Consumer advice with Gráinne McGuinness
Last week, I looked at the savings available to people who switch their utility bills but that is just one of many ways people can save by shopping around.
This week I spoke to Daragh Cassidy of bonkers.ie, who believes an Irish household can be thousands of euro better off by switching their most common bills.
In addition to switching energy supplier and broadband and TV provider, there are major savings to be made, plus cash back, for people who change their mortgage provider, current account and health insurance.
“To say that these are uncertain times would be a huge understatement,” Mr Cassidy said. “And with workers getting laid off right across the country, people’s finances may come under pressure like never before.
“That’s why it’s never been more important for people to ensure they’re not overpaying on their bills.”
He has some pointers for people when switching.
“For switching energy suppliers – have a recent meter reading, an estimate of how much energy you use, as well as your MPRN or GPRN to hand,” he said.
“For switching broadband and TV remember that you’ll usually need to give your existing supplier 30 days’ notice. And you’ll have to return any old equipment.
“For switching mortgage, know your existing interest rate, how much is remaining on the mortgage, and the remaining term to see first and foremost how much you can save by switching.
"Usually you need at least 20% equity in your home and those in negative equity won’t be allowed switch. Banks won’t accept with less than five years or €40,000 remaining.”
All good advice. But, at an already stressful time, it is understandable to be nervous of more upheaval.
People may fear the rapidly changing economic climate makes this a bad time to make changes, so I asked Mr Cassidy could he reassure people that switching would not lead to any adverse impacts, breaks in coverage and service, etc?
“Our mantra is always that switching saves, and that’s true now more so than ever,” he answered. “People shouldn’t let unfounded fear put them off switching and saving money.
“For example tens of thousands of people switch gas and electricity supplier every month without any issue at all and you’ll never be cut off during the process. This won’t change.
"Besides, if there is an issue with your energy switch, in the worst case scenario you just remain with your existing supplier – you don’t get cut off.
“When you’re switching broadband and/or TV provider it is a little different as all the providers have their own networks and equipment. So here I’d always recommend that in order to guarantee continuity of service, you only cancel your old service AFTER your new service is fully up and running.
"This does mean you may end up being double charged for the first month but the longer-term savings will make it worthwhile.
“And when it comes to switching bank account or mortgage for example, the Central Bank has strict codes and timelines in place that all banks must adhere to.”
Might better deals become available in the coming months that people could miss out on if they switch now?
“It’s always true that better value might crop up a few months down the line but in the meantime, while you wait, you’re stuck paying higher prices, so it’s just best to switch as soon as you can,” Mr Cassidy said.
Another concern people may have is that, given the volume of people contacting banks and other finance companies regarding loans and other issues, can customers expect delays in the processing of switching?
“When it comes to switching energy provider or broadband, most of the job can be done online without the need to talk to an advisor or anyone else,” Mr Cassidy said.
“So this shouldn’t be greatly impacted, And while it’s true that banking centres will be focussed on other areas right now, switching mortgage or current account can’t be done overnight anyway. It requires a bit of time and effort.”
With everyone asked to practise social distancing, we are all spending much more time within the confines of our own homes.
Thankfully, recent fine weather has made it easier to get out into gardens and patios.
If you are keen to update your outdoor space, check out Aldi’s Garden Event, which starts in all 142 stores nationwide on Thursday.
The range includes outside furniture and dining, numerous eating and heating options, as well as outdoor lighting for gardens, paths, and near doors.
Being realistic about Irish weather, one of the most useful items in the range is a portable patio heater for €59.99.
The water-resistant 2000W infrared heater, heats instantly, with three heat settings and a 1.9m power cord.
If the grass needs cutting, you can also buy a Ferrex electric lawnmower for €119.99 or a Ferrex electric grass trimmer for €24.99.