My month in money #14

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 February 2023


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In the pic: £30 to see Crystal Palace at Old Trafford

Train delays and refunds

It’s been a while since I’ve had any major issues with trains, but this month I’ve had a series of delays and cancellations!

First, a trip to Manchester was derailed by a strike meaning I had to instead travel by coach. That in itself wasn’t actually that expensive or disruptive, and I was able to get a full refund on the train ticket. The frustration was I’d bought myself a bargain £5 trip thanks to a Northern flash sale.

The other times the trains were running, but over four journeys, two had delays of over an hour! Though I’d rather the trains ran on time, I was able to claim full refunds.

The rules do vary by train company, but broadly you’ll be able to get 50% back on delays between 15 and 30 minutes, and the full whack on delays of an hour. Some even refund a return ticket if the delay is longer still.

One claim was simple enough. The train itself was cancelled, meaning I had to get a later train which arrived more than an hour later. This meant I could request the refund via the operator’s Delay Repay page. Having a digital ticket made things a lot easier too (if you have paper tickets make sure you don’t put them through the gate when you arrive).

The other was slightly more complicated, and something worth sharing. Though it was the same route as the other trip, there was a change required in the middle, which meant swapping from an LNER train to a Northern train. And it was this second shorter, and cheaper, part of the journey where the train was cancelled.

This mean my claim was with Northern, not LNER, and I was concerned I’d not get my money back for the whole journey. Fortunately, though the journey was split, the ticket wasn’t. That meant I was able to claim a refund from Northern for my entire journey, not just the second part.

So if you’re looking at split tickets, which can be cheaper for longer journeys, then just be aware you might lose out on the refund if there delays.

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Checking returns

I’m not a frequent clothes shopper. I tend to do it in spurts a few times a year, ordering multiple items at once with the hope of finding the one or two things I need. And since I’m never sure what size I need from different shops it usually means there are lots of things to return.

A need for some new tennis gear mean in February I had deliveries from about half a dozen retailers, and returns for each of them. This could obviously get quite costly so I’ll always check the returns rules for each retailer before buying and will make sure there’s no cost attached, or if there is one, it’s small enough that I’m ok paying it.

But I nearly got caught out. I was surprised that all the parcels had to go back to different drop-off locations. One to the Post Office, one to a locker by the station, one to Tesco and so on. This was a minor inconvenience on the whole but I live close to town and managed to cover them over a few trips I was making anyway over the week.

However, there was one which could only go to a FedEx location – and the nearest one was a 50-minute walk away! I’d not come across this before. Previously I’d been given a choice of different couriers or locations, so it’s not been a problem.

But as a non-driver, this restriction could have resulted in paying an unexpected charge for FedEx to collect the parcel. Or be forced to lose two hours of my day for the round trip. Fortunately, I was able to get a lift there and avoid both, but it’s certainly something I’ll be checking for in the future.

Otherwise it was all relatively simple. I only needed to print something out once, with the others containing return labels or just requiring a QR code. Most had bags that could be reused, though some had to be sent separately, even though they were from the same shop.

Amazon Fresh disappoints

I don’t shop at Amazon now apart from when I need to use the odd gift card or credit that I’ve received via an offer. This month, that included a £5 credit to use at Amazon Fresh, the growing chain of convenience stores.

I didn’t go out of my way to visit the shop but it happened to be based next to my hotel on a trip to London, so I thought I’d give it a go.

It’s strange! You scan a QR code on entry, which links to your Amazon account. Then you shop as normal, but with one major difference. There’s no till.

Cameras and sensors around the store are watching your movements and track what you pick up. And after leaving the shop, your Amazon account is charged for what you took with you.

I was sceptical, but a few minutes after leaving the shop I got an email showing that £4.60 of my credit was used.

I can’t say I enjoyed the experience, even if most of the time I do go to self-service tills, and the range of items (and prices) were easily beaten by tiny Tesco and Sainsbury’s stores. But it’s probably something we’ll see more and more of in years to come.

Using a dummy current account and temporary direct debits

As someone who has switched a lot, I’m unable to take advantage of most switching deals. However, the TBS deal, running util 3 March 2023, is one I can get.

I was slightly worried when applying for the Spend & Save account as I was rejected back in October. But that application never appeared on any of my credit reports and my instinct was I made the application when I was in the USA – and it was that which triggered the rejection.

And I had no need to be concerned as I opened the account in just a few minutes this time, going via TopCashback to get an extra £20.

I already had a dummy account ready, one which I’d opened up last summer to get a Lloyds bank switching bonus, but I needed to set up two direct debits. And this brought up a couple of slight barriers.

The two I opted for were ones I’d previously used for a switch: Moneybox and Plum. Both are great as they are quick to set up and leave your account and the money will be going to saving accounts in your name.

However, both were already connected to a different bank account, and changing the bank proved harder than expected. It actually took close to a week for MoneyBox and Plum to approve the change, with the former requiring a bank statement for the previous, now closed, account.

But it’s all done now and the switch is scheduled for next week. Then all I need to do is meet the further requirements!

And the rest…

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

  • My Curve card stopped working and wouldn’t let me get cash out of an ATM. It turned out the underlying Starling card had been replaced but I hadn’t updated it on Curve
  • I moved my savings to Tandem, for now at least, which promises to be a “greener digital bank”
  • A restaurant week ran in my town, offering 50% off at a number of places
  • The Premier League away ticket cap of £30 is a great price, and I saw Crystal Palace at Old Trafford
  • I claimed a £5 voucher from a Facebook advert to use on Toblerone’s website – only to find they charged £17 for a standard bar!
  • I finally used some of my 50% off Theatre Tokens, bought via a now-ended O2 offer, to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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