If you’re looking for a more remunerative (and interesting) home for some of your savings than a low-paying bank account, you might like to check out what PrimeStox has to offer.
PrimeStox is basically a crowdfunding platform for high-quality food producers and sellers. These businesses are seeking short-term funding (typically for four months) to make products and get them to market. Once the products are sold, investors get their money back with interest. This is generally around 8% for four months, which works out as an annual rate of around 24%. If you immediately reinvest your money in another project, the annual interest rate will be more than this, due to the effects of compounding.
The opportunity may be best explained by an example, so here’s one product I invested in recently. Scarlett and Mustard is a range of premium salsas, dressings, and so on produced by a husband and wife team in East Soham. They say all the ingredients they use are 100% natural and sourced locally.
Last month they were looking for a total investment of £6,000 to fund 6,000 jars of their tomato salsa range (pictured below). I decided to invest a modest £50, which made me the beneficial owner of 50 jars. All being well, I shall receive £54 (my original investment plus 8% interest) by the end of September 2017.
You might ask what will happen if they don’t sell the salsa. The answer is that all investments are secured by the products concerned, so in the worst case scenario I will receive 50 jars of tomato salsa, which would keep me going for a very long time! Or I could sell them or give them away to friends, of course.
In practice, though, that is an unlikely scenario. So far all investments on PrimeStox have been repaid with interest on or before the date specified. If there is a problem, all investors vote on how best to resolve it, e.g. by selling the goods to a third party for a smaller margin. It is therefore highly unlikely that you would ever lose all your money.
Primestox Pros and Cons
Obviously, investing in PrimeStox is not as safe as putting your money in the bank. In addition, the money will be tied up during the investment period with no easy way of accessing it (although this.is generally no more than a few months). You shouldn’t therefore invest money you may need urgently in the near future.
On the other hand, there are a lot of things I like about it…
Rates of return are highly competitive, even compared with other crowdfunding and P2P investment opportunities.
The minimum investment is very low – typically £20. You can therefore test the water without risking any significant funds.
If you are prepared to spend a bit more – say £100 or over – in many cases you will receive a higher interest rate.
Unlike some other crowdfunding platforms where demand from investors greatly exceeds supply, with PrimeStox there are generally a few days to decide whether you want to invest and how much (though I have noticed that opportunities are filling up faster and faster).
You are supporting small businesses in the UK and abroad who are dedicated to producing high-quality foodstuffs.
And, as mentioned earlier, as an investor you hold title in the product until it is sold. PrimeStox will even send your share to you free of charge if you want.
As for why producers are offering these sort of returns, it is basically to aid their cashflow by covering the cost of raw materials, production, storage, transportation, and so on. But also, they hope that investors will act as ‘brand ambassadors’ for them, helping to promote the product, and maybe even buying some themselves.
In that spirit, here are links to the three products I have invested in on the platform so far, with the amounts I purchased included.
There is absolutely no obligation to promote any of the products you invest in, but obviously as an investor you have a financial interest in ensuring they are successful. Investors are also sometimes offered rewards, discounts and other incentives by the producers in question.
Clearly nobody should invest more than a small portion of their savings in PrimeStox, but the potential returns on offer are compelling, and investing this way is certainly more fun than stocks and shares!
If you have any comments or questions about PrimeStox, as always, please feel free to post them below.
Disclaimer: I am an investor with PrimeStox but have no other relationship with the company and am not an affiliate for them. Neither am I advising anyone to invest in PrimeStox. Investment decisions are personal to every individual and if in any doubt you should seek advice from a qualified financial adviser. This post is provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice..
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If you own a smartphone (Android or Apple), you can now download a free app that will show you the location of your nearest ATM anywhere in the UK.
The Link ATM Locator, which was launched this month, shows the location of all 70,000 Link ATMs, which is effectively every cash machine in the UK. It was developed with the support of the Thomas Pocklington Trust, a national sight loss charity who work to increase awareness and understanding of the needs of people with sight loss.
When you open the app, by default it shows a map of ATMs close to your current location. Free machines are shown in green and those that charge a fee in purple.
You can also search by town name or postcode if you want to know the location of ATMs there. As I prefer not to post my own address on this blog, here is a screen capture showing cash machine locations in the Tyseley area of Birmingham.
If you tap any of the coloured dots, it will show you more information about the machine in question, including how much (if anything) it charges for a withdrawal.
Additionally, by tapping the three-line options menu at the top left of the screen, you can set filters on the display. These include all the following:
Only free to use
There are a few other options you can set via this menu as well including Favourite ATMs. This lets you request alerts when you are near a particular ATM, in case you want to take the chance to withdraw some money. There are also hints and tips on staying safe when using ATMs.
The app is free to download from the Apple store and Google Play for Android. Just search for Link ATM locator.
I hope you find this app as useful as I do. As a keen smartphone user myself (I have a Samsung Galaxy J5) I plan to discuss other helpful apps in forthcoming posts on Pounds and Sense.
As ever, if you have any comments or questions arising from this post, please do post them below..
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In my post today I want to talk about a matched betting technique I’ve been using with considerable success recently. This is profiting from acca insurance. Obviously, for the benefit of those new to betting, I need to start by explaining what an acca is.
What Are Accas?
The term acca is short for accumulator. It is a set of bets (usually four or more) where every bet has to win in order for the acca to succeed and generate a profit. That means accumulators are typically quite risky bets. When one succeeds the returns can be substantial, however, as your winnings are calculated by multiplying all the odds together.
Normally if one leg of an accumulator fails, the whole bet is lost. However, a number of bookmakers offer something called acca insurance with football bets. In this case, if one leg of your acca lets you down, your stake is refunded, generally as a free bet to the same value as the original. By laying off some (or all) of the bets in your acca – and staking carefully – you may be able to take advantage of the ‘added value’ from the insurance to guarantee yourself a profit.
As we shall see there are various approaches you can use, but my clear favourite is the Lock In method. This guarantees a set profit however many legs of your bet fail, from none to all five.
Of course, this profit is less than you would get from a winning accumulator that you didn’t lay off, but as I said earlier accas are risky bets. Using the Lock In method all but removes the risk of losing money (in theory you could still lose if the lay odds on later legs move massively against you, but that is highly unlikely – and much more often the odds actually move in your favour).
Finding accas that will work with this method and calculating the required stakes is not easy if you are working alone. I therefore recommend that you use my favourite matched betting advisory service, Profit Accumulator. They have recently added an online tool called Acca Catcher to the range of resources on offer to Platinum members.
Acca Catcher is an amazing tool that will find accas with insurance for you, show you how much profit they can generate, and reveal exactly what you need to stake on them and when.
About Profit Accumulator
As I have mentioned on Pounds and Sense before, Profit Accumulator is a membership website that provides in-depth tutorials on how to apply matched betting strategies to make money. They also provide special ‘oddsmatching’ software to find suitable bets and calculators to work out the necessary stakes (which is of course crucial).
In recent months Profit Accumulator have added a number of new tools to their Platinum Membership. These include Match Catcher (a tool for those doing horse-racing refunds) and Dutching (a tool for finding arbitrage opportunities among two or more bookmakers). I’ll talk about these in future posts.
As mentioned above, however, the tool that I want to focus on today is Acca Catcher. I will reveal how this works below, though to get full details I highly recommend signing up with Profit Accumulator and watching the training videos they provide.
Using PA’s Acca Catcher
Here is a screen capture of the page that opens when you log in to your Profit Accumulator Platinum account and click on Acca Catcher in the Oddsmatching menu. Obviously, by the time you read this, the accas shown will have changed.
Acca Catcher shows a number of accas you can use with this method. By default they are arranged in order of EV, which stands for expected value. This is a measure of how profitable they should be, so the larger the better is the rule here. As you can see, the top one listed here (with the highest EV) Is with William Hill. This is often the case, as William Hill have the most generous terms and conditions and allow you to stake up to £50 per acca (some other bookies limit you to £25 or less).
The QLoss figure stands for qualifying loss. This only applies if you use what they call the Normal method. In this case you stake in such a way that if you end up with exactly one losing leg in your acca you get a free bet (from which you should be able to generate an 80% profit) and with any other outcome a modest qualifying loss. Using this method, on average you should make a profit equivalent to the EV shown. This is typically slightly higher than the profit available using the Lock In method, but of course it is only an average, and some of the time you will lose money.
Personally I prefer the certainty of the Lock In method even if it might be marginally less profitable overall. You may see this differently, of course.
The other things shown on the opening screen are the actual games in the acca, the total back and lay odds, and the start and end dates of the acca.
One other thing you will notice to the left of each acca is a small calculator icon. This is very important, as if you click on it, it will show you everything you need to know in order to extract a profit from the acca in question. So let;s see what happens when we click on the first of the accas shown…
Note that by default the ‘Normal’ button is selected at the bottom left. As I prefer the Lock In method, however, I have switched it to that.
The calculator now shows you the acca bet you have to make and the first lay. Note that while you place all the back bets together in your accumulator, using the Lock In method you place the lay bets sequentially. This is necessary as the required stake can change depending on whether each leg wins or loses (and after two losing legs with the lock-in method you stop laying).
If we were doing this bet, then, our first step would be to place a £50 acca bet at William Hill containing the five bets shown. We would then lay off the first leg using a lay stake of £47.67, exactly as shown in the calculator.
Once the match has been played and the result is known, we then return to the calculator and click on the green tick on the right if the result was as forecast (in this case a win for Manchester United) or the red tick if it wasn’t (a draw or away win). The calculator then shows us the lay stake we need to place in the next leg (see below).
So we now place a lay bet of £73.26 on Manchester City. This process continues until we reach the end of the acca or there are two losing legs, whichever comes first.
Let’s say for the sake of argument the middle leg of the acca loses but all the others win. The final calculator screen will look like this:
As you can see, because one leg lost, the acca doesn’t pay out and you have made a net loss on it. However, you qualify for a £50 free bet on the acca insurance. By backing and laying the free bet using standard matched betting technique (and the free calculator on Profit Accumulator) you should be able to extract around £40 profit from the free bet. In the example above, as the calculator says, you would therefore end up with a net profit of £9.12. Give or take a few pence, your net profit would be just the same if all five legs won or none of them.
More Acca Insurance Tips
I have set out above the basics of how matched betting with acca insurance works. As I said earlier, I highly recommend watching the training videos on Profit Accumulator to see exactly how it works step by step. Assuming you are a PA Platinum member you can also play about with the software to your heart’s content without spending any money until you are confident with it. Here though are a few more tips to help you on your way…
Bear in mind that if you can get better odds than those shown in the calculator, the net profit will be boosted. I find that often as a match gets closer the lay odds will go down, making your bet more profitable. You can enter the new lay odds manually and the lay stakes and profit figures will be automatically adjusted.
Sometimes Acca Catcher shows lay odds from Betfair, other times from Smarkets. I use the latter as much as possible, as their fees are lower and it simplifies matters to lay all your bets in one exchange. In any event, it is often worth checking the other exchange, as you may be able to get a better price there than the one shown on the calculator. Exchange prices change constantly, and if there is plenty of time before the next leg you may want to try entering a lay bet lower than the current offer price in the hope that it will be matched subsequently.
As mentioned above, an alternative to the Lock In method is the Normal method. With this you aim to have exactly one losing leg in your acca in order to qualify for the refund. With any other outcome (no losing legs or two or more) you suffer a small qualifying loss. With the Normal method, as soon as you have one losing leg in your acca, you stop laying. With the Lock In method, by contrast, you don’t stop laying until you have two losing legs.
Another option on the calculator is ‘Lay All’. This is where you lay all your selections at the same time (obviously before the first leg starts). This method only works when all the selections are available at extremely short odds (generally no higher than 1.20). The profits vary according to how many legs win – typically you will make a decent profit if all legs win, but if one loses you will make a very small profit or break even. With two or more losing legs the winnings increase again, but at such short odds this is obviously rare. I haven’t bothered with the ‘lay all’ method myself, but the option is there if you want it. It does have the obvious attraction that you can do all your backing and laying at once.
One thing to watch with accas is that you don’t have more than one ending on the same day. In the case of William Hill (and some others) they will only give you one refund per day – so if you have two accas ending the same day, each with one losing leg, you will only get one refund. That would leave you with a net loss on the other acca, of course.
As you may gather, I’m a big fan of William Hill, not least as they allow you to stake a generous £50 per acca and have this refunded as a free bet if one leg loses. Using the Lock In matched betting method, I would generally expect to make a minimum of £10 per William Hill acca. I therefore highly recommend using William Hill with this method, but would also advise placing other ‘mug’ bets with them to try to reduce the risk of having your account restricted (or gubbed, as matched bettors say). You can lay off your mug bets to minimize your losses from them.
Different bookies have different rules about accas, e.g. Ladbrokes only allow insurance up to a maximum stake of £25 and a smaller range of national leagues is eligible. Other bookies specify minimum odds for each leg of your acca, e.g. with Paddy Power the minimum is 1/5 (1.20 in decimal format). Acca Catcher from Profit Accumulator should incorporate any such restrictions into its recommendations, but it never hurts to check if you are uncertain.
When entering results in the calculator, remember that the outcome that counts is the one at full time (90 minutes). Some cup and international matches have extra time if the teams are drawing after 90 minutes, but the result after extra time isn’t relevant for acca betting purposes.
Good luck with your acca insurance bets. If you have any comments or questions, as ever, please do post them below.
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I just saved £21.06 a month (equivalent to £252.72 a year) on my Virgin Media Broadband bill, all by making a quick phone call. Here’s the full story…
I have a broadband-only contract with Virgin Media (I use the internet-based Vonage for my home phone service and am happy with Freeview for the TV). I have had this for several years, and the price has kept nudging upward. When it went over £50 a month I realised I really had to see if I could get a better deal, or else switch to another provider. I was reluctant to do the latter, though, as I have cable broadband from Virgin and switching suppliers would have involved getting a landline phone reconnected. And anyway, I’ve had good service from Virgin and my broadband connection is fast and stable.
So not without some trepidation I phoned up Virgin’s customer relations department (the number is 150 from a Virgin Media phone or mobile or 0345 454 1111 from any other phone). I told them I was unhappy with how much I was paying and was thinking of switching. Their operative didn’t seem the least surprised. He explained that I was on ‘an old contract we don’t offer any more’. And he immediately offered me a new, cheaper contract, with a faster connection and a £3 a month ‘loyalty bonus’ (until October 2018).
So I am now paying £29.25 a month for my high-speed broadband service. I guess I could have saved a little more by switching to someone like Plusnet, but I didn’t want the hassle, and anyway the connection would have been slower.
I did think at the time that it would have been nice if Virgin Media had alerted me themselves to the fact that I was on an obsolete contract. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they were happy enough to go on taking my money so long as I was happy enough to go on paying it. But then again, it’s my fault as well for not reviewing how much I was paying sooner. As a money blogger I really should have known better!
Top Tips for Cutting Your Broadband Costs
Here then are my tips for reducing your broadband bill if you find yourself in a similar position to the one I was in…
Don’t be afraid to phone up your ISP and see if you can get a better deal. The companies are well used to this and will often be happy to offer you a better rate rather than lose your custom entirely.
Remember that broadband has become a commodity a bit like energy or mobile phone services. All the main ISPs have special offers and discounts running all the time. If you reach the end of an offer and are put on their ‘standard tariff’, call them up and ask if they have any better deals going. They almost certainly will, the only downside being that you may be tied in to using their service for another 12 or 18 months.
But if you can’t get the deal you want, it’s easy enough to switch. In most cases you just sign up with a new supplier and they will make all the arrangements for you, including contacting your old ISP and arranging a changeover date. I recently helped a couple of friends switch from BT to Plusnet. It all went smoothly and they cut their monthly bill by more than half as well as getting £50 cashback. They are even still using their old BT modem/router, although I have tried hard to persuade them to switch to the more modern one provided by Plusnet!
Be aware that in some cases it can actually work out cheaper to have a broadband and telephone service from one supplier than broadband alone. My own circumstances are a bit unusual. I do like the Vonage (VoIP) service, as it includes various free features that other suppliers charge extra for. But if I was starting over again now I could undoubtedly save money overall by buying my phone and broadband services from the same company.
Make a point of reviewing your broadband costs at regular intervals and also any time your bill goes up or you reach the end of an offer. Don’t rely on the internet for this. There really is no substitute for phoning up your supplier’s sales or customer services department and negotiating politely but firmly.