Which? News

    Revealed: savers with small deposits miss out on the best savings rates


    Savers who have less than £1,000 to put into a savings account or Isa are excluded from nearly half of the general saving accounts on the market, exclusive Which? research has found. Out of 883 savings accounts we researched, a total of 407 (46%)...

    Savers who have less than £1,000 to put into a savings account or Isa are excluded from nearly half of the general saving accounts on the market, exclusive Which? research has found.

    Out of 883 savings accounts we researched, a total of 407 (46%) require an initial minimum deposit of £1,000 or more.

    And in the vast majority of cases, those with higher amounts to deposit benefit from the best rates in the savings account and Isa market.

    The research covers all available fixed-rate and instant-access savings accounts with no notice required, as well as equivalent cash Isas.

    Which? has analysed the market and the most competitive rates for savings accounts which require a deposit of less than £1,000 are shown below.


    What do the best-rate accounts for small deposits offer?

    Which? found 476 (54%) of the 883 specific savings accounts listed by data company Moneyfacts.co.uk ask for a minimum initial deposit of less than £1,000.

    We have not included Help to Buy Isas, Junior Isas, children’s savings accounts, and notice savings accounts and Isas in the analysis, as they do not easily allow for like-for-like comparisons.

    The highest interest-paying rate offered is 2.49% AER with Masthaven’s five-year fixed-rate bond account. It requires a minimum deposit of £500.

    The table below shows the highest rates for fixed-rate and instant-access Isas and savings accounts which can be opened with an initial deposit of less than £1,000, according to Which? Money Compare.

    Type of account Provider AER Minimum
    initial deposit Instant access savings account Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Online Saving Account 1.50% £1 Instant-access Isa Coventry Building Society, Easy Access (Online) 2 1.50% £1 One-year fixed rate account Atom Bank, 1 Year Fixed Saver 2.03% £50 One-year fixed rate Isa AA 1 Year Fixed Rate Isa Issue 14 1.56% £500 Two-year fixed rate account Atom Bank, 2 Year Fixed Saver 2.30% £50 Two-year fixed rate Isa Virgin Money 2 Year Fixed Rate Cash E-Isa Issue 379 1.82% £1 Three-year fixed rate account Atom Bank, 3 Year Fixed Saver 2.30% £50 Three-year fixed rate Isa Dudley BS Three Year Fixed Rate Cash Isa Issue 2 1.91% £100 Four-year fixed rate account Masthaven 48 Month Flexible Term Saver 2.22% £500 Five-year fixed rate account Masthaven, 5 Year Fixed Term Bond 2.49% £500 Five-year fixed rate Isa Metro Bank Fixed Rate Cash Isa Issue 7 2.10% £1

    Source: Which? Money Compare. 17.05.19

    Bigger deposits offer best savings rates

    Which? found that savers with at least £1,000 to deposit get more options with certain types of accounts. The options for fixed-rate savings accounts are particularly stark compared to the ones for people with less than one thousand pounds.

    There are 300 fixed-term savings accounts on the market currently which require an initial deposit of £1,000 compared to 125 fixed-term savings accounts which can be opened with less.

    There are more options for savers with smaller deposits in the cash Isa market, with 74 requiring an initial deposit of £1,000 compared to 104 that can be opened for less.

    There are 33 saving accounts with no notice period which require a minimum initial £1,000 deposit, and 247 that can be opened for less.

    Of these, 145 can be set up for just £1 and offer instant access to your savings.

    So are you better or worse off if you have less than £1,000 to deposit? As the head-to-head comparison in the table below shows, savers will small deposits miss out on the best rates in the vast majority of cases.

    Only instant-access savings accounts and Isas pay higher rates for deposits under £1,000 compared to accounts only available to those with more than £1,000. In every other case, the rate is either the same or higher for those with more savings.

    That said, in some cases, the difference in rate is just a few percentage points.

    Account type Highest-rate under £1,000 Rate (AER) Highest rate over £1,000 Rate (AER) Instant-access saver Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Online Saving Account 1.50% Shawbrook Bank, Easy Access – Issue 14 1.43% Instant-access Isa Coventry Building Society, Easy Access (Online) 2 1.50% Shawbrook Bank, Easy Access Cash Isa – Issue 5 1.43% One-year fixed rate account Atom Bank, 1 Year Fixed Saver 2.03% Bank of London & The Middle East, 1 Year Premium Deposit Account 2.20% (EPR*) One-year fixed rate Isa AA 1 Year Fixed Rate Isa Issue 14 1.56% Charter Savings Bank, 1 Year Fixed Rate Cash Isa 1.62% Two-year fixed rate account Atom Bank, 2 Year Fixed Saver 2.30% Al Rayan Bank, One Year Premium Deposit 2.42% (EPR*) Two-year fixed rate Isa Virgin Money 2 Year Fixed Rate Cash E-Isa Issue 379 1.82% Charter Savings Bank, 2 Year Fixed Rate Isa 1.82% Three-year fixed rate account Atom Bank, 3 Year Fixed Saver 2.30% Al Rayan Bank, 36 Month Fixed Term Deposit 2.52% (EPR*) Three-year fixed rate Isa Dudley BS Three Year Fixed Rate Cash Isa Issue 2 1.91% Shawbrook Bank, 3 Year Fixed Rate Cash Isa Bond – Issue 13 1.96% Four-year fixed rate account Masthaven 48 Month Flexible Term Saver 2.22% Bank of London & The Middle East, 4 Year Premium Deposit Account 2.50% (EPR*) Five-year fixed rate account Masthaven, 5 Year Fixed Term Bond 2.49% Bank of London & The Middle East, 5 Year Premium Deposit Account 2.70% Five-year fixed rate Isa Metro Bank Fixed Rate Cash Isa Issue 7 2.10% Shawbrook Bank, 5 Year Fixed Rate Cash Isa Bond – Issue 16 2.30% *These accounts pay an Expected Profit Rate, in accordance with the principles of Islamic finance. Source: Which? Money Compare, 17.05.19

    Find out more: How to find the best savings account

    If you have a deposit of more than £1,000

    Savers who have £1,000 or more to open a new account can access higher interest-paying accounts, although in some cases there are caveats.

    For example, the top three-year fixed-rate bond from Al Rayan Bank pays 2.52% expected profit rate compared to the best-rated equivalent account from Atom Bank which pays 2.30% AER and can be opened with under £1,000.

    In another comparison, the Bank of London and the Middle East’s four-year fixed-rate bond pays 2.50% expected profit rate – considerably more than the 2.22% AER offered by the best under-£1,000 deposit account from Masthaven.

    Al Rayan and Bank of London and the Middle East do not pay interest – they pay an expected profit rate from investments made under the principles of Islamic finance. The rates are often market-leading, but it is worth keeping in mind that the return is slightly different from a traditional account.

    This means there is a small possibility your returns may be lower, although you’ll be notified in advance if this is the case.

    The table below shows the highest returns on offer for savers with more than £1,000 to deposit.

    Provider/Type of account AER Minimum deposit Bank of London and the Middle East, 7-year bond 2.75% EPR* £1,000 Gatehouse Bank, 5-year bond 2.75% EPR* £1,000 Bank of London and the Middle East, 5-year bond 2.70% EPR* £1,000 Secure Trust Bank, 7-year bond 2.70% £1,000 *These accounts pay an Expected Profit Rate, in accordance with the principles of Islamic finance. Source: Which? Money Compare, 17.05.19 Regular saving accounts offer alternative option

    Regular savings accounts that often pay rates of return that outstrip inflation, and could be an option for savers with smaller deposits. Our research found none of these regular savings accounts require you to pay more than £100 a month.

    To open some of these accounts, however, you would need to have a current account with the provider.

    First Direct, HSBC and M&S Bank all have regular savings accounts that pay a market-leading 5% AER for 12 months, but only existing current account customers are eligible.

    Unlike fixed-rate bonds or instant-access accounts, which allow you to deposit a lump sum, the amount you can pay into a regular savings account will be limited – maximum monthly deposits are typically around £250. Moreover, the rates are only payable for a limited time such as 12 months.

    Interest-paying current accounts to grow balances

    You could use your current account for savings. Many interest-paying current accounts still offer returns on small balances, but you will need to pay a minimum monthly amount to qualify for interest.

    Nationwide’s FlexDirect account pays 5% AER on balances up to £2,500 for the first 12 months, while TSB still offers 5% AER on £1,500 on its Plus account, although this is reducing to 3% in July.

    Danielle Richardson also contributed to this research.

    Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.

    Realme smartphones to launch in the UK: £175 ‘3 Pro’ will shake up budget market

    Realme smartphones to launch in the UK: £175 ‘3 Pro’ will shake up budget market


    If you’re shopping for an inexpensive smartphone in 2019, your list of Android mobiles to consider just got a little bit bigger. Dubbed by Realme as ‘the speed king’, the 3 Pro is on its way. With prices for premium smartphones creeping beyond...

    If you’re shopping for an inexpensive smartphone in 2019, your list of Android mobiles to consider just got a little bit bigger. Dubbed by Realme as ‘the speed king’, the 3 Pro is on its way.

    With prices for premium smartphones creeping beyond £1,000 in some cases, Realme is offering something different. The brand is landing in the UK with an Android phone that pairs the looks of a premium mobile with a price tag that doesn’t hit the wallet as hard.

    But what sort of features can you expect from a smartphone costing less than £200? We’ve got all the details on the Realme 3 Pro.

    Best smartphones – top Apple and Android picks

    Who is Realme?

    Realme is an emerging Chinese smartphone company that was originally a sub-brand of another Android mobile maker, Oppo.

    Back in 2018, Realme confirmed its plans to become a separate brand from Oppo, focusing its efforts purely on affordable phones. This year, Realme has its sights set on conquering the European market.

    With the two companies being connected, some features are shared. Realme phones run on Oppo’s ColorOS, for example. The new Realme 3 Pro also has VOOC flash charging, a feature we tried for ourselves on the Oppo RX 17 Pro.

    Where to buy Realme smartphones

    As it’s early days for Realme in the UK, you can only buy its products through the official EU Realme website.

    The Realme 3 Pro will go on sale there from June 5 at 12PM GMT.

    Realme 3 Pro: premium looks at a discount (£175 / £219)

    The Realme 3 Pro starts at just £175, a price that makes it hard to ignore. It’s the first smartphone that Realme is selling in the UK, which sees it sparring similarly-priced phones from Huawei, Motorola and Sony. On paper, the Realme 3 Pro looks like great value for money, although we haven’t put it through our own expert tests just yet.

    This cheap Android has a 6.3-inch Full HD display with an almost bezel-less front and a Snapdragon 710 processor. It’s running on ColorOS 6.0 (based on Android P), a popular OS over in China. As a part of ColorOS you get access to Hyper Boost, which ‘accelerates performance’ when you’re playing games.

    The front camera uses a 25Mp lens to capture your cheesy grin, while the back of the phone, which is rocking a satisfying S-curve pattern, has a dual camera setup – 16Mp and 5Mp. The Realme 3 pro supports 4K video, slo-mo video and portrait pictures, blurring the background of your shots to bring your subject to life.

    We’re keen to see how long this sleek smartphone lasts on a single charge as it has a hefty 4,045mAh battery. Realme says you’ll get “9.7 hours of video playback” from the 3 Pro, with Flash Charge powering the battery by “up to 50% in 30 minutes”.

    If you’re convinced by the Realme 3 Pro, you’ll have two models to choose from – a 64GB version with 4GB of Ram (£175) and a 128GB alternative with 6GB of Ram (£219). Both models support expandable storage up to 256GB if you’re running low on space.

    More smartphones for £200 or less Huawei P Smart 2019 (£200)

    The new Huawei P Smart is a redesigned version of the original P Smart of 2018. It’s rocking a sizeable 6.21-inch display, with an 16Mp camera staring at its owner from the top of the screen.

    On the back of the phone are dual cameras, which pair up with Huawei’s AI technology to automatically tweak picture brightness and colour accuracy.

    Can Huawei’s affordable smartphone hold its own against pricier alternatives? See our Huawei P Smart 2019 review for more.

    Motorola G7 Power (£179)

    A bulky, long-lasting battery gives the ‘Power’ its name. Running on a 5,000mAh battery means you’ll get ‘days of battery life’ according to Motorola. We’ve recently put those claims to the test in our lab.

    Motorola is without a doubt one the major players in the UK when it comes to budget smartphones.

    See how we scored this Motorola mobile in our test lab with our full Motorola Moto G7 Power review.

    Xperia L3 (£169)

    The Xperia L3 becomes one of the cheapest Android smartphones up for grabs in 2019. It has a 5.7-inch screen and chooses to keep its bezels, so you won’t get a full-display experience.

    You get dual rear cameras (13Mp + 2Mp) on the Xperia L3, and there’s room for a microSD card if you need more room for your favourite snaps.

    Find out if this Sony smartphone is a proven Best Buy smartphone with our Sony Xperia L3 review.

    Are cheap smartphones actually any good?

    Our expert tests prove that finding a brilliant smartphone for under £200 isn’t an impossible task. But tread carefully – we’ve uncovered a selection of cheap mobiles that are a real pain to use.

    Our lowest-scoring phone under £200 Dismal battery life means you’ll get less than 7 hours of talk time from this phone. Pictures taken with the rear camera are dull and lacking in detail. It has one of the worst displays we’ve seen – dim with a very poor angle of view Our highest-scoring phone under £200 A display that brings out plenty of detail. It’s quick, speeding through everyday tasks. The battery on this budget phone lasts nearly 29 hours when making calls.

    To see which affordable smartphones we recommend, consult our expert guide on the best cheap mobile phones.

    Revealed: the terrifying smoke alarms that will fail when you need them

    Revealed: the terrifying smoke alarms that will fail when you need them


    Four smoke alarms that are widely available online have recently failed all eight smoke detection tests carried out by Which?. The alarms pose a danger to anyone who owns them and we reveal the characteristics to beware of. The alarms were purchased from...

    Four smoke alarms that are widely available online have recently failed all eight smoke detection tests carried out by Which?. The alarms pose a danger to anyone who owns them and we reveal the characteristics to beware of.

    The alarms were purchased from the online marketplaces eBay and Wish for less than a fiver each. But on test and under lab conditions, each of the four alarms failed to detect smoke eight times out of eight during four different test fires. Following pressure from us, almost 200 listings for these dangerous alarms have been removed from the two sites.

    To find a smoke alarm with a proven track record of detecting smoke quickly, head straight to our Best Buy smoke alarms.

    Video: discover the dangerous smoke alarms that don’t detect smoke

    Which alarms failed our smoke alarm tests?

    All four of the alarms that failed to detect smoke in our tests were bought from the online marketplaces eBay and Wish.

    Each one was on sale for less than a fiver and all were made in China and sold to us through Chinese re-sellers. They are all equally useless at detecting smoke and we’ve named each product a Don’t Buy.

    Smoke alarm one

    We bought this alarm online from eBay for just £3.88, but it’s widely available from other online marketplaces. It doesn’t have a brand name or model number, but JTY-GD-SA1201W is printed on the box.

    In our tests, it failed to detect any smoke at all in all eight of the fire tests we put it through, so it thoroughly deserves to be a Don’t Buy.

    When we checked for its availability on eBay recently, we found that it appeared to be identical to 45 of the cheapest 500 smoke alarms being listed on the site.

    How to identify this dangerous smoke alarm

    It’s white and circular with five struts supporting the raised central section. The packaging for the models we tested was black with blue and yellow stripes at the top, and an illustration of a burning house on the front. The instructions were just a badly photocopied page of A4.

     

    Smoke alarm two

    This dangerous smoke alarm is just as bad. Again, it was bought from eBay for just £3.99, and alarms seemingly identical in appearance accounted for 58 of the cheapest 500 listed on the site when we checked recently.

    We also found a listing for it on Wish. It failed every one of our smoke detection tests and that’s why it’s a Don’t Buy.

    How to identify this dangerous smoke alarm

    It’s white and circular with a large red circle in the centre surrounded by vents. The box is dark red and all of the markings on the box are in Chinese.

    When we tested it, the alarm simply couldn’t detect smoke and would present a clear and present danger to you and your family if there was a fire in your home.

    Just like the packaging, the instructions for this alarm aren’t in English and this means that the product can’t lawfully be sold in the UK.

    Smoke alarm three

    The third of our Don’t Buy alarms was just as bad at detecting smoke as the first two, with it failing to sound in eight separate fire environments. It’s available on online marketplaces – we bought it from Wish for less than a fiver but when we looked, we also found it on eBay.

    How to identify this dangerous smoke alarm

    It’s again circular with a red round centerpiece that’s raised up from the alarm’s body. The box is blue, yellow and green and this product claims to also be a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, too. Although, we’ve only tested it in smoke alarm mode.

    Smoke alarm four

    We tested this smoke alarm last year and it failed seven out of eight smoke-detection tests. This year, it’s been tested again and has failed all eight smoke tests.

    We found 60 of the cheapest 500 alarms on sale on eBay to appear to be identical to this unsafe alarm but we also found more than 20 listings for this unsafe alarm on Wish.

    How to identify this dangerous smoke alarm

    It’s sometimes listed as the SS-168 smoke alarm, but in other listings we’ve seen there’s no brand name or model number. It can be delivered in the box pictured, above, or simply packed in bubble wrap.

    There’s a CE mark on the packaging, but based on the evidence of our testing, we don’t think this alarm conforms with the regulations it needs to to be lawfully sold in the UK.

    The instructions that came with the alarm we tested aren’t in English, which also means it shouldn’t be sold in this country. But we’re aware that other versions of the alarm come with English instructions.

    What to do if you have one of these dangerous smoke alarms

    If you have one of these alarms in your home, our tests show that you won’t be able to rely on it when you need it most.

    Contact the seller you bought it from and request a refund.

    Then check out the smoke alarms that did best in our tests to find one that you can rely on.

    Cheap and dangerous smoke alarms are all over eBay and Wish

    We took a look at how widespread the problem of dangerous alarms is on eBay. In our snapshot study, we found that 171 of the cheapest 500 listings for smoke alarms on its site were for alarms that appeared to be identical to the four alarms that had failed our tests.

    And among the cheapest 100 smoke alarms, we found 84 that appeared to be identical to the four that had failed our tests.

    On Wish, we found 28 listings for the dangerous alarms among the 200 listings we inspected.

    eBay continues to allow dangerous alarms to be listed on its site

    This isn’t the first time we’ve alerted eBay to the fact that dangerous smoke alarms are being listed on its site.

    Following our smoke alarm tests in 2018, eBay removed 100 smoke alarm listings which appeared to be identical to a product that failed seven out of eight fire tests.

    But when we checked the eBay site recently, we found 60 listings for an identical looking alarm among the cheapest 500 listings on its site.

    However, following pressure from us, eBay has today removed 171 listings for the four alarms that failed to detect smoke so worryingly in our tests.

    An eBay spokesperson told us: ‘The listings flagged by Which? have been removed and the sellers informed. The safety of customers is our number one priority and we work closely with bodies such as Trading Standards to ensure listings sold on our marketplace comply with the law.’

    Response from online marketplace Wish

    A Wish spokesperson told us: ‘We look to our community to help us ensure that our products are up to the standard that customers expect. We are grateful to Which? for alerting us to this issue and looking out for the needs of the consumer. We are working to remove these products from the platform and are following up with the merchants in question to ensure they are adhering to local laws and regulations

    We say

    We’re calling on eBay and Wish to contact everyone who has purchased one of these unsafe smoke alarms to alert them to the danger they pose and to explain how they go about getting their money back.

    Both sites need to take their responsibilities seriously and do more to stop unsafe products from being listed in the first place.

    How we test smoke alarms


    We test each alarm in a fire chamber with smoke from four separate fires. The fires are made up of wood, cotton, plastics and solvents, the kind of things that would be present in a house fire.

    We record how quickly they sound and how dense the smoke is at that point. And we test two samples of each product, which means that every brand on test is given eight opportunities to detect smoke.

    What makes a Best Buy smoke alarm and what makes a Don’t Buy

    The best alarms detect smoke every time and they do this quickly. Other alarms will sound the alarm, but they’ll take longer to do this.

    If an alarm fails to detect smoke in any one of the eight fire tests we carry out, that product will be a Don’t Buy. And the worst alarms, like the four featured here, simply don’t detect any smoke at all, even when our test chamber is full of it.

    No space to get the Windows 10 May update? Here are five PC cleaning mistakes to avoid

    No space to get the Windows 10 May update? Here are five PC cleaning mistakes to avoid


    From now on, Windows 10 updates are going to take up a lot more space on your hard drive. Here’s what you need to know, and the serious mistakes you should avoid making. Windows 10 is getting bigger – for the better. Future updates of Windows 10 will...

    From now on, Windows 10 updates are going to take up a lot more space on your hard drive. Here’s what you need to know, and the serious mistakes you should avoid making.

    Windows 10 is getting bigger – for the better. Future updates of Windows 10 will earmark roughly 7GB of space on your computer. This may seem greedy, but it means that once the space has been assigned, you won’t ever run into the common problem of running out of space, sending your computer into a loop of updates that never ends. Which? has received dozens of complaints about this for cheap laptops that have very small storage drives.

    Find out how to free up space on your hard drive.

    This is also now reflected in the minimum storage required to install future updates, including the very latest May 2019 update. Your laptop must now have a storage device with an overall capacity of at least 32GB. So if you have an older Windows 10 tablet or laptop with 16GB of storage, you may stop receiving updates unless you insert a microSD card with at least 32GB on board.

    The new requirements applies to 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Home, Pro, and Enterprise versions.

    Browse all the best laptops from our tough lab tests to discover the models worth considering.

    What’s new with Windows 10?

    Windows promises to make the hassle of freeing up space worth your while with a number of new improvements, including:

    More intelligent updates and fewer annoying interruptions A new ‘light theme’ to contrast the existing dark theme More intelligent search options Handily, you can uninstall more baked-in apps, which should help with space issues

    Read our guide to Windows 10 updates for more details on all of the improvements. 

    Five things you should never do to free up storage space

    Our guide on how to free up space on your computer shows you the tools and tips you’ll need to give your computer a proper spring clean. But make sure you also avoid these common misconceptions that could put your computer out of action completely.

    1) Use free ‘PC cleaning tools’

    PC cleaning tools look legit, and many of them do what they advertise. They have two main problems. The first is, if they’re free, they’re often loaded with adverts and pop-ups and can even install unwanted software onto your computer if you click the wrong button. The second issue is that they are aggressive in what they delete; what a piece of free cleaning software deems to be an unnecessary file can often be a critical piece of a program that it simply doesn’t recognise.

    While they save a lot of time by taking the nuclear option, it’s worth sitting down and taking a more considered approach to cleaning up your PC.

    2) Clean up the registry

    The Windows Registry is full of files that look innocuous but are actually critical to how your computer works. Often you’ll find people recommending you use a program called ‘Regedit’ to delete some parts of the registry that are causing problems.

    In reality, Regedit is really only for very advanced users; one wrong move and you can seriously affect the workings of your computer, and you may even need to reset your computer or seek professional technical support to undo your actions. It’s best avoided.

    3) Delete system folders you don’t recognise

    Generally speaking, it’s best to not delete files that are stored in very important folders, especially big ones inside folders such as C:/Windows, C:/System32 and pagefile.sys. It can be tempting because they’re enormous, but they are also critical to your PC’s everyday running.

    It’s better to use Windows storage settings (type ‘Storage’ in the Start menu’ and then click ‘free up space now’) and use the built-in space-saving tools to delete any system files that are no longer needed. This new Windows 10 tool replaces the ‘Disk cleanup’ tool found in older versions of Windows.

    4) Defrag your hard drive (especially if you have an SSD)

    A true classic, Window defrag tools are a go-to for most people who want more space. In reality, defragging your laptop doesn’t free up any space whatsoever; it simply moves files from one physical location on the disk to another, so they can be accessed more quickly, speeding up your computer. In fact, Windows 10 automatically keeps your hard disk defragmented nowadays, so unless you turned that feature off you really don’t ever need to use this feature.

    What’s more, if your laptop has a solid-state drive (SSD), running a defrag is unnecessary and also reduces the lifespan of your SSD, so you definitely shouldn’t waste your time with it.

    5) Uninstall laptop-branded software

    If you have a laptop from any of the big brands, chances are there will be software installed by the manufacturer. Examples include Lenovo Vantage, HP JumpStart and Recovery Manager. As tempting as it is, don’t uninstall these without checking what they do first.

    All the big brands release important updates that can only be installed using their own branded update programs. These updates could be crucial to ensuring your device remains secure and compatible with upcoming Windows 10 updates. Before you go to uninstall them, click on them and see what they do. If it’s a load of adverts for programs, you’re probably safe. If they mention software updates, it’s best to keep them.

    In the market for a new laptop? See our guide to the best cheap laptops under £500.

    Are Currys dishwashers any good?

    Are Currys dishwashers any good?


    The Currys dishwashers we’ve just reviewed are the cheapest dishwashers we’ve tested in years – both under £190. We usually find that dishwashers costing less than £250 are more difficult to load and unload, and are worse at drying. Cheap...

    The Currys dishwashers we’ve just reviewed are the cheapest dishwashers we’ve tested in years – both under £190.

    We usually find that dishwashers costing less than £250 are more difficult to load and unload, and are worse at drying.

    Cheap dishwashers often lack some basic features, such as a display that tells you the time remaining on your wash, or a delay-start option so you can set the dishwasher to switch on at another time.

    We’ve found fantastic dishwashers that are good enough to be Which? Best Buys for less than £250 in the past, though. So you don’t always need to spend a lot to get pristine, sparkling results.

    See the best dishwashers.

    Currys dishwasher reviews Currys Essentials CDW60W18 (£189) Pros: Delay-start option, program for delicate glassware, two fast-wash options Cons: No time-remaining display, no auto program, no child lock

    This Currys dishwasher has a surprising range of programs, proving that you don’t always need to pay more to get more.

    It includes a main, eco and intensive wash, but there’s also a program for delicate glassware, which washes at a lower temperature to protect delicate crystal and stemmed wine glasses.

    There are two fast-wash options: a 65°C wash for 50 minutes and a quick 40°C wash for 30 minutes.

    The dishwasher is available in three different colours: white, black and dark silver. The black and silver options are slightly more expensive, at £199 and £210 respectively.

    It can hold 12 place settings, which means you can squeeze in 12 sets of crockery. That’s the minimum capacity for a full-sized dishwasher, so this model might be on the small side if you have a large household or loads of washing up.

    Read the rest of our Essentials CDW60W18 review to find out how well it cleans and dries.

    Pay an extra tenner and you could get the Beko DFN05310W (£199) with 13 place settings, one more than the Essentials CDW60W18. It’s available in the same colours, but doesn’t have special glassware program and there’s no delay start.

    Currys Essentials CDW45W18 (£180) Pros: Delay-start option, program for delicate glassware, two fast-wash options Cons: No time-remaining display, no auto program, no child lock

    The Essentials CDW45W18 is the slimline version of the CDW60W18. It has the same features and programs, but holds 10 place settings instead of 12.

    For a tenner more, you could get the Bush BFSLNB9W dishwasher. It also has 10 place settings and there’s a choice of four programs – eco, quick (30 minutes), super (50 minutes) and intensive. It also has a child lock.

    Are cheap dishwashers any good?

    On average, dishwashers that cost £250 or less score six percentage points less in our testing than those that cost more.

    Quiet dishwashers are rare, but you’re even less likely to find a quiet one if you’re on a budget.

    Of all the dishwashers we’ve tested that cost £250 or less, eight out of 10 get just one star (bad) in our noise testing.

    There are dishwashers that clean well and not so well to be found at every budget.

    Compare our dishwasher reviews to make sure your money goes further.

    What can you get by paying more?

    Pay more than £250 for your dishwasher and here’s what else you’ll get:

    Most have an auto program. This will measure how dirty the plates, glasses and cutlery are, and then adjust the temperature, amount of water used, and duration of the program to suit. Spending more will also mean you can get a smart dishwasher. You can control these remotely via an app on your smartphone or tablet. More and more expensive dishwashers are beginning to include automatic open-door drying. This means that the door cracks opens at the end of the wash to allow steam to escape, helping everything to get dry.

    Head to our guide on how to buy the best dishwasher.

    If you’re looking to spend more, follow the links below to check out the other dishwashers we’ve recently tested.

    Baumatic BDI1L63B, £279 Bosch SMV68MD01G, £580 Hoover HDPN2L350OW, £300 Whirlpool WIC3C26UK, £389
    EE announces 5G switch-on date

    EE announces 5G switch-on date


    EE has announced that the UK’s first 5G service will be launching on 30 May in six cities: London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. The UK’s biggest mobile network has said that it expects 5G customers to experience an increase...

    EE has announced that the UK’s first 5G service will be launching on 30 May in six cities: London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester.

    The UK’s biggest mobile network has said that it expects 5G customers to experience an increase in speeds of around 100-150Mbps, even in the busiest areas, which is a massive upgrade on current 4G speeds. EE notes that the fastest speed possible when it launched 4G in 2012 was just 50Mbps.

    Some customers could even break the one gigabit-per-second milestone on their 5G smartphones, which would be fast enough to download a Blu-Ray movie in two minutes.

    See how EE fares in our survey of the UK’s best and worst mobile networks.

    What are EE’s 5G plans?

    After the initial launch next week, EE will continue to roll out 5G with more than 100 new 5G sites per month being added, and 10 more cities earmarked for a 5G launch in 2019. These cities are:

    Bristol Coventry Leicester Nottingham Sheffield Liverpool Hull Leeds Newcastle Glasgow

    Plans to spread into smaller towns will be implemented in 2020 with places including Cambridge, Peterborough, Plymouth and Southampton selected for a launch in a couple of years time.

    Marc Allera, chief executive of BT’s consumer brands EE, BT and Plusnet, said: ‘This is the start of the UK’s 5G journey, and great news for our customers that want and need the best connections. We’ve started with 5G in some of the busiest parts of the UK, the widest range of 5G devices in the UK, and plans that give customers the best mobile connection and great benefits.

    ‘We’re adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network to increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most. 5G will create new experiences with augmented reality, make our customers’ lives easier, and help launch entirely new businesses that we haven’t even imagined. We’re upgrading more than 100 sites to 5G every month from today to connect more places to what 5G can enable.’

    How much will 5G with EE cost?

    EE will be offering 5G handset plans, which will start from £54 per month for 10GB and go up to £74 per month for 120GB.

    Sim-only deals start from £32 per month for 20GB and rise to £52 per month for 100GB.

    EE 5G deals come with up to three choosable ‘Swappable Benefits’, which give you added extras. These include unlimited video or music streaming, free roaming in more than 50 countries and the ability to stream BT Sport on your phone in high-dynamic range (HDR).

    Plans also come with EE’s ‘Service Pack’ at no extra cost, which gives you £10 to spend on cases and screen protectors, annual device and account MOTs and EE’s device guarantee for manufacturer faults. which lasts until you upgrade or leave.

    Which mobile phones will EE offer with 5G?

    EE’s handset plans come with a choice of: Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Oppo Reno 5G, LG V50 ThinQ and One Plus 7 Pro 5G,

    Is EE 5G worth signing up for?

    With coverage being heavily restricted at launch, it goes without saying that the majority of people may want to wait until coverage is expanded, which could take a couple of years for those outside the UK’s major cities.

    For those who are interested in 5G, it might still be worth waiting to see what the other mobile networks have planned before deciding which one to go with as the competition may ultimately end up lowering prices and ensuring better service for consumers.

    Read more in our guide on everything you need to know about 5G.

    Windows 10 May 2019 Update: what to expect from your next big update

    Windows 10 May 2019 Update: what to expect from your next big update


    Microsoft is constantly updating Windows 10 with security and bug fixes, but twice a year it also launches a ‘feature’ update, which adds new functions, tools and design elements that it hopes will make your computer easier to use.  Microsoft’s...

    Microsoft is constantly updating Windows 10 with security and bug fixes, but twice a year it also launches a ‘feature’ update, which adds new functions, tools and design elements that it hopes will make your computer easier to use. 

    Microsoft’s Windows 10 May 2019 update is now available to download. It contains a raft of improvements and new features, although you may not be able to get it yet because Microsoft staggers updates to ensure they don’t cause problems so your computer may not automatically upgrade to it for several months. This hasn’t always gone to plan, as our investigation into Windows 10 updates revealed. In fact, this time around, Microsoft is rolling out this update even more slowly than previous versions to minimise major disruption.

    Looking to upgrade your computer? Browse all the best laptops from our tests.

    Windows 10 May 2019 Update features

    Here are a selection of the new features that you’ll get once you install the latest update (called 1903 officially).

    Update improvements

    If you don’t want your computer to restart and spend 20 minutes updating just before an important meeting, presentation or your next round of Fortnite, Microsoft is adding a feature that lets you suspend updates for up to 35 days. You’ll have to suspend the update once a week up to a maximum of five times, so while this is definitely a step forward, it won’t be helpful if you know for sure that the update will break a piece of software or hardware (like an old printer or scanner).

    In addition, Windows 10 should more intelligently work out when’s actually a good time to update your computer. At the moment, Windows 10 works on updates in the background while you’re using your computer. This isn’t great if you have a slow computer, since this takes up valuable computing resources. From the next update onwards it should now attempt to slow down or even stop background updates while you’re using your computer.

    Reserved space for updates

    One of the most common issues Which? members have found with Windows 10 is their computer trying to update but running out of space, and reverting to the previous version, wasting minutes, if not hours. From the next update, Windows 10 will try to reserve 7GB of space on your hard drive for updates. This will make this space untouchable to the user, meaning you shouldn’t experience any more update woes. It’s unclear how this will work on computers that don’t have 7GB of free space to begin with.

    Our guide on how to free up disk space in Windows 10 will help you prepare for future updates that require more space.

    Light theme

    After adding a ‘Dark Theme’ to Windows 10 in October 2018, Microsoft has donned its white hat and added a lighter colour scheme as well. Various parts of the interface, such as the task bar, start menu and icons all get a white paint job.

    Changes to search

    Microsoft’s internet-connected assistant, Cortana, will no longer help out when you’re looking for files and programs on your computer using the Start Menu search bar. Microsoft has split the two up, so there are now two separate features for searching on your computer, and using Cortana to perform online tasks such as setting reminders, converting measurements and searching on the Bing search engine.

    Plus, When you search for programs, your frequently-opened programs will appear at the top of the list before you start typing. This could prove handy if you like to keep your desktop and taskbar clear of icons, but still want easy access to your programs.

    Windows 10 October 2018 Update highlights

    The October 2018 updated started being sent to computers last year, but was briefly suspended after a bug meant that some users lost files after updating. This issue, says Microsoft, has now been fixed.

    Cloud clipboard

    If you use multiple computers in your daily life, this feature might interest you. Anything you select and copy will also be uploaded to a cloud service, allowing you to paste it on any other computer you’re logged in on. This is useful for moving small files or blocks of text instead of having to email them to yourself.

    Even better, you’ll now be able to see a timeline of all the things you’ve copied. This means you can copy multiple things and still have access to them. Currently you can only ever have one copied item on the clipboard at the same time.

    Sets

    Sets is best thought about as a good way to manage tasks and projects. Instead of having a load of tabs open in a browser and some documents open in Word and Excel, instead you can group related documents and webpages together into ‘Sets’. For example, if you’re working on a photo album as a gift, you could have one window with multiple tabs that group your pictures, the captions you’ve written and the website you’re using to create the album all in one window, in different tabs. This grouping is known as a Set and should let you organise your common tasks in a more logical manner. This works in conjunction with Timeline, that was introduced in April (see below).

    Notepad

    It’s the app that’s probably changed the least in the past decade, but Microsoft hasn’t forgotten about trusty Notepad. In the next update, this application will receive some new functions including the ability to zoom in on text (making it easier for those with sight problems to see what they’ve been writing) as well as improved find-replace, making it easier to make bulk changes in one fell swoop.

    Dark Explorer

    It sounds like an action movie, but really it’s just a less eye-searing version of the File Explorer you’re already familiar with. Instead of white, you can now set it to be black, making it less harsh on the eyes, especially at night.

    Browse our guide to the best cheap laptops for great models under £300, and under £500.

    Windows 10 April 2018 Update highlights

    These are the features that arrived with the Windows 10 April 2018 update. Many computers are yet to receive this update, so if you haven’t seen big changes to your computer recently, this is what to expect first.

    Timeline

    The biggest change coming to Windows 10 is Timeline. While previously you would navigate through your tasks by opening files, webpages and programs, you can now also do so by scrolling back in time.

    It’s another way of allowing you to see things you’ve recently been working on, be it a webpage you were reading yesterday or several weeks ago. If you scroll back far enough, you’ll be able to find it.

    The feature will be of limited use to most people because it currently requires you to be using Microsoft-made programs such as the Edge web browser and Microsoft Office. The only way other programs will appear in Timeline is if the company that makes them chooses to add this feature, which takes time and effort.

    Fluent Design

    A new design standard is coming to Windows 10 that includes more effects when your mouse cursor hovers over buttons, more translucent (as opposed to opaque) programs and easier-to-use menus.

    An app designed with Fluent DesignImproved eye tracking

    The ability to control Windows 10 with your eyes (using hardware such as eye trackers made by Tobii) was added late last year in the Fall Creators Update. The Spring Creators Update will add extra features, including easier scrolling and navigation as well as the ability to pause eye tracking more easily.

    Better Bluetooth

    Connecting wireless Bluetooth devices such as mice and headphones to Windows 10 machines should now be a lot quicker. Instead of having to manually connect each time, certain devices will be connected automatically.

    Windows 10 S mode

    You’ll now be able to activate and deactivate Windows’ so-called ‘S Mode’, which locks down the operating system so it can only run apps downloaded from the Windows Store, and Microsoft Edge is the only web browser you can use. This is great for users who want a more simple experience, and for those who want to control what their children can access on their computer.

    Our guide on How to buy the best laptop can also help you choose between an Apple Mac, PC and Chromebook.

    Can I stop Windows 10 updates?

    When an update first launches, it’s distributed to a relatively small number of computers that, in theory, have been tested for compatibility with the latest software. Indeed, Microsoft says it ‘test[s] each major Windows 10 feature update with our OEM hardware partners prior to general availability to ensure the best experience on all compatible devices.’

    Over the course of several months, more and more computers receive the update, supposedly when Microsoft is confident that your PC is fully compatible. By way of example, the ‘Fall Creators Update’ that launched last autumn is only just arriving on some computers.

    Once your PC receives the update, you won’t be able to stop it there and then, but if it causes problems with any of your programs or settings, you can ‘roll back’ to the previous version of Windows 10 for up to 15 days after it’s installed.

    If you’re within the time limit, you search for ‘settings’ in the Start Menu, open the Settings app and navigate to the Recovery menu. Within this menu there will be an option that says ‘Go back to the previous version of Windows 10’. Click on that and follow the instructions.

    This won’t permanently prevent your computer from updating to the Spring Creators update, but should hopefully give you enough time to see whether the programs you’re having problems with can be fixed ahead of the next update.

    Having problems with your laptop? Sign up to Which? Tech Support for one-to-one help from our technology experts.

    Life savers: seven new cars ace Euro NCAP safety tests

    Life savers: seven new cars ace Euro NCAP safety tests


    Superior safety comes as standard among seven of the latest generation of cars, with some achieving near perfect scores in head-on collision tests. The UK car market continues to have its horizons broadened with an ever-expanding range of hybrids,...

    Superior safety comes as standard among seven of the latest generation of cars, with some achieving near perfect scores in head-on collision tests.

    The UK car market continues to have its horizons broadened with an ever-expanding range of hybrids, electric cars and compact/small SUVs and crossovers.

    And it seems we’re in safe hands. From the upcoming, affordable Clio, hybrid cars such as the Lexus UX, Toyota Corolla and RAV4, to the posh and all-electric Audi e-tron – safety organisation Euro NCAP has awarded them all the top mark of five out of five stars for car safety.

    The new Mazda3 gets a special mention by being the first car this year to achieve a score of 98% in adult occupant protection. This is significant as, according to Euro NCAP, frontal crashes are responsible for more deaths and serious injuries than any other accident type.

    See our expert pick of the best cars for 2019.

    What other cars have scored this well for safety?

    Only three other cars, the Volvo V40, Volvo XC60 and Alfa Romeo Giulia, have achieved the same safety score of five out of five stars.

    Keep reading to find out about the latest high scorers.

    How does Euro NCAP test occupant protection?

    Euro NCAP has a set of tests that assesses adult occupant protection, which includes two different types of head-on collisions:

    Head-on collision: A car is driven into a barrier at 40mph to see how prone it is to collapsing with the force of the crash, and how well it can protect its occupants from the effects of the smash.

    Offset test: Simulating a head-on collision with another car, the test vehicle is propelled at 40mph into a deformable barrier. The result replicates the effects of a crash between two cars that were both driving at 31mph.

    As it is unrealistic that two cars would meet perfectly head on, 40% of the bonnet makes head-on contact with the barrier.

    Mazda 3 (2019-)

    Mazda’s rival to the Ford Focus and VW Golf has got some serious safety credentials to bolster its appeal to family buyers.

    In the gamut of Euro NCAP’s safety tests, the Mazda 3 did a fantastic job of protecting its occupants no matter the crash scenario; head on collision, side impact or offset impact . Whiplash protection is also top notch.

    And that’s if you crash at all. The car’s automatic emergency breaking (AEB), which comes with the car as standard, does an excellent job of detecting vehicles you’re about to crash in to and quickly applies the brakes for you, if you haven’t already done so yourself.

    The system is so good it does an adequate or good job of detecting cyclists and pedestrians who suddenly run out in front of the car, whether it’s day or night.

    Toyota Corolla (2019-)

    The Corolla has made a welcome return to the UK. Replacing the no-nonsense Auris as Toyota’s medium-sized hatchback, its sharp styling and good-looking interior should really increase its appeal.

    Where the Corolla really shines is in its active safety systems. All Corolla owners get Toyota’s ‘Safety Sense’ suite of features.

    This includes a pre-collision warning system with AEB, a lane departure warning with active steering assist (called Lane Trace Assist by Toyota), as well as road sign recognition and automatic high beam.

    In Euro NCAP tests, the AEB systems did well to recognise vulnerable road users, like pedestrians and cyclists, who had meandered into the car’s path, as well as other vehicles.

    Low official running costs, emissions and excellent safety should make for an appealing car.

    Find out what we thought of it by reading our first drive Toyota Corolla review.

    Renault Clio (2019-)

    The new Clio is not due to grace the UK’s shores until October this year. But well ahead of this Renault car’s British debut, those who intend to be new Clio owners in the future will be buoyed by the car’s excellent early safety rating.

    Director of Research at Thatcham Research (also a UK Euro NCAP centre), Matthew Avery, comments: ‘The Renault Clio is now one of the safest affordable cars on the market, achieving the highest Adult Occupant Protection Score seen in the supermini [city and small car] category since the VW Polo in 2017.’

    We’ll be reporting on the UK launch of the Clio soon. Watch out for our first drive report appearing at the top of our collection of car reviews.

    Check out our expert pick of the best small cars you can buy, right now.

    Audi e-tron (2019-)

    Audi’s first fully electric car has taken the shape of a full-sized, five-seat SUV. It claims a range of 241 miles between charging sockets and the ability to recharge up to 80% of its battery within 30 minutes.

    Its standard safety systems, which impressed the Euro NCAP experts, include AEB, lane departure warning, plus Audi’s pre-collision preparation (which tightens the seatbelts and closes windows should it detect an imminent crash).

    But some of the advanced safety systems are only available as part of an optional ‘Tour Pack’, such as traffic sign recognition and lane departure assist – and starting prices for the car are already in excess of £70,000.

    We’ve driven the new e-tron. Find out if this electric car is worth buying by heading to our first drive Audi e-tron review.

    VW T-Cross (2019-)

    Volkswagen’s smallest SUV to date is a rival to the likes of the Renault Captur and the ever-popular Nissan Juke.

    Sharing a lot of car DNA with the Polo hatchback, those who prefer a dinky SUV to a conventional hatchback will be well catered for by the car’s generous cabin and boot space.

    And heartened by the car’s excellent safety credentials.

    Read what we thought of the latest addition to Volkswagen’s SUV line-up. See our first drive VW T-Cross review.

    Toyota RAV4 (2019-)

    The fifth generation RAV4 SUV has done away with conventional petrol and diesel drivetrains, and is available as hybrid only.

    Just like the Corolla above, the new RAV4 benefits from the brand’s ‘safety sense’ collection of safety features. So, unsurprisingly, scores very similarly to its hatchback cousin.

    The Corolla does just edge it by having marginally better occupant protection, but both cars are very safe.

    The Toyota Rav4 isn’t the only mid-size SUV hybrid on the market, as it will have to do battle with  the rival Honda CR-V hybrid.

    Does this Toyota have what it takes to please potential punters? Check out our first drive Toyota Rav4 review.

    Lexus UX (2019-)

    Aimed more at what Lexus calls ‘urban explorers’, rather than those who will venture offroad, the brand’s first small SUV challenges the likes of the Scandi-chic Volvo XC40.

    With its angular shape, sharp creases and big Lexus-family grill, the UX certainly stands out from its competitors.

    The UX is another vehicle that did particularly well at protecting its occupants throughout the series of crash tests Euro NCAP put it through.

    It also had no issue whatsoever detecting and reacting to cyclists, pedestrians and other cars.

    We haven’t driven the UX yet, but you can find out more about Lexus cars – including how reliable the brand is. See should I buy a Lexus?

    Inflation rises to 2.1% in April – can your savings account match it?


    Inflation jumped to 2.1% in April 2019, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), mainly due to rising energy prices and airfares. This is up from March and February, where inflation remained at 1.9%. In January,...

    Inflation jumped to 2.1% in April 2019, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), mainly due to rising energy prices and airfares.

    This is up from March and February, where inflation remained at 1.9%. In January, inflation dropped to 1.8% – its lowest point for two years.

    While this means that popular goods and services are more expensive than last year, it will also have a knock-on effect on your cash savings. If your cash is earning less than 2.1% interest, you may see your nest egg lose value in real terms.

    Which? reveals why it’s important for your savings to grow faster than inflation, and which accounts can help you do it.


    Which top-rate savings accounts can beat inflation?

    The table below shows the current top-rate savings and cash Isa accounts, ordered by length of term. The links will take you through to Which? Money Compare.

    Account type Account AER Terms Five-year fixed-rate savings account Gatehouse Bank five-year fixed-term deposit 2.75% EPR* £1,000 minimum initial deposit Five-year fixed-rate cash Isa Shawbrook Bank five-year fixed-rate cash Isa bond 2.3% £1,000 minimum initial deposit Four-year fixed-rate savings account Bank of London & The Middle East four-year premier deposit account 2.5% EPR* £1,000 minimum initial deposit Four-year fixed-rate cash Isa United Trust Bank cash Isa four-year bond 2.2% £15,000 minimum initial deposit Three-year fixed-rate savings account Gatehouse Bank three-year fixed-term deposit 2.55% EPR* £1,000 minimum initial deposit Three-year fixed-rate cash Isa State Bank of India three-year cash Isa fixed deposit 2.05% £5,000 minimum initial deposit Two-year fixed-rate savings account Al Rayan Bank 24-month fixed-term deposit 2.42% EPR* £1,000 minimum initial deposit Two-year fixed-rate cash Isa State Bank of India two-year cash Isa fixed deposit 1.9% £5,000 minimum initial deposit One-year fixed-rate savings account Bank of London & The Middle East one-year premier deposit account 2.2% EPR* £1,000 minimum initial deposit One-year fixed-rate cash Isa Charter Savings Bank one-year fixed-rate cash Isa 1.62% £5,000 minimum initial deposit Instant-access savings account Marcus by Goldman Sachs 1.5% £1 minimum initial deposit. AER drops to 1.35% after 12 months Instant-access cash Isa Coventry Building Society easy access Isa 1.5% £1 minimum initial deposit. AER drops to 1.15% after 31 August 2020

    *Expected Profit Rate. Source: Which? Money Compare. Correct 21 May 2019.

    As the table shows, you’ll have to lock your money away for at least a year in a top-rate fixed-term savings account to beat inflation. If you opt for a cash Isa, you’ll have to put your money away for at least four years.

    You should also bear in mind that every fixed-rate account here requires a minimum initial deposit of at least £1,000, which might not be a viable option for those with smaller savings pots.

    If you’re likely to need more flexibility with your savings, you could consider an instant-access account. This is the only category where savings and cash Isas are matched. Both require just £1 to open, and offer 1.5% AER. While this rate doesn’t beat inflation, it at least gives you some form of return.

    However, note that both top-rate accounts have a bonus rate. This means the Marcus by Goldman Sachs AER will fall to 1.35% after 12 months, and Coventry Building Society’s Isa drops to 1.15% after 31 August 2020 . Once this happens, you may want to switch accounts if you’re no longer earning a competitive rate.

    Find out more: how to find the best savings account Don’t forget about cash Isas’ tax-free status

    While fixed-rate cash Isa rates are lagging behind savings accounts, don’t let that put you off altogether.

    Cash Isas have the advantage of being tax-free. Any interest your money earns will never count towards your personal savings allowance, and therefore you’ll never be liable to pay tax on it. For some, this benefit can outweigh what you lose in interest.

    Having tax-free savings is particularly useful for high earners and those with significant savings, who are either likely to exceed their personal savings allowance, or who pay additional-rate tax and don’t receive one.

    You are, however, restricted by the Isa allowance, meaning you can only pay in a total of £20,000 in 2019-20.

    Find out more: how to find the best cash Isa Why has inflation risen?

    The ONS found that the main factors behind the inflation uptick were price rises across many broad categories, particularly airfares, fuels and new cars. This was offset by price cuts across clothing and footwear.

    The graph below shows how CPI inflation has changed since 2013, with figures sourced from the ONS.

    The Bank of England aims to keep inflation as close to 2% as possible. Inflation has hovered around this benchmark in recent months, after peaking at 3.1% in November 2017. At that point in time, no savings or cash Isa accounts could beat the rate of inflation.

    How does CPI inflation affect your savings?

    CPI inflation tracks the prices of around 700 goods and services within an imaginary shopping basket, to see whether they’ve become more or less expensive compared to the same point in the previous year.

    Taking this month as an example, buying everything in the shopping basket would cost 2.1% more than it did in April 2018.

    If your cash has grown by less than the rate of inflation for the last 12 months, it will have effectively lost value, as you’ll be able to buy less with it.

    In order to see your savings grow – or, at the very least, break even – you need to find an account that beats or matches the rate of inflation.

    Save with a Which? Recommended Provider

    Which? Recommended Providers are companies that have been rated highly by the respondents to our unique customer survey and have products that meet the high standards of our researchers.

    If you’re looking to save over a longer term, the Leeds Building Society five-year fixed-rate Isa pays 2.05% AER, and requires a minimum initial deposit of £100. The bank scored highly for its interest rate information.

    For a shorter fix, there’s the Kent Reliance two-year fixed-rate bond, offering 2.1% AER and requiring an initial deposit of £1,000. Alternatively, the bank’s one-year fixed-rate bond pays 1.85% AER.

    If you want your savings to be flexible, Coventry Building Society’s instant-access Isa tops the table for this term at 1.5% AER, and was rated highly by customers for its clarity of statement and interest rate information.

    Skipton Building Society’s online bonus saver also offers instant access. It pays 1.42% AER, and you only need £1 to open it. Plus, customers rated its clarity of statement and customer service.

    You can search through hundreds of savings and cash Isa accounts with Which? Money Compare.

    Four reasons now could be the time to buy a new fridge

    Four reasons now could be the time to buy a new fridge


    Whether your fridge is on its last legs or you simply fancy an upgrade, there’s never been a better time to get a fridge that fits perfectly with your lifestyle. Go to our pick of the Best Buy fridges. 1. Energy efficiency is better We’ve seen...

    Whether your fridge is on its last legs or you simply fancy an upgrade, there’s never been a better time to get a fridge that fits perfectly with your lifestyle.

    Go to our pick of the Best Buy fridges.

    1. Energy efficiency is better

    We’ve seen massive improvements in the energy efficiency of newer fridges, especially compared with models that are now 10-15 years old.

    With a fridge being switched on around the clock, you can definitely reduce your energy consumption and save yourself a good few pounds each year by buying a newer energy-efficient model.

    But although all new fridges must have an energy label rating of at least A+, we’ve found that models with the same energy label can cost different amounts to run each year.

    Our rigorous expert testing calculates the true running costs of every fridge we review. In each of our reviews, you can see the estimated annual cost of running the fridge by clicking on the ‘Tech specs’ tab.

    Check out our list of the top energy-saving fridges.

    2. New features help reduce waste

    Although a basic fridge can do a perfectly good job of keeping your food at the correct temperature, there are plenty of features that can make it easier to live with and potentially prolong the lifespan of your food.

    Door alarms, super-cool settings and water dispensers have been around for a while, but now we’re seeing fridges with a vacation mode that allows you to save energy when you go on holiday by reducing the amount of power your fridge is using – although, you’ll need to empty it beforehand.

    A child lock on the settings panel allows you to set and forget, without worrying about curious children tapping the buttons when your back is turned and sending the temperature inside soaring.

    One of the more impressive developments in modern fridge design is the inclusion of separate compartments designed specifically for storing different food types.

    A crisper drawer for storing fruits and vegetables has been fairly standard for some time, but many fridges now allow you to control the humidity level inside the drawer.

    A lot of veg, particularly leafy greens and carrots, can maintain freshness for longer if stored in a higher humidity setting, while many fruits fare better in lower humidity.

    By adjusting the level in one of these newer drawers you shouldn’t find your spinach wilting after just two or three days.

    You can also find fridges with compartments specifically designed for storing fish and meat. These usually sit at a temperature of 0°C and have different moisture levels to the rest of the fridge to enhance the lifespan of these items.

    Find out about other features and lots more by reading our guide to buying the best fridge.

    3. Some are more accurate at chilling

    Older fridges were typically equipped with analogue thermostats. Often these were hard to reach dials that you’d need a tool or coin to turn, and it wasn’t quite clear exactly what the numbers on them corresponded to. It all added up to a bit of a headache.

    But many of the latest fridges have a digital thermostat or display, which makes them easier to program and should make them more accurate.

    That said, we’ve found plenty of fridges where the manufacturer’s recommended setting is unreliable or the temperature stability is poor. This means the contents of your fridge could be sitting at a much higher temperature than you think, causing your food to spoil that bit quicker.

    We test for both these issues and publish the results in each of our fridge reviews.

    4. Choose from a range of colours and designs

    The growing popularity of silver, stainless-steel and black fridges means you no longer have to settle for a plain white box. For those keen to fill their kitchen with a bolder block of colour, manufacturers such as Smeg and Gorenje offer an array of options, including lime green, yellow, pastel blue and pink.

    The choice extends far beyond that, though. Art fans can pick up a Mondrian-inspired fridge from Smeg (above left) or use the blackboard finish on the Miele KFN29233DBB to doodle their own pieces, while the fiercely patriotic can even pick up a Union Jack-branded model.

    Money no object? You might consider hunting down one of the remaining one-of-a-kind fridges, hand-painted by Sicilian artists as part of a 2016 project between Dolce & Gabbana and Smeg, called Frigorifero d’Arte (Fridge of Art).

    Check the backing before you buy

    When you’re buying a new fridge, do ask the retailer or double check what type of backing it has.

    Older fridges are far more likely to have flammable plastic backing, meaning that in the event of a fridge fire – which are thankfully rare – flames could take hold of the appliance really quickly.

    Metal or aluminum-laminate-backed fridges will keep such a fire localised for much longer, giving you time to get out safely.

    The good news is that a new industry standard comes into effect in July this year and fridges built after this point will be required to have a flame-retardant backing.

    Every fridge we’ve tested with metal or aluminium laminate backing is flame-retardant.

    But it’s worth noting that while manufacturers will have to stop making fridges with flammable plastic backing from July onwards, retailers could yet be given additional time to sell through existing stock (ie fridges with flammable backing).

    You can use the backing checker on our fridge safety page before buying to confirm the backing of all the fridges we’ve reviewed.

    Our latest fridge reviews

    We’ve reviewed a number of new fridges in 2019. Follow the links below for our verdict on them. Or, for results on more than 130 models, go to our fridge reviews.

    AEG SFB5821VAF – integrated, under-counter (£449) Beko ULJS1584W – freestanding, under-counter (£169) Hoover HBRUP160NK – integrated, under-counter (£270) Hotpoint HSZ1801AA.UK.1 – integrated, tall (£519) Hotpoint SH61QWUK.1 – freestanding, tall (£309) Kenwood KUL55X18 – freestanding, under-counter (£180) Liebherr UIKP1554 – integrated, under-counter (£949)

    Prices correct as of 20 May 2019.

    Retirement interest-only mortgage boom: should you get one?


    More retirement interest-only mortgages (RIOs) are available than ever before, giving older homeowners a new way to borrow. But is this new type of interest-only product right for you? There were only five retirement interest-only mortgage products...

    More retirement interest-only mortgages (RIOs) are available than ever before, giving older homeowners a new way to borrow. But is this new type of interest-only product right for you?

    There were only five retirement interest-only mortgage products available in July 2018. That number has since ballooned by more than 600%, according to data from Moneyfacts.

    Like traditional interest-only mortgages, RIOs require you to pay back just the interest each month, instead of the interest and part of the actual mortgage balance. In most cases, the loan is repaid when you die or move into long-term care.

    With the number of retirement interest-only mortgage products growing rapidly, we take a look at who RIOs work best for, and whether you should consider one for yourself.

    How fast is the retirement interest-only mortgage market growing?

    Originally sold as a type of equity release, RIOs were reclassified by the FCA as standard mortgages in March 2018. By July of that year, only two mortgage providers were offering them.

    Just six months later, in February 2019, financial data provider Moneyfacts said there were 38 RIO products available from 12 lenders.

    Since then, the market has continued to grow, with at least four more lenders launching RIOs and many of them expanding their retirement mortgage offerings.

    Initially, growth was driven by smaller building societies, but in April Which? Recommended Provider Nationwide revamped its later-life lending range, adding a retirement interest-only mortgage product of its own.

    And it’s not just RIOs specifically that are growing. Many lenders are making their criteria friendlier to older borrowers, launching retirement-focused repayment mortgages and lifetime mortgages, and creating even more options for homeowners in retirement.

    Which? analysis of Moneyfacts data from this week shows there are 141 mortgage products specifically for borrowers aged 50 and over.

    For a detailed breakdown of which lenders offer retirement mortgages and how each provider’s products work, visit our RIO mortgage guide.


    Are retirement interest-only mortgages for me?

    If you’re in or approaching retirement, there are a number of reasons a RIO might be a good option for you.

    Lower monthly payments

    Homeowners who are yet to pay off their current mortgages can benefit from remortgaging to a RIO.

    Since your retirement income is likely to be less than your working income, a RIO’s lower monthly payments could be more accommodating to your circumstances.

    Find out more: our guide to remortgaging Paying off an interest-only mortgage

    In the next five years, hundreds of thousands of interest-only mortgages will come to term, leaving many homeowners with bills for the full purchase price of their homes.

    Thousands will be unable to pay those bills, and many will be too old to remortgage to a traditional repayment mortgage, leading to what many have called an interest-only mortgage ‘crisis’.

    Since they’re open to older customers, and allow you to repay your loan through the sale of your home, RIOs could offer a lifeline to people in this difficult situation.

    Find out more: interest-only mortgage crisis: your options Cash injection

    Many homeowners take out RIOs to pay for renovation projects, such as general home improvement or adapting their homes for reduced mobility.

    Others use the cash to help younger family members get on the property ladder or simply to fund their everyday living costs in retirement.

    Find out more: remortgaging to release equity Flexibility

    Most RIOs allow fee-free overpayments after a certain point, meaning if you have the money, you can pay off your mortgage early and avoid selling your home at the end of the term.

    Check with your lender first, though, as your particular deal may have early repayment charges (ERCs), which could make settling early expensive.

    Find out more: mortgage overpayment calculator What are the drawbacks?

    RIOs might sound great so far, but there are a few things you should be aware of before you apply for one.

    You may not be able to pass on your home when you die – the loan will usually need to be repaid when you die or go into long-term care. This may mean the home will need to be sold, and could limit how much your family stands to inherit. You might not hold enough equity – as the maximum loan-to-value ratios can be quite low, you will need to own a significant proportion of the property to qualify. You may not be eligible – RIOs tend to have fairly strict criteria, so you might find it difficult to secure one.

    Our retirement interest-only mortgages guide has more details on how they work and who is eligible to apply.

    The best rates for retirement interest-only mortgages

    The table below has a snapshot of the RIO deals offering the best rates at the moment, although with mortgage providers launching retirement products on a regular basis, there could well be more deals available when you come to apply.

    All of the deals listed are discount mortgages, but other mortgage types are available.

    Things to keep in mind

    You shouldn’t choose a mortgage based on rates alone. Product fees, early repayment charges, customer service and your future plans should all form part of your decision too.

    Talking to an impartial expert

    The number of RIOs is growing, and so is the range of product types that you can potentially choose from.

    It can be a bit of a minefield, and it’s worth talking to a whole-of-market broker who can advise you on the best option for your personal situation.

    Find out more: how to choose a mortgage broker
    Honor unveils new 20 series smartphones: big specs on a small budget

    Honor unveils new 20 series smartphones: big specs on a small budget


    Huawei has confirmed the launch of not one but three mobile phones in its new Honor 20 range. With a firm focus on targeting younger audiences, the new devices will come at a very reasonable price point, in true Honor fashion. Fronted with the goal of...

    Huawei has confirmed the launch of not one but three mobile phones in its new Honor 20 range. With a firm focus on targeting younger audiences, the new devices will come at a very reasonable price point, in true Honor fashion.

    Fronted with the goal of ‘Capturing Wonder’, the release of these new smartphones marks five-and-a-half years since Honor was introduced to the world as a subsidiary of mega-brand, Huawei.

    The Honor 20 series includes three new smartphones: the Honor 20 Lite (£249), the Honor 20 (£400) and the Honor 20 Pro (£525). What makes these smartphones stand out? How much you get for your money, for one.

    We’ve summarised the differences and key new features below. Plus we’ve already been hands-on with the high-end model from the new range – read our Honor 20 Pro review for more. 

    Discover all the Best Buy mobile phones from our tough test labs. 

    Honor’s new 20 series phones compared Honor 20 Lite Honor 20 Honor 20 Pro Screen size 6.21-inch 6.26-inch 6.26-inch Display resolution (pixels) 2,340 x 1,080 pixels 2,340 x 1,080 pixels 2,340 x 1,080 pixels Rear cameras 24Mp, 8Mp, 2Mp 48Mp, 16Mp, 2Mp, 2Mp 48Mp, 16Mp, 8Mp, 2Mp Front camera 32Mp 32Mp 32Mp Processor Kirin 710 Kirin 980 Kirin 980 Ram 4GB 6GB 8GB Battery capacity 3,400mAh 3,750mAh 4,000mAh Price (Sim-free) £249 £400 £525

    As you can see, specs aren’t dramatically different across the three phones, despite the Pro being double the price of the Lite. 

    They all have a 32Mp front camera. On the 20 and 20 Pro, it works as a dedicated selfie camera with 3D portrait lighting, whereas on the Lite, it’s an AI front camera. Display size is almost the same for all three, although the Honor 20 Lite is 0.5-inches smaller than the other two models – this might not be an issue for you if you value the saving.

    The display resolution on all three phones is identical, however, the cheaper Honor 20 Lite differs because it doesn’t have an All View display. Instead, it’s a Full HD display with a 90% screen-to-body ratio.

    So the biggest difference you’ll see is in the cameras – which is, in fact, one of the most dramatic features of the new line-up. 

    What’s special about the new Honor range? A massive quad camera system

    At its launch, Honor’s president, George Zhao, spoke of DSLR cameras and how much heavier and expensive they are in comparison with phones. While he may not have said exactly that the new Honor phones could replace them, the sheer number of lenses on offer here shows that smartphone manufacturers may be taking aim at the camera market.

    The Honor 20 Pro is the headliner in this category, with a whopping four lenses on the rear: a 16Mp super-wide-angle lens, 48Mp main camera, 8Mp telephoto lens and 2Mp macro lens. The Honor 20 also has four, except the 8Mp telephoto lens is replaced with a depth-assist camera.

    For only £249, a triple camera set up on the Honor 20 Lite (24Mp, 8Mp and 2Mp) is more than impressive – you’ll be getting one more lenses than on the Samsung Galaxy S10e – which let us remind you is more than two-and-a-half times the price.  

    To find out more about exactly what these lenses do, we go into more detail in our first look review of the Honor 20 Pro.

    New unlocking feature

    Just as we were becoming accustomed to the emerging in-screen fingerprint scanner trend, Honor moved the goalposts and introduced a side-mounted fingerprint sensor. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of sensor – it also featured on the Samsung Galaxy A7, but it’s nonetheless a useful and quick way of unlocking.

    The fingerprint sensor also doubles as the home button, and is positioned where you would naturally hold it for easier unlocking. Honor claims that its new sensor unlocks the phone in an unblinkable 0.3 seconds. This feature is also available on the Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro.

    A near seamless display

    Honor is no stranger to a full-display experience. Released in October 2018, the Honor 8X is one of the last Honor phones we’ve seen with a noticeable interruption to the display screen. The Honor View 20 was the first on the market to feature a hole-punch display and Honor has made full commitment to this design in the new 20 series.

    The Honor 20 and 20 Pro will have a 6.26-inch ‘All View’ holepunch display, meaning the screen is only slightly interrupted by the front camera in the top-left corner of the phone. The Honor 20 Lite on the other hand, adopts the same design as its predecessor, the Honor 10 Lite, of a dewdrop ‘Full View’ display, where the front camera is in the centre of the display.

    Three rivals to the Honor 20 series

    There’s little doubt Honor is offering a lot for the money, but it’s not the first brand to do so. Take a look at these tempting budget, mid-range and premium alternatives that offer similarly impressive specs and attractive discounts

    Honor 20 Lite (£249) vs Motorola Moto G7 Power (£179)

    Motorola’s Moto G7 series was a big launch for the manufacturer earlier this year, and the standout model was the Moto G7 Power. If you want a budget smartphone, the first thing that would draw you in is its price. Retailing for just £179, you’d get it for £70 cheaper than the Honor 20 Lite. It also has a much larger battery – 5,000mAh compared with the 20 Lite’s 3,400mAh. But if you’re after a new phone to take pictures with, the Moto G7 power might not be the one for you as it only offers a single camera.  

    Read our full review of the Motorola Moto G7 Power to see if it’s worth considering.

    Honor 20 (£400) vs Xiaomi Mi 8 (£400)

    Xiaomi is another emerging brand, and it has plenty to boast about with the Mi 8, including a dual-rear camera, 20Mp front camera, large 6.21-inch display and what it claims is lightning-fast charging. You may have noticed that the Honor 20 trumps most of these specs, but it’s how it all comes together that counts. Read our Xiaomi Mi 8 review to see what we thought of this popular mid-range smartphone.

    Honor 20 Pro (£525) vs Samsung Galaxy S9+ (£500)

    You wouldn’t think you could pick up a Samsung flagship phone for the same price as an Honor, but you can if you’re willing to consider a previous generation device. You may have long forgotten about this smartphone since the Samsung Galaxy S10 was released, but the Galaxy S9+ was still Samsung’s pride and joy not so long ago. It does have less cameras (two 12Mp rear lenses – wide angle and telephoto) and 128GB of storage to the Honor 20 Pro’s 256GB. But in its favour, it’s water resistant, has wireless charging  (for up to 30 minutes in 1.5 metres of water) and has a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.

    Shop around and you could bag it for less than £500 – but make sure you read our Samsung Galaxy S9+ review before you buy.

    If you don’t want to spend big on your next phone, read our guides to the best cheap phones and best mid-range phones for more options.

    RBS and NatWest make U-turn on 0% credit card promise


    With the launch of a new 0% balance transfer credit card, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest have backtracked on a pledge made more than five years ago to stop offering ‘teaser’ rates. But is this actually good news for borrowers? In February...

    With the launch of a new 0% balance transfer credit card, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest have backtracked on a pledge made more than five years ago to stop offering ‘teaser’ rates. But is this actually good news for borrowers?

    In February 2014, RBS announced a new strategy to be ‘simpler, smaller and smarter’. This included banning 0% introductory periods on credit cards, amid concerns customers weren’t actually clearing their debts.

    Now the bank has changed its position, citing research that customers value the option of a 0% deal, and claiming their new offer sets high standards for transparency.

    Here, we look at the new NatWest and RBS balance transfer credit cards and how to make 0% promotional deals work for you.


    The new NatWest and RBS credit cards

    A balance-transfer deals allows you to shift existing debt from an expensive credit card to one with an interest-free period.

    With the new NatWest Balance Transfer Credit Card and RBS Balance Transfer Credit Card, you’ll benefit from 23 months at 0% interest. You won’t pay a fee to move your debt to these cards, ranking them among the cheapest balance transfer deals.

    However, you will need to make a balance transfer of at least £100 within three months of opening the account.

    The cards are only available to existing NatWest and RBS customers who have a current account, savings account or mortgage.

    You’ll be offered features to help you manage your debt, including a repayment calculator and a guide on how to pay down your balance by the end of the interest-free period. You’ll also have the ability to lock the card and restrict certain types of spending.

    Plus unlike many other providers, NatWest and RBS promise the interest-free offer will continue even if a customer makes a mistake, such as missing a payment or going over their limit.

    Find out more: how 0% balance transfer credit cards work How the new deal compares

    Here’s how the new RBS and NatWest deals compare to other fee-free 0% balance transfer credit cards.

    Credit card 0% balance transfer period 0% balance transfer fee Representative APR Santander All in One Credit Card* 26 months None 21.7% NatWest Balance Transfer Credit Card** 23 months None 19.9% RBS Balance Transfer Credit Card** 23 months None 19.9% Sainsbury’s Bank No Balance Transfer Fee Credit Card 22 months None 20.9% Tesco Bank Clubcard 20-Month Balance Transfer Credit Card 20 months None 19.9% Halifax 20-Month Balance Transfer Credit Card 20 months None 19.9% Lloyds Bank Platinum 20-Month Balance Transfer Credit Card 20 months None 19.9% Bank of Scotland 20-Month Balance Transfer Credit Card 20 months None 19.9% Barclaycard Platinum 20-Month Balance Transfer Credit Card 20 months None 19.9%

    *Card comes with a £3 monthly fee

    **Only available to existing customers

    Right now, the Santander All in One Credit Card offers the longest 0% balance transfer offer, at 26 months, and you won’t pay a fee to make the initial transfer. However, you will face a £3 monthly charge.

    The new RBS and NatWest deals offer a shorter 23-month 0% period, but have no annual fee, which could make them the cheaper option for you.

    That said, the deals are only open to existing NatWest and RBS customers, so may have limited appeal if you don’t already have a current account, savings account or mortgage with the brands.

    You can compare the best 0% balance transfer credit cards using Which? Money Compare.

    Why have RBS and NatWest done a U-turn?

    In 2014, RBS and NatWest withdrew from promotional pricing on credit cards, citing concerns that customers were not paying down their debts.

    At the time, the bank noted the average holder of a balance transfer card owed more than £9,000 across multiple cards – and rather than clearing their debt, most people were adding to it.

    Five years on, however, following a customer listening exercise and a review of the credit market, the bank now says 80% of customers consider promotional pricing before applying for a deal. Indeed, it suggests there are many situations where a 0% deal can be helpful.

    RBS and NatWest say now is the ‘right time’ to return to the market with a product that offers value and sets high standards on transparency,

    Les Matheson, CEO of Personal Banking for NatWest, said: ‘Since withdrawing from this market, we’ve seen our customers continue to demand this type of card and continue to accrue debt.

    ‘This decision was right at the time, but having listened to our customers, we recognise that this left many of them without an option they found valuable.

    ‘We felt we could better meet the needs of our customers by creating a card which offers a great deal combined with tools to help them pay down their debt and better control their finances.’

    How to use 0% credit cards effectively

    A 0% balance transfer credit card can be helpful if you want to pay down credit card debt.

    These deals allow you to shift debt from a high-interest card to one offering an interest-free period. This gives you breathing room to focus on paying back what you owe.

    However, the 0% period will not last forever. To use these cards effectively, you’ll need to pay off the balance before it ends and interest kicks in.

    With the RBS and NatWest deal, you have 23 months at 0% before reverting to the standard rate of 19.9%. Someone with a £2,000 debt would need to make 23 monthly repayments of at least £86.96 to clear their debt in time.

    Another important rule is not to use a balance transfer card for new purchases. You’ll generally be charged a different interest rate on any new debts, and this will apply much sooner. The NatWest and RBS card, for example, only offers three months of interest-free spending.

    With some cards, you may also risk losing the interest-free period on your balance transfer if you miss a payment, exceed your card limit or otherwise breach the terms and conditions. So make sure you fully understand how your card works before signing up.

    If you don’t manage to clear your debt in time, you could try moving to a new balance transfer credit card, but there’s no guarantee a new deal will be available or you’ll be accepted. For that reason, it’s best to focus on paying down your debt before the 0% period ends by sticking to a payment plan.

    Find out more: 0% balance transfer credit cards explained

    Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.

    £27 million lost to Bitcoin and other investment scams

    £27 million lost to Bitcoin and other investment scams


    In the last financial year, almost £74,000 was lost every day to ‘get rich quick’ schemes and bogus online trading platforms, new figures show. People are often conned into investing in foreign exchange (forex) and cryptocurrency scams on social...

    In the last financial year, almost £74,000 was lost every day to ‘get rich quick’ schemes and bogus online trading platforms, new figures show.

    People are often conned into investing in foreign exchange (forex) and cryptocurrency scams on social media through fake celebrity endorsements, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Action Fraud.

    More than 1,800 reported losing money to investment and trading scams – triple the amount seen the year before.

    The agencies revealed more than £27 million was lost in 2018-19 and victims lost on average £14,600 each.

    Read more: how to spot a Bitcoin scam

    What are cryptocurrencies?

    Bitcoin is the most famous cryptocurrency, but there are more than 1,500 cryptocurrencies including other well-known ones such as Ethereum and Litecoin.

    Cryptocurrencies are virtual peer-to-peer currencies that only exist online and are not controlled by a bank, treasury or country.

    Cryptocurrencies are also anonymous, so are favoured by scammers as the transactions can’t be traced back to one person.

    Read more: find out how Bitcoin works

    How do Bitcoin and forex investment scams work?

    After luring people in with ads or posts on social media, scammers lead victims to professional looking websites where they’re persuaded to invest in the bogus schemes.

    Often the scammers will call the victim and, after a lengthy conversation, will talk them into the investment. Once the victim has invested, they might never see their money again.

    Some scammers may string people along for longer than this.

    The scammer will convince the victim the first investment went well and and will convince them to invest more money or get friends and family involved as well – all with the promise of even greater returns.

    But eventually the scammer disappears – along with the victim’s money.

    The FCA is raising awareness of these trading scams and is urging people to be more sceptical about them, as part of its ScamSmart campaign.

    Read more: a victim tells of her experience with a Bitcoin scam

    How to avoid a cryptocurrency scam

    You should always be wary of something which seems too good to be true and if you’re contacted out of the blue about the investment.

    The FCA has also come up with some tips to keep your money safe from cryptocurrency scammers:

    1. Don’t assume it’s real

    Even if the website looks very professional or you’ve seen an advert on social media, you shouldn’t assume the investment is legitimate.

    Scammers can also make convincing fake websites of well-known brands, which are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

    Read more: how to spot a fake website

    2. Stay in control

    If you’re thinking about an investment make sure you do your research properly.

    If you’re speaking to someone on the phone, tell them you’ll call them back. Take your time to look into the company and don’t just check the first result on Google.

    You can also check the FCA’s warning list to see if it’s a potential scam.

    It’s also a good idea to speak to someone you trust before handing over money as well to see what they think.

    3. Do the right checks

    Companies providing regulated investments have to be registered with the FCA, so you can check the FCA register online to see if the firm is legitimate and whether there are any warnings about it.

    Use the contact details on the register, not the details the firm gives you, to avoid ‘clones’.

    And if you do come across a dodgy investment scam, make sure you report the scam.

    How to stop investment scams

    Which? head of money, Gareth Shaw, said scam victims have little hope of justice, with research showing fewer than one in twenty scam cases reported to Action Fraud are solved.

    He said: ‘In order to fight this worsening crime, a more joined up approach is needed from the government, police and businesses whose services are exploited by fraudsters to prevent people from being scammed in the first place – and to act fast to recover their money when the worst happens.

    ‘The banking industry must urgently step up its preparations to introduce confirmation of payee name checks, which could cut bank transfer fraud in half overnight.’

    Read more: an investigation into the crazy world of cryptocurrency.

    Tesco Bank pulls mortgage range and announces sell-off: what does it mean for customers?


    Tesco Bank has today pulled its entire range of mortgage products and announced plans to sell its existing home loans to another provider. This news is sure to spark concern among the retailer’s 23,000 mortgage customers, who collectively borrow a...

    Tesco Bank has today pulled its entire range of mortgage products and announced plans to sell its existing home loans to another provider.

    This news is sure to spark concern among the retailer’s 23,000 mortgage customers, who collectively borrow a whopping £3.7bn.

    Here, we explain why Tesco is pulling out of the mortgage market and offer advice on what the future holds for homeowners with a Tesco Bank mortgage.

    If you’re concerned and want advice on whether you should remortgage to a different lender, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461. Why has Tesco withdrawn from the mortgage market?

    Tesco has offered mortgages since 2012, but that’s come to an abrupt halt this morning.

    Tesco’s decision to stop mortgage lending comes as a surprise, given that as recently as February it was launching new mortgages with cashback incentives as it sought to ‘remain among the most competitive providers’.

    Not anymore. The retailer has today said that ‘challenging market conditions’ have limited its growth opportunities, meaning it needs to pull out of offering home loans for good.

    In a statement, Tesco Bank’s CEO Gary Mallon said: ‘We have made the strategic decision to focus on serving a broader range of customers in more specific areas, which means moving away from our mortgage offer.

    ‘We have therefore chosen to cease lending to new customers and announce our intention to explore a sale of our portfolio.’

    Find out more: mortgage lender reviews – which are the best and worst providers?


    What to do if you have a mortgage with Tesco

    Tesco says that it wants to sell its mortgage book to a provider who ‘will continue to serve our customers well’, but has stressed that there’s no guarantee of a successful sale.

    The lender says that existing customers will be informed as and when a sale is completed, and in the meantime, borrowers don’t need to worry or take any action, as their home loans will continue on the terms originally agreed.

    Existing Tesco Bank mortgage customers can contact the lender on 0345 051 8461 if they have questions.

    Remortgaging away from Tesco Bank

    If you’ve currently got a home loan with Tesco Bank and you’re either approaching the end of your fixed term or already on the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR), now could be the time to remortgage to a better deal elsewhere.

    And don’t worry if you’ve still got some months to go until the end of your introductory deal period, as in many cases it’s possible to agree a new mortgage six months before the end of your fixed term.

    The good news is that right now, mortgage rates are attractive across all loan-to-value (LTV) levels, with the average two-year fixed rate at 2.49%, and the average five-year fix at 2.86%.

    Find out more: how to remortgage to a cheaper deal Tesco Bank: a loss for first-time buyers?

    While today’s news primarily affects Tesco’s existing customers, it could also be bad news for prospective borrowers – especially first-time buyers.

    When we explored the cashback market last week, we found that Tesco was one of the only providers to offer £1,000 cashback to first-time buyers taking out a mortgage at 90% or 95% loan-to-value.

    In truth, cashback has been the biggest attraction of a Tesco mortgage for some time, as while the supermarket’s deals were competitive, they weren’t chart-topping when it came to rates.

    Based on Moneyfacts data from last week, Tesco two-year fixed rates at 90% and 95% LTV were both around 0.25% more expensive than the market-leading rate.

    Find out more: how to find the best mortgage deals Get expert advice on your mortgage

    If you have a Tesco Bank mortgage and want advice on your options, or you just want to remortgage to get a better rate, it can help to speak to an expert.

    A whole-of-market mortgage broker such as Which? Mortgage Advisers can make an expert recommendation on the best option for you.

    Call them now on 0800 197 8461 or fill in the form below for a free callback.

     

    Nine self-employed mortgage myths busted


    Almost three quarters of self-employed borrowers fear it will be harder to get a mortgage because of their employment status, according to new research.  Online mortgage broker Trussle found that 1,421 out of 2,000 self-employed borrowers believe...

    Almost three quarters of self-employed borrowers fear it will be harder to get a mortgage because of their employment status, according to new research. 

    Online mortgage broker Trussle found that 1,421 out of 2,000 self-employed borrowers believe working independently could harm their chances of getting a mortgage.

    However, the reality is very different. Here, Which? Mortgage Advisers’ David Blake, an expert in helping self-employed buyers get mortgages, helps to address some of the many myths that abound in this area.

    If you’re self-employed and looking for a mortgage, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461 for impartial advice on the best deal for your situation – and help applying for it. 1. You’ll struggle to get a self-employed mortgage

    For starters there is no such thing as a ‘self-employed mortgage’ – you’ll be applying for the same mortgage products as homebuyers who are employed.

    But whatever you call it, there is certainly a belief that it’s tougher for people who work for themselves.

    This is probably because, around a decade ago, self-employed mortgage applicants would use ‘self-certification’, which meant they could borrow without needing to prove their income – and this was outlawed by the Financial Conduct Authority in 2011.

    The end of self-certification made it much tougher for self-employed people to get mortgages, but the growing self-employed workforce – currently 4.85 million, set to rise to 5.5 million by 2022 according to Trussle – means lenders are having to become much more open to self-employed buyers.

    This means that the mortgage options for self-employed people have grown considerably in recent years.

    David Blake says: ‘Over the past 12 months lenders have looked to be more innovative and flexible in the way they deal with people who are earning on a self-employed basis.

    ‘Being self-employed is a growing trend, so lenders are beginning to understand it better and see it as less of a risk.’

    Find out more: getting a mortgage when you’re self-employed 2. Self-employed mortgage applicants need to show at least two years of accounts

    It’s true that most lenders will want at least two years of accounts from self-employed applicants, but some will accept just one year’s worth.

    We analysed data from Moneyfacts to check which lenders would consider self-employed applicants and their main criteria for lending (see the table below).

    We found at least 76 lenders – including major players such as Barclays, HSBC, Santander and TSB – that would consider a self-employed applicant.

    Of these, 13 would accept self-employed workers with just 12 months of accounts. (Lenders not in the table didn’t have a particular policy around self-employed people.)

    In fact, according to David, it’s not even necessarily the end of the road if you don’t have a finalised single year of accounts.

    ‘Some lenders work on a case-by-case basis and will consider applicants who present a low risk,’ he says.

    ‘This could be someone with bags of experience within their industry who’s decided to go self-employed because it is more lucrative.

    ‘If they have a substantial deposit and can show draft figures from an accountant, it’s possible this type of applicant could be acceptable to some lenders.’

    3. You’ll need a deposit of at least 10% as a self-employed buyer

    Most lenders are willing to offer 95% mortgages to buyers with a 5% deposit, regardless of whether you’re self-employed or work for a company.

    As with any house purchase, however, if you have a bigger deposit it will be easier to secure a mortgage at a better rate.

    Find out more: how much deposit do you need for a mortgage? 4. You won’t get as good a deal as a company employee would

    David Blake told us that as long as you (as a self-employed person) can provide proof of your income to satisfy your lender, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t qualify for the same deals as employed applicants.

    Find out more: finding the best mortgage deals 5. Self-employed buyers can’t borrow as much money

    Most lenders will offer the same amount to self-employed workers as employed ones, according to David Blake.

    This tends to be between three and five times your annual income.

    However, if you’re a sole trader and you tend to keep your net profit low in order to pay less tax, this could be a sticking point. In order to borrow more from a mortgage lender your net profit needs to be as ‘high as possible’, according to David.

    Find out more: how much can I borrow? Mortgage calculator 6. You can always find the best mortgages on comparison sites

    Comparison sites don’t always list every available deal, meaning there may sometimes be better mortgage products out there than what you see on a comparison site.

    For this reason, it’s well worth using a whole-of-market broker who can assess every single mortgage on the market to find you the best one.

    David said: ‘When choosing a mortgage broker, ask whether they are independent or tied to a specified panel of lenders.

    ‘Also, ask if they will tell you about mortgages that you can only get by applying directly (without the broker’s help), and how their fees and commission work.’

    Find out more: how to choose a mortgage broker 7. Lenders won’t take a limited company’s profits into account

    If you’ve chosen to set yourself up as a limited company in order to keep your business and personal finances separate, lenders will generally ask to see either your share of net profits after corporation tax has been deducted plus your salary, or your salary and dividends.

    David told us that limited company applicants who have a low profit for a specific reason (such as investing in products) but an acceptable level of salary and dividends should not be treated differently. Nor should someone with a significant profit but a low salary and dividends.

    It’s common for limited company applicants to have a significant profit but low salary for tax purposes.

    Find out more: tax for the self-employed 8. Lenders will look at your business partner’s personal finances

    If you’re in a partnership, Which? Mortgage Advisers’ David Blake said that lenders will generally look to see the ‘strength of the business’, including its future profits and what your share of those would be.

    However, he said this should not be a hindrance and that self-employed applicants such as doctors, barristers and dentists who’ve just started a partnership should have no issues.

    He said lenders would not look at your business partner’s personal finances.

    David added: ‘Lenders will want to look at the business as a whole. They want to see how the business is performing so they can make a judgement call, a risk analysis, on the sustainability of the applicant’s income moving forward.’

    9. Lenders won’t take a contractor’s day rate into consideration

    Increasing numbers of lenders are considering applicants who get paid a day rate rather than an annual salary. This is because more and more people are freelancing and earning in this way, especially in professions such as IT.

    When we spoke to David Blake, he singled out providers such as Halifax and Nationwide, which he said have very flexible criteria when it comes to contract workers.

    People who have significant experience in their industry and have started freelance work paid at a daily rate are more likely to be accepted by lenders than a self-employed person just starting their career, according to David.

    Find out more: getting a mortgage as a contractor The self-employed mortgage beliefs which are actually true

    As you’ve seen from the myths we’ve busted, for the most part self-employed mortgage applicants are treated in a similar way to those who are employed by companies. However, there are a few things you do need to be mindful of.

    You’ll need to submit several tax forms

    SA302 forms provide annual tax calculations, and most (although not all – see myth 2) lenders will ask for three (one for each of the last three years) when you apply for a mortgage.

    It’s worth noting that they will want to see paperwork for the most recent tax year, so you may need to submit your form well before the official deadline.

    If you’ve sent your self-assessment tax returns online, you can print off your SA302 calculations. If you filed your accounts by post, you’ll need to contact HMRC and allow up to two weeks for your forms to arrive.

    Find out more: tax for the self-employed You must have your finances in order

    You should certainly aim to have your finances in the best possible condition. Make sure you pay off any debts, ensure there are no incorrect details on your credit files and get on the electoral roll.

    Also consider your spending habits, as regular outgoings will be taken into consideration by your lender.

    Bear in mind that lenders will look at your business bank statements, as well as your personal ones.

    Find out more: how to improve your mortgage chances You may need an accountant

    If you’ve set up a limited company, you will almost definitely need a certified or chartered accountant to prepare your accounts.

    In fact, some lenders won’t even consider applications from self-employed people who are operating as limited companies but don’t have up-to-date accounts signed off by an accountant.

    You don’t need to do this if you’re a sole trader, however.

    Seek expert mortgage advice

    A whole-of-market broker like Which? Mortgage Advisers will have detailed knowledge of the lenders who are most sympathetic to self-employed mortgage applicants. They should be able to advise you on the lender most likely to say yes, as well as who will offer the best deal for your circumstances.

    Call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461 for a free chat or fill in the form below for a callback.

    Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

    Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.

    Which? disagrees that fears around chlorinated chicken are ‘unfounded’

    Which? disagrees that fears around chlorinated chicken are ‘unfounded’


    When discussing potential UK/US trade deals it’s never long before the issue of chlorinated chicken enters the debate. Washing chicken with chlorine is a practice used in the US, but we’re concerned that treating chicken in this way means lower...

    When discussing potential UK/US trade deals it’s never long before the issue of chlorinated chicken enters the debate. Washing chicken with chlorine is a practice used in the US, but we’re concerned that treating chicken in this way means lower hygiene standards that could put people at risk. 

    This weekend, UK concerns around chlorinated chicken were dismissed as ‘unfounded’ by senior US official, Ken Isley, who went on to criticise EU food standards as ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘not based on modern science and technology’. We disagree and don’t want chlorine-washed chicken being sold in the UK.

    Find out what a no-deal Brexit would mean for your supermarket shop and other food safety standards.

    Chlorinated chicken after Brexit

    Currently, under EU rules, the process of washing chicken in chlorine or other chemicals to remove harmful bacteria is banned. As a result the US is unable to export chicken treated in this way to any EU countries.

    Post-Brexit the UK will be able to negotiate its own trade deals. But there has been significant push-back to a UK/US trade deal. Like us, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, believes that we shouldn’t ‘dilute’ our high environmental or animal welfare standards in pursuit of a trade deal.

    In addition, under current EU rules, as chlorine-washing is a ‘processing’ aid, rather than an ingredient, it wouldn’t have to be declared on packaging. Of course, when the UK leaves the EU, these rules may change.

    Mr Isley claims that less than 20% of US poultry is treated with chlorine, and that this is being phased out as newer technologies become available, such as the use of acetic acids instead.

    However, regardless of this, there are concerns that treating chicken with chlorine-washes, or any other substances, at the end of the production process is a way of covering up poorer hygiene standards.

    Instead, we believe that the UK should be maintaining the high standards and levels of checks we currently have throughout the farming and production process to minimise bacterial contamination.

    We asked 2,399 UK adults (October 2018) about chlorine-washed chicken and other food standards, we found that:

    90% of UK consumers think it is important that UK food standards are maintained after Brexit 66% think food from countries with lower standards shouldn’t be available 68% aren’t comfortable with eating chicken that has been washed with chlorine.

    In addition, when asked whether they think that chicken washed in chlorine should be sold the UK, either as an ingredient (for example in a pie) or raw (such as chicken breasts), 56% and 57% respectively said it shouldn’t. A quarter don’t think it should unless labeled in UK supermarkets.

    Visit our Brexit advice section on consumer rights, money and travel after Brexit, to help you cut through the noise.

    High food standards of UK farmers

    The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around one in six Americans (around 48 million people) suffer from food-borne diseases every year. The equivalent figure in Britain is around one in 60 (one million cases a year according to the Food Standards Agency’s estimate).

    There is additional concern that, should we allow the import of chlorine-washed chicken, UK farmers would be undercut by cheap imports that adhere to different standards. We believe that these would ultimately result in UK welfare standards being at risk.

    Caroline Normand, Which? director of policy, said:

    Caroline Normand, policy director for the Which? consumer group, said: ‘”lax standards” in the US are one reason official figures suggest the rate of food poisonings there is around 10 times higher than the UK.

    The problem with chlorinated chicken and similar treatments is that they are too often used as a desperate attempt to make up for widespread safety problems in the US food production process, which can leave bacteria like salmonella to run rampant.

    ‘Brexit is an opportunity to design a joined-up food and farming policy that ensures food is produced to the highest standards – the nation’s health needs must not be used as a bargaining chip that could be given away to facilitate trade.’

    Read findings from our recent UK animal welfare labeling investigation into how supermarkets are misleading consumers.

    Is Ryanair getting worse?


    Ryanair has announced that profits have fallen by a third because it’s been forced to reduce fares. It’s no surprise that fares have had to be cut given its record low rating with passengers. In our survey of nearly 8,000 airline passengers at the...

    Ryanair has announced that profits have fallen by a third because it’s been forced to reduce fares. It’s no surprise that fares have had to be cut given its record low rating with passengers.

    In our survey of nearly 8,000 airline passengers at the end of last year, Ryanair was rated the worst airline in the UK. But more worrying for the airline was the margin by which it finished last. Ryanair gained a customer score of just 40%. The second-worst airline in our survey received 52%. The best-rated budget rival received a whopping 75%.

    See our best and worst airlines to see how Easyjet, Jet2 and British Airways were rated

    Yet, despite Ryanair being rated last or nearly last almost as long as our annual survey has been running passengers have continued to book its flights. Tangles over ever stricter bag fees and aggressive customer service haven’t put passengers off – but it seems cancellations and worsening delays might.

    Ryanair cancellations ruin Christmas

    Things went wrong for Ryanair in autumn 2017, when it suddenly announced it didn’t have enough pilots for its scheduled flights. Some 400,000 passengers received a letter telling them that their flight had been cancelled. And 18 million more were left wondering if their flights would even take off, including some during the Christmas period.

    The situation was worsened by Ryanair’s refusal to follow the rules on rerouting passengers, leaving thousands waiting days to get where they had paid to go.

    The scale of the disruption and Ryanair’s poor handling of helping stranded passengers has almost certainly had a knock-on effect to its reputation. Ryanair usually brushes off criticism of its abrupt approach to customer service and aggressive fee charging by saying passengers will book its cheap fares anyway, but what good are cheap fares if the airline is going to cancel your flight and leave you stranded?

    It’s perhaps no surprise then that so many passengers told us they won’t fly Ryanair – a staggering 70%, in fact, of all those who said that there’s one airline they always avoid.

    Ryanair always the cheapest budget airline?

    Ryanair can point to increasing passenger numbers as proof customers are still willing to fly with it – but it’s had to drop fares even further to convince them to book.

    In part that’s because there are other airlines with cheap fares on many routes. Norwegian Air has arrived at many Ryanair airports, while Jet2 has continued to expand the number of UK airports it flies from. Both are rated as far better than Ryanair by passengers.

    More competition means Ryanair no longer offers the cheapest fare on every route – that’s especially true if you’re flying as a family, meaning you’ll need to pay to sit next to your child and may want to bring luggage.

    When we priced up a London to Alicante flight earlier this year, Ryanair had the cheapest headline price at £52, versus £68 with Jet2. But add in a checked suitcase and assigned seat and the total with Jet2 was £114, versus £134 with Ryanair.

    Value or price

    Perhaps the most concerning result for Ryanair from our most recent passenger survey was its rating for value for money. While it has been rated towards the bottom of our survey overall for several years, passengers have always rated it three stars out of five for value for money; a reflection that poor customer service and comfort could be overlooked if the price was right.

    This year, for the first time, this rating fell to just two stars. That’s the joint-lowest in our survey. A reflection that low fares isn’t the whole story when it comes to value.

    Google suspends dealings with Huawei – should you buy a Huawei phone?

    Google suspends dealings with Huawei – should you buy a Huawei phone?


    Electronics manufacturer Huawei has reportedly been frozen out of receiving any future updates from Google’s Android operating system. The news could have a big impact on the security and usability of Huawei phones. In the latest twist of the...

    Electronics manufacturer Huawei has reportedly been frozen out of receiving any future updates from Google’s Android operating system. The news could have a big impact on the security and usability of Huawei phones.

    In the latest twist of the long-running contention between the United States and Huawei, Huawei has been added the US ‘Entity list’, which in short means that companies wishing to do business with it must get government approval first.

    This means Google – which develops the Android operating system on which Huawei’s phones are based – will stop working with Huawei, as will chip-makers Broadcom and, importantly for laptop owners, Intel.

    The changes will also affect the Honor brand, which is a subsidiary of Huawei.

    What does it mean for Huawei phone and tablet owners?

    It isn’t clear yet, as this story is still developing. If the reports are true, it could mean that Huawei stops receiving software updates directly from Google on future devices, and will be left to patch problems itself. Based on Google’s own statement (see below), current Huawei phones should be unaffected for the time being.

    Google told Reuters: ‘Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.’

    Whether that changes in future remains to be seen. It’s also not yet clear whether this will affect devices globally, or only phones serviced by Google in the US.

    Software updates are particularly important for keeping devices secure as new threats emerge every day, requiring constant work to defend against them. Having the might of Google providing monthly security patches – as is now commonplace – is a major selling point for Android phones running on Google’s version of the operating system. Without that, Huawei phones could be a harder sell.

    Will my Huawei phone stop working?

    No. Google has reassured users that their phones, apps and the Google Play store will continue working as normal, at least for now. What will happen further down the line is yet to be determined, though Huawei has offered its own reassurances (see below) in regard to software and security updates.

    Should I buy a Huawei or Honor phone now?

    Given Google has promised future updates and security patches for current Huawei phones, the risk seems low for the time being. That said, it might be worth waiting for Huawei’s response, and any promises it might make, before taking the plunge and buying a phone.

    Open-source Android: Huawei’s alternative

    In the long term, the company could switch from Google’s own version of Android to the ‘open-source’ version on which it is based, otherwise known as the AOSP (Android Open Source Project). However, this would likely mean it loses access to official Google apps such as the Play Store, which is the main way customers outside of China download apps to their phones.

    If Huawei had to use a separate app store, this would limit consumers’ ability to download apps, as non-Google app stores tend to have a much smaller selection. Samsung Galaxy phones have their own separate stores – along with Google Play. Amazon Fire devices also run Android and only have the Amazon app store, but this still contains many of the most popular apps, partially because Amazon Fire devices as very popular.

    Google told The Verge: ‘We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications.’

    How are Huawei laptops affected?

    According to Bloomberg, other US-based companies have started to comply with the new rules on trading with Huawei. The most important of these for Huawei is likely Intel, which makes the processors on which most Huawei laptops run. Western Digital, which makes storage devices, and Broadcom, which makes various microchips including wi-fi hardware, are also named by Bloomberg.

    As this story is still developing, and because Intel declined to comment when we contacted it, it’s not clear whether this will affect security updates for current and future Huawei laptops. Security updates for processors are important, as was demonstrated in last year’s ‘Meltdown’ security scare in which millions of Intel chips were found to be vulnerable to a powerful virus and requiring significant security updates.

    Huawei’s response

    We asked Huawei for comment on the report, and it issued the following statement:

    ‘Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefited both users and the industry.

    ‘Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products covering those have been sold or still in stock globally.

    ‘We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally.’

    We will keep an eye on this story as it develops. A full update will be provided in the coming months, upon the release of Android’s next operating system, Android Q.

    New mortgage lends homebuyers 5.5 times their salary


    Homebuyers will be able to borrow up to 5.5 times their annual salary with a new mortgage deal from Loughborough Building Society. This is significantly higher than the amount you can usually borrow – which is usually capped at 4 or 4.5 times your...

    Homebuyers will be able to borrow up to 5.5 times their annual salary with a new mortgage deal from Loughborough Building Society.

    This is significantly higher than the amount you can usually borrow – which is usually capped at 4 or 4.5 times your income. But do you risk taking on more debt than you can afford?

    Which? explores the new mortgage deal, and explains how income multiples affect your mortgage.

    For impartial advice on the best mortgage for your personal circumstances, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 294 2849. New mortgage from Loughborough

    The new deal from Loughborough Building Society is a variable rate mortgage, with a two-year discount period. This means that for the first two years, you’ll pay a set amount less than the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR) – currently working out to 2.45%.

    After that, you start paying the full SVR, which is a relatively high 5.34%. So, the total APRC over the life of the deal would be 4.9%.

    Keep in mind that the SVR could change at any time, so your monthly repayments may vary.

    When applying for the mortgage, you’ll have to put put down a deposit of at least 15% and pay a fee of £999. The most you’ll be able to borrow is £750,000.

    To qualify, you’ll also need a relatively high income – at least £50,000 if you’re applying on your own, or £75,000 total if you’re applying with someone else.

    Find out more: discount mortgages Can you borrow 5.5 times your income?

    The new deal is unusual in allowing applicants to borrow up to 5.5 times their annual salary.

    Loughborough Building Society said they were responding to demands in the market.

    A spokesperson from Loughborough Building Society said: ‘As house prices have increased, we’ve come across more and more instances where the income multiple restricts people who are well able to afford the monthly payments.’

    At present, however, this level of borrowing is only available on one deal, which Loughborough Building Society said it would ‘monitor closely.’

    Find out more: how much can you borrow? How do mortgage income multiples work?

    Banks and building societies will traditionally offer mortgages of between 3 to 4.5 times a person’s income  – known as the ‘income multiple’. For example, if your total household income is £75,000 a year, the most you’d be able to borrow is between £225,000 and £337,500.

    With the Loughborough Building Society deal, you’d be able to borrow up to £412,500.

    There are other providers who will lend you as much as 5.5 times your income, including Clydesdale Bank. However, this offer is only available to certain professionals, who qualified in the past five years and earn at least £40,000 a year.

    Darlington Building Society, meanwhile, offers a mortgage of 6 times your annual income if you belong to a specific profession.

    Both cater to accountants, barristers, medical doctors, dentists, pharmacists, solicitors and vets. Darlington will also lend to actuaries, engineers and optometrists, while Clydesdale Bank’s criteria includes architechts, chartered surveyors, dentists and pilots.

    Should you borrow 5.5 times your income?

    You should think long and hard about your future earnings and job security before taking out a mortgage at up to 5.5 times your salary.

    The larger the loan, the longer it will take to pay off. You may also increase the risk of failing to make repayments, potentially costing you your home.

    A variable-rate mortgage may be especially risky, as the lender could increases their rates at any time. So make sure you could comfortably afford to a jump in your monthly repayments.

    It’s also worth considering how these deals stack up on interest – you may find better rates on deals offering you a smaller loan.

    You can use the Which? mortgage calculator to find out how much a lender might be prepared to lend you.

    Ways to boost your borrowing power

    Your income isn’t the only factor lenders will consider when deciding how much to lend you. Here are a few steps which could boost your chances of securing a mortgage.

    Find out more: Improving your mortgage chances

    Earn a regular income at a stable job

    Mortgage lenders will look on your application more favourably if you are in long-term employment. As a general rule, you will need to have been employed for between three to six months in your current role. So, if you’re changing jobs, it might be worth waiting a while before applying. If you’re self-employed, you can read our guide to self-employed mortgages.

    Improve your credit history

    A lender will also want to see a strong credit history. You can obtain a statutory credit report from each of the three main credit agencies – Experian, Equifax and Callcredit – for free.  You should check the information held on your file is correct, as occasionally it may contain errors which could affect your ability to get a loan.

    Find out more: credit reports explained – all you need to know about your credit file

    Get on the electoral register

    This may not seem obvious, but lenders will always check your electoral enrollment. The roll is one of the main ways lenders will verify your identity and address, so it’s important to register every time you move.

    Increase your deposit size

    Normally, the minimum deposit is around 5% of the property purchase price. However, some products are now offering a 100% mortgage if a family member is prepared to act as a guarantor. That said, having a bigger mortgage deposit will boost your application’s chances, and could lead to more attractive mortgage deals with better interest rates.

    Find out more: guarantor mortgages explained

    Get a joint mortgage

    A joint mortgage could be an option if you want to buy a property with at least one other person, and some lenders will allows up to four to buy together. The ownership of the property could be split into shares, or you could each own the whole property as joint tenants. Obviously, it’s vital you trust the person you’re buying with.

    Find out more with Which? Mortgage Advisers’ guide to joint mortgages

    Use a mortgage broker

    You can save time on your application by employing a mortgage broker, or adviser who will tell you which lenders are likely to accept you based on your financial situation. They can also help speed up the application by dealing with paperwork on your behalf.

    Find out more: Choosing a mortgage broker

    Get expert buy-to-let mortgage advice

    If you’re looking to purchase a property and worried about which mortgage to choose, it’s well worth getting professional advice on your mortgage options.

    The friendly team at Which? Mortgage Advisers can help you find the right deal for your property and circumstances. You can call them now on 0800 197 8461 or fill in the form below for a free callback.

    448 years lost to significant train delays in 2018, Which? reveals

    448 years lost to significant train delays in 2018, Which? reveals


    Passengers lost almost four million hours to significantly delayed train journeys in 2018, according to our new research – the equivalent of 448 years. This makes last year the worst ever for significant train delays since comparable records began, in...

    Passengers lost almost four million hours to significantly delayed train journeys in 2018, according to our new research – the equivalent of 448 years.

    This makes last year the worst ever for significant train delays since comparable records began, in 2011.

    The staggering level of delays – 3,928,560 hours in total – affected 8.1 million passenger journeys. It also means around 80 trains were significantly delayed every day.

    Delays need to be at least 29 minutes to be considered significant.

    It was an unflattering year for cancellations too. There were 241,932 cancelled trains in 2018 (that’s an average of 660 a day) – also the highest number since comparable records began.

    However, passengers are claiming compensation for just 34% of journeys where money is owed for delays and cancellations, according to our annual rail passenger survey. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the unnecessary hassle train companies add to the process.

    Sign our rail petition to help us fight for automatic compensation. The worst train companies for delays and cancellations

    Do you find yourself regularly complaining to friends and family (or anyone who’ll listen) about train delays or cancellations? See our list below to find out whether you really do have the rawest deal.

    Train companies have been ordered by cancellation rates in 2018, worst first.

    TransPennine Express and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) had the highest cancellation rates of services in 2018.

    These two train companies, out of 14 franchises in our analysis, accounted for more than a third (37%) of all cancelled trains last year. That’s 89,178 cancellations.

    Best and worst train companies – find out whether your service is among the best or worst across the UK.

    Northern – whose passengers enduring seemingly endless disruption during last year’s timetable chaos – accounted for 12% of all significantly delayed trains and 14% of all cancellations.

    This week will see the roll-out of the latest summer timetable, which aims to introduce 1,000 extra services a week across the country.

    London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and Virgin Trains West Coast had the highest significant delay rates of their planned services, at 5% and 3% respectively.

    Why we’re calling for automatic rail compensation

    Neena Bhati, Which? head of campaigns, makes our case for automatic compensation: ‘Passengers have faced a torrid time on the trains since the beginning of last year where the rail industry has fundamentally failed on punctuality and reliability.

    ‘People then face a messy and complex compensation system which puts them off claiming when things go wrong.

    ‘A vital way the government’s rail review and industry can start to restore faith is by introducing automatic compensation for delays and cancellations so that passengers don’t have to fight to get the money they are owed.’

    We’ve written a letter to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to demand automatic compensation be introduced across the network. 84 MPs have given their support.

    Find out everything you need to know about your rights with train delays and cancellations. Our research

    We’ve estimated 3.93 million hours by multiplying the total number of significantly delayed passengers journeys in 2018 by 29 minutes (the minimum threshold for what constitutes a significant delay).

    This is an estimation because, while some trains were delayed by more than 29 minutes, not all passengers are affected equally on the same delayed journey.

    London Living Rent: can you benefit from this affordable housing scheme?


    In May 2017, Mayor Sadiq Khan launched London Living Rent, an affordable housing scheme to help middle-income Londoners onto the property ladder. But two years on, are any properties on the market? Promising below-market rents and the chance to buy your...

    In May 2017, Mayor Sadiq Khan launched London Living Rent, an affordable housing scheme to help middle-income Londoners onto the property ladder. But two years on, are any properties on the market?

    Promising below-market rents and the chance to buy your rental home, London Living Rent is an optimistic project that aims to tackle rising house prices.

    But you may have to wait a little longer to actually benefit. Currently, the Mayor of London’s ‘Homes for Londoners’ search portal – a hub for affordable housing in the city – has just one listing for properties available through London Living Rent: a yet-to-be-built development in Merton.

    So, is London Living Rent a realistic option? And what are the alternatives for Londoners who can’t afford to buy in the expensive capital?

    For help and advice on finding a mortgage for an affordable home, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461. What is Rent to Buy?

    London Living Rent shares many features with Rent to Buy – a government initiative aimed at helping renters become homeowners.

    Rent to Buy schemes offer lower-than-market rents, and give tenants the chance to buy their rental home, or a share in it, at a later date.

    The theory is that lower rental payments will help tenants save for a deposit, which many struggle with in the pricey London property market.

    The scheme is run by local Help to Buy agents, which let users search for Rent to Buy properties in their region.

    Through our own searches, we could only find a small number of property listings across England (where Rent to Buy operates). Most of them were in the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber.


    London Living Rent: how it works

    With skyrocketing rents and the most expensive property prices in the country, London Living Rent is a natural fit for the city.

    To be eligible for the scheme, you must:

    be currently renting in London have a household income of £60,000 or under be unable to buy a home (including through shared ownership) in your area.

    Rents are set at one-third of each local authority’s average earnings, based on ONS data, adjusted for the number of bedrooms. According to City Hall, this is a ‘significant discount to the market level rent’ in most boroughs.

    While many London renters in this income bracket will be able to buy shared ownership properties, London Living Rent gives a leg up to those who can’t afford them.

    Yet while the scheme is currently active, the London Living Rent website predicts the majority of homes won’t be available until 2021.

    According to the Mayor of London’s Homes for Londoners search portal, only one development in Merton is currently offering it. And this is listed as ‘coming soon’.

    Wandle, the housing association behind the development, told Which? that the complex will include eight homes – seven of which would be available through London Living Rent (the other will be sold under shared ownership). They expect building work to be completed in June.

    Find out more: affordable housing – can you buy below market value?

    More London Living Rent homes are being built

    Though scarce at the moment, the Mayor of London’s office assured Which? that more new-build London Living Rent homes are on the way.

    This was backed up by a number of housing associations we spoke to.

    A spokesperson for the Mayor of London told us: ‘London Living Rent is a new sort of affordable home that was introduced through the Mayor’s funding programme.

    ‘The first homes started to be built two years ago, and in that first year 569 new London Living Rent homes got underway. These new homes and those in following years take some time to be completed and let to tenants, and Sadiq has always been honest that making a difference will take time.’

    While the new homes will no doubt make a difference, two housing associations who previously completed London Living Rent projects told Which? that demand far outstripped supply.

    Lukman Ahmed, PRS and commercial director at L&Q, told us that 1,000 people applied for the 243 homes they currently let through the scheme. Ahmed also said that L&Q has around 300 more units earmarked for London Living Rent in the future.

    David Gooch, executive director of development at Network Homes, told us it had over 2,000 applicants for the 23 London Living Rent properties it launched in Harrow in 2018, and that it is in the final stages of completing some more in Hounslow.

    It seems then, that London Living Rent is still picking up steam. But far more homes will need to be completed to cater for everyone who applies.

    If you think the scheme is for you, keep an eye on the Homes for Londoners search portal. What are the alternatives for affordable housing in London?

    Fortunately for those who can’t take advantage of London Living Rent homes right now, there are other options for affordable housing in the city.

    London Help to Buy

    London Help to Buy is a government scheme that lets homebuyers in Greater London apply for an equity loan of up to 40% of a property’s value.

    It’s open to first-time buyers looking to move into a new-build property worth less than £600,000. You’ll need to save 5% of the deposit yourself.

    The equity loan enables you to take out a mortgage at 55% of the property value, potentially enabling you to borrow more at a lower interest rate.

    However, keep in mind that after five years, you’ll need to either pay back the equity loan, or start paying interest.

    Find out more: what is London Help to Buy? Shared ownership

    While London Living Rent homes may be few and far between, Homes for Londoners lists hundreds of properties available under shared ownership across the city.

    With shared ownership, you buy between 25% and 75% of a property from a housing association and pay rent of up to 3% on the rest.

    To buy your share, you can apply for a mortgage.

    Currently, you can buy a 25% share in a one-bedroom apartment in Hackney for £107,500. If you took out a 95% mortgage to cover the rest, you’d need £5,375 in deposit.

    In contrast, a 95% mortgage to cover the full price would require a deposit of £21,500.

    That being said, it can be difficult to get a shared ownership mortgage. And you’ll have to make sure you can afford to pay the combined total of rent and monthly mortgage repayments, as well as any service charges.

    Read our guide for more on how shared ownership works, or watch our short video for a brief overview:

    London Affordable Rent

    Designed for low-income households, London Affordable Rent homes are let at no more than 80% of local market rents, with service charges included. The Greater London Authority (GLA) benchmarks the maximum level these rents can be.

    The weekly rent maximums for this year can be found in this table:

    2019-20 Bedsit and one bedroom £155.13 Two bedrooms £164.24 Three bedrooms £173.37 Four bedrooms £182.49 Five bedrooms £191.61 Six or more bedrooms £200.73

    Source: London Assembly

    Since London Affordable Rent homes are a kind of social housing, you’ll have to apply through your local borough.

    Social and council housing

    If you’re unable to afford anywhere to live, you may qualify for social housing.

    The mayor recently revealed that in 2018-19, City Hall started building the highest number of London council homes in 34 years, and more homes than ever before at social rent levels.

    However, you’ll have to put your name on your local borough’s waiting list to apply. On top of this, many boroughs have strict eligibility criteria to decide how to allocate these homes.

    After you’ve lived in the property for a number of years, you may become eligible for Right to Buy, allowing you to purchase your home.

    Get personalised advice on saving for your first home

    If you’re looking to buy an affordable property in London, or anywhere else in the country, an independent mortgage broker can help you get the best mortgage for your circumstances.

    They will also be able to advise you while you’re saving, and point you in the direction of schemes that could help.

    Call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461 for a free chat with a friendly expert who can help you with all of this, or fill in the form below for a free callback.

    Upmarket cars and SUVs tested – including one you can afford

    Upmarket cars and SUVs tested – including one you can afford


    Are premium cars and SUVs all they’re cracked up to be, or are you just paying over-the-odds for the brand name? This month, we review a whole range of upmarket motors, including both small and large SUVs, as well as a ‘sporty’ saloon and four-door...

    Are premium cars and SUVs all they’re cracked up to be, or are you just paying over-the-odds for the brand name? This month, we review a whole range of upmarket motors, including both small and large SUVs, as well as a ‘sporty’ saloon and four-door coupé. Find out which perform the best, and fail to stand out from the crowd.

    First up, we’ve reviewed two compact SUVs – for those who love a high ride height and offroad looks, but don’t want a bulky motor that’s difficult to park. But is it worth paying £10,000 more on the BMW X1, or is the Vauxhall Crossland X a great money-saver? Our experts give their verdict.

    Meanwhile, if you need a seven-seater SUV, the Lexus RX-L Hybrid looks like a modern and luxurious choice. But can a car this big really be great to drive? We take it for a spin to find out.

    If you love coupé looks with a sweeping roofline, but want four-door practicality, the Audi A7 Sportback could be the choice for you.  Provided, that is, it lives up to expectations, rather than being overpriced.

    The Volvo S60, which Volvo calls a sports saloon, looks like a cheaper and practical alternative. Discover if it’s worth a look.

    Find out what we thought of all of these cars through the links below.

    Whatever your budget, we’ll help you find the right car. Our expert lab tests reveal the best cars.

    BMW X1, £26,568

    The BMW X1 is the German car manufacturer’s smallest model in its ‘X’ range of SUVs. This latest generation X1 sports more overtly off-road looks than its tamer-looking predecessor.

    BMW offers two petrol and two diesel engines. All bar the entry-level petrol are available in both front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations.

    A six-speed manual is standard on cheaper versions, with an automatic gearbox available as an option.

    It looks like it might be ideal for city use, with its scaled-down SUV approach and high driving position. Plus its premium-styled, spacious interior aims to set it apart from cheaper rivals.

    But is it great to drive, and how much does it cost to run? Our experts give all the details in the BMW X1 review.

    Vauxhall Crossland X, £15,033

    Vauxhall launched the Crossland X compact SUV into a packed market – so does the Crossland X have anything to offer above its rivals? The price certainly looks attractive compared with the X1, but it’s actually slightly above the starting price of direct rivals such as the Nissan Juke.

    The Crossland X is the third SUV in Vauxhall’s range. It’s priced below the similarly-sized Mokka X and larger Grandland X. Although the Crossland X is targeted at a more mainstream crowd than the more adventurous Mokka X, which has a 4×4 option.

    Now that Vauxhall is owned by Peugeot, the Crossland X shares its underpinnings, petrol and diesel engines, and transmissions with the Peugeot 2008 and Citroën C3 Aircross.

    There’s a wide range of trim levels to choose from. All come with alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control and Vauxhall’s OnStar and IntelliLink communication system as standard.

    Go for the mid-range Techline Nav trim to add front and rear parking sensors, and touchscreen navigation.

    So is this a wise choice to get the most bang for your buck? We put it to the test – see our extensive Vauxhall Crossland X review.

    Lexus RX-L Hybrid, £47,914

    If you need an SUV with bags of space for people and luggage, this brand-new hybrid Lexus RX-L could be just the ticket. It’s the seven-seat version of the brand’s luxury Lexus RX SUV, aimed at increasing the SUV’s appeal to families.

    The dimensions are largely the same as the RX – you’d have to park them next to each other to notice the elongated rear bodywork to fit in the extra seats.

    However, it’s a bit late to the party compared with rivals, as they all offer seven-seat variants of models – including the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90.

    The Lexus RX-L is exclusively available as a petrol-hybrid, powered by a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and two electric motors for a combined power output of 313hp.

    Lexus says that’s enough to get this 2.2-tonne SUV from 0mph to 62mph in an impressive 7.7 seconds. All models are fitted with CVT automatic transmission as standard and four-wheel-drive.

    Find out whether this is the perfect practical and fun car for your family in our first look Lexus RX-L Hybrid review.

    Audi A7 Sportback, £42,505

    The Audi A7 is a slightly odd concoction – it’s aimed at those who love the sporty looks of a coupé, but need the practicality of a four-door saloon.

    It’s packed with tech, with the entry Sport trim offering 19-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, and LED lights all around. Plus Audi’s MMI Navigation Plus including a 10.1-inch touchscreen display, wireless charging pad for compatible mobile phones and more.

    However, this certainly isn’t a cheap car, and you’ll have to pay more if you want even more gizmos.

    Find out whether this car is style over substance or a worthy contender for your shortlist in our Audi A7 review.

    Volvo S60, £37,935

    Volvo claims the new Volvo S60 saloon is the best-handling Volvo ever, with its sporty marketing and sculpted, muscular appearance.

    Competing against premium mid-size saloons such as the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it’s the seventh launch in Volvo’s latest breed of Scandi-chic cars kicked off by the XC90 SUV in 2015.

    However, the Volvo S60 is something different.

    In addition to Volvo’s new hallmark luxury, the Swedish firm’s given the S60 a sporty twist and claims a dynamic drive.

    From launch there’s only a single 250hp T5 petrol engine with front wheel drive, but this is soon to be joined by a T8 hybrid engine with a combined power of 390hp, and a performance ‘Polestar Engineered’ version with 405hp.

    Both the latter choices promise 0-62mph in less than five seconds and come with all-wheel drive.

    This will be the first Volvo ever to not have a diesel engine option.

    Could this be the perfect racy-but-practical car with Swedish flair you’ve been waiting for? See what we thought in our first look Volvo S60 review.

    The hotel photos that don’t match reality

    The hotel photos that don’t match reality


    From rusty sunloungers to dingy hot tubs, a report by Which? Travel shows what happens when hotels and travel agents over-promise and under-deliver. The photos below, taken by disgruntled guests, reveal the reality behind some of the idyllic hotels...

    From rusty sunloungers to dingy hot tubs, a report by Which? Travel shows what happens when hotels and travel agents over-promise and under-deliver.

    The photos below, taken by disgruntled guests, reveal the reality behind some of the idyllic hotels advertised online.

    Travellers were left outraged after paying thousands of pounds for hotels that fell woefully short of what they were promised. These included five-star accommodation with a building site outside, and a hotel pictured and advertised as ‘on the beach’ that was anything but.

    From honest hotel reviews to advice on finding the best price for your holiday, subscribe to Which? Travel.

    VIP or prison yard?


    Francesca Brown couldn’t wait for a soak in her Hoseasons ‘VIP’ cottage hot tub on the Isle of Wight.

    She’d booked the property on the strength of the website’s promotional photos, which showed a clapboard house and pretty garden.

    So she was shocked to find a mound of gravel surrounded by overgrown weeds, tree roots and discarded cigarette butts.

    Video: The reality behind the glossy hotel images online


    ‘It looked more like a prison yard than a premium cottage,’ Ms Brown told us, after arranging the long weekend for her 40th birthday celebration.

    She sought compensation and secured an £86 payout from the company, which was equal to 15% of the cost of the holiday.

    In response, Hoseasons told us: ‘The images of the site are representative of the customer experience, although in some cases we recognise there are variations in the outdoor space. We are reviewing the current pictures to ensure they give a clear overview of the site and will be removing any we believe don’t meet our guidelines.’

    Find out who you can trust with your holiday booking with our best and worst travel agents.

    Tui good to be true


    Robert Thompson booked a Tui holiday to the Hotel Castello di Rodi in Rhodes after being seduced by images of the rooftop pool online.

    But instead of aquamarine waters fringed by exotic flowers, he found overgrown trees, cracked tiles and sunloungers so corroded that they were ready for the scrap heap.

    Inside was no better. The lobby’s brown leather armchairs, which had looked so classy online, were haemorrhaging their stuffing.
    

    ‘The whole place was tatty, tired and dingy,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t believe it when the door handle to the balcony fell off in my hand. It was almost farcical.’

    Mr Thompson was awarded a £500 voucher in compensation after a lengthy complaints process via Abta (the Association of British Travel Agents).

    A spokesperson for Tui told us that it was reviewing its online content for the Hotel Castello di Rodi, adding that it ‘takes all customer feedback seriously’.

    Beware the small print


    Mr Heath was expecting luxury when he booked the five-star Movenpick on Dubai’s exclusive Jumeirah Beach.

    But when he headed for his sunlounger, instead of swaying palm trees he found a ‘crane swinging right over the pool’.

    Extensive construction works meant his stay was ‘very noisy with banging, hammering, drilling and shouting’.

    He booked through Travel Republic, which rejected his compensation claim. A spokesperson told us it had been upfront about ‘enhancement works at the hotel’ during the booking process.

    Mr Heath says he didn’t see this warning. Our subsequent checks found it in the small print at the bottom of the payment page.

    Misleading claims

    On arrival, Linda Allsop’s hotel in Mallorca looked just like its photos – spilling on to golden sands, just steps from the ocean. So she couldn’t believe it when the porter carried her luggage to the hotel across the road instead.

    Holiday Hypermarket’s website (part of the Tui group) described her property as ‘on a beach’ and showed photos of the Hotel Levante. However, she was in fact booked into its sister property, Levante Park – with a strip of tarmac between her and the beachfront.

    ‘Surely that’s false advertising,’ she said. ‘I was in sheer disbelief that I wasn’t staying in the hotel pictured!’

    Several Tripadvisor reviews prove that Linda isn’t the first guest to feel duped in this way.

    Tui refunded Linda and her partner £50 each and the online description was changed to ‘two-minute walk to a beach’. But when we checked, photos of the beachfront hotel were still being used for promotion.

    The hotel’s marketing potentially breaks regulation 5 of consumer protection law: a misleading action, which could cause the average consumer to make a transactional decision they wouldn’t have otherwise made. We have contacted the Advertising Standards Agency, and if a complaint is upheld the operator will have no choice but to change its marketing.

    How to spot a fake

    As these nightmare scenarios prove, appearances can be deceiving. Some hotels will use photographic techniques – including a fish-eye lens, clever filters or Photoshop – to make a property look better than it is.

    Others might use images that are years old and neglect to show the wear and tear on rooms and facilities.

    Always check real photos from guests on Tripadvisor, Booking.com and other websites – ignoring those uploaded by the hotels themselves. If you still get caught out, follow our advice on your rights to a refund if your hotel is not as promised.

    Do wi-fi or Bluetooth speakers sound better?

    Do wi-fi or Bluetooth speakers sound better?


    When Bluetooth technology was new to speakers, its limited capacity meant music played over wi-fi was clearly superior. However, with Bluetooth 5.0 supporting higher capacities, is wi-fi still the better choice for those looking for the very best...

    When Bluetooth technology was new to speakers, its limited capacity meant music played over wi-fi was clearly superior. However, with Bluetooth 5.0 supporting higher capacities, is wi-fi still the better choice for those looking for the very best sound? 

    Connecting speakers via Bluetooth is usually very easy to do. In most cases you simply find your speaker in the Bluetooth menu on your smartphone, pair it, and you’re good to go.

    Wi-fi, however, is often more tricky. You usually have to set it up via your speaker’s dedicated app on your smartphone. For this reason, when a speaker supports both wi-fi and Bluetooth, many connect via Bluetooth for convenience.

    To find out whether it’s worth putting in the effort to connect over wi-fi we looked at the sound quality ratings for both wi-fi and Bluetooth speakers by our expect lab.

    Looking to make a quick purchase? Skip straight to our Best Buy speakers.

    Do wi-fi speakers sound better than Bluetooth speakers?

    To assess the sound quality of wireless speakers, we used a dedicated expert listening panel of five members with decades of experience between them. They each rated the sound quality performance of each speaker across a wide variety of music and radio genres to find out which are the best-sounding wireless and Bluetooth speakers on the market. Their scores were converted to a 1-5 star rating for each speaker.

    In the graphs below, we’ve taken the average sound quality scores for all Which? wireless and Bluetooth speaker reviews. For a fair comparison, we’ve split the results into price bands and excluded very cheap or very expensive price ranges where the choices of wi-fi or Bluetooth speakers are limited.

    Speakers costing £25-£75

    On average, if you’re looking for a very cheap wireless speaker, it’s clear that wi-fi–capable speakers have the edge over Bluetooth speakers, even in 2019. However, the gap is now pretty narrow – and we’ve found many exceptions to the rule. For example, we’ve found Best Buy Bluetooth-only speakers with fantastic sound for as little as £30 or less.

    Speakers costing £75-£125

    The difference in sound quality for mid-priced wireless and Bluetooth speakers is, on average, extremely narrow – less than 0.2 on our 1-5 star rating scale. However, this is only an average, and it’s worth noting that we’ve found many Don’t Buy wi-fi and Bluetooth speakers costing between £75 and £125.

    Speakers costing £125-£175

    While both Bluetooth and wi-fi speakers get a further sound upgrade in this more premium price range, the average wi-fi speaker is starting to approach an impressive four stars out of five on our scale – a rating which would likely net the speaker a Best Buy.

    However, we’ve also found several Don’t Buy wi-fi and Bluetooth wireless speaker flops in this price range – so paying more is no guarantee of avoiding disappointment. Find these on our Don’t Buy wireless and Bluetooth speakers page, to make sure you don’t make an expensive mistake.

    Popular wireless speakers to consider

    Below we select some of the most popular wireless and Bluetooth speaker models to see how they differ – with some supporting wi-fi, Bluetooth or both. Click through to our reviews to see whether they’re worth buying.

    Sonos Play:1, £149 Supports wi-fi only

    One of the most popular wireless speakers on the market, the Sonos Play:1 is wi-fi only, with no Bluetooth connectivity option – something it shares with the more expensive Apple Homepod.

    It’s the smallest speaker in Sonos’ popular multi-room speaker range, and comes with a dedicated app you use to control a vast range of functions, including compatibility with music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music (with subscriptions).

    So is the popularity of the Sonos Play:1 justified, and are there drawbacks with a speaker that lacks Bluetooth? Find out in our comprehensive Sonos Play:1 review.

    Polk Audio Assist, £159 Supports Bluetooth and wi-fi

    Polk Audio is a specialist audio brand popular with hi-fi retailers, but demand for the well-priced Polk Audio Assist means it’s now widely available in major retailers. It supports both wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity – so you have the best of both worlds – and is also a smart speaker with optional Google Assistant voice control, so you can use it hands-free.

    It also supports Chromecast so you can connect it up to other Chromecast-supporting speakers, including those from other brands.

    Are there any compromises with choosing a speaker with both wi-fi and Bluetooth? See what we thought of this speaker in our definitive Polk Audio Assist review.

    Anker Soundcore Flare, £70 Supports Bluetooth only

    Anker is a brand best known to budget buyers on Amazon, and the Anker Soundcore Flare is an affordable Bluetooth-only portable wireless speaker with a flared base.

    It comes with optional light effects that dance to your music, is fully waterproof, and there’s a 3.5mm socket for the choice of a wired connection to your devices. Anker claims the built-in rechargeable battery lasts for an impressive 21 hours.

    Is this one of the Bluetooth-only speakers that excels in our expert tests, or one that doesn’t make it to the finish line? We reveal all in our extensive Anker Soundcore Flare review.

    Sandstrom SCBTS17, £80 Supports Bluetooth only

    If you’re looking for a very simple and affordable Bluetooth-only home speaker, the Sandstrom SCBTS17 could be the ideal choice for you.

    It will appeal to traditional speaker fans with its wooden cabinet-style design and large size, and its impressive claimed 80W output makes it one of the more powerful speakers on the market.

    Could this be the home speaker you’ve been looking for? Our lab experts put it to the test in our thorough Sandstrom SCBTS17 review.

    Ultimate Ears Blast, £73 Supports Bluetooth and wi-fi

    Many choose Bluetooth speakers because they’re compact and portable, but the Ultimate Ears Blast manages to pack in both wi-fi and Bluetooth into its conveniently portable design. It looks perfect for home use, with the option to take it out and about as you wish.

    Ultimate Ears claims the battery life lasts for a strong 12 hours, and it’s impressively durable, too, being not only waterproof, but dust-proof and drop-proof as well.

    But that ‘Blast’ name is worrying – does it really sound good? Find out in our full Ultimate Ears Blast review.

    Sony SRS-XB01, £20 Supports Bluetooth only

    There are even some extremely cheap Bluetooth speakers on the market – so are these worth considering, or does the sound quality drop off a cliff?

    The Sony SRS-XB01 looks ideal for taking out and about with its small, lightweight ultra-portable design, with convenient carry strap you can attach to your bag.

    It’s water-resistant so should survive getting caught out in the rain, and its simple design should make it highly convenient to use.

    So does it punch above its weight, or is it one to avoid? Our experts give their definitive verdict in our expert Sony SRS-XB01 review.

    Want to browse more? See all our wireless and Bluetooth speaker reviews.

    Tracker mortgage rates tumble: is now the time to gamble on a variable-rate deal?


    Tracker mortgages are getting cheaper, with the number of products available to borrowers up by nearly 10% in the past month and the average rate on a two-year deal dropping to almost 2%. But is it really time for borrowers to ditch the safety of a...

    Tracker mortgages are getting cheaper, with the number of products available to borrowers up by nearly 10% in the past month and the average rate on a two-year deal dropping to almost 2%. But is it really time for borrowers to ditch the safety of a fixed-rate deal?

    Whether you’re buying a home or remortgaging, it’s a great time to secure a good deal on a home loan, with attractive mortgage rates available across the board.

    And while many borrowers are settling for the comfort of a longer-term fix while the going is good, cheap tracker mortgages – which vary in cost based on the Bank of England base rate – are dropping in price and creeping up in popularity.

    Here, we explain the pros and cons of trackers and offer advice on whether you should gamble with your mortgage rate.

    For advice on the getting the best deal when moving home or remortgaging, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461. Rates fall on tracker mortgages

    New data from Moneyfacts shows that the average two-year tracker mortgage rate has fallen to just 2.02%.

    This drop has been attributed to increased competition between lenders, with the number of tracker mortgages rising from 185 to 202 in the space of a month, up by 9%.

    Tracker mortgages follow the Bank of England base rate (currently 0.75%) plus a margin, so if a tracker is set at the base rate plus 1.5%, the rate you’ll pay will be 2.25%. A 0.25% base rate increase would see this rise to 2.5%.

    As with fixed-rate products, the rate of increase on a tracker mortgage is set for a specific period. The vast majority of tracker mortgages have two year introductory terms, though a handful of three and five-year deals are available.

    Find out more: discover the pros and cons of tracker mortgages


    Fixed-rate mortgages v trackers

    Trackers are riskier than fixed-rate mortgages, because if the Bank of England increases the base rate, your monthly repayments will increase, too.

    This means that lenders must offer tempting rates on trackers that counteract this element of risk. The current average rate of 2.02% on a two-year tracker is the lowest we’ve seen since September last year.

    The graph below shows that the gap between the average rate on a two-year fix (2.47%) and a two-year tracker (2.02%) is nearly half a percent, meaning that (theoretically at least) trackers should be able to comfortably absorb at least one increase in the base rate.

    Best rates on fixed and tracker deals

    But how much stock can we really place on average rates? After all, the average for two-year trackers is only based on around 200 deals, while the average for two-year fixes is based on nearly 2,000.

    In the tables below, we’ve instead looked at the best initial rates currently available on two-year fixes and trackers at three popular loan-to-value (LTV) levels – 60%, 75% and 90%.

    60% LTV

    Mortgage type Lender Lowest introductory rate Revert rate APRC Fees Two-year fix Halifax 1.35% 4.24% 3.8% £999 Two-year tracker Halifax 1.29% (BR+0.54%) 4.24% 3.8% £999

    Rate gap: 0.06% in favour of the tracker

    75% LTV

    Mortgage type Lender Lowest introductory rate Revert rate APRC Fees Two-year fix Halifax 1.47% 4.24% 3.8% £995 Two-year tracker Halifax 1.37% (BR+0.62%) 4.24% 3.8% £999

    Rate gap: 0.1% in favour of the tracker

    90% LTV

    Mortgage type Lender Lowest introductory rate Revert rate APRC Fees Two-year fix NatWest 1.79% 4.24% 3.8% £995 Two-year tracker Accord 1.94% (BR+1.19%) 4.25% 4.3% £995

    Rate gap: 0.15% in favour of the fix

    Source: Moneyfacts. Remortgage-only deals excluded. 15 May.

    Could the cheapest deals absorb a base rate rise?

    As you can see, the gap in initial rates on the cheapest deals can be negligible at best, and for borrowers at 90% LTV it’s already cheaper to get a two-year fixed-rate deal than a tracker without factoring in any future base rate increases.

    At other LTVs, a tracker might offer lower monthly payments than a fix right now, but none of the best rates shown above could absorb a 0.25% rise in the base rate, as shown in the charts below.

    Is the base rate likely to increase?

    That’s the million-dollar question. The Bank’s nine-strong Monetary Policy Committee votes on whether to change the base rate each month, and this month it voted unanimously to keep the rate at 0.75%.

    At the moment, the signs are that an imminent rise seems highly unlikely, and Santander’s chief economist Francis Haque says we’re unlikely to see a rise this year.

    But with uncertainty around Brexit, things could change – meaning borrowers considering a tracker mortgage should think carefully before jumping in.

    Darren Cook of Moneyfacts says: ‘Markets are forecasting just a single interest rate increase by 2021, but with current economic conditions so unpredictable, this timescale may shorten and variable mortgage rates could increase sooner as a consequence.

    ‘Therefore, those considering a variable rate tracker mortgage should always factor in any rate rises that could affect whether they can afford the monthly repayments for the length of their term.’

    What happens if the base rate falls?

    What goes up can also go down, but a fall in the base rate wouldn’t necessarily give you a cheaper deal on a tracker mortgage.

    That’s because many tracker deals have ‘collars’ inserted into them, meaning that the rate you pay can’t drop below a set amount, even if the base rate falls.

    And with rates currently at a low level, most lenders set their collar at the current rate – meaning the headline rate you see will be as good as it gets.

    Find out more: get to grips with how interest rates work in our guide on the base rate and your mortgage.

    Advice on your mortgage options

    Whether you’re buying your first home, moving up the ladder or remortgaging, it can be helpful to speak to a whole-of-market mortgage broker, who can offer guidance on your options and find the right deal for your circumstances.

    To chat to an expert, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461 or fill in the form below for a free callback.

    Dash cams are helping drivers save money in insurance claims

    Dash cams are helping drivers save money in insurance claims


    One thing that every car owner fears is the pain of paying a hefty insurance bill. Insurance claims are hardly a blissful experience but some savvy drivers have managed to save themselves a headache, and potentially heaps of money, by using a dash...

    One thing that every car owner fears is the pain of paying a hefty insurance bill. Insurance claims are hardly a blissful experience but some savvy drivers have managed to save themselves a headache, and potentially heaps of money, by using a dash cam.

    We surveyed* 2,111 British motorists that have made an insurance claim in the last two years. We found that 20% of these drivers own a dash cam; of these, 18% have used a dash cam as evidence in a claim.

    Footage recorded on a dash cam can be submitted directly to your insurer. With the very best models recording clear sound as well, you might be able to capture an admission at the scene of the accident, before the other motorist denies all culpability to their own insurance company.

    Read on to find out exactly how dash cams came in handy for insurance claims. 

    Some dash cams produce blurred footage that will be useless as evidence if you have an accident. Our expert tests reveal the best dash cams.

    Can a dash cam help in a claim?

    Through submitting footage to their insurers, drivers have been able to prove they were not at fault in insurance disputes, potentially saving them hundreds of pounds and the stress of an ongoing claim.

    Our research found that 20% of motorists* who have claimed in the last two years own a dash cam. And 18% of these have used a dash cam’s recorded footage as evidence in an insurance claim.

    How did a dash cam help drivers to claim?

    Here are some of the experiences we got from respondents:

    Want to know more about dash cams? See our expert guide on how to buy a dash cam.

    Which dash cam should you choose?

    Buying a dash cam isn’t as simple as going to a shop or ordering one online, then sticking it to your windscreen. Every dash cam has its own specifications and, most importantly, they come with different recording capabilities.

    Having a dash cam that records good quality footage could be the difference between proving your innocence in a claim and losing your excess – or, the unthinkable, footing the bill for repairs.

    Our independent tests have uncovered dash cams that are so bad the number plates they recorded were illegible.

    We’ve made it much easier to find a dash cam you can rely on. See our top five dash cams for 2019

    Which? dash cam tests

    The most important function of a dash cam is how well it records footage.

    We test dash cams at varying times during the day and night. This ensures you only buy a dash cam you can trust to record high quality footage should anything go wrong.

    But that’s not the only thing we scrutinise. We also test how easy each dash cam is to use – from its set up process, to finding the perfect mounting position in your car, to reviewing the coveted footage you’ve captured.

    Despite its main function, many people are unaware that dash cams can have additional features that can strengthen the credibility of footage. GPS data will show your exact location at the time of an incident and wi-fi makes it that much easier to transfer footage.

    There are a number of other important features, including some that will protect you while your car is parked. Our research has even revealed where your parked car is most likely to get hit

    *(Survey, Feb 2019: 2,111 British motorists that have made a car insurance claim in the last two years.)

    Amazon launches new £50 Fire 7 tablet: big discounts available on the old model

    Amazon launches new £50 Fire 7 tablet: big discounts available on the old model


    Amazon has updated its cheapest tablet, the Fire 7. With a price of just £50 this model is already a bit of a bargain, but should you save even more by grabbing the previous model while stocks last? We take a look. Amazon’s Fire tablets are among the...

    Amazon has updated its cheapest tablet, the Fire 7. With a price of just £50 this model is already a bit of a bargain, but should you save even more by grabbing the previous model while stocks last? We take a look.

    Amazon’s Fire tablets are among the best-known budget models around and are an easy first port-of-call if you’re after a cheap tablet for watching a few videos on and getting some shopping done online. They get updated every once in a while, although the very cheapest Fire 7 hasn’t seen a refresh since 2017, which is a lifetime ago in the world of tech.

    The new Amazon Fire 7 costs £50 (or £60 without built-in ‘special offers’ occasionally suggesting products you might be interested in), is on sale now, and starts shipping on 6 June. The new model is also available as a Kids’ Edition for £100, which nets you a new protective case and a no-quibbles return policy if the tablet gets broken.

    It replaces the previous Amazon Fire 7, released in 2017 – but since it’s still available at a discounted price, are you better off making that saving? Let’s look at the changes.

    Browse reviews of all the best tablets from our tests. 

    Amazon Fire 7 specifications Model Fire 7 2019 Fire 7 2017 Screen size (inches) 7 7 Screen resolution (pixels) 1,024 x 600 1,024 x 600 Storage 16 or 32GB 8 or 16GB Micro-SD card compatibility Up to 512GB Up to 256GB Processor 1.3GHz quad-core 1.3GHz quad-core Ram 1GB 1GB Weight 286g 300g Alexa Hands-free Only when docked or charging Colours Black, Plum, Sage, Twilight Blue Black, blue, red,yellow

    On the face of it, not much has changed here. Amazon says the processor is faster, but it features the same headline specifications as the old model. The main differences are the ability to activate the Alexa smart assistant using just your voice (instead of having to press a button), new pastelle colour options and 16GB of storage as standard. In addition, it now supports micro-SD cards up to 512GB in size, so if you have a vast media library or take loads of photos, you can pop one in store loads more.

    It still has the same ultra-low-resolution screen and paltry 1GB of Ram, meaning it’s not ideally suited to doing work or browsing complex websites. Very advanced 3D games probably won’t run well, either.

    The launch of the new model means that the 2017 edition is now cheaper than ever, on sale for just £35 new at retailers such as Currys. Which begs the question…

    How much can you save on the older Fire 7?

    If you’re a savvy shopper, it may well be worthwhile. Take a look at how much you could potentially save by opting for the previous generation, and read our Amazon Fire 7 (2017) review to see what we thought.

    Save £15 on a new 2017 Fire 7

    Currys PC World is selling the older model, in black, for £35. It’s a new device, so there’s no risk of buying a damaged dud with no warranty. It only has 8GB of storage, but if you mostly stream video and don’t download much and don’t take many pictures on your tablet, this will be fine.

    Save £25 on a used 2017 Fire 7 with 16GB of storage

    There are also a limited number of used Fire 7s available on the Amazon Marketplace, which are included in Amazon Prime’s next-day delivery service. These options show signs of use but are priced at £35, which is £25 off the original price of a 16GB Fire 7.

    There are downsides to buying used, such as the lack of a warranty and the fact that the battery life may have deteriorated through use. Our guide to buying used laptops goes into some of the pitfalls that also apply to tablets.

    Our advice: Save money on the old model while you can

    If you want to save some pennies, pick up the 2017 model on discount. The differences between the new and old models are small, and unless hands-free smart assistance is important to you, the older model is likely to be just as capable a tablet as the new one.

    Given the prices are cheap enough already, we’d err on the side of caution and pay a bit more for a new 2017 model over the used one. Be quick though – when Amazon releases updated devices, the old ones don’t often hang around for long.

    Should you buy a cheap tablet?

    The only other tablets we’ve tested for under £50 are from Argos-exclusive brand Alba. Its models are about as basic as Amazon’s, but come with standard Android and therefore access to the better-stocked Google Play app store. See our Alba 7-inch 16GB tablet review for more.

    Outside Amazon and Alba, you’ll have to spend closer to £100 for the next cheapest models. But bear in mind that at these price ranges, you will have to face some compromises.

    Take into account what you actually want to do with your tablet now and down the line. Cameras, screen quality and performance will all be lower than the likes of a Samsung Galaxy Tab or an Apple iPad. For more, see our guide to the best cheap tablets.

    Lavazza Deséa: the coffee machine that froths milk straight into your mug

    Lavazza Deséa: the coffee machine that froths milk straight into your mug


    Unlike many rival pod machines, the Deséa – which works with Lavazza coffee capsules – has a built-in milk frothing cup for one-touch coffee brewing. If you enjoy the convenience of capsules but don’t fancy faffing around with a separate milk...

    Unlike many rival pod machines, the Deséa – which works with Lavazza coffee capsules – has a built-in milk frothing cup for one-touch coffee brewing.

    If you enjoy the convenience of capsules but don’t fancy faffing around with a separate milk frother to make your morning latte, this Lavazza machine could be a good fit.

    At £200, it’s towards the pricey end of the spectrum for a capsule coffee machine, but it could be worth it if it creates velvety foam without fuss.

    Find out if it’s one to get in a froth about in our Lavazza Deséa first look review.

    Lavazza Deséa: what’s exciting about it?

    Pod coffee machines tend to be simple to use, with minimal controls, which is part of their appeal. However, this can limit the range of coffees you can make.

    In recent years we’ve seen more models with extra functionality, allowing you to customise your drink to suit your tastes. The Lavazza continues this trend, with options to up the frothiness of your drink, and make it hotter too.

    Built-in automatic milk frothing

    The Deséa has a built-in whisk that froths milk in the slide-in glass jug, and then dispenses coffee straight into it. It looks good, and Lavazza thinks it makes a stylish mug too, although its large size might make you feel rather hobbit-like.

    Other coffee machines with automatic frothing tend to have a small milk carafe that sits on the side of the machine. Milk is then sucked into the machine and dispensed into your cup as froth. This can lead to milk wastage if you judge your quantities wrong, and it’s one more container to clean too.

    Some machines come with a standalone frothing accessory, although this means you have to take the extra step of frothing your milk and adding it to your coffee. Others, such as Dolce Gusto coffee machines, use milk pods instead.

    You can see how other capsule machines with automatic frothing fare in our independent tests by checking our coffee machine reviews.

    Pre-programmed drink options

    Lavazza doesn’t want you tapping frantically at the Deséa for too long if you’re parched, so you’ll find a selection of pre-set drink sizes and options on the control panel.

    You can pick between three different types of black coffee (espresso, short espresso and long coffee) and five milky options (cappuccino, large cappuccino, latte macchiato, hot milk froth and cold milk froth).

    This isn’t groundbreaking, although there is a good range of options to choose from.

    Custom dose, froth and temperature settings

    If you want to fine-tune your drink to your favourite mug size, you can save custom drink lengths on the Deséa (although only for black coffees).

    The Deséa allows you to adjust the temperature of your drink and increase the frothiness level. It’s quite a common feature, but it’s handy if you like an extra-foamy cappuccino.

    Other machines with similar features include the Nespresso Expert and Creatista models.

    For more advice on choosing between the different capsule machine brands, see our full guide to capsule coffee machines.

    Nespresso Lattissima Touch review – see how Nespresso’s auto milk-frothing machine fared in our tests

    Choosing the right coffee machine for you

    Pod coffee machines are very popular. Although they’re often cheap upfront, they can cost more in the long run as the coffee pods are pricier than using beans or ground coffee.

    Ground coffee machines – use fine-ground coffee to make your drink, which you’ll need to measure out first. There’s a wide variety of ground coffee machines available at a range of different price points. They can take a bit of practice, but you’ll have ultimate control over your drink. Bean-to-cup coffee machines – these coffee machines might turn your head if you’re looking to make the freshest espresso possible. Bean-to-cup coffee machines grind coffee beans from scratch for each drink, and usually take care of the rest too, but they can be very expensive.

    For help choosing the right machine for you, and features to look for, head to our full coffee machines buying guide.

    Discover the exceptional machines that make the tastiest coffees in our round-up of the best coffee machines, based on our independent tests.

    New prepaid card for kids launches: could it rival GoHenry?


    Pocket money app Rooster Money is branching out with a new Visa prepaid card for kids, ramping up its rivalry with the likes of popular children’s money card GoHenry. Children will be able to use the new prepaid card in shops, at cash machines and for...

    Pocket money app Rooster Money is branching out with a new Visa prepaid card for kids, ramping up its rivalry with the likes of popular children’s money card GoHenry.

    Children will be able to use the new prepaid card in shops, at cash machines and for online purchases. But – crucially – parents will be able to keep a watchful eye over their kids’ spending.

    But how does Rooster Money compare to other kids banking services?


    How does the Rooster Money prepaid card work?

    Rooster Money has traditionally been a pocket money app since it launched in 2016, with no options for children to spend their money themselves. But a prepaid card will be available from June, and you can join a waiting list now.

    Where can the card be used?

    The Visa prepaid card will have a CVV number, which means it can be used to make purchases online, as well as at cash machines and in stores. Parents have the option to switch off any of these features.

    The card can’t be used in shops that have an over-18s merchant code, and there’s no overdraft facility, meaning your child can’t get into debt.

    Special features

    While the app helps kids track their pocket money, earn rewards and save towards certain goals, the prepaid card adds extra features.

    The account has a sort code and account number, so family and friends can pay in gift money.

    The CVV number, which can only be accessed in the app, changes after every purchase, making it a secure way to pay.

    Both children and parents receive real-time spending notifications. The card can be frozen and unfrozen through the app at any time if it gets lost.

    You child’s money can be split into four pots. Only cash in their ‘spend’ pot can be spent on their card. Other pots include ‘save’ (for savings), ‘give’ (for supporting a cause or charity) and ‘goals’ (for saving for something specific), all of which parents can control.

    This ensures kids can only spend the money they’re supposed to.

    If you have more than one child on the app, they’ll be dealt with separately, which is ideal if you feel one child is too young for the card, but the other is ready.

    Age limits

    Rooster Money says its app is suitable for children as young as three or four-years old, but the prepaid card is aimed at six to 18-year olds. Parents can choose to introduce the prepaid card whenever they feel their child is ready.

    Fees

    The prepaid card will be a premium feature, but the fees are yet to be confirmed.

    Find out more: prepaid cards explained

    GoHenry, Nimbl, Osper and other kids banking apps

    Rooster Money is not the only app or prepaid card that introduces younger children to the world of money management. So it’s worth shopping around to find the best product for your family.

    GoHenry

    Ages: 6 to 18

    Features: If you have more than one child, parents can manage all of their finances through this app. There’s a parental online account, with links to each child. You can set tasks that will mean your kids will earn more money, set limits for spending and invite relatives to contribute to the account. The kids will have a prepaid card, and parents can specify where this can be used.

    Fees: £2.99 per child, per month (£35.88 a year).

    Osper

    Ages: 8 to 18

    Features: Kids get a prepaid card which connects to the app, which will show how much they’ve spent and their remaining balance. Parents have full visibility over what their children are buying, and can set up a regular allowance, locks and limits.

    Fees: £2.50 per child, per month (£30 a year).

    Nimbl

    Ages: 8 to 18

    Features: Similarly, Nimbl’s prepaid card links to the app and gives spending overviews for both children and parents. There’s a micro-savings feature, where children can save between 5p to £5 whenever they spend, plus parents can set up instant top-ups, spending alerts and controls. Cash gifts can also be sent directly to the account.

    Fees: £15 per card, per year.

    What are the best children’s bank accounts?

    Larger banks and building societies will often let children open current accounts from the age of 11, but some are restricted to those aged over 16.

    Some accounts offer credit interest. However, if you want to grow your child’s money, you’re better off getting a children’s savings account, as rates are usually higher.

    We review offers from major providers in our guide to the best bank accounts for children.

    The three children’s bank accounts with the highest customer ratings are:

    Monzo 16+ current account – for those aged over 16, this account comes with a debit card and can be opened and managed on a mobile app. No overdraft facility will be offered until the account holder turns 18. Nationwide FlexOne account – for children aged 11-17, you’ll earn 1% AER interest on balances up to £1,000. You’ll have to go into branch to open an account if your child is aged 11-13, but from 14+ it can be opened online. You can opt for either a debit or a cash card. Metro Bank cash account – from 11+, this account can be opened in branch and kids will have a cash card for spending.

    The Which? Customer Score is the rating for customer satisfaction, based on feedback from 4,255 real customers who were surveyed in August 2018. The score is made up of a customer’s overall satisfaction with the brand, and how likely they are to recommend that brand to a friend.

    Opening a children’s bank account

    While 16-year olds can generally open an account themselves, parents or guardians will need to open younger children’s accounts.

    You’ll usually need to go into a branch, and provide a birth certificate or passport, plus a recent household bill or bank statement as proof of address.

    Find out more: best children’s bank accounts

    Do children pay income tax?

    Children are liable to pay tax in the same way as adults on their savings interest, so bear this in mind if you’re planning to give your child a significant sum of money.

    Like adults, children get a personal tax-free allowance, which is £12,500 in the 2019-20 tax year.

    If the income is solely from interest, children can benefit from the £5,000 savings starter rate, and a £1,000 personal savings allowance, meaning their tax-free earnings can go up to £18,500.

    However, parents may still be on the hook to pay tax. If the interest on the savings you deposit into your child’s account exceeds £100 a year before tax (or £200 if both parents give money), all interest will be added to your own savings income and taxed as if it were your own.

    If this is likely to be a problem, you could consider opening a Junior Isa – where all savings and growth remains tax-free – though you are limited to paying in £4,368 in the 2019-20 tax year.

    Find out more: children and income tax

    Editor’s note: This article was amended on 17 May to say that Rooster Money prepaid card fees were yet to be confirmed.