A shopper who used buy now, pay later service Klarna for a £199 vacuum cleaner in three ‘interest-free’ instalments was left confused after he was charged an extra 4.5 per cent for paying with a credit card.
John Hitchin, 61, from Cambridgeshire, bought a cordless vacuum cleaner from Vax on 28 January and chose to pay it off using Klarna, after he was given the option of paying for it in three ‘interest and fee-free’ payments of £66.33.
However, while the advert for Klarna on Vax’s website claimed there were ‘no fees’, he discovered when he looked at his Tesco Bank credit card statement that a £2.65 ‘cash transaction’ fee was charged on the same day, while he was also billed 34p in interest a week later.
Suckered: John Hitchin bought a £199 cordless vacuum cleaner from Vax using what he thought was a fee-free way of paying for it in three instalments
This added 4.5 per cent to the first instalment of £66.33.
The use of Swedish start-up Klarna is most commonly associated with younger shoppers, who often use it to try clothes on before paying for them up to a month later, or pay for more expensive brands over several instalments.
However, the engineer’s experience highlights how widespread Klarna is among retailers, even those that don’t traditionally fit that mould.
While there has been increasing concern about the impact the use of Klarna and missing payments can have on people’s finances, this appears to be the first time anyone has incurred a fee when attempting to pay for something in three parts.
‘No fees’: Nowhere in Vax’s adverts for Klarna or its FAQs does it suggest customers can be charged extra if they use a credit card to make Klarna instalment payments
John told This is Money that after speaking to Klarna, Tesco Bank and Vax ‘on the phone for over an hour, I discovered that Tesco Bank automatically charge a cash transaction fee and subsequent interest’.
He said: ‘The staff at all three companies were very polite and sympathetic but unable to be much help practically, apart from Vax who said if I returned the cleaner for free they would refund the first payment.
‘I could then pay for it in full with a debit card.
‘In the end I phoned Klarna and did a bank transfer of the remaining two payments so as not to incur further charges.
‘Surely Vax should explain on their website that extra fees are incurred in the interest-free option? I didn’t realise about the credit card charges and if I did would have just paid in full by debit card.’
Does Vax’s website make the charges clear?
When This is Money checked the section of Vax’s website titled ‘Klarna FAQs’, it says only that: ‘If you want to make a purchase with Klarna using ‘Pay later in 3’, you’ll need to provide your mobile phone number, email address, current billing address and a debit or credit card.
‘Payment for your Pay later in 3 will automatically be collected from the debit or credit card you entered at checkout.
‘The first payment is taken when the order is confirmed. The second and third instalments are collected 30 and 60 days, respectively, after the first instalment.’
Nowhere does it suggest that those who make Klarna payments using a credit card are charged extra.
This is Money contacted Vax for comment but have yet to receive a response.
What did Klarna say?
Luke Griffiths, Klarna’s UK general manager, said: ‘Klarna has been made aware that some customers have been charged fees by their banks when using our instalments product with a credit card.
In Klarna’s product terms and conditions, it is made clear that some card issuers may levy a fee.
‘We would like to make it clear that Klarna is not charging this fee, it is the banks themselves.
‘The root cause of the issue is thought to be that the card issuers are classifying Klarna’s instalments product in a way that allows them to levy a cash advance fee according to their own terms and conditions.
‘Klarna is working with providers to try and resolve this issue as soon as possible, but it will need to be a combined effort, as we are unable to solve it alone.
‘If a customer has been charged a fee, we advise them to contact their bank and raise a dispute.
‘We also advise that they should change the card associated with their instalments account. By changing the card to an alternative provider, this will stop the issue.’
This is Money also contacted John’s credit card provider Tesco Bank.
Where else could you be stung?
While those using a credit card to make buy now, pay later instalment payments may be unaware they could be charged extra fees, this isn’t the only way they could be charged extra.
Various activities, including making cash withdrawals using credit cards and gambling – though this will be banned from April – can land a cardholder with a hefty ‘cash transaction’ fee.
This is usually a set percentage fee, while cardholders are also charged interest from the moment these transactions occur.
Cash machine: Credit card providers made £219m in fees and interest from credit card users who made cash advance transactions – some cards charge over £6 for withdrawing £125
Research from personal finance site Moneycomms and credit comparison site Totally Money found cardholders incurred £219million in ‘cash transaction’ charges between December 2017 and November 2018.
Alastair Douglas, chief executive of credit comparison site Totally Money, said: ‘Credit card cash transactions can be a very expensive way to borrow.
‘Not only are you usually charged a fee for each transaction, you’ll also start paying interest on the amount from the moment you make the payment.
‘With regular transactions, you often get an interest-free buffer until your bill arrives, which won’t apply here.
UK credit cardholders made 36m cash transactions – which include cash withdrawals and gambling – between December 2017 and November 2018, worth nearly £4.6bn. This led to them incurring £219m in charges
‘With buy now, pay later services becoming increasingly popular, particularly among young people, it’s easy for many to be caught out by fees they didn’t expect, which can soon add up.
‘If you’re thinking of using your credit card for repayments on a buy now, pay later service, it’s a good idea to check first with your lender to see if it will count as a cash transaction.
‘Despite paying in instalments being appealing to many, if a cash transaction fee will be incurred, it might be cheaper to pay for the product outright with the credit card.’
THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST CREDIT CARDS
Virgin Money’s Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card offers up to 10,000 Flying Club Miles and spend £3,000 within the first 90 days. You earn 1.5 miles per £1 spent on the card. Interest on purchases is 22.9% and it carries an annual £160 fee.
MBNA’s Purchase card offers up to 26 months 0% interest on purchases – the longest interest-free deal available. It offers the same 0% window on balance transfers with a 2.69% handling fee. 20.9% APR
The American Express Platinum Cashback card offers up to 5% cashback up to £125 for the first three months, and up to 1% back on spends up to £10,000 after that. The card carries a £25 annual fee with interest of 22.9% on purchases.
The Halifax Clarity Credit Card is an old favourite for holidaymakers with no overseas fees This includes both spending and cash withdrawals abroad. It charges interest of 19.9% APR
M&S Bank’s Reward Credit Card comes with double reward points on your spending – that’s two M&S points per £1 spent in stores – for a year, plus £20 in M&S points to sign up. You also get 6 months 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers. 19.9% APR
Banks told to drop all requirements for personal guarantees for small business owners
Banks have been told to drop all requirements for small business owners to guarantee personally government-backed loans made to their companies to help them stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis.
The call comes after some banks were criticised for insisting that business owners put their personal assets, like property or savings, as collateral in exchange for the loans.
The Institute of Directors said all banks should follow the example of those who have dropped requirements for personal guarantees for firms to access government-backed loans.
Retreat: Lloyds said it would stop demanding personal guarantees
‘Banks must be flexible and accommodating to get cash to companies as quickly as possible through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme,’ the IoD said today.
It comes as business owners applying to Lloyds for an emergency Government-backed lifeline were told they must risk their home and life savings to take out one of the bank’s own loans instead.
Rather than being offered the Government-backed loans, which are interest-free for the first year and free of initial charges, Britain’s biggest lender has been offering firms its own more expensive commercial loans instead.
To make matters worse, the companies were then told their personal assets including their main home will have to be used as collateral, allowing the bank to seize everything they own if they cannot pay back the money.
Lloyds told the Daily Mail it would stop demanding personal guarantees on all new loans while the business interruption scheme was running. This also applies to its own loans.
Business interruption loans can be up to £5million and are available to businesses based in the UK with a turnover of £45million or less, who are experiencing virus-related cash flow issues.
The scheme was announced in the Budget and beefed up last week by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The IoD also said banks and other financial institutions should avoid share buybacks and large bonuses for executive ‘to make sure the money is going where it is most needed’.
Among other things, it also today called for an extension of financial support to company owner directors of the smallest companies who often take their income as dividends.
‘Those that provide a clear paper trail should be able to make a furlough claim of 80% of their monthly income subject to tax, up to a £2,500 per month cap, to put them on par with support available for employees and the self-employed,’ the IoD said.
The IoD asked over 700 business leaders about the impact of coronavirus on their business and seven out of 10 said the outbreak posed a high or severe threat to their organisation, up from two in ten in a similar poll a month ago.
The business interruption loan scheme was announced in the Budget and beefed up last week by Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Household bills to rise: Council tax, broadband and stamps will rise on 1 April 2020
April 1 is traditionally known as April Fool’s Day – but millions of households won’t be laughing when they realise it is a day that many bills will rise steeply.
It will see council tax, water bills, TV licences and mobile bills, as well as a number of other household bills, rise significantly.
Motorists will also see their bills increase in 2020 as many models of cars are likely to be bumped up into a higher car tax bracket as vehicle excise duty is going up in line with Retail Price Inflation.
The rises will come as a large chunk of households are under strain thanks to the coronavirus outbreak impact on job security, mortgage payments and other personal finances.
Rises: Households across the country will see bills go up on 1 April 2020, including council tax
However, customers don’t have to simply accept the new charges and can make changes to lower their bills.
What bills are going up, why are they increasing and how much could they increase by?
This is Money, with help from Which?, breaks down all of the bill hikes and tells you what you can do to keep costs down.
1. Council Tax
Bills are increasing by: Up to 15 per cent
Why bills are increasing: Council tax is going up across England and Wales for 2020/21 as they do most years.
In 98 local authority areas, bills will bust central government’s recommended 4 per cent tax cap with 24 councils going above 5 per cent.
Wales sees the biggest percentage rises with everywhere climbing 8 per cent or over.
The highest increase is in Pembrokeshire at 15.4 per cent with £1,252.41 levied on Band D properties.
The average Band D council tax bill in England will increase by 3.9 per cent but the picture varies widely.
How to beat it: In response to coronavirus, the Government is providing a £500million hardship fund to cut council tax bills of low income working age people and support the vulnerable through local welfare.
This is in addition to the existing hardship relief for those experiencing exceptional hardship for reasons beyond their control.
You can also get a 25 per cent single-person discount if you live alone or with a full-time student or you are living with someone with severe mental impairment such as dementia.
You can also appeal to put your property into a different band – if successful, this can lower bills.
However, it can also have the opposite effect. You could end up paying more if they council bumps you up the bands.
In 98 local authority areas, bills will bust central government’s recommended 4% tax cap
2. TV licences
Bills are increasing by: £3
Why bills are increasing: The TV licence is increasing with inflation. It is rising by £3 to £157.50 a year – a 2 per cent increase based on inflation.
How to beat it: If inflation continues, you can beat next year’s increase by buying or renewing your licence before the next rise in April 2021.
You can pay in installments or in one go but as long as you start your year’s licence before 1 April, you’ll continue to pay the old rate until its 12 months are up.
Save £104.50 by swapping to a black and white licence at £53 from April.
Currently, if you are 75 year or over and receiving or living with someone getting pension credit, the licence is free. If your sight is severely impaired or you are blind, the licence is half price at £78.75.
Rise: TV licences are set to increase by £3, in line with inflation, to £157.50 each year
3. Water bills
Bills are increasing by: Up to 4 per cent
Why are bills increasing: The average household water and sewerage bills in England and Wales will actually fall by £17 or 4 per cent to £396.60 after pressure from regulator Ofwat.
However, some people will see rises in some cases of 4 per cent because prices vary among service suppliers.
How to beat it: You can’t change service provider but you can switch to a water meter.
Your bill is worked out based on either your home’s rateable value or a meter reading so in some cases you could save with a meter.
People who use a lot of water for health or family reasons could get help with their bills as water companies look to double the number of people they help with their bills in the next five years.
4. NHS prescriptions
Bills are increasing by: 15p
Why are bills increasing: The cost is rising in line with inflation.
How to beat it: If you need a lot of prescriptions, a pre-payment certificate is worth considering. Their prices were held last year but will go up this time.
A three month certificate will cost 55p more at £29.65 but you’ll save if you need four or more prescriptions in that time.
A 12 month certificate goes up £1.90 to £105.90, giving savings on 12 or more items.
Customers can save money on their prescriptions by purchasing a pre-payment certificate
5. Car tax
Bills are increasing by: Up to £535
Why are bills increasing: Vehicle excise duty is going up in line with RPI on 1 April except for fully electric cars which don’t pay any car tax because they don’t emit CO2.
However, other new cars are likely to be taxed more than identical models registered before April.
A new pollution test that’s more reflective of real life driving has found cars to be dirtier than previously recognised.
Many models are likely to be bumped into higher paying tax bands from £20 with more shooting up to £535 although this rate is only payable in their first year. This happens on 6 April.
How to beat it: It’s hard to beat this unless you buy an electric car.
6. Sky TV and broadband
Bills are increasing by: Up to 10 per cent
Why are bills increasing: Sky is raising prices from 1 April for many of its broadband and most of its TV customers.
There’s a £2 monthly increase on Sky Broadband Essential to £22 and on the basic TV package, Sky Entertainment, to £24. There’s also a £1 rise per month on both Sky TV Multiscreen to £14 for contracted customers and Sky HDTV to £6.
If a customer has all of these options, the increase would be up to 10 per cent.
Those out of contract will see the same rise but the initial price increase could be higher.
Other providers are also rising bills – check yours to see if you’re hit by the move.
How to beat it: If you’re a long standing customer, it’s worth haggling with Sky.
If you cancel your membership while in your minimum term, you’re likely to have to pay a fee. If you’re unhappy with Sky’s service, complain directly to Sky and if that doesn’t work go to the CISAS alternative dispute resolution.
To find a better deal, use price comparison services which will reveal what offers are currently on the market.
Sky TV and broadband customers could see their bill increase on April 1 by up to £6 a month
7. Mobile bills
Bills are increasing by: Up to 2.7 per cent
Why are bills increasing: The big mobile phone providers are all putting up their pay-monthly prices.
They are allowed to raise their prices based on inflation but the exact increases vary by 1.1 per cent depending on if they use the CPI or RPI rate and on which month.
Hikes unveiled so far range BT’s 1.6 per cent based on January’s CPI to O2’s and Three’s 2.7 per cent from January’s RPI.
How to beat it: It is worth negotiating with your provider to see if you can haggle a better deal on your contract.
If not, use price comparison services to see what other deals are currently on the market.
Let your current provider know that you are shopping around as that could sway their decision.
Bills are increasing by: Up to 9p
Why are bills increasing: Above inflation price rises on stamps have already been introduced on 23 March.
In its annual revision of charges, Royal Mail hiked stamps for large first class letters by 9p to £1.15.
Ordinary ones by 6p to 76p – an 8.57 per cent rise – almost five times more than January’s CPI inflation rate.
Ordinary second class stamps went up 4p to 65p, a rise of 6.15 per cent that was held from going further by Ofcom’s cap on 2nd class stamps.
Large second class stamps rose 5p to 88p – a 5.68 per cent lift.
How to beat it: Royal Mail continues to be regarded as the cheapest way of sending cards, letters and small parcels weighing less than 1kg.
However, it makes sense to compare discount courier services such as MyParcelDelivery.
9. Energy bills
Bills are increasing by: Potentially decreasing for many
Why are bills increasing: The price of energy will actually fall for around 15million households thanks to the lower price caps after the underlying price of energy dropped last year.
Two caps come into effect on 1 April and will last until 30 September 2020. Energy providers are forced to comply with both.
Customers on tariffs governed by either the default price cap such as standard variable tariffs or the pre-payment meter cap will see costs nudge down – provided usage stays the same.
A typical user affected by the default price cap will see their bill drop £17 or almost 1.5 per cent over six months to £1,162.
However, households could save £305 – 18 times as much – by switching to a cheaper deal, according to energy watchdog Ofgem.
How to beat it: While the unit price cut is good news, energy costs could still rise because of self-isolation and home working.
As well as switching, it’s also worth cutting consumption.
Can you cut your energy bills?
This is Money has partnered with Compare the Market to offer readers a simple way to try to save on their energy bills.
You can quickly check for great deals for your home. Plus, if you switch via our Compare the Market-powered service you can get Meerkat Meals and Meerkat Movies.*
Britons told prepare for blackouts by keeping torches and warm clothes nearby in coronavirus crisis
Britons have been warned of the potential for blackouts amid fears that staff shortages could lead to issues with the country’s power network.
Fears have been raised that staff sickness during the coronavirus outbreak, mixed with the government’s self-isolation rules, could lead to a shortage of engineers.
The National Grid insists that the network is able to cope, while industry chiefs have described it as ‘one of the most reliable networks in the world’.
It comes as one electrical infrastructure firm has now written to some of its most vulnerable customers warning them to keep torches and warm clothes nearby in case of power cuts.
UK Power Networks, which owns and maintains the electricity cables in the South East and East of England, as well as London, has written to priority customers, including pensioners and those with young children, telling them what to do if their homes are hit with a power cut.
The advice, reported in The Daily Telegraph today, includes ‘keeping a torch handy’ and ‘reducing heat loss by closing doors on unused rooms’.
Fears are growing that staff sickness during the coronavirus outbreak, mixed with the government’s self-isolation rules, could lead to a shortage of engineers on power networks
Householders been advised to keep a ‘hat, gloves and a blanket to hand to keep warm’ in case of power cuts during the coronavirus crisis
Customers are also advised to have a ‘hat, gloves and a blanket to hand to keep warm’ and, where possible, to keep a corded telephone in the house, as well as a power bank to recharge mobile phones.
A spokesperson for UK Power Networks said: ‘We regularly contact customers on our Priority Services Register, to ensure we meet their needs and it’s never more important than in the current circumstances.
‘This is to ensure we continue to provide them with the best possible support.
‘We are continuing to fix power cuts and maintain the electricity network to ensure its continued reliability.
‘Across our networks, power supplies are 99.9 per cent reliable, and our dedicated teams are keeping the power flowing.’
The advice comes as many electricity firms across the UK put non-essential infrastructure work on hold.
Companies have also implemented emergency strategies to deal with the knock-on effects of Covid-19, which has infected more than 20,000 people in the UK.
So far, 1,408 people have died as a result of the virus.
Other electricity distributors across the UK are also reportedly contacting the most vulnerable.
The energy firms are also ensuring staff can continue to work on essential projects while still abiding by the government’s social distancing rules.
However a boss of one firm, SP Energy Networks, which operates in parts of Scotland, the North West and North Wales, said that staff sickness was a particular concern.
Concern was also raised about the length of time that the government’s social distancing guidance could be in place for.
But industry chiefs have backed the UK network, which they say is the ‘one of the most reliable electricity networks in the world’
David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, which represents the gas and electricity grid operators across the country, said: ‘It is supported by stringent contingency plans and a workforce of 36,000 people.
‘We’re keeping your energy flowing during the coronavirus pandemic and the network is operating exactly as it should.’
The National Grid, which owns Britain’s electric power transmission network, previously said it plans in place to keep electricity running throughout the pandemic, however long it lasts – a statement it has reasserted today.
The National Grid passes energy to local distribution network operators who then reduce the voltage and distribute electricity to homes around the country
‘We have well-developed procedures in place to manage the effects of a pandemic,’ the National Grid said in an official statement.
‘We have asked all our employees who do not need to be onsite to work from home where possible, in line with government guidance.
‘This measure has been introduced to limit the spread of the virus, protect the health and safety of all our people, and ensure those in operational roles can continue to do their jobs.’
The National Grid passes energy to local distribution network operators who then reduce the voltage and distribute electricity to homes around the country.
Its engineers at power plants are trained in multiple roles, meaning they can potentially switch between jobs to cover for employees, while its operational sites are secure ‘with a wide range of resilience and security measures’, it claims.
How should I prepare for a power cut and what should I do if it happens?
For many, power cuts can be a disruptive, but mostly worry-free experience.
But for more vulnerable homeowners, particularly the elderly or those with serious disabilities, they can cause great concern, particularly during the cold and dark winter months.
Here’s some advice from UK Power Networks to help you prepare for power cuts.
Homeowners should be careful when using a candle during a power cut
- Remember never to put yourself in danger and to alert the emergency services if a dangerous situation arises.
- Where possible, consider making alternate arrangements to stay with family or friends if you are impacted by the power cut.
- Have a torch, with spare batteries, to hand. If you’re using candles then please be careful. An open flame should always be used responsibly.
- It is handy to have access to hot water during a power cut; boil water and store it in flasks in advance of the power cut. It would be sensible to store as much hot water as possible.
- You should limit the use of your laptop or your smart phone in the lead up to the storm to preserve the life of the battery
- Keep an old-fashioned corded phone which you can plug in, as cordless phones may not work in the event of a power cut.
- Keep fridges and freezers closed, with a blanket over as they will stay cold for many hours.
- Look out for elderly neighbours and ensure they are prepared for a possible power cut.
Source: UK Power Networks
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