

Interest rates on National Savings Income Bonds, Investment Accounts and the Treasurer's Account went up this week. The top rate on income bonds went up from 6.45 per cent to 7 per cent yesterday and will rise again to 7.25 per cent on 8 January.

London-based letting agents Ludlow Thompson are offering a free guide to investment in residential property. Copies are available from Freepost London E1 8BR or call 01233-211551.

Nationwide Building Society is offering new customers opening a Smart or Smart 2 Save account and existing customers who save an extra pound a free 1998 box calendar and the chance to join a Prize Draw. Both accounts pay 7.2 per cent gross on any balance.

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