In Depth

The price-comparison tricks that will save you money

January is the busiest time of year for price-comparison websites. Here's how to get their best deals

This week marked the return to work for most people, and the beginning of getting to grips with 2015. As many of us sought to act on our new year's resolutions the price-comparison websites experienced 'Quote Monday', one of their busiest days of the year.

One website, comparethemarket.com, expected to get 50 per cent more visits than usual on Monday as people tried to sort out their finances.

According to a survey by the Post Office, 14 million people want to make a big financial change in 2015, with clearing their debts and taking financial control topping the list of priorities.

A visit to a comparison website is a great way to start taking control of your money. They can be the gateway to eliminating debts, speeding up savings growth and cutting household bills. But, how do you make sure you are getting the most from them? Here are three tricks to using comparison websites:

Information, information, information

The more you put into a price-comparison website the more you will get out of one. So, make sure you have all the information to hand when you go online.

If you are wanting to cut your household bills have your most recent bill to date. Bills changed last year and you should find it a lot easier now to find the relevant information to put into the site so you can accurately compare deals.

Anyone who is hoping to switch to a better credit card deal should make sure they use a website that gives results based on how likely you are to get the credit card. Both TotallyMoney.com and Moneysupermarket.com do this. It means you put in some information about yourself and it will only show you credit cards you are likely to be accepted for. That way you don't end up being rejected and damaging your credit rating.

If you are looking to boost your interest rate on savings, make sure you know how much money you have, how long you are prepared to lock it away for, what your current interest rates are, and whether you should be putting your savings in an Isa or not.

Watch out for hidden results

Comparison websites have made life a lot easier for us all, but they aren't perfect. They make their money by getting paid by other companies if you go to their websites. For example, if you are on a comparison site that recommends you get your gas from GasRUs and you click on the link to GasRUs, that company pays the comparison website. But, not all companies are prepared to pay the websites commission.

The comparison sites want to make money so they drive you towards the companies that pay them by hiding non-paying results. This can mean you don't get the best deal.

For example, I recently switched gas supplier but when I was using a comparison website (uSwitch.com, in this instance but others do it too) the first list of results they showed me said I could save £115 a year. But, when I went back a step and selected to see all results, not just those I could switch to that day, my savings jumped to £159 a year. Plus, I could switch that day – I  just had to contact the company myself rather than being sent their via the comparison website.

It therefore pays to keep your eye out for the option to see all available offers: it could save you a lot more money.

Compare the comparisons

Once you've put in your details and are sure you are seeing all the deals available to you it's time to do a little bit of legwork. If you want to make sure you are getting the absolute best possible deal whether it is a new credit card, mortgage, savings account, insurance policy or energy deal you need to compare the results across a few different comparison websites. None of them cover the entire market so you need to look at a few.

For example, in my hunt for a new gas supplier the results varied across four different comparison websites, with the best one offering me a 10 per cent larger saving than the others.

Price-comparison websites have made life much easier for consumers, but there are pitfalls for complacent users. As always, you need to be on the ball to land yourself the best possible deal.

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