Are subscriptions turning your bank account into a leaky bucket?

A recent Citizens Advice online survey found that 84% of people did not realise they had agreed to a subscription.

These “subscription traps” can turn a spur of the moment free trial sign up into an annual liability costing consumers hundreds of pounds per year.

In the same survey, it was found that more than 16 million people had signed up to Continuous Payment Authorities (CPAs) over a 12-month period. Most of these were set up online.

CPAs differ from the more widely recognised Direct Debits in a number of ways, however, the most contentious issue for customers is that CPAs allow companies to take payments from their accounts without them being notified and giving explicit authorisation before each payment. Companies are, therefore, able to lure consumers into signing up for monthly, quarterly or yearly contracts using long winded terms and conditions statements (we even know lawyers who don’t read these!) and take payment even if users do not use their service.

A new tactic increasingly used by companies is offering discounts for annual recurring plans. These lengthy plans mean that there is an increased likeliness that a service is forgotten about and not cancelled, before the payment is renewed and paid for in advance. Sneaky, hey?

At Bean, we believe that consumers should not be tricked into signing up for lengthy and costly contracts without realising, effectively creating leaks in their bank accounts. There are a number of initiatives which can be put in place to increase consumer protection from a legislative point of view. We are excited to see what Philip Hammond announces in the Budget later today. However, in the meantime we are busy working away to create the best technological solution to enable consumers to take control of their subscriptions and plug these leaks.

About us

Bean is the UK first consumer subscription management platform. By linking your bank account to Bean, we will find and track all your recurring payments including your utility bills, mobile phone contract and loans. We help highlight contracts that you no longer need such as unused gym subscriptions, online TV streaming contracts and free trials that have overrun, helping you cancel these contracts in one click. Bean will then notify you, at the right time with the right information, if you can get a better deal on any of these contracts.

Why no one can afford a new house

Written by   in 

House prices are up again and now almost 8 in 10 families in England cannot afford a new house in the area they like to call home, according to Shelter.

To all but a few people who have been living in a hole for the past 20 years, the news that house prices are completely out of balance with what we can pay is not news.

With the UK Government planning on addressing the housing crisis by building one million new homes in the next four years. If no one can afford them, this strategy is pretty pointless.

Shelter’s research shows that this issue is no longer just confined to London and the south-east, affecting the whole of the UK, with the average price of a new home in the UK being £206,950.

We do not want to suggest that there are any simple fixes to the issues facing the housing market in the UK. However, Shelter points out in the report how badly the current system is rigged in favour of housing developers and land dealers. These companies have been put in a position where they can maximize their profits by distorting the market and maintaining the status quo.

In the same week that this report was published, other research outlined how consumers are wasting millions of pounds every year due to ineffective management of their personal finances. Only 7.7m households switched their energy contract in the past year, costing them well over £200 per year. In addition, nearly 42% of households have not switched their broadband supplier in the past five years, at a potential cost of £1,200 over the period.

About us

Bean is the first of a new breed of personal finance management tools. By linking your bank account to Bean, we will find and track all your recurring payments including your utility bills, mobile phone contract and loans. We help highlight contracts that you no longer need such as unused gym subscriptions, online TV streaming contracts and free trials that have overrun, helping you cancel these contracts in one click. Bean will then notify you, at the right time with the right information, if you can get a better deal on any of these contracts.

4 in 10 people haven’t switched broadband in 5 years, why this is bad

Written by   in 
4 in 10 people haven't switched their broadband

Fresh off the heels of Monday’s announcement that only 7.7m households switched their energy supplier last year, ISPreview.co.uk has released a survey showing that an incredible 4 out of 10 households have not switched their broadband supplier in the past FIVE years. Furthermore, only 29.8% of people have switched once and a further 15.2% have switched twice.

Without context these figures don’t mean much. However, when you consider that 29.6% of households with superfast broadband say that they are dissatisfied with their speeds, it seems that we consumers are not applying enough pressure to the broadband industry.

So, what about the money? Reviewing current broadband contracts, we can see that Origin Broadband is offering a simple broadband contract for £17.99, with no connection fee, vs Sky who will charge £36.99, plus a connection fee of £9.95, for a slower connection but free minutes from your landline. Assuming you don’t use your landline, you could save close to £240 per year if you switched. Therefore, it doesn’t take a maths whizz, thankfully, to work out that the 41.9% of households who have not switched in five years could have saved around £1,200 if they had done so.

To some (lucky!) people, £1,200 may not seem like a significant figure, but given that the news today states that nearly 8 in 10 people cannot afford to buy a new home in their local neighbourhood, there is a clear need for people to optimise their finances in this way.

About us

Bean is the first of a new breed of personal finance management tools. By linking your bank account to Bean, we will find and track all your recurring payments including your utility bills, mobile phone contract and loans. We help highlight contracts that you no longer need such as unused gym subscriptions, online TV streaming contracts and free trials that have overrun, helping you cancel these contracts in one click. Bean will then notify you, at the right time with the right information, if you can get a better deal on any of these contracts.

What the headlines aren’t saying about energy switching rates

Written by   in 

So, it’s that time of year again. Winter is almost behind us (although this week’s weather doesn’t seem to have got the memo) and we can rely on our boilers a little less.

So the question is, what damage has this cold season brought us? Unfortunately for future generations, it has been another unseasonably mild winter, so perhaps no burst pipes and very few people skidding on icy roads. However, what is going on in our pockets?

A bit of good news crept in today: a record 7.7m people have switched their energy contracts in the past year. This is the highest rate for 6 years (when doorstep energy selling/conning was still legal). On the face of it, a headline like ‘record number of people switch’ seems good but what isn’t highlighted is that actually only a third of UK households switched. That means a staggering two thirds of the UK are paying an eye watering £200 each more than they should be on their energy bills alone, largely due to the inertia created in the market. To the 16m people in the UK with less than £100 in savings, £200 cash in hand would be a vital lifeline.

Due to the consistently low energy switching rate, it seems that our government has created a market environment in which the industry can profit from inertia, therefore failing households in need of help. Having talked to hundreds of these people, we came up with Bean in order to help you track your energy and other recurring contracts, so you can keep that extra £200+ in your pocket.

The scary thing is that with energy price rises around the corner, the issue is about to get a whole lot worse for UK households… Better sign up for Bean then!

About us

Bean is the first of a new breed of personal finance management tools. By linking your bank account to Bean, we will find and track all your recurring payments including your utility bills, mobile phone contract and loans. We help highlight contracts that you no longer need such as unused gym subscriptions, online TV streaming contracts and free trials that have overrun, helping you cancel these contracts in one click. Bean will then notify you, at the right time with the right information, if you can get a better deal on any of these contracts.

The 6 biggest things you must know to boost your credit score

Written by   in 
What is your credit score and how to improve it

Don’t mind paying tens of thousands of pounds more than you have to over your life? Then don’t read this.

Credit scores: not fun, not sexy, definitely not easy to understand, but, they are pretty damn important. You may be struggling to care about yours right now, and I don’t blame you, but if you ever want a chance to buy a house, unfortunately they’re one of those things you can’t ignore, no matter how much you may want to, much like laundry, your boss and Donald Trump.

So, we’ve broken down the key things that you need to know.

What is a credit score?

It is essentially a measure of how likely a lender thinks you are to repay money borrowed. It predicts this based on a number of things, the main one being your previous credit payment history. People often assume that they have one, all-encompassing, credit score, but that is not the case. You are scored differently by each lender. They will, however, all look at your same credit file (compiled by credit reference agencies), in addition to any previous dealings they have had with you (and, of course, your application for whatever financial product you are approaching them for).

Why do I, or should I, care about mine?

Your credit score affects your finances in many ways.

Firstly, let’s consider loans. Your credit score can determine not only whether someone will lend you money, but at what rate. If the lender thinks you are high risk, you may be offered that loan (happy days) but well be charged a higher rate of interest (kind of takes the shine off it a bit, doesn’t it?).

Mortgages are loans (and yes, I know that you know that) and so a poor credit score could mean no mortgage and, therefore, no house. That’s pretty serious stuff! With the current economical situation putting getting a foot on the property ladder out of reach for so many anyway, don’t make things harder for yourself by letting your credit score stand in the way of that dream pad.

Want that fancy new iPhone free on contract? Well, tough; if you have a poor credit score that is. It’s sticking with Pay As You Go for you, then.

If you’re applying for a new credit card, your credit score can be important in determining not only whether you are given one, but your APR and whether you are offered any promotions.

How to improve your credit score

Phew, that is the technical stuff out the way. So, are you convinced that you should care about your credit score yet? If so, here are a few tips on how to improve it:

1. Don’t be late with payments.

I know, I know, this is obvious. However, it would be ridiculous not to include it in this list, given that it’s so very important. You may also be surprised at the consequences of just one or two late or missed payments. Setting up direct debits is the easiest way to ensure this doesn’t happen. Plus, it requires no effort from you (always a bonus) and you can’t forget.

2. Register to vote.

If you’re not on the electoral roll, you are unlikely to be given credit. Whilst the credit reference agencies do use the full register which everyone is on, by law, the electoral roll is often also used when determining credit scores. Even if it isn’t, as lenders also use it to help check your details, not being on it could cause you delays when applying for credit.

3. Get a credit rebuild card.

If you have a poor credit history, getting credit is difficult. However, you need to start building a good recent credit history, which obviously involves getting credit, in order to improve your credit score and be offered more credit in future. Tricky. Credit rebuild cards are a good solution here, as long as you use them correctly (otherwise they are a complete nightmare, so take note). They are available for those with a poor credit history but have ridiculously high rates of APR. However, you won’t be charged interest if you never use the card to withdraw cash and pay it off in full each month. Over time, this should improve your credit score.

4. Don’t do too many applications all at once.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll leave all “life admin” tasks for as long as you possibly can and then try and do everything all in one go – lurching from being horribly inefficient to smugly on top of things (briefly). This is not a good idea with applications for credit as every time you apply for any kind of credit, it is noted on your file for a year. If there are too many then lenders may think you are desperate for credit, leading to rejections.

5. If you do get rejected, check your credit file before applying elsewhere.

Simply applying again leads to more searches for credit which are, again, noted on your credit file and can lead to more rejections, prompting a tedious, and damaging, cycle of applications and rejections. The lender should tell you which credit reference agency it used, so contact that one. You have the legal right to see a copy of your credit report for £2. If you find an unfair default on your file, dispute it. Failing to do so could result in continued rejections for credit. Then also check whether the other two credit agencies have the same default listed too.

6. Cancel store and credit cards you no longer use.

Lender sometimes view you having access to too much available credit as a problem, even if you are not using it. However, if you have any long-term bank accounts which you haven’t defaulted on, these can be good for your credit score (I did say in the intro that credit scores aren’t easy to understand…), so maybe keep a couple of those open, but not too many. It’s a tricky balancing act, as with most things in life!

How to Save Money on Your Wedding

Written by   in 
How to save money on your wedding

Engaged? Congratulations – on your last few moments of having money in your pocket, I mean! Sorry, that was harsh. Seriously, getting married is, of course, a wonderful thing. However, no-one can deny that it is easy to overspend when planning your wedding; you simply mention the word and zeros get added to prices. I’ve been through this recently and so wanted to share a few tips (other than: if you want to test your relationship, plan a wedding together!) to help you stay within budget and avoid entering married life with unnecessary debt.

1. Get wedding insurance

My wife was reluctant to get wedding insurance as it’s an additional expense (seemingly having forgotten the “no pet insurance saga”). We were lucky I insisted because our marquee company’s warehouse burnt down two months before the wedding, with all of the marquees inside. This was not fun, as you can imagine, but it would have been worse if we didn’t take out that insurance. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and all that…

2. Spend money on the things people notice

Do you remember what was decorating the tables, or hanging from the ceiling, at the last wedding you went to? No, no-one does. I, however, am still moaning about the wedding I went to a few years ago where they ran out of booze and I was hungry all day. Spend your money on the important things which will make or break your guests’ day, such as food, drink and shelter (either from the sun or, if you’re in England, the rain). You don’t need the little touches which hardly anyone will appreciate but can really add up.

3. Go for a weekday

At most venues, weekday weddings are far cheaper than the usual Saturdays. Yes, it means people may have to take a day off, but most people would do this without question (and if they wouldn’t, then they probably shouldn’t be coming anyway). Fridays, especially, are a good idea as guests can then have a long weekend (and more time to recover). Plus, you feel quite smug when you’re living it up at a wedding when everyone else is at work.

4. Negotiate!

This is another area where my wife and I differed. Whereas she considered prices to be set in stone, and didn’t want to ruffle feathers by asking for discounts, I took the view that everything was negotiable. Again, guess who was right? It doesn’t happen often, I should add (largely in case she reads this…). We may not have knocked hundreds of pounds off any one thing, but even small discounts here and there really add up when you are ordering things in bulk. And, when it comes to planning a wedding, any saving at all really does help!

5. DIY

Why pay someone else to do something if you can do it better (or just as well)? There are so many wedding-related things which you can DIY and you may even have fun doing it (note I said “may” not “will”). Things like bunting, decorations, invitations and even photobooths are all easily doable yourself.

6. Search for cheaper ways of getting the same results

This may sound like an obvious one, but bear with me. It is not always apparent that slightly altering the way you do things can have a big impact on price. This struck me most with our wedding cake. Did you know that to get a “fancy” wedding cake (you know, one with multiple tiers and icing flowers stuck to it, that sort of thing) for over 100 guests can easily set you back nearly £1,000?! Clearly, we should all be making wedding cakes for a living. A little bit of research and we discovered that a mountain of cupcakes, which look and taste just as good (seriously, who doesn’t like cupcakes?), is a fraction of the cost. Similarly, while your guests may well enjoy a midnight taco truck, I’m betting that they would be just as happy with a bacon sandwich and, if you have supplied enough alcohol, probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

7. Get help

People like to feel important. You want to save money. Do you see where this is going? Enlist the help of your family and friends and everyone’s a winner. I bet your Auntie Mildred makes a mean Victoria sponge – get her cracking on those aforementioned cupcakes. Have a friend who can DJ? Put him in charge of the music and save hundreds of pounds. Get your arty friends on the decorations and so on. Not only will this save you a packet, but you will find that it means more to you if it has been a team effort with your nearest and dearest.

8. Beg, borrow and steal

Okay, maybe don’t steal, but begging and borrowing is definitely allowed. If you have any married friends then ask them for tips and whether they have anything left over from their wedding which you can use. People love to give advice and you will find that they’re also are only too willing to shift those 50 tealight holders which are taking up space in the attic. Even if you have friends at both weddings, no-one will realise they are being recycled because, as noted above, no-one notices these things anyway!

8 Surprisingly easy tips to simplify your finances

Written by   in 
8 easy ways to simplify your money

Last time you had it simple, you were probably year 4 in primary school and I’m guessing life has become a lot more complicated since then. The modern world does not make simple living easy; now, more than ever, we are being told that we should be doing more, earning more, owning more.

Miss the simple life (and primary school afternoon nap sessions)? Me too, so let’s do something about it (although I can’t help with the nap sessions, I’m afraid; talk to your boss about that one).

Our finances often bring complexity to our lives, so let’s start there, with a few tips to get “simple” back:

1. Pay cash.

Swap plastic for cash and you’ll see how much easier it is to keep track of your finances. I can’t be the only one who feels like, because I’m not actually handing anything over, I’m not spending “real” money when I use my card. This especially applies to credit cards: swiping them is a doddle, but making timely payments on all your cards often isn’t. Pay in cash and it’s done.

2. Consolidate accounts.

If you like using credit cards, then have as few as possible. I know, I know, they keep offering you rewards to open new accounts! Then, all of a sudden, you feel like you’re Beyoncé and can spend what you like. Chances are you’re not, and you can’t. It’s harder to manage and keep track of multiple cards and easier to overspend. Instead, limit yourself to a couple of accounts and find the best credit card for you. Pick one for everyday spending and rewards, and another with low interest for balance transfers.

Pro tip: If you have opened several accounts, to preserve your credit score it is advisable not to close them immediately after paying them off. Cut up your card but keep the account open for a while. This spreads out the decrease in your total available credit which is less damaging than a sudden, large reduction.

3. Automate.

Anyone else “file” bills by shoving them in an overflowing drawer, to deal with later, and then promptly forget all about them? That was me until I set up auto-payments. This is perfect for recurring bills like your mortgage, car payment, credit card charges or gym membership and you’ll never miss one by mistake (not a fun experience). You can also automate your savings with online banking, choosing an amount to transfer to your savings account every month. The result: less things to think about, or forget, which is always a winner.

4. Go paperless.

It’s easy for letters and statements to get lost in the myriad of other crap, for want of a better word, which we’re sent every day. Also, if you receive them by post then you have to file them (not in the aforementioned overflowing drawer), becoming surrounded by more “stuff”. A simpler way is to register for electronic billing and receive your bills and statements by email. Bonus: you save some trees, too.

To deal with the contents of that drawer I keep mentioning, simply scan all of your documents so you have copies and then shred everything you don’t need (except for important documents such as certificates and titles). There are plenty of tools to help you organise your paperless finances and store them safely on your computer, the cloud or another platform.

5. Own less.

A juicer lived on my kitchen worktop for two years before I was forced to sell it because, to be honest, I don’t like juice and had only used it once. It’s easy to overbuy in our consumer society where we are constantly being told that we “need” more things. Have you found your “enough” yet? The more you have, the more time you have to spend maintaining and organising it (and trying to justify its existence when you have only used it once…). In many ways, less is more. Build a healthy relationship with your wallet, save a quid whenever possible and spend on experiences and things that really matter.

6. Close old accounts.

Banks seem to feel the need to send you letters and statements informing you about how much is in your account even when the answer is £0 and it has been for several years. That’s not fun for anyone. If you’re not using an account and are not intending to, close it and save everyone some hassle.

7. Pay Off Debt.

Instead of letting it mount up, pay off debt as soon as you can, even if it means you have to tighten the purse-strings for a while. This may seem obvious (hey, I never said this was rocket science!) but you would be amazed at the number of people who keep sinking further and further into debt, often in pursuit of a certain type of lifestyle. Try not to live beyond your means as that is definitely not the route to a simpler life. Again, you’re not Beyoncé.

8. Take Advantage of Technology.

For better control over your finances, sign up for Bean. Yes, this is a shameless self-plug but, as the purpose of Bean is to help you simplify your financial life, and save you time and money, it would have been a crime not to include it!

Want to save money on your holiday? There’s an app for that!

Written by   in 

Slash the cost of travelling aboard

Summer is here, apparently, and I don’t know about you but my mind has turned to escaping the rubbish English weather and getting my behind on the first flight out of here, ideally on a luxury holiday, paid for by someone else. Sadly, the last bit isn’t going to happen (although I remain open to offers…) and my grand ideas of not spending anything for the last few months haven’t exactly gone to plan. So, as I’m sure some of you are in the same boat, and the wonders of modern technology can help us out, below are my tips and tricks for going on a luxury holiday without the luxury price tag.

Skiplagged

Skiplagged

Ever thought of saving money by booking a flight to somewhere you don’t want to go, but which stops at your desired destination en route, thinking this may be cheaper? No, me neither. That was until I was introduced to Skiplagged, an app which makes this “hidden city ticketing” possible. You see, if, for example, I wanted to go to New York, it may actually be cheaper to book a flight that stops at Charles de Gaulle, JFK and finally goes on to Heathrow, and I could alight at JFK. Airlines have tried to block Skiplagged, with United Airlines even bringing court action against the company. However, at the moment the app is still available, and is very popular amongst travellers. It’s not hard to see why!

Skyscanner

Skyscanner

An old favourite, I also use Skyscanner a lot for comparing prices of flights and getting the best deal. As well as allowing me to compare prices to get a bargain, the app also directs me to the sites from which I can buy my tickets, providing simple filters to make the process as no-nonsense as booking a holiday can be in this day and age.

Hotel Tonight

Hotel_Tonight

Planning a last minute trip away? You spontaneous thing, you. Hotel Tonight offers hotel rooms at late notice. It was originally for those who wanted to book a hotel room for the same day, only offering rooms in hotels with vacancies that evening. They then moved into the more traditional discount hotel business, offering rooms at reduced rates up to a week before departure. Get booking and take that last minute trip!

Roomer

Roomer

You know that awful feeling when you book a holiday and then something, usually bad, crops up and you can no longer make it? Not only are you dealing with this new turn of events, and missing your holiday, but normally you have to still pay for it too! Salt. In. The. Wound. Then, happy days, Roomer came along and this was a thing of the past. Roomer is an app which allows me to sell my unwanted room reservations to other travellers seeking a discount. It also acts as a traditional marketplace for those looking for a good deal, so I often have a browse to check availability if I am planning a weekend away. Simply upload your unwanted hotel room to the app and you will get paid when someone else books the room, or use the app to get the best rates on a last minute reservation. Thank you, Roomer.

ExpertFlyer ExpertFlyer

I’m not made of money (still working on that), but I like to travel in style. ExpertFlyer uses a database to allow me to find all of the offers and upgrades available for an upcoming flight. I then just download the codes to my smartphone, and then I can upgrade. So, you can get the best deal possible and fly in comfort as you rack up air miles.

Hipmunk Hipmunk

Hipmunk acts like a comparison website, comparing rates for hotel rooms, air and coach travel and other incidentals so I can get the best deal. I simply select my destination and dates, or the app can make suggestions, and Hipmunk will provide a visual comparison of the deals available.

Hopper

Hopper

Named the best travel app by Apple in 2015, if you want to get the best deal for a flight, Hopper is the app for you. The massive databank allows me to compare prices for billions of flights, and the app will even make suggestions for dates that will be cheaper, and will send notifications to my phone to alert me to the latest bargain.

Priority Pass

Priority_Pass

Who loves airports? People in airport lounges, that’s who. Everyone else finds them stressful, crowded and full of bad food and endless duty-free which you have to walk through before you can get anywhere; a necessary evil to be endured before we are whisked away on holiday. Priority Pass is an app which gives members access to hundreds of airport lounges. Perfect for if you arrive at the airport early (apparently that does happen to some people), so you can start your holiday off in style with cocktails, access to the internet to plan your trip and nibbles. Also try LoungeBuddy, a similar app which I also use.

Welcome to Bean

Written by   in 

What is Bean, you ask?

Good question. We’re your new personal financial assistant… Hi!

We believe that there’s no reason for personal finance to be so difficult. In this day and age, no one should struggle to get enough information to effectively manage their money. Sure, if you have loads of it already then there’s a queue of people who will happily help you spend it. However, most people don’t fall into that category. We know we don’t.

So, we’re building something different, something for the rest of us, something that’s going to help keep your money in your pocket and make your life that bit easier. (more…)