First Utility has launched a new tariff which fixes your energy costs until January 2016.
It's the cheapest tariff for this time frame and costs an average of £1,274 per year.
The deal is likely to attract customers looking to fix their payments and avoid winter price hikes, but there are a lot of competitive fixed rate deals to choose from.
Increases of between 5% and 10% among the big six providers have been predicted, and could happen within the next couple of months.
Typically fixed rate tariffs cost more than variable tariffs, but given the impending rises, switching to a tariff where payments are fixed will be an attractive option to many.
Competition in the energy market
Providers are well aware that customers are looking to fix and have been forcefully pushing out deals which lock you in for the long term.
For those looking to fix their payments for the longest time possible, Scottish Power has a three-year fixed rate tariff which runs until January 2017, while EDF's Energy Blue Price Freeeeze eradicates price rises until November 2016.
Although the overall cost of both of these is more expensive at £1,350, they are fixed for a longer period of time than the First Utility tariff so offer a little more certainty.
EDF Energy also upped its game last week by extending its fixed term Blue Plus Price Promise Plan to 16 months at an average cost of £1,209 a year.
The cheapest tariffs
If we're looking at cost alone, First Utility doesn't provide the cheapest deal. M&S Energy is in the top spot here with its Fix & Save tariff which costs an average of £1,139 per year. But it only runs until 30th September 2014.
The table below shows the cheapest five tariffs on the market right now.
*based on typical gas and electricity bill for someone who has never switched costing £1,420 (Source: OFGEM 2013). Source: Energyhelpline, 06/09/13
Beware the small print
First Utility launches cheapest fixed rate energy tariff to 2016
It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.
Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.
Financial service providers always refer to 'typical APR' in advertising to attract customers with favourable rates of interest.
Yet the typical APR on loans and credit cards is only available for those applicants who have a squeaky clean credit record, everyone else could end up with a much higher rate. For example, under EU rules, credit card providers only have to provide the typical APR advertised to 51% of applicants.
So always consider this when applying for accounts and products, and if approved – look out the actual APR that you will be charged.
The highest paying savings accounts on the market tend to come with a string of strict terms, which if you fall foul of, result in a drop in interest. Common requirements include paying in a set sum each month and not making withdrawals during a set period.
Make sure to fully understand these terms before opening a savings account and if you choose an account with a six or 12 month bonus, remember that this will plummet when the bonus period ends.
Cashback credit cards that pay you a small percentage each time you spend on the card are full of loopholes in the small print. All have a maximum spend, but many have a minimum spend too.
For example, the Sainsbury's Cashback Low Rate card advertises that it offers users 5% cashback for the first three months. However the 5% cashback is capped at £50 a month. A further 5% cashback is subject to you spending £500 a month on the card (£250 of that at Sainsbury's).
Attempt to repay your mortgage early and you may be greeted with a hefty fee in the form of an early repayment charge. These penalties vary from lender to lender and even deal to deal, but are typically be around 10% of the outstanding balance.
Details of any early repayment charges should be clearly outlined in your mortgage contract but it is worth double-checking with your lender before you try to make a payment.
Insurance is an incredibly complex area of personal finance and different forms of cover are riddled with different hitches that make it crucial to read the small print. Failure to do so could lead you to pay for a product you would be never be able to claim upon, or unknowingly do something that invalidates your claim.
Always buy the right level of cover for your needs and pay close attention to any exclusions in the policy wording. For example, many travel insurance policies for winter sports won't pay out for treatment of injuries incurred while under the influence of alcohol.
Think a credit card can't do any damage at home in your drawer? Think again. Some credit and store cards charge a dormancy fee if you don't use them regularly.
For example, all Santander-issued store cards, including Topshop and Laura Ashley cards among others, charge a fee of £10 if you remain in debit for three consecutive months.
Exceed the monthly usage allowance in your broadband deal and you could be hit with a huge fee. Common with the cheapest broadband deals on the market, penalty charges for going over your contracted limit can push your bills up even higher than if you paid for a deal with unlimited usage.
According to Talk Talk, some households are being forced to pay an additional £40 per month for exceeding their usage allowance. BT for example, charges £5 per every 5GB extra used.
Familiarise yourself with the download limit in your package and the penalties for exceeding it, decide whether you are better off with an unlimited deal.