Is economic Armageddon mark-II upon us? The pointy-heads in the City can’t decide. Best, then, to be prepared, and think about where to put our money.
Savings: the weakest banks in Europe currently don’t have a big presence in Britain. There are concerns about Spain, but Santander has got through stress tests with flying colours so far. Still, spread your savings and they’ll be backed under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. It guarantees the first £85,000 of savings in one registered institution. So if you have more than that, share your cash around. Check who and what is included at fscs.org.uk or call 0800 678 1100.
Mortgages: expectations that the Bank of England won’t raise interest rates until 2012 or longer means rates on home loans have fallen. But with the spectre of trouble in the eurozone, it is likely that rates will rise and mortgage availability could decline. Those on standard variable rates should consider switching to a tracker or fixed-term mortgage. Those on existing tracker mortgages should feel smug.
Energy: the big six gas and electricity providers have all increased their rates by double-digits for this-coming winter. The cost of heating your home for a year has gone up by a whopping £224 since November 2010, according to uSwitch, the comparison site. So switch now to find the cheapest in your area. Visit a comparison site (uSwitch, energyhelpline.com and confused.com are just three) to find the best deal in your area. Have your latest bill to hand to ensure your comparison is as accurate as possible.
Credit: it might sound illogical, but despite the spectre of a fresh banking crisis, the High Street institutions are offering deals to lure consumers to sign up to their credit cards. Banks are battling to offer the most generous interest-free balance transfer deals. Barclaycard and Halifax are currently offering 22 months. First Direct, which is consumer group Which?’s top bank for customer service (in my experience a helpful British call centre answers the phone within three rings every time) is giving card-holders 20 months without paying any interest.