Martin Lewis issues 19 coronavirus ‘need-to-knows’ with advice on self-employment, renting and energy bills
26 March 2020, 11:30
Martin Lewis has given advice for everything from council tax to overdrafts, MOT's and store returns.
With so much new information surrounding the coronavirus released every day, now Martin Lewis has shared his top 19 ‘need-to-knows’.
The Money Saving Expert wrote in his weekly newsletter: "Things are changing constantly. We've seen a staggering number of announcements in the last week alone, each of which in normal times would be blockbuster news.
"To bring you up to speed, I'm going to briefly detail the NEW need-to-knows here."
So, here are Martin's key tips including MOT's, travel rights and financial help through this tough time.
Martin Lewis' coronavirus financial tips:
1. Self-employed and freelance
Martin has told those who are self employed to ‘try to hold on, the support package should come this week’.
The UK Government is currently working on a further support package which is expected to be on a par with the 80% of your salary up to £2,500 for employees. He said: “Don't make any drastic decisions until that's announced.”
If you can't go to work or have no work to do then ask your employer to 'furlough' you and the Government will cover 80% of your salary up to £2,500 per month.
This is called the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention scheme’, and it means employers can choose to put staff who can't work on hold and then the UK Government will cover their salary. It's up to employers to decide who is furloughed.
3. If you lost your job due to coronavirus
If you were laid off by a panicking firm, speak to the firm - they are allowed to take you back on, to furlough you.
4. Don't dismiss Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a benefit available to many who are employed, self-employed, unemployed and on low incomes, as long as your household's savings are under £16,000.
The housing allowance has been unfrozen, so payouts can be larger - they can be up to £1,550 a month in some cases. Find out more here.
5. Zero-hours contract? Help depends on how your contract is structured
If you're paid through a payroll, you could be eligible for help as a furloughed employee.
Otherwise, you may be due self-employment help and check Universal Credit information too.
Under new rules, landlords in England and Wales can’t start new eviction proceedings for at least the next three months. In Scotland you can't be evicted for six months.
As well as Universal Credit housing help, private landlords are now eligible for a three month mortgage payment holiday if their tenants are experiencing financial difficulties.
If a landlord doesn't have a mortgage and is struggling, Martin advises tenants to try to find a way to "meet in the middle".
7. Five major lenders let you apply for a mortgage payment holiday online
Lenders will allow you to take a break on paying for three months if you are struggling, with many letting you apply online.
8. The Bank of England base rate was cut to 0.1% - the lowest in 325 years
Check your mortgage rate and sort your savings. Those on trackers and variable rates should see their mortgage payment reduced by about £40/mth per £100,000 of mortgage. People free to remortgage should check to see if they can find a better deal. People with savings should act now to try and get a decent rate.
9. HSBC is offering a £300 overdraft buffer
HSBC has said to help with coronavirus it'll automatically increase buffer zones (which let you go overdrawn interest-free) on its Bank and Advance accounts, from £25 to £300 for three months from Thursday. Martin hopes others may follow soon.
10. Energy bill help
Disconnections are suspended for customers of all providers, while many providers are also pushing back bill dates, with British Gas confirming it's removing late payment charges for those struggling.
11. Sky Sports customers can now pause their subscription
Subscribers to Sky Sports can now pause Sky Sports payments while sport is suspended on Sky and Virgin Media.
12. Almost all train tickets are now refundable
Anyone who bought an advance ticket can now get a refund, with season ticket holders able to get the unused portion of their ticket back. They may have to pay a small admin fee of around £10.
13. Shops are extending their returns policies
H&M has upped its policy from 28 to 100 days for items bought instores and online, so you've got time to get things back during lockdown.
14. Struggling with Council Tax?
First payments for Council Tax are due in April, so if you think you’ll struggle to pay, you can speak to your local authority as Telford & Wrekin Council is letting residents defer April's and May's payments.
15. Contactless card limit increasing from £30 to £45
This will take place from April 1, but it may take some time to filter through to all retailers, but contactless limits often don't apply to mobile phone payments.
16. Can't get to your MOT? There's a 6-month exemption
If your MOT runs out and your local test centre is closed or you’re self-isolating, the Department for Transport has announced all cars, vans and motorcycles that usually would require an MOT test will be exempted for 6 months from 30 March.
Garages will remain open for essential repair work.
17. Life insurance and income protection should still cover coronavirus
Life and income protection policies should pay out unless someone took one out while they had it.
But most critical illness policies won't consider coronavirus as a critical illness.
18. Package holiday or flight cancelled? You're due cash, not vouchers
When package holidays or flights are cancelled, the rules state you're due a full refund.
Many firms are currently trying to direct you towards taking vouchers, if you're happy with vouchers, take them. If not, you are due cash.
But travel experts reckon Package Travel Regulations may soon be suspended, meaning you only get vouchers for package holidays.
19. Water bill problems?
Trade body Water UK said it is working with water firms to arrange payment breaks, payment holidays and more for those struggling.
Check out the full list here.