The thousand euro question. It’s one we get asked quite a lot at bonkers.ie. Is it really possible to save a grand on the everyday utilities and services that we all need - just by switching?
Well, we are firm believers that the answer is yes. Of course we would say that (you’re probably thinking), we are a comparison and switching service after all! But we really do believe that a grand can be yours if you’re prepared to do a little of spade-work. And there’s a reason why I’m writing this today…
Recent spade-work by bonkers.ie for The Consumer Show found that we pay significantly more than we need to on loads of our bills – often without realising it. And the savings for many households can be well over a thousand euro a year.
It really comes down to this… If there is more than one company offering a service that you need, it’s likely that you can save money by switching. And if you don’t want to switch, you can use the other companies as leverage to get a better deal with your current provider. Simple right?
In principle it is pretty simple, but few of us do it despite the savings available. And The Consumer Show and bonkers.ie are not the only ones highlighting it. The Consumer Watchdog’s* report on switching levels for 2014 is pretty telling. The two services with the biggest savings available were amongst the lowest switched. Only 9% of us switched our health insurance and only 9% of us switched our mobile provider...
Ok, so I’ve picked two of the services that we think are horribly complicated to compare - and even harder to switch. But only 9% of us gave it a go? I was stunned when I read that. And when I saw that the average annual saving for switching health insurance was over €400 and it was nearly €300 for mobile phones I was double-stunned. Wouldn’t 700 lids be worth an afternoon by your computer with phone in hand? Sure if you could crack both in four hours, you’d have made €175 an hour!
I will acknowledge this though - health insurance is one of the hard ones. The insurance companies have manufactured a staggering level of complexity and the introduction of the Lifetime Community Rating certainly doesn’t help matters either.
But nearly everything else is easy-peasy. Even mobiles. And just to prove it, I’m going to do a quick list of the low-hanging fruit - the stuff that offers big savings and is really pretty simple to switch.
€300 - Electricity and Gas
Ok ok. I know. bonkers.ie - gas and electricity. We do go on a bit don’t we? But seriously - if you’re an average household and you switch from standard rates to the best discounts, you’ll save €152 on your electricity and €148 on your gas. Even more if you count the cashback offers available right now. The thing is, if you want to maintain your savings, you need to take a look again in a year’s time - because those discounts expire. Energy tariffs are tricky to compare, but that’s where bonkers.ie comes in. We make it easy. Number of households doing it - 17%. Level of hardness 1.
€184 – Car Insurance
We don’t compare car insurance on bonkers.ie, but we do have a lot of fun doing the car insurance song-and-dance each year, we always save money, and you can read about our efforts here too. So here’s how the whole malarkey works… your insurance company is required to send you a renewal letter each year and you to decide what to do with it. You can just pay up – which is what your insurance company wants you to do, or you can ring a few other companies and see what they’ll give you the same coverage for. If the quotes are lower (and they nearly always are) you can call your current insurance company and ask them to match your best quote. If they can’t you can switch. The Consumer Watchdog says that people who did this in 2014 saved €184 on average. Number of households doing it – 25%. Level of hardness 2.
€180 - Broadband
After Irish Water, broadband is probably the service most likely to cause unexpected expletives and severe indigestion. Why? Because it works brilliantly in some areas, kinda works in others, and barely works at all across vast swathes of rural Ireland. And that’s despite all the schemes and plans and rollouts. Having said that, households that are well serviced (and those tend to be in the bigger towns) have seen the cost of unlimited broadband fall substantially over the last few years. And it’s all been driven by competition and new entrants to the market. For example, you can now get unlimited fibre broadband for €35 a month. Even less if you sign up to a discount or take it as part of a bundle. Number of households who switched in 2014 – 13%. Level of hardness 3.
€292 – Mobile phone
Are we really paying €292 more than we need to for our mobiles?? Well, the Consumer Watchdog tells us that we are. It’s one of the biggest savings available on our list and one of the services that most punters think is mega-tricky to switch. Until recently I agreed – and I’m in the switching business. I mean, how do you compare minutes and plans and data usage and handsets when they are completely different across all providers? Well, there is something of a solution. A new service called KillBiller analyses your calls, your data and your texts and you which plan you should switch to based on your actual usage. Pretty neat huh? Number who switched in 2014 – 9%. Level of hardness 3.
€120 - Current Accounts
Now this one is the granddaddy of scary switching. What if my mortgage goes missing? What if my pay scoots into some other dude’s bank account? There are so many things that can go wrong that at least one of them is bound to happen, right? Well perhaps, but still - NOBODY switches current accounts unless they absolutely have to. The only times we’ve seen large numbers of people switching is when a bank literally close up shop. Like last year when Danske Bank cut 60,000 current account holders loose. And the banks know this, which is why they’ve been cranking up your fees from nothing to at least €120 a year. Now think about this. There are 5.5 million current accounts in Ireland. That’s a heck of a lot of fees – but you don’t have to pay them if you’re rich, or you’re prepared to switch. Did I mention that the Central Bank has a code that forces your bank to help you switch to another bank? Number who switched in 2014 – 1%.* Level of hardness 5.
So there it is. More than a thousand euro saved by switching and we didn’t include health insurance, mortgages or even easy ones like Home Insurance.
Sure, some of the items on our list are a little more complicated than others but for the most part, the savings available should make the effort worthwhile. And just imagine if we could get current account switching up to around 10%? It would be bye-bye fees forever.
*The Consumer Watchdog is actually the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. They used to be called the National Consumer Agency. When I was recording for The Consumer Show, I actually had a really hard time getting the new name right so I had to say the Consumer Watchdog instead!
*The number of people using the Central Bank Switching Code to change current accounts at last count was just 14,349. Those number are for 2013 though, so I calculated that the numbers for 2014 were much higher on account of the Danske Bank pull-out but still under 1%.