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Is it worth spending more on your iron?

Ironing is Britain’s least favourite household chore, according to a YouGov poll released earlier in the year.* 50% of us dislike it – more than any other housework – and only 16% of us claim to actually enjoy it. Unless you fall into this minority of happy ironers, the temptation might be to spend as little as possible on an iron – but would parting with a little more cash make this chore easier and cut the time spent at the ironing board? In our most recent round of iron tests, we pitted some models costing as little as ?20 against some that will set you back ?85.

Interestingly, the cheapest ones didn’t always perform worst. If you choose carefully, you could find a cheap iron that does a faster job than a more expensive counterpart and saves you time as well as money. For our round-up of the best cheap irons that perform well, take a look at our top five cheap steam irons[1].

How to pick the best steam iron

So how do you choose an iron that will keep your time at the ironing board to a minimum?

You can’t tell how good an iron is just by looking at it, which is where our reviews – based on exhaustive tests – are invaluable. For something that’s quick and easy to use, start by looking at each model’s ironing performance star rating. This reflects the time and effort required to use each one, so opt for a five-star model for minimum hassle.

The steamier an iron the better, as the hot moisture relaxes fibres and makes them easier to iron. But irons that start off well can lose their touch as they clog up with limescale. To get our limescale-resistance star rating, we simulate three months of use and track the drop-off in steaminess – a high-scoring model will remain as quick and easy to use as it was when brand new.

Hard water contains minerals that form limescale, so if you live in a hard-water area look for an iron with a built-in anti-calc system or self-clean function. The cheapest iron we tested this time around is the John Lewis Steam Iron[2] (?20), which has a self-clean button to help keep the vents clear. If you’re willing to spend more, the Tefal FV5640G0 Turbo Pro[3] (?70) has a removable scale collector in its heel.

Our tests have found that not all of these measures work as well as they should, so we rate them for how well their descaling instructions work. Check our steam iron reviews[4] to find one that lasts.

Make ironing easier

If you’re not keen on ironing, it’s worth making sure it’s as simple as possible. Choose a handle that feels good in your hand – try it for size in the shop if you can.

A soleplate with a thin, tapered tip that fits under buttons will make life easier if you regularly tackle piles of shirts, while a water tank with clear sides means you’ll know when to top up. If you have a lot of laundry to get through, consider a steam generator. These can pump out more steam than an iron and don’t have to be topped up as frequently.

We’ve just tested the Morphy Richards Jet Steam 333021 generator[5] (?60), which costs less than some irons, and steams for well over an hour on a full tank. Soft rubber inserts in the handle make it comfortable to use for long periods.

Latest steam generator and steam iron reviews

Follow the links below to read full reviews for the 15 irons and steam generators we’ve just tested and reviewed: Steam irons

Steam generators

Prices are correct as of November 2017.

* Survey in Oct 2016, published Feb 2017.

References

  1. ^ top five cheap steam irons (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ John Lewis Steam Iron (which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Tefal FV5640G0 Turbo Pro (which.co.uk)
  4. ^ steam iron reviews (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ Morphy Richards Jet Steam 333021 generator (which.co.uk)

Death of the cashback card? Nationwide cuts cashback scheme

New customers to Nationwide’s Select Credit Card will no longer be offered cashback on purchases – while existing customers will see their rates slashed. But can you still benefit from cashback schemes? Nationwide has announced its cashback rate will drop from 0.5% to 0.25% for existing customers from 11 January 2018, and new customers will not be offered cashback at all.

The move follows new EU rules limiting the fees which retailers and card issuers can charge. Which? looks at other cashback deals on the market and why card issuers are winding down their cashback schemes.

What cashback deals are available?

Currently, the Nationwide Select Credit Card offers one of the more competitive cashback deals[1] on the market – but cutting the rate to 0.25% will move it to the bottom of the pack. A number of other providers offer cashback deals which pay 0.5% or above on purchases.

But bear in mind that benefits like cashback are only one element of choosing a card – you should also consider the APR, which shows you an annualised interest rate, and any card fees. The Santander card, for example, charges a ?180 fee.

Why is Nationwide cutting its cashback scheme?

Nationwide is just the latest in a long series of providers who have withdrawn cashback offers in recent years. CapitalOne ended its reward cards in April 2015, with RBS and NatWest ending their ‘YourPoints’ scheme a month later.

Santander withdrew its 123 credit card in October last year. In June this year, Barclaycard announced[2] it was ending its relationship with American Express, which offered a 1% cashback deal, and moving customers to a Visa card offering just 0.5%. In explaining its decision to curtail the cashback scheme, Nationwide pointed to the decrease in card fees that credit card issuers could charge, which made the program more expensive.

Previously, card issuers were entitled to charge retailers a fee for processing their payments – and this fee was often passed onto customers as a 2% to 3% surcharge. Since the end of 2015, card issuers have faced a cap on the fees charged retailers, currently 0.3% for credit cards. From 13 January 2018, retailers will also be banned from charging customers[3] a fee to use their cards online or in stores.

Both changes are part of a raft of EU regulation aimed at improving payment services. As a result, the cost of transactions has been rising for card issuers, who have begun scaling back on ‘perks’ – including cashback. Other card providers are likely to face similar financial pressures in coming months.

Should I get a cashback card?

When choosing a credit card, cashback deals can be a tempting money-making offer – but it’s important to look beyond the perks.

If you can’t clear your balance monthly, interest payments are likely to wipe out any rewards you’ve received. You may also have to shop at certain stores, or use certain airlines to get the most benefit – and these won’t always offer you the cheapest deals. The Which?

Money Compare credit card tables[4] let you search hundreds of cards from providers large and small to choose a great deal based on quality of service as well as cost and benefits. 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.

References

  1. ^ cashback deals (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Barclaycard announced (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ banned from charging customers (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Which?

    Money Compare credit card tables (moneycompare.which.co.uk)

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