Helen Nugent

Don’t let financial firms take you for a ride: shop around for the best deals

Don't let financial firms take you for a ride: shop around for the best deals
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Apathy. In a world where there are countless demands on our time, social media never sleeps and 24-hour news bombards us with stories of doom and gloom, it's tempting to down tools, reach for the duvet and adopt the foetal position.

But an apathetic attitude has consequences, whether it's missing that crucial deadline or turning up late for work - again. The same is true in finance, as two new studies out today demonstrate.

Take the thorny issue of remortgaging. According to L&C Mortgages, the advisory firm, four million UK households are languishing on standard variable rates. That's more than a third of homeowners. In addition, 3.4 million households don't know the current interest rate of their mortgage.

With the Bank of England base rate at an historic low and a multitude of great mortgage deals out there, it makes no sense to meander along on an SVR. L&C calculates that £2.78 billion is wasted each year by sitting on the wrong mortgage deal. The broker also says that by switching to a better deal homeowners could save, on average, more than £2,500 annually or £216 each month.

Given yesterday's news that inflation is at its highest point since June 2014, energy prices are on the rise and there is the potential for interest rates to increase, it has never been more important to shop around for the best mortgage deal.

David Hollingworth from L&C Mortgages said: ‘A mortgage is likely to be someone’s biggest monthly outgoing, and in only a few easy steps they could get a better deal. It’s crucial that homeowners regularly review their mortgage, to see how their rate stacks up against the record low rates that alternative deals currently offer.'

Then there's motor insurance. Despite new rules from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) coming into force next week, new research from MoneySuperMarket shows that more than eight million drivers will continue to overspend by £2.37bn in the next 12 months by automatically renewing their car insurance.

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April, insurance companies will be obliged to inform policyholders of last year’s premium when issuing their new quote on renewal documentation, highlighting any price increase alongside information about the benefits of looking around for a cheaper deal with another provider.

At present, more than half of the UK’s drivers auto-renew with their existing provider. MoneySuperMarket's research suggests that this number will remain stubbornly high when next week’s ruling comes into effect, with 41 per cent who auto-renewed last time again sticking with their current provider at the point they receive their renewal letter. A third also admitted that, without a reminder about the previous year’s costs, they wouldn’t know by how much their premium was increasing. By doing nothing, they are throwing away annual savings of up to £275.

Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: 'It’s blindingly obvious that the new FCA rules are not stringent enough to create a switch-and-save culture. The majority of drivers (63 per cent) chose their insurer because it offered the cheapest deal at the time but, when it comes to renewal, 11 per cent don’t even check the new cost of their policy.

'There are massive upward pressures on car insurance premiums. We already know about the 20 per cent increase in insurance premium tax in June and insurers are also suggesting that reforms to the way personal injury payouts are calculated will add a further £50-£70 to annual premiums. That makes it more important than ever to be proactive about securing the best deal possible.'

So, roll back that duvet, have a fortifying cup of tea and do something about your financial apathy. If you don't, you'll be lining the pockets of multi-million pound companies who rely on your lethargy to boost their profits.

Helen Nugent is Online Money Editor of The Spectator