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Stamp prices rising in March (and other price hikes to watch)

From stamp prices to passport renewals, you could end up paying much more than you bargained for next month. There are a number of price changes that will fall in March that could impact your budget. Which? rounds up the main hikes to be aware of and what you can do now to beat them.

First and second class stamps

Royal Mail has confirmed it will put up the cost of stamps by 2p from 26 March. The price of a first class stamp will rise from 65p to 67p and the price of a second class stamp will change from 56p to 58p. You’ll also pay 3p more if you are positing a large letter.

The cost of a large letter first class stamp will rise from 98p to GBP1.01 and a large letter second class stamp will go up from 76p to 79p. Royal Mail said it was putting up prices to help ensure the sustainability of the Universal Postal Service. It maintains the cost are still among the best value in Europe compared to other postal operators.

You can beat the price hike by stocking up on stamps you’ll need for invitations, birthdays and Christmas before the rise kicks in.

Passport renewal fees

The Home Office is planning to overhaul passport renewal fees from 27 March – and for the first time, it will be more expensive to apply by post. The change is meant to reflect the higher costs of processing postal applications compared to online applications. Below we’ve set out how prices are set to change for a standard 32-page passport:

Type of application Cost now Proposed cost from 27 March Percentage change Adult online application GBP72.50 GBP75.50 4% Adult postal application GBP72.50 GBP85 17% Adult fast track application GBP103 GBP142 38% Adult premium one-day application GBP128 GBP177 38% Child online application GBP46 GBP49 7% Child postal application GBP46 GBP58.50 27% Child online fast track application GBP87 GBP122 40% Child online premium one-day application – GBP151 n/a

You can find more of the proposed fee changes for 48-page passports and those that were born on or before 2nd September 1929 here[1].

The proposed changes are subject to parliamentary approval. But if your passport is due to expire this year you might want to renew earlier than you had planned to avoid the hikes. When renewing a passport, any time remaining on your old document is added to the new passport, up to a maximum of nine months.

So if your passport expires before 26 December 2018, you can apply for a new one before 27 March without losing out.

Mobile phone bills

EE is putting prices up for pay-monthly customers by 4.1% from 30 March 2017. The rises are in-line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation for December 2017. Unfortunately, if you are still within the minimum term of your contract, you won’t be able to switch without incurring a penalty.

But if your contract term has ended, you can leave penalty-free – so you may want to shop around for a new deal to avoid having to pay more. Just be cautious as other providers are also planning to hike prices. Vodafone and O2 have confirmed they will put pay-monthly prices up by 4% from April 2018 and Three will do the same from May 2018.

So far the smaller networks – including BT, Giffgaff, Talk Talk, Plusnet and Virgin Media – have yet to announce price rises.

Energy bills

When you come to the end of an energy deal, you will be dumped onto your provider’s standard tariff. This means you will normally pay much more and be vulnerable to price hikes. There are 46 energy tariffs that will expire in March, according to comparethemarket.com.

It estimates that 60,387 households are on these tariffs that are about to end and could face an average increase of GBP183 a year by reverting to the standard tariff. We’ve listed the deals about to expire in the table below.

If you are on one of these tariffs, you should act now to stop your bills going up. You can compare and switch energy tariffs using Which?

Switch[2].

References

  1. ^ here (www.gov.uk)
  2. ^ Which?

    Switch (switch.which.co.uk)

New Beatrix Potter 50p designs unveiled: how rare are these coins?

The Royal Mint has unveiled four new additions to the hugely popular Peter Rabbit 50p coin collection, first launched in 2016 to commemorate 150 years since the birth of Beatrix Potter. Designs include the much-loved characters Peter Rabbit, Flopsy Bunny, Mrs Tittlemouse and The Tailor of Gloucester. Find out how they compare with other rare 50p coins, how much they’re currently selling for and how you can get your hands on one.

How to get a 2018 Beatrix Potter 50p coin

The series of silver proof coins are available from The Royal Mint[1]. Each design is in a full-colour hand-painted style, and costs GBP60 each. Currently, only the Peter Rabbit coin has been released, but you can order to reserve the whole four-coin series now, which will be sent out when the coins are available.

Flopsy Bunny will be released in March, while The Tailor of Gloucester will follow in April and Mrs Tittlemouse in May. When the full-colour versions of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Squirrel Nutkin and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle were released in 2016, they sold out within days from the Royal Mint website. A 2018 uncirculated Peter Rabbit 50p coin can also be purchased for GBP10, though this is uncoloured.

A limited amount of coins in this design will also be released into wider circulation later this year – so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled to find one in your loose change.

What are the rarest 50p coins in circulation?

Currently, the scarcest – and therefore most valuable – 50p coin is the 2009 Kew Gardens design, which currently fetches an average of GBP82 on Ebay. The 2016 Jemima Puddle-Duck coin – also part of the Peter Rabbit collection – fetches an average of GBP11 on Ebay, and is the rarest of the Beatrix Potter coins. Its value has risen by approximately GBP6 since June 2017, according to Change Checker.

Last month saw the release of the 2018 Sir Isaac Newton 50p coin[2], which is only available at The Royal Mint Experience, and is not being released into wider circulation – so it’s possible this design could take the top spot in future for the rarest 50p coin. See the graph below for the 2017 mintage figures showing the rarest 50p coins.

How do limited edition 50p coins compare with other rare coins?

The 2002 Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland design is the rarest GBP2, with a mintage of 485,000. On average, this can sell on Ebay for GBP30, and has held a steady price for the past six months, Change Checker found.

The rarest GBP1 coin is the 2011 Edinburgh edition, with a mintage of 935,000. It can often be found selling between GBP10 and GBP15, according to current Ebay listings. A printing error in 2008 also produced a number of undated 20p coins, which fetch an average of GBP53 – the price of this coin has risen GBP6 since June 2017, according to Change Checker

But keep in mind that a coin is only worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. While some coins sell for a very high price, it doesn’t necessarily mean the coin itself is worth that much money – or that you would find a buyer willing to pay the same amount.

How to check if a coin is genuine

In an investigation for Which? Money magazine, Which? uncovered the scammers taking advantage of people wanting to invest in rare coins.

Watch the video below to find out which types of coins could be worth investing in, and how to spot a scam.

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References

  1. ^ The Royal Mint (www.royalmint.com)
  2. ^ 2018 Sir Isaac Newton 50p coin (www.which.co.uk)

Mapped: where the UK’s 750,000 property millionaires live

As property prices have climbed in recent years, some 768,553 people in Britain now own property worth more than GBP1m, new analysis has shown. So, which towns have benefited most from value growth? Research from property portal Zoopla has found that the number of property millionaires has increased by 22.5% since August 2016, when the last analysis was done.

Which? examines where homes are worth the most, and how you can work out the value of your home.

Guildford tops the town rankings

Zoopla identified which towns in the UK had the most properties worth more than GBP1m, with a separate analysis for London boroughs. When looking at towns UK-wide, Guildford in Surrey came out on top, with 5,889 homes topping the million-pound mark. This means high-value homes make up around 13% of all properties in the area.

Close behind were university hubs Cambridge and Reading, with 5,530 and 5,421 homes worth more than a million, respectively. But for both towns, property millionaires were in the minority, with houses at this price tag representing less than 5% of all homes. An while Beaconsfield had a comparatively smaller number of million-pound homes (3,625), these represented 49% of all properties.

A map of the top towns is below. Alternatively, you can search the table:

Westminster: most expensive London borough

London was far and away the most expensive region of the UK – in at least five boroughs, one in three properties is worth more than a million pounds. Westminster topped the London rankings, with 54,231 homes above the million-pound threshold, representing 49% of all homes in the area.

While the borough of Kensington and Chelsea had a smaller number of million-pounders (a still staggering 45,366), around 58% of all homes surpassed this price tag, the highest proportion in the UK. By contrast, the most affordable London borough was Barking and Dagenham, where just 20 properties (less than 1% of the area) were in the million-pound category.

How much is your home worth?

After taking a severe hit during the 2008 financial crisis, house prices in the UK have grown steadily in the past nine years. In the 12 months to December alone, the average property price UK-wide rose 5.2%, to hit GBP226,756 – according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

But property markets vary dramatically, depending on your local area and even your street. The characteristics of your house will also affect its price – for example, depending on whether the style is in demand from buyers in that area, or if it’s in better condition than its neighbours. So it’s important to work out the value of your home and not rely on local market averages.

If you want to have an estimate of the value of your home, you can:

  • Look at the value of similar properties that have sold in your street or local area. The Land Registry[1] has a database of sale prices that you can search. But make sure you’re comparing apples to apples – a home with additional features or in a more attractive position may fetch a premium.
  • Look at property listings online or at your local estate agency.

    This will give you an idea of what other people think their house is worth, and how much competition there is on the market. But take listed prices with a pinch of salt – just because someone wants to sell their house for GBP500,000 doesn’t mean a buyer is willing to pay that.

  • Ask an estate agent for a quote. Estate agents will generally provide you a quote for free, which can give you a good indication of what your property might be worth on the open market.

    It’s good practice to get three or so quotes before choosing an agent. Keep in mind that some agents have been known to overvalue properties to win business, so be wary if a quote is too good to be true.

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.

References

  1. ^ Land Registry (landregistry.data.gov.uk)

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