Head online to find a wealth of free financial advice, but watch out for daily deal sites that fail to deliver, writes Eddie Lennon
The internet provides a wealth of information and money-off deals – much of it of questionable quality.
The best sites give expert information and advice in a format that is easy to digest. Others have good information but are difficult to navigate and can be confusing by mixing useful information with content that can be out of date.
Information overload is a common handicap on state-supported sites which try to appear unbiased by presenting users with mountains of data, making no attempt to sort good deals from those that are poor value. We review Ireland’s top personal finance and daily deals sites.
Ireland’s small size means that few price comparison sites have been commercially successful while remaining impartial and up to date; bonkers.ie is one of them.
About 150,000 Irish households have consulted the user friendly site to source a new gas or electricity package. Last week, it became Ireland’s first website to be endorsed by the Commission for Energy Regulation for the accuracy and impartiality of its energy prices and tariff information.
More than 100,000 people have used it to switch broadband or home phone packages. The site also provides comprehensive information on current and savings accounts, credit cards and loans.
Bonkers.ie’s big flaw is that its community boards (where people discuss aspects of personal finance) are quite dated.
Do you think you’re paying too much for your mobile? There’s a quick and easy way to check. With the online calculator at callcosts.ie, enter the type and number of calls you make every month, and it tells you what all the options are.
The site is run by the communications regulator ComReg, so the information is impartial, although users may be overwhelmed by the volume of data provided. It’s only failings are its poor design and the fact that it’s not easy to read.
An Irish financial information community, this site is run by a group of financially savvy individuals who regularly chew the fat over a dizzying range of financial topics. It’s most active financial forums deal with mortgages, property investment and tenants’ rights, banking, tax and investing.
If you’re looking to quickly get your head around a particular financial topic, especially if it is very technical and/or topical, this is one of the best places to do your research. If you do not find an answer immediately, just post your question. You will get a response (or, in many cases, several responses and contrasting points of view) usually within a few hours.
The site is heavily moderated so irrelevant answers are deleted. The downside is older posts may not still be relevant, particularly the threads that deal with tax. Discussions also sometimes veer off topic, despite the heavy moderation.
This site is run by the state-funded Citizens Information Board and provides information on topics such as social welfare, money and tax, family and relationships, employment, housing, health and justice.
If you do not find the information you are looking for on askaboutmoney.com, you will very likely find it here. The site is well laid out and easy to navigate. Its information is bang up to date.
The one thing is misses is that there is no facility to ask a question publicly. However, if you havea question, you can contact the Citizens Information phone service, whose number is listed on the site.
The National Consumer Agency’s website is extremely helpful, especially since taking over itsyourmoney.ie, a site formerly run by the Central Bank. It provides tons of information about consumer rights and personal finance. Best of all, it has useful tools and information to help you get the most from your money.
The cst comparisons section on the financial products gives an insightful view of the best value in current accounts, savings accounts credit cards, mortgages and loans. There are also price surveys on motor, home, health and life insurance. Online tools include the Economiser, which lets you compare your spending against that of similar households, and to budget for the cost of weddings, having children and rising interest rates.
One shortcoming of its insurance surveys is that they do not generally include the rates of cheaper online providers. The surveys are conducted once or twice a year, so the information may also be out of date. They also rely on sample quotes, which may not be relevant for your circumstances.
Daily deals sites
Daily deals and cashback websites help you save money but have received a far more mixed response from Irish consumers. The former offer discounts while the latter pay refunds when you buy from merchants that advertise on their sites.
Last month, a study by the National Consumer Agency found that 57% of Irish consumers had signed up to an online discount site. More than one in four (28%)of those who bought from a discount site had a reason to be dissatisfied. The main reasons cited were: product or service not as described (19%); poor product quality (15%) and issues with the terms and conditions (11%).
Additional information and individual case studies on Livingsocial.ie, groupon.ie, pigsback.com and ciydeal.ie were included in the original article but have been omitted from this transcript for brevity.