Search Google for a new mortgage

A round-up of the week’s personal finance news, by Tim Bennett.

• If you are looking for a new mortgage, you can now use Google’s new mortgage comparison tool to search around 5,000 products. It’s asked mortgage firms to follow a code of conduct that caps total fees at 1% of the value of the loan. Go to www.google.co.uk/compare/mortgage.

• Phoning relatives in far-flung corners of the world this Christmas? Kara Gammell in The Daily Telegraph has tips on keeping your costs down. Check whether the calls can be included in your landline or mobile package – you can often bolt them on temporarily. If you want to keep tabs on exactly what you, or your children, are spending, use an international call card. Pre-loaded with credit, these are available in most supermarkets and allow you to call international numbers for as little a 1p-2p a minute. For example, Tesco’s card lets you phone Israel for 1p a minute to a landline and 3p to a mobile phone.

• More than four million mortgage holders are currently paying their lender’s standard variable rate (SVR), reckons HSBC. Yet with the average SVR at 4.86%, many could probably get better deals, especially as the bank reckons 3.6 million are on loan-to-value ratios of under 85%. If you’re one of them, make carrying out a New Year review a priority.

• The annual individual savings account (Isa) allowance is set to increase to £11,520 from April, but savers shouldn’t cheer too loudly, says Capital Economics’ Vicky Redwood. Unfortunately, interest rates are falling as banks take advantage of the government’s Funding for Lending scheme. Currently the best deal is Coventry Building Society’s 60-day notice account, paying 3.1% (variable rate includes a 0.6% bonus after 12 months).

• Be alert for carbon credit scams. As Thisismoney.co.uk’s Tony Hetherington reports, the police are cracking down on these scams, which involve slick sales techniques being used to shift certificates that are supposedly linked to environmental projects. The certificates are usually worthless. Yet savers are persuaded to hand over money under the “misguided belief that environmental investments cannot fail”, as one Detective Inspector puts it.

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