Bank’s Savings Compensation Scheme

piggybankFollowing the collapse of the Icelandic banks Kaupthing and Landsbanki, the Government raised the amount of savings protection for individual savers from £35,000 to £50,000 in October last year, which would be paid through the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Instability has racked the UK banking industry since September 2007 with the nationalisation of Northern Rock, part-nationalisation of Lloyds Banking Group (including HBOS) and RBS, the collapse of Bradford & Bingley and the bailout of Alliance & Leicester by Spanish bank Santander.

Maximum compensation limits (and how to make the most of it)

All of your savings are covered up to £50,000 by the FSCS as long as they are not all held with the same savings compensation licence (see link at the top of the page). The limit on joint accounts is £100,000. These limits do not apply to money held with National Savings & Investments or Northern Rock where all of your money is 100% guaranteed by the Government.

Foreign banks compensation limits

These limits do not apply if your bank is a foreign bank operating in the UK with a higher compensation limit in its home country. For example, as of September 2008, the deposits of the Post Office and Irish banks operating in the UK such as Anglo-Irish Bank, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland, are 100% covered following an increase in compensation from the Irish government.

Essential advice: spread your savings

Due to the rule on different savings accounts with one provider, it is best to spread your savings over as many savings institutions as possible. Yet a series of mergers, takeovers, joint ventures and subsidiaries has created a confusing web for savers to negotiate. And this would have huge implications were your savings provider to go bust. If you had three accounts with the same banking group – which does not have separate compensation licences for each of its brands – instead of getting three compensation claims of £50,000, totalling £150,000, you would only get back £50,000. However, if the bank is separately authorised by the Financial Services Authority then you would get a separate compensation limit.

Last Minute Christmas Gifts on a Budget

If you are a little more creative or have some time you could think about making some homemade presents. These are great for children to give to teachers, friends, grandparents etc The site Santas Postbag has a whole range of ideas for homemade festive gifts from pot plants, knitting projects and toys.

gingerbread houseEdible Christmas Gifts are always a big hit – there is a great selection of ideas at Net Mums including cakes and biscuits, savoury ideas and chocolate and sweets. Remember to have some lovely ribbon and a gift tag to make it special. Below is a simple recipe for some Gourmet Mint Chocolates.

Gourmet mint chocolates

300g white chocolate, finely chopped
½ tsp peppermint essence
50ml whipping cream
75g plain chocolate
100g clear peppermint sweets, crushed

Arrange approximately 36 foil or paper sweet cases on a baking sheet. Place the cream and 225g of the white chocolate in a bowl set over hot water and allow to melt, mix well. Do not allow to overheat. Add the crushed peppermints and stir until melted. Place the mixture in a piping bag with a plain nozzle, and three-quarter fill the cases. Flatten the top with a wet finger. Chill until set.

Place the remaining white chocolate in a bowl over hot water and stir until smooth. Pour into a greaseproof-paper piping bag. Melt the plain chocolate in a bowl over hot water and stir until smooth. Pour into a greaseproof-paper piping bag. Cover the tops of half of the mint sweets with white chocolate, put a blob of dark chocolate on the top and draw a cocktail stick through to give a heart shape. Cover the remaining half of the chocolates in the same way but with reversed coloured chocolates. Leave to set.

Christmas on a budget

Christmas is never an easy time of year to be saving money however we have some great ideas to help you save a few ££s this year.   Feel free to add your ideas in the comments.

pompom_christmas_tree1) Homemade Christmas cards are lovely especially if you have children, they can draw a picture, stick on some stickers and cover everything in glitter.  Try ebay for blank cards from only 10p each.  There are lots of ideas for you to try at Activity Village or have a look around the house for craft bits and pieces to use up.

2)  Christmas decorations can also be fun to make, an old favourite that is easy to make is Paper Snowflakes.  The site  Paper Snowflakes  has all the information you could ever need about making your own snowflakes with hundreds of patterns – take a look and you could have a great display in no time.

paper lanterns3)  Paper Lanterns are another fun make for the house.  You can make two lanterns out of one A4-sized sheet of paper. You could use coloured paper, but it is much more fun to take white paper and decorate your own.   Next cut the paper in half lengthways and cut a strip off the end and put it aside to make the handle. Fold in half again lengthways and make evenly spaced cuts in the paper along the folded edge to about 1cm or ½” form the edge, then unfold the paper.

cutting paper lanterns

If you want to decorate your lanterns with glitter, sequins or shiny stickers this would be the time to go for it!  Finally roll it into a cylinder. You can staple, glue or sticky tape it in place, and finally attach the handle to either side. The finished lanterns could be hung on a Christmas tree separately or stapled to a string to form a garland.

gift tags4)  Gift tags are another thing you can make quite cheaply and give the  personal touch.  There are lots of examples to download here and some home-made examples here.

What ever you decide to create have a very Merry Christmas!

Guide to Safe Internet Banking

online internet banking Many people are nervous about banking online but there are a lot of things you can do to make it safer for you.  Here are our top tips to stay safe online:

  • avoid easy to guess passwords such as your name or date of birth
  • ignore emails or calls asking for personal information
  • use anti-virus and spyware software along with a personal firewall
  • check your transactions regularly for any you do not recognise

Phishing explained

Phishing is the name given to the practice of sending emails purporting to come from a genuine company operating on the Internetin an attempt to trick customers of that company into disclosing information at a bogus website operated by fraudsters. These emails usually claim that it is necessary to “update” or “verify” your customer account information and they urge people to click on a link from the email which takes them to the bogus website. Any information entered on the bogus website will be captured by the criminals for their own fraudulent purposes.

Trojans explained

Trojans take their name from the term ‘Trojan Horse’ and are a type of computer virus which can be installed on your computer without you realising.  Trojans can be capable of installing a “keystroke logger”, which captures all of the keystrokes entered into a computer keyboard. Some specifically seek to capture passwords entered at certain web sites, by capturing keystrokes or taking screen shots of sites you visit. This information is then sent to the fraudsters over the Internet.

You can find out more on Bank safe online