Weekly Money: the stories we noticed 10 to 14 August

The personal finance news you may have missed this week

Airport shops VAT scam; dodgy car insurance claims up; student costs climb; 200,000 miss out on Carer's Credit; poorer families pay higher percentage of tax; home insurance down

14 August

Cutting corners to get cheaper motor insurance could end up costing thousands of motorists much more, warns the Association of British Insurers. It says insurers uncovered 212,000 attempted dishonest applications for motor insurance, last year, which works out at just over 4,000 every week.

Common lies include ‘forgetting’ to disclose previous claims or unspent convictions when asked, giving a false address or post code for a lower risk area, and parents insuring in their name a vehicle being mainly driven by their child, known as ‘fronting’.

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Families on the lowest incomes pay a higher percentage of their gross income in tax than any other income group. TaxPayers’ Alliance reckons tax takes a 45 per cent chunk out of their earnings.

However, it says the top 10 per cent of earners paid an average £30,023 more in tax in 2013-14 than they received in state benefits or services.

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Sobering figures for celebrating A level students come from the National Union of Students and show that the average annual cost of earning a degree in England is £21,440.

So those heading to Middlesex University will be pleased by a new scheme that provides free textbooks that will save them around £450 over a three year course. Textbooks will be provided as e-books in a deal with Kortext and John Smith’s Bookshop.

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More than half of parents would be prepared for their child to miss a week of school so they could take a cheaper term-time holiday, despite the risk of a £60 fine, Gocompare reckons. Parents estimated they’d save an average £679.50 on holiday costs by taking their child out of school.

13 August

Welsh parents are set to benefit from a new scheme to improve the financial knowledge of the nation’s kids. The Money Advice Service and Big Lottery Fund in Wales have set aside £400,000 to fund a three year project which will add money management skills to existing parenting schemes.

The aim is to encourage parents to help their children develop skills such as self-control, perseverance, sensible attitudes to money and setting financial goals.

“It is important for children to develop sound money management skills,” said Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Caroline Rookes, Money Advice Service chief added: “We want to empower children to make the most of their money.” The Service is working on a number of similar projects across the country.

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You’ll soon to be able to pay for parking using a mobile payment service. Barclays has linked with online parking site Parkonomy to offer its Pingit service as a payment method for the parking service.

There are 2.7 million registered users of Pingit and there’s no need to be a Barclays customers to sign up.

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It’s A Level results today which should hopefully generate some happy news for potential university students. It may not be such happy news for parents, however. A quarter plan to empty their bank account to pay for kids’ university costs, while one in ten is thinking of selling the family home.

Parents underestimate the cost, warns the Association of Investment Companies. They expect student debt on graduation to be £17,965, but that’s shy the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ estimate of £44,000. Students are more realistic about their future debts anticipating a figure around £30,348.

12 August

The big banks have now all released details of their new student accounts, ahead of tomorrow’s A-level results day. In terms of additional perks, Santander leads the pack with its offer of a free four-year 16-25 Railcard. The next best incentive comes from RBS/NatWest with its free four-year National Express Young Persons Coachcard.

But you shouldn’t choose an account based on the gimmicks and giveaways. Instead, look closely at the charges, especially if you’re likely to spend a lot of time in the red, to see which may be the most cost-effective for you.

“An interest-free overdraft is the most valuable perk offered but bear in mind that you may not necessarily be offered the maximum overdraft for the maximum amount cited,” warns David Black of DJB Research. He advises new students to arrange overdrafts in advance as unauthorised overdrafts, if permitted, can prove seriously expensive and you may get charged a fee if a transaction is not honoured.

He also advises students to think again about credit cards offered. “You’ll have to repay any borrowings, so just because credit is available, doesn’t mean that you have to use it.”

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The cost of an average burial plot varies by almost £2,000 across the country. Research gathered from councils across major UK cities by Post Office Money reveals that a burial plot in Birmingham is most expensive at around £2,815, while one in Belfast would cost just £980. The average burial plot comes in at £1,841.

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If you signed up to Amazon Prime to take of advantage of the deals it offered on Amazon Prime Day on 15 July, you must cancel your 30-day free membership by tomorrow, Thursday 13 August, or you’ll be landed with a hefty £79 annual fee. To cancel it before the charge hits, log onto your account, go to ‘Manage Prime Membership’ and click ‘Do Not Continue’ before the free trial ends.

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Leeds Building Society is launching a three year fixed rate Isa tomorrow 13 August which pays 2.3 per cent.

11 August

Consumer champions are urging air passengers to hang onto their boarding cards and not show them at airport shops to support The Independent’s campaign to end the airport VAT rip-off.

MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis said: “I think it’s a great campaign. People withholding their boarding passes will force companies to take note and eventually take action.”

Sarah Pennells, of money website SavvyWoman added: “if airport shops aren't going to pass on the VAT saving, we should refuse to show our boarding cards. I certainly won't be providing mine next time I'm shopping before a flight!”

Meanwhile Caroline Russell, the Green Party’s local transport spokesperson slammed airport retailers’ actions after hearing about our campaign.

“It’s wrong that airport shops, predominantly multimillion pound operations, continue to reclaim VAT without reducing prices for customers,” she said.

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Fewer flood problems and a fall in the number of burglaries has led to reductions in the cost of home insurance. Consumer Intelligence reckons that the cheapest home insurance premiums fell by 6.6 per cent in the 12 months to June 2015.

The news should encourage more people to switch insurers to save money, the research company said. Overall, the average of the five most competitive home insurance policies in June 2015 was £115, which was £13 lower than a year earlier.

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Younger consumers risk paying over the odds for credit cards, overdrafts and loans because they don’t  understand how their credit score impacts the price they pay for borrowing.

People in the lower band credit score - “very poor or poor” - can be charged £400 more in interest on a typical £2,000 credit card balance than someone in the highest credit score bracket, warned ClearScore. 

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The south east and north west have been worst hit by the collapse of the first-time buyer market since the recession, reckons insurer Genworth.

Its analysis of government and industry data shows that the South East averaged 86,733 first-time buyers a year from 1974, when records began, until 2006. But since 2007 when the financial crash hit, it plummeted to just 47,863 a year.

Meanwhile the north west saw first-time buyer numbers drop from 46,461 a year between 1974 and 2006 to 23,875 between 2007 and 2014.

“Tougher regulation and higher capital requirements for lenders have accelerated the fall in home-ownership and dramatically reduced the number of people who are able to buy their first home,” pointed out Simon Crone of Genworth.

10 August

Only 5 per cent of carers are claiming National Insurance credits. But 200,000 could boost their future state pension simply by signing up for Carer’s Credit.

Signing up for 12 months means a carer could get more than £200 extra per year in state pension when they retire.

“It is straightforward to apply and doesn’t cost anything. There is nothing to lose by signing up – and money to gain for the future,” said Pensions Minister Ros Altmann.

Carer’s credit is designed for those who are caring for others for 20 hours or more per week and do not qualify for Carer’s Allowance, which is available to those who care for 35 hours a week or more. For information on eligibility and how to apply go to gov.uk/carers-credit/overview

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Three-quarters of university students now work to help fund their studies, up from just three-fifths last year.

Meanwhile almost half of students use their overdraft to help make ends meet, according to research from Endsleigh.

The majority of students work to help pay for accommodation, food and household bills, but a large percentage say the experience actually helps them develop additional skills and bulk up their CV.

Students working earn an average of £412 a month during term time, but there’s a huge gender divide with male students making £522 while females earn just £334 a month.

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Social enterprises that fight poverty are set to benefit from a new tax-effective investment fund launching today.

The £5m Resonance fund plans to invest in a dozen social enterprises in Bristol, which work towards, for example, improving access to the job market or affordable accommodation.

It makes use of social investment tax relief (SITR) to target post-tax returns of 8 per cent and Resonance plans to set up similar SITR funds in several other UK cities over the next few years.

“Private sector investors can empower social businesses to tackle problems of inequality in our cities,” said Daniel Brewer, managing director of Resonance.

 

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