Browsing "Latest Product Updates"
It’s not often that we (or anyone else, for that matter) get to revel about being based in Leicester. But the city has come up trumps after being named as the most affordable destination for undergraduate students.
HSBC has found that students based in Leicester enjoy the cheapest surroundings, thanks largely to some of the cheapest university and private sector accommodation in the UK.
The bank’s research tots up the cost of living in the twenty towns and cities in the UK with the largest student populations.
It found that Leicester, Nottingham, Liverpool and Cardiff were among the most affordable cities for students to live. Unsurprisingly, London proved the most expensive destination for students, followed by Oxford and Brighton.
First-year students in Leicester are expected to shell out just £196 per week – a total which includes accommodation, weekly essentials, transport, and, yes… alcohol. (If there’s one thing we’ve been learning about Leicester recently, it’s that a generous alcohol allowance is required.)
It’s the only city in the survey where first-year students are expected to spend an average of less than £200 a week. By contrast, students at London universities, including UCL and Imperial, are expected to fork out over £315 a week.
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Many of the double-decker buses shooting past our office windows are promoting NatWest’s latest boast about simple, fair products.
It should feel uplifting, but it doesn’t. The problem is that ‘fairness’ has become the latest excuse to give consumers a raw deal.
NatWest and its parent bank, RBS, made a stand earlier this year by removing all introductory offers on savings accounts, credit cards, and so forth.
No more balance transfer cards with 0% offers. No savings accounts with ‘teaser’ rates.
Fairness is all well and good – but what good does this actually do? All in all, it’s making things worse, not better.
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With many top mortgage offers coming from mutuals rather than major banks, it re-emphasises the point that high-street lenders, while more accessible, are not necessary the only or best option. Prospective homeowners or remortgage customers may benefit from drawing up a shortlist of all the local lenders situated within a sensible radius of their property and comparing their less-publicised but highly competitive deals. Check out some of these below.
60% / 65% LTV
The Norwich & Peterborough Building Society has reduced its low-fee 2-year fixed-rate mortgage to just 1.94% at 65% LTV, offering one of the most deceptively competitive deals in the low-risk mortgage sector.
This deal appears to be convincingly outperformed by a multitude of other lenders, with headline rates in this sector coming in up to half a percent cheaper (e.g. West Bromwich BS, 1.48%).
But the fees demanded for these products are much higher – often in excess of £2,000 – which makes the Norwich & Peterborough, with its modest fee of just £195, far more attractive than it initially appears.
Take, for example, the Post Office’s 2-year fix at 1.63% (max. 65% LTV). By rate alone, this undercuts the Norwich & Peterborough mortgage by more than a quarter of a percentage point. But the Post Office’s hefty fee of £1,995 adds an extra £900 per year over the term.
Customers only stand to benefit from the “cheaper” Post Office mortgage where the loan is so large that the lower rate generates a saving capable of offseting the higher fee. But at £900 a year, that’s an awful lot to make up. Even on a £200,000 mortgage, the Norwich & Peterborough deal proves to be almost £1,100 cheaper over the two-year term.
Our guide to mortgage arrangement fees offers an example of how favourably this N&P mortgage compares to larger rivals.
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While 2013 was all about contactless payments, 2014 might become the year of cardless payments. The next step towards a fully digital wallet is on its way this autumn, and a host of Britain’s banks have already signed up to use it.
The Zapp mobile payment service will allow customers to make payments in-store and online using their smartphones and tablets. The firm describes itself as ‘the simplest and most secure way to pay’.
The versatile service uses near-field communication technology in stores, allowing shoppers to tap their smartphone on a contactless terminal to make a payment in the same way as a contactless card.
It can also be used for shopping online. Shoppers using a tablet will be able to access the app directly, while online merchants will be able to send a notification to a user’s phone, from which the payment can then be made.
And if customers are sent bills with QR codes, consumers will be able to scan these with their phones to launch the app and pay through their smartphone.
About Zapp: How Can It Be Used?
- In-store. Tap and pay using your phone.
- Online. Merchants will send an alert to your phone that will launch the app.
- At home. Scan QR codes to pay household bills.
- Direct link to bank account – no third parties.
- View your account balance before you make a payment.
Who Has Signed Up?
- HSBC / First Direct
- Metro Bank
- Sainsbury’s (2015)
- Asda (2015)
- House of Fraser (2015)
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Mobile card payment is something of a buzzword now, with many merchants looking to modernise their business by accepting card payments in a new and innovative way.
There is definitely some confusion about how existing mobile payments work, especially those that rely on near-field communication (NFC). For example, a recent YouGov survey of over 1000 UK adults shows that only one third are even aware of NFC technology (a figure that has barely risen since last year). Only one fifth of the people surveyed have ever used their phone to make payments using NFC technology. Over 56% did not believe the technology was safe. These numbers have serious implications for merchants and the type of mobile payment solution they decide to implement.
However, the question is: how can merchants continue to be innovative and cost effective in their choice of payment methods when such technologies are mistrusted by the British public?
The answer is to take an established, widely used technology and turn it on its head in a technologically innovative way.
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The facts of life, as the saying goes, are that we live, we die, and we pay taxes. To refine that slightly for 2013, we might say that savings rates are simply too low while energy prices are too high. Perhaps a common solution lies somewhere in-between. Through renewable energy schemes, companies could cut their energy bills by half and investors could generate returns of 6.5% per year.
An interactive panel broadcast featuring Nick Hanna, author of the Green Investment Handbook, and Gerry McGowan, executive chairman at CBD Energy, has looked at how renewable energy schemes work. An abridged version can be seen below.
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