10 must-have financial products

20 September 2010

In these dark economic times, banks and insurers are keener than ever to get you to part with your cash for needless financial goods. So here are our 10 must-have products that won't leave you feeling short-changed.


Although you don't have to have a current account, managing your money without one is very tricky. Few employers pay cash, and you'll also find paying for things like utility bills and insurance problematic.

Beware of paying a monthly sum for a 'packaged account', however, as these are by and large a waste of money. The general rule is if you think you'll use three or more of the benefits it could be worth the money. Otherwise, it's unlikely to be.


"Travel insurance is a must-have if you go abroad," says Peter Staddon, head of technical services at the British Insurance Brokers' Association.

"If you have an accident or fall ill on holiday your bills can be huge if you don't have travel insurance." Look for at least £1 million of medical cover on European policies, and double this if you're heading to the US.

Be sure to check the small print if you are going on a more exotic break, or if you are going to take part in any adventurous activities. Another top tip is to get insurance that covers you for scheduled airline failure, this means any flights that are not part of a package deal will be covered. (Package failures are already covered under the ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) scheme.


Although it's possible to run up significant debts with a credit card, Brian Brown, head of research at Defaqto, says your lifestyle could be seriously hampered without one. "Hotels often insist on a credit card and most car rental firms will ask for a credit card to secure a booking," he explains.

Also, credit cards can help build or repair your credit rating, but only if used responsibly and paid off on time each month. In addition credit cards can be useful for spreading the cost of large expensive items. If this is the way you are going to use your plastic look for a card with 0% interest on purchases.

Currently, two of the best deals on the market are from Tesco Bank and Sainsbury Finance. Both offer 0% on purchases for 13 and 12 months respectively and then resume to APRs of 16.9% and 15.9%.


If you've drive a car you're legally obliged to take out car insurance. As a minimum, you'll need third-party cover to pick up the tab if you injure someone or damage their property, and most motor insurers package this with fire and theft cover.

Comparison websites are a great tool for finding the best car insurance policy. Check out uswitch.com, comparethemarket.com and confused.com. But remember these are not comprehensive and some insurers are not included.


Many mortgage companies will insist you take out buildings insurance with your mortgage to protect the value of their security – your home – in the event of a fire or another disaster.

However, even if it's not a requirement or you don't have a mortgage, your home is likely to be one of your biggest assets, so it's worth insuring it.


This is not strictly a must-have product as there are plenty of other ways to save for your retirement, but with tax relief available on your contributions and possible contributions from your employer, it's well worth taking advantage of this savings vehicle.

7. ISA

Again, you can live without an ISA, but if you have any savings or investments the tax benefits of an ISA mean you'd be mad not to stick them in one.


Dying without a will means your estate will be divided according to the rules of intestacy – which won't always be how you intended. "A will lets you share your estate according to your wishes and can be useful for inheritance tax planning purposes," says Andrew Hagger, spokesperson for moneynet.co.uk. "Consider putting one in place as soon as you've built up any wealth."


You don't need to take out contents insurance, but the risk of going without could outweigh the cost. "You have to consider what would happen if the worst did happen – a fire or burglary, for example – and you had to replace all your possessions," says Brown. "For most people, it's well worth having."

Some contents insurance policies will also cover you when you're out and about. Check to see if your mobile phone or handbag can be included, for example, and cut back on paying extra to cover these items.


Once you have financial dependants, such as a partner or child, it's important to protect them by taking out a life insurance plan that will provide them with a lump sum or regular income if you die. Premiums start from as little as £5 a month.

If you haven't any financial dependants, income protection may be a more appropriate product, enabling you to protect your income if you're unable to work due to an accident or ill health.

Click here to read our piece on 10 rip-off financial products


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