Skipton building society has launched a new market-beating regular savings account. The account pays 5% and allows you to save between £10 and £500 a month. "That is the best regular savings interest rate on the market, excluding those accounts which require people to jump through hoops," says MoneyFacts.co.uk. However, if you open a FirstDirect current account you can then open a Regular Saver Account that pays 8% for the first year. That's a better interest rate and you'll get £100 when you open the current account provided you transfer your monthly salary to it.
As the cold snap continues, Aviva is warning people to protect their pipes. As temperatures plummet, the risk of burst pipes increases. Last year saw a huge increase in claims for water damage to properties after the cold temperatures caused water to freeze. So protect your pipes by making sure they are properly lagged and if you have a water tank in the loft wrap it up in an insulation jacket. Make sure you know where your stopcock is and check you can turn it on or off it's no good discovering you can't once you've got water running through the ceiling. If you are going away for a while, leave your heating on a constant low level so that the water in the pipes doesn't get cold enough to freeze. Also leave your loft hatch open, and any cupboards with pipes in them, so that the warm air can circulate.
Virgin has relaunched a best-buy balance-transfer credit card. It's now offering customers 0% on balance transfers for 16 months. That puts it at the top of the best-buy tables, alongside NatWest, Barclaycard and MBNA, which offer the same length deal. Virgin has also reduced its balance transfer fee from 2.98% to 2.89%. That makes it the second-cheapest balance-transfer card after MBNA.
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More bad news for property investors. Nationwide has announced that house prices fell by 0.3% in November. This takes the average price of a home down to £163,398. House prices have dropped overall by 0.4% in the year to November. "The negative pressure [on prices] is expected to continue with an estimated 5% decline in house prices across Britain expected in 2011 as job losses intensify," says Catherine Penman, head of research at estate agents Carter Jonas in The Daily Telegraph. But with minimum mortgage deposits rising, along with jobs uncertainty, many first-time buyers will still struggle to take advantage.
If you will be heading abroad next year, consider buying your travel insurance now. Several insurers have hinted that they will be increasing their prices in the new year as a result of rising costs. Insurance specialist PJ Hayman expects rises of 40% on some policies. The rises are down to two factors. Firstly, the travel insurance premium tax rises from 17.5% to 20% in January, in line with VAT. Secondly, the weak pound is making overseas medical bills more expensive for insurers. For more on what to look out for when buying travel insurance, see Eight things to check in your travel.
Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.
Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.
Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.
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