It was in the middle of the recession, that we became better at clarifying what was and what wasn’t value for money, but recently, we have let this slip. There has been some interesting stats found by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission which shows only 41% of us switched a product or service in the past 12 months, down from last year. There is 2 potential reasons for this, either we are getting complacent/lazy, or companies are actually competing better? The main factor to switching is the hassle and stress, and it explains why we’re slowest to change financial products like our mortgage or credit card. Shameful really as that’s where the biggest savings are to be found. Keane Thompson have created a list of the top 10 services to switch and save your hard earned cash, this will save you some time and help you to see if you are paying over the odds and wouldn’t you rather be spending that money on something else or even saving it?
TV & BROADBAND: Great savings are to be had here as the market has become highly competitive, with Eir and Vodafone joining big-hitters Sky and Virgin. Virgin recently won the Best TV/ Broadband category at the bonkers, ie awards, so they’re still at the forefront. Value depends on what bundle you’re buying. We’re lucky in Dublin that the vast majority of us have good, fast broadband whose value we sometimes don’t appreciate. Always check if the ‘headline’ speeds actually match the reality. Seventy-two per cent of us roll over our provider every year, according to switcher.ie, with price the main factor. However, our satisfaction with broadband has dropped. Maybe this is the year to do it differently.
HEALTH INSURANCE: Yes, it’s expensive, and that won’t change, but you can definitely get better value. All three providers offer lots of add-ons, often free, to help your decision, such as online doctors, claim-as-you-go apps and dental or physio discounts. Stick on a budget, call VHI, Irish Life and Laya in turn and ask exactly what they offer for that amount. Let them vie for your business.
MORTGAGE PROTECTION: We take out a mortgage, it’s a lifelong (well, 25-year) product and we hardly ever review it, but switching the life insurance element can definitely be a saving. Rates have plummeted, and you should get a re-quote based on current age and health. Use a broker for range. Royal London won the bonkers.ie award on this based on price, but many will price-match.
MOBILE PHONE: This is one area where we are good switchers. There are so many providers and phones, but packages remain confusing and difficult to understand. A broker company like Carphone Warehouse gives impartial advice, and don’t forget Tesco and An Post who offer fantastic SIM-only packages.
UTILITIES: We import most of our electricity and gas, so it’s difficult to see significant price drops. However, there are lots of providers in this competitive market and they’re worth playing off each other. Bundling your services, going paperless and paying by direct debit will cut your costs immediately. Try bonkers.ie to compare (Energia won this year’s award, but your house’s requirements may steer you in a better direction).
CAR INSURANCE: Never cheap, but the renewal gives you a spur to shop around. I always use a broker for this product as some foreign insurers, happy to do business here, may not have a street presence. The market is beginning to level out after huge upheaval, but the biggest mistake is to simply renew your current provider. Adding fully-licensed, named drivers to your policy will result in a discount.
WASTE: Changing your waste disposal company is easy. Since the debacle over capping waste charges resulted in caps being scrapped, companies are free to charge what they like; in a competitive market, that’s good for consumers.
HOME INSURANCE: Definite discounts here as it’s a product we usually buy once and blindly renew. Calculate accurately your re-build costs (which are not the same as your house’s value, especially in Dublin) by using the calculator on scsi.ie and get discounts for alarms, dogs, over-50s and stay-at-homes. Always ask or you’ll never know.
MORTGAGE: Moving your mortgage is a big undertaking, but the savings can be huge. I’d use a mortgage broker (cost around €500). Expect it to take three months. All banks really want your switcher business now, so do consider it.
CURRENT ACCOUNT: Again, a big hassle factor, but all banks must abide by the Customer Switching Charter. There’s no unconditional free banking now, so go on price and service. KBC won the best value award.