The Hi-Tech Investor: On the net in a Blay's of glory

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Blay's Guides, which has been compiling financial information for 19 years, has made its first foray on to the net.

The market for financial websites is increasingly crowded, and investors already have a choice of several good, established services that give information such as stock prices or best buys for savings accounts.

Blay's has sections on savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages and personal banking, and says it updates its information daily. Although the tables are reasonably clear, they are by no means unique.

But Blay's goes further than other personal finance sites, and adds costs for gas and electricity, store cards and pre-paid mobile phones. These are areas where the number of deals on offer can be overwhelming; Blay's is one of the few places on the web where consumers can see these tariffs side by side.

Other personal finance sites have invested heavily in design and sophisticated navigation; the Blay's layout is basic and functional. In its favour, it is quick to use and easy to print. Other personal finance sites let visitors carry out complex searches on databases; Blay's sticks to simple listings. As long as you know how the data is compiled, this is valuable free information. The banking section, for example, ranks current accounts by the credit interest rate. This is only one criterion for assessing the cost of an account; overdraft charges and interest rates will matter more to people who need to borrow.

The section on credit cards is particularly well thought out. The pages show interest rates and annual fees and make a clear distinction between introductory rates - for people switching cards - and the higher, standard charges. The business and student banking sections are useful too.

Other websites may be prettier than Blay's, but it is a solid source of information and a valuable addition to the consumer's internet armoury.

Turning the tables

Independent financial advisers are not known for their brilliant websites but Chase de Vere is the exception. Its new site has easy to read fund performance charts that work well for investors who don't want to wade through pages of tables. Just click on a world map for a table highlighting the top 10 funds investing in a specific region. There's also an online personal financial review, and a comment and news section to keep you up to date with trends.

Barclays on the line

Just in case you've missed all the other free internet providers offering CDs in recent weeks, Barclays' free internet service,, is now live. All customers can register for the service, which also offers free online banking and access to Barclays' stockbroking division. Customers can either order a CD-Rom from 0800 494949 or download the software from You can also register at any branch.

If you are a Barclays customer, the service is worth looking at for its online banking option. This allows you to pay bills, transfer money between accounts and check debits and standing orders.

Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at hi-tech-investor