My month in money #13

What I’ve actually done this month to be clever with my cash.

There are a couple of thoughts behind this feature. Often there are small things I’m doing that don’t warrant a whole article so this can bring them together! Plus, it’s a great way to show that I “walk the walk” and really do follow my own advice!

So here are the key money matters from my own life in January 2023

Broken MacBook battle

Just before Christmas, my wife’s MacBook began shutting down unexpectedly. Obviously all tech has a time when it’ll stop working, but this computer was just under four years old.

In the first instance, we took it to a local authorised Apple retailer to see if it could be fixed. The diagnosis cost £70 itself, with a bill for close to £500 if we wanted it repaired. They wouldn’t go on record to say why it had broken, just what had gone wrong.

The Consumer Rights Act says items purchased should last a reasonable amount of time. My take on this is a premium piece of kit should last at least four years, especially one that’s not been used day-in, day-out for work. Research online suggested the faulty component, the logic board, should last five years if not more.

So I felt that I’d have a case here to get the repair sorted by the retailer. I checked in with my consumer rights champion friend Helen, aka The Complaining Cow, who shared some tips for escalating the issue – but warned me that there’s no hard evidence about how long a laptop should last, and hence hard to prove it hadn’t lasted a reasonable amount of time. She expected that I’d need to go to the Small Claims Court to force a payment, expecting that they’d settle out of court just in case.

Armed with Helen’s advice I emailed John Lewis. Emails went back and forth, but as expected they said they couldn’t help. The next step was to contact the CEO’s office saying I’d take it to court, and this triggered a call from their specialist tech and consumer rights complaints team.

This is where I broke one of Helen’s rules – always keep it in writing! But the result of the call was no different to my other communications. They wouldn’t help. Interestingly if there had been previous faults they would have paid out for this one.

I emailed after to have it in writing, and they added in an offer of £100 if we went ahead with the repairs. So there was certainly movement each time I escalated the matter.

I was really tempted to try the court route (Helen was very keen for me to pursue this as it’d make a great story – which it would), but with a lot going on right now and I couldn’t prioritise it.

Plus, at best I’d get it repaired, and then no doubt something else would have gone wrong in a year or two requiring a full replacement.

So instead I took advantage of my student discount to buy Becky a new MacBook now rather than later.

The best deals

Find our picks of the best offers in our dedicated deals library

I hate Zilch!

Some of you in my Facebook community have been talking about using the Buy Now, Pay Later app Zilch to earn additional cashback on purchases, linked to another cashback debit card.

I’m not a fan of BNPL, but I’ve had the app on my list to review for a while. And with Chase’s 1% due to end for many customers in March, I finally took the plunge and downloaded it. At some point I’ll aim for a full review on the site, but the headline is I hate it.

First it’s really not clear how you use it. There are two ways to pay, in one, which earns 0.5% cashback, or split in the traditional BNPL way. I was only interested in the first way, and having selected this as my default on the app, I made my first purchase.

It turned out the default was only for Apple Pay! And my spend at Premier Inn had been split into four equal payments. One I didn’t want this (I think it’s harder to track this and ensure enough is in my linked current account), and two this meant no cashback!

Things got worse. The app wouldn’t allow me to pay all the rest off early – I think this was a glitch. Then it turned out Chase (which I’d connected) didn’t pay cashback on top as it treated Zilch as a financial payment.

I tried again, this time at the barbers using Apple Pay, and it went through in one and earned me a little cashback.

I also used it online for Ocado, preselecting the retailer and authorising the purchase before payment so it was in one rather than split. This worked ok too.

However when I tried to use it for a Sainsbury’s online order the card kept getting rejected. That was the final straw and once I’ve used the earned cashback and written a review, I’ll be deleting it.

If I’m having all this hassle, imagine what someone who’s not doing this for a job experiences? My advice, stay well clear, even if you can earn a little cashback.

Reconsidering Avios points

Long term readers will know I’m not a fan of collecting Avios points to use towards flights. My thinking has been you’re better off earning cashback which you can spend as you wish, or converting Avios into Nectar points.

Even if you plan on booking a flight, the savings you make with those other methods free up cash to use on whichever airline you like, ideally combined with a sale or other deal.

However, we’ve accumulated quite a few from last year’s BA Amex Premium Plus increased bonus, and will be getting more as Becky has signed up for the latest boosted offer, worth 70,000 points. Along with a 2-4-1 companion voucher we earned, I’ve been having a look at some different routes – and I’ve been surprised.

Though some trips, especially those to the USA, still tend to work out cheaper booking in economy without Avios, and not much better with the 2-4-1 voucher. And you’re still paying a huge amount for a flight if you go on in a higher class, even with a voucher. That’s money I think is better spent elsewhere, at least on most trips.

But then I looked at the Avios prices for some destinations in South America and South Africa and compared them to prices direct with the airline. The savings were much, much bigger. Even more so with the voucher.

For example, you’d need 65,000 Avios (worth £433 if used as Nectar points instead) for two people to fly economy to Johannesburg in October with a companion voucher, plus £300 in taxes. That’s roughly £733. But two flights on the same plane worked out as £1,857!

Of course, part of this is that we’re looking to travel at a busier time of the year. Whereas normal ticket prices will fluctuate based on demand, Avios redemption flights are fixed.

So for those of you who want or need to travel at peak times might find on some routes that Avios works out cheaper and it’s something I’ll think about more in the future.

However, it’s worth remembering that to get the companion vouchers you need to spend £10,000 to £12,000 a year on the cards, depending on which card you have, and have enough points to cover the flights in full (though you’ll still pay taxes and fees on top). And availability is limited in each class, so you might miss out on key dates, especially to really popular destinations.

Waitrose vouchers drop in value

Since Waitrose is my local supermarket I’m often popping in for bits and bobs, and I always take advantage of the MyWaitrose vouchers released every Wednesday. Even though they’re listed for specific products you can use them on anything via the self-service tills (and often a staff-operated checkout).

For most of last year, the two weekly coupons added up to £5 to £8 every week off my shopping. A great saving. But this month things have taken a huge turn for the worse. At best I’ve had vouchers adding up to £1.50. Most weeks it’s just £1.

Three refund eventually comes through

I ditched Three for O2 just before Christmas, but it took until last week for the credit on my bill to reach my bank account.

This time I didn’t have to ask for the money – something that I’ve had to do in the past with Three and other providers, but it’s always worth checking if you’re due any cash when you switch any utility, and chasing them to get it.

Appearing on the BBC News channel

This last one’s not really about my money, but I was on the BBC News channel this month talking about bank switching!

And the rest…

I can’t remember everything but a few extras in brief…

  • I used TodayTix to get a £25 day ticket to see Lemons, Lemons, Lemons in London, getting a stalls ticket that would have cost £125 at full price.
  • Though I set up a standing order for a quid to ensure I still got the top 5.12% interest rate when Natwest increased the balance on its Digital Regular Saver, I forgot to top it up by £149 manually in December, so I missed out on adding to my balance for a month.
  • We also used up our Harvey Nichols and dining credit offers on the Amex Platinum that reset on January 1 and will next month cancel our card to get refunds on the fee.
  • I called up O2 to get Volt benefits added to my new account (it allows some worldwide roaming for free). Though it wasn’t an advertised part of the offer when I joined via a comparison site deal, I also asked about adding on a benefit and was given six months free Disney+
  • I added Discovery+ to my parents BT account for free thanks to a new offer, meaning I could watch the Australian Open tennis

Our podcast

Listen to Cash Chats, our award-winning podcast, presented by Editor-in-chief Andy Webb.

Episodes every Tuesday.

One thought on “My month in money #13

  1. Very helpful, useful and an entertaining read; it’s good to see that you have the same problems as the rest of us!

    Do you ‘use’ Peer to Peer lending to earn decent interest rates (with some risk)?

    I learned recently that Martin Lewis has some P2P accounts but he rarely promotes them.

    Do you think it’s something to avoid, too risky or an excellent way to beat Bank and Building Society interest rates?

    My ‘Bank’ Manager (Nationwide)
    hadn’t even heard of P2P until last December; now he is a fan and has 3 accounts!

    Thanks again for all your valuable advice.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.