Financial Well-Being Help & Advice

During these worrying times, your financial well-being is also important. We are entering unprecedented territory, with many households experiencing a reduction in their income, unexpected childcare and even home schooling, self-isolation and social distancing.

With so much ‘advice’ in the press, online and on social media, it can be rather overwhelming to work out what is best for you. Therefore, we’re put together this overview of help and guidance which may be available to help members through these difficult times.

If you’re struggling, take time to get the help that is available to you, reduce your bills and help look after your financial well-being now.

Mortgage Payment Holiday – If keeping up with your bills and food on the table may be a challenge, speak to your mortgage provider. Many banks have agreed to offer ‘forbearance’ (tolerance and help) on mortgages, giving customers a temporary break from having to make mortgage payments during this time. Find out more here.

Top tip – If you are going to apply for a mortgage holiday, it’s best to do it online where possible, as phone lines are likely to have huge backlogs.

Help for Renters too – If you are struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus outbreak you should speak to your landlord as soon as possible to let them know your situation and work out a repayment plan. As well as universal credit housing help, new rules mean landlords in England & Wales won’t be able to start new eviction proceedings for at least the next 3 months, and in Scotland an increased 6 months’ notice before taking steps to evict a tenant. Find out more here.

Energy bill help – Energy suppliers are offering some help to those who may struggle to pay bills as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. All energy providers have suspended disconnections and most are also pushing back bill dates for those struggling financially. Find out more here.

Council Tax help – Many councils are offering help to residents who are struggling to pay their council tax because of the coronavirus pandemic. This is being done on a council-by-council basis, so contact your local authority. Bear in mind though that you’ll still have to pay the full amount over the year, so when you start paying again your bill each month will be bigger than normal.

Water bill help – Water companies in England and Wales have stepped up efforts to help customers who have lost their jobs or had their incomes cut during the coronavirus crisis. The companies are encouraging households with immediate or short-term issues paying their bills to get in contact so that they can receive help.

Credit Card Help – Credit card companies have a range of options to help those struggling due to the coronavirus. Help includes waived fees for missed payments, lower interest payments, temporarily increase credit card limits and in some cases a payment holiday of up to 3 months. So if you’re struggling, get in contact with the credit card provider and discuss the best option for you. Find out more here.

Car Repayments help – If you can’t afford to pay for your car due to coronavirus, speak to your finance provider. Some lenders will be happier to assist than others, but you might well be offered some solutions to make the payments more manageable and allow you to keep the car. For example, they could allow you to defer the payments for a short period of time, or they might be willing to extend the period of the loan to reduce the cost of the monthly payments.

Loans, HP & other finance help – Once again, the majority of lenders have help in place to help if you are struggling with repayments due to the coronavirus. Options include payment holidays, debt restructuring & waiving fees for missed loan payments. Contact the lender as soon as possible to discuss your situation.

If you are experiencing financial difficulties and have an outstanding Penny Post loan, please contact us at the earliest opportunity to discuss your situation.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Can’t go to work or have no work to do? Your employer can choose to put staff who can’t work on ‘furlough’ (on hold), and then the Government will cover 80% of your salary up to £2,500 per month. It’s up to your employer to decide and define who is furloughed, so talk to them to see if this is an option. Find out more here.

Sky Sports Customers – with most live sport suspended, Sky Sports customers can now ‘pause’ their subscription – which means you can stop paying for the time being. You can do this online – log in to your account and go to the Pause Sky Sports page. While your account is paused, you will still have access to all 11 Sky Sports channels. As soon as live sports returns, Sky says it will automatically reinstate your subscription.

BT Sports Customers – with no live sport at present, BT Sport has now said its customers can get a bill credit for one month. This will cover both the basic subscription and any HD add-on. Alternatively you can choose for BY to donate your credit to the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. Find out more here.

Other Subscriptions – Many companies are letting members freeze subscriptions for services unavailable due to coronavirus restrictions. For example, PureGym is letting members freeze membership for free for one month and Odeon Cinemas are automatically stopping payments for those with Odeon Limitless membership. Check company websites for more information.

Mobile Phone Contracts – Mobile phone users are being offered extra data and free calls by some firms to help them keep in touch during the pandemic. Visit your mobile providers website for further information. With Three, for example, visiting the NHS website for the latest health advice and updates will not count towards your data allowance.

Can’t get a MOT? – Drivers who have an MOT due from Monday 30 March will be automatically granted a six-month extension because of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, if your vehicle’s MOT was due to expire on 3 April, it will now run out on 3 October. However you will still have to keep your car in a roadworthy condition and garages will remain open for those needing repairs.

Train ticket refunds – Anyone with an advance ticket can now get a refund. Season ticket holders can get the unused portion of their ticket back but may have to pay a £10ish admin fee.

Package holiday or flight cancelled? – The Foreign and Commonwealth Office now issued an advisory against all non-essential foreign trips until at least mid-April. This means if you are due to travel during this time you should be able to get a refund or claim on insurance (go to the airline or hotel for a refund first). If you have additional bookings such as event tickets, you could also check with the supplier directly to see if it will offer a refund as a goodwill gesture.

The right to get a refund or claim on your insurance doesn’t necessarily apply to ALL future bookings. So if, for example, you’ve booked to travel to Italy much later this year, you may have to wait for the travel company to decide whether to cancel the trip before you can get a refund.

There’s lots more information and help here.

Access your Savings – Another alternative is to access savings to help you through the current situation. Some accounts, like fixed-term saving accounts, would usually incur penalties if you wanted to withdraw funds early, but several banks have pledged to waive penalties for those who need to access their funds because of the coronavirus pandemic.

At Penny Post, we’re removing withdrawal restrictions from our Plus and Christmas accounts, so you can withdraw funds from these accounts online or by telephone if required.

Avoid high cost lenders – Beware of high cost lenders or high-interest credit cards to get cash quickly. Their high interest, fees, and the adverse impact it can have your credit history, can make things far worse in the long term. A Penny Post loan with affordable repayments straight from your pay could be a far better alternative and save you money in the long-term.

Stay alert – Unfortunately, fraudsters may try to take advantage of the current situation, so make sure you’re on the lookout for anything suspicious, including messages about Coronavirus claiming to be from your bank or Penny Post. Remember, Penny Post will never ask you for your PIN or password or ask you to move money from your accounts.

If you have further ideas to help fellow members during these troubling times, please do get in touch.

For more information on our plans to support members though the coronavirus, please click here.