Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Signing online: e-signatures explained

From shopping to banking, we’re doing almost everything online, so why not sign important documents this way too? Not only is it more convenient - it cuts out the hassle of printing, signing, scanning and sending back forms – it’s also more environmentally friendly. But how secure are electronic signatures and is there anything you need to be aware of?

What is an e-signature?

Electronic signatures, also known as e-signatures, are a way of signing a document without having to put pen to paper. They are used in place of handwritten signatures on a range of legally-binding documents, from bank accounts to loan applications, mortgages, job offers and tenancy agreements.

There are different types of e-signatures, including ‘click-to-sign’ tick boxes, scanned signatures, and ones where you type in your name, choose a font so it looks more like a ‘real’ signature, then date and submit the document.
How secure are e-signatures?

Naturally, many of us worry e-signatures could be less secure than physical signatures. However, it’s actually the opposite.

When it comes to signing a document, the important thing is to be able to prove who signed it and that it hasn’t been changed since. As such, the technology behind e-signatures has been developed to include levels of authentication that ensure all your details stay safe. These range from trusted timestamps - which don’t permit any additional changes to the document - to ‘digital signature’ technology which verifies your identity then combines it with the data in the document, creating a unique digital fingerprint which can’t be tampered with.

As e-signatures become more and more common, you’re likely to come across company names such as Adobe Sign, DocuSign and Verisign. These are all big players in the e-signature market and employ the highest levels of security.
Are e-signatures legal?

Yes, and they have been since the Electronic Communications Act 2000. They are also subject to the Electronic Identification and Trust Services (eIDAS) Regulation, an EU regulation that came into force in July 2016.

Because this is a highly regulated form of document signing, as long as they’ve come from a trusted source – such as a recognised bank or financial institution – you know you’re in safe hands. Just make sure you only sign documents you’re expecting to receive: if you’re in any doubt or think a document might be fraudulent, contact the institution directly to make sure.
Why use e-signatures?

Not only are they a secure way to sign important documents, they are also very convenient. Because they’re online, they can be sent to multiple parties at once and save valuable time, particularly when it comes to things such as joint mortgages or tenancy agreements. The technology behind e-signatures often lets the sender know when you’ve viewed or signed the documents, so they can take action immediately. This means you don’t have to arrange meetings to suit all parties, travel somewhere to add your signature, or wait for the post to arrive.

In addition, they are also far more environmentally friendly. Only a few years ago, a study by YouGov found over 80% of UK companies print out documents just so they can be signed. Going paperless is not just more secure for both individuals and companies, it’s also helping make the world a better place.

Using e-signatures as a method of signing important documents is becoming increasingly popular in all industries, from banking and finance to HR and housing - and for good reason. The technology behind them means consumers can feel confident their details will remain secure; it’s more convenient, saving time and reducing effort, particularly when multiple parties are involved; and - as you won’t need to print reams of paper and can have immediate access to all your documents in the cloud - it’s also far better for the planet.

Anthony Hua

The true price of payday loans

If it's nearing the end of the month and you've got some pressing expenses, it can be tempting to take out a payday loan to tide you over until there’s money in your account. However, before you do so, make sure you know what you’re getting into. If you're not careful, payday loans can leave you with mounting debt that becomes increasingly hard to clear.

Payday loans – also known as payday lending – are short-term, high-cost loans generally lending from £50 to £1,000. They’re marketed as an easy way to get hold of funds in a hurry. You complete a relatively simple application process and will often receive your money the same day.
New regulations are on the side of the consumer

Historically, payday loans had a reputation for catapulting potentially vulnerable consumers into overwhelming debt. Some lenders were charging up to 4,000% APR. As a result, in 2015 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulated the practice, ensuring lenders operate within a set framework.

The maximum daily interest and fees are now capped at 0.8% of the amount borrowed, and default fees (charged when you miss a repayment) can’t exceed £15. Overall, no borrower will ever pay back more than twice what they borrowed. However, this can still be substantially more than you would pay if you dipped into a planned (agreed) overdraft or used a credit card.
Payday loans are falling in popularity

Although the number of people approved for payday loans has dropped by 42% over the last few years, there are still over three quarters of a million borrowers in this market, according to the FCA. It’s always better to set out a realistic household budget and manage your finances in advance than rely on payday loans to get you through to the end of the month.

Plus, payday loans could affect your credit rating and other lenders may view it negatively, including those providing mortgages.
The alternatives to payday loans

Payday loans should not be your first choice for borrowing money. These are the alternatives.

A credit card is one option. The APR is likely to be lower than the loan, and making sure you meet your repayments on time could also help build your credit history. Or why not speak to your financial provider about a personal loan or increasing your overdraft.

You could also consider talking to family members about a loan and, if they are able to help out, agree on an achievable repayment schedule.

Alternatively, you could look into joining a credit union. You’ll need to meet the eligibility criteria (each one is different) but, once a member, they can provide good rates on loans. By law, these are capped at 42.6% APR: often much lower than a payday loan. However, some credit unions won’t offer loans to new members, so make sure you do your research first.

Payday loans may look like an attractive way to tide you over until the end of the month, but they should be approached with caution and avoided where possible. Despite being regulated, they can still leave you with mounting debt due to fees and compound interest. You’re better placed to plan and stick to a strict household budget, try to put aside some money for a rainy day, and look at alternative options for borrowing money should you really need it.

 By Anthony Hua |  

Getting to grips with Google Pay™

It’s becoming increasingly hard to imagine what the world was like before mobile phones. They’ve come a long way since their earliest brick-like incarnations in 1973. Not only have they more than halved in size, but latest technological advances mean smartphones have now become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. It’s no longer just about calling and texting; you can now use your smartphone to pay for things in store and online. And if you’re on Android, Google Pay is the latest way to do this. But how exactly does it work? We take a look. 

What is Google Pay?

Google Pay is the fast, simple way to use your smartphone to pay with your TSB bank cards both in stores and online. It brings together everything you need at checkout and keeps your payment information safe in your Google Account until you’re ready to pay. Plus, Google Pay makes it easy to keep track of purchases, redeem loyalty points, and get personalised suggestions to help you save time and money.

Launched in January 2018, it combines the capabilities of Android Pay and Google Wallet into a single brand. According to Google’s Pali Bhat, VP of Product Management, Payments, this will make the process, “simpler, safer, and more consistent”.
How do you set up Google Pay?

Adding your bank cards to Google Pay takes just a few minutes. First, download the app from Google Playor check to see if it’s already installed on your phone, then open it and follow the instructions. Google Pay works on Android devices running KitKat 4.4 or higher.

Next, simply save your card details into your Google Account, then use them whenever you need to make payments at participating merchants. This might be a physical payment in store – when you see a Google Pay contactless sign – or when you buy something on websites, in apps or from the Google Play store.

It’s a convenient, quick way to pay without having to re-enter your card details every time, and you’ll continue receiving all the usual benefits and protections you enjoy with TSB.
How secure is Google Pay?

As well as security checks when adding card details, when you use your phone to pay in stores, Google Pay doesn’t send your actual credit or debit card number with your payment. Instead, a virtual account number is used to represent your account information – so your card details stay safe.

And for further peace of mind, if your phone is ever lost or stolen, you can lock and erase it from anywhere using Find My Device.
How do you use Google Pay?

Once you’ve added your card details, making a payment is simple. Google Pay is accepted at millions of places around the world. You can use it anywhere you see either the contactless or the Google Pay symbol at checkout.

You can use Google Pay to make purchases up to £30 in shops that accept contactless payments. To pay with Google Pay, just wake your device and hold it against the contactless payment terminal to complete your purchase. For security, you may occasionally be prompted to unlock your device. In either case, there is no need to open the Google Pay app.

And payments are even easier in apps and mobile websites, as you'll see a 'pay with Google Pay' button that will provide all the payment details needed in one tap.

It’s important to know that if you have more than one card in your account, payment will always be taken from the default card. So, if you need to change the card you want to pay with, remember to do that before making any transactions.

It's also worth bearing in mind that Google Pay won't free you of your wallet completely. There will always be times you’ll need cash or cards to hand. Plus, if you're the type of person who finds themselves running out of battery, you could be in an awkward situation if you have no back-up payment method!

For Android smartphone owners, Google Pay is the fast, simple way to pay for things in store or online, using your TSB debit or credit cards. Plus, it makes it easy to keep track of purchases, redeem loyalty points, and get personalised suggestions to help you save time and money. So, if you’re after speed, ease and security, it’s definitely worth giving it a go.

 | By Rochelle Brathwaite |

Buy to Let Landlord Checklist

If you've bought a buy-to-let property, there are certain things you need to arrange before you can rent it out. There are legal obligations you must meet and the property management side of things to sort out, in addition to tenant checks to organise, when you're in a position to rent your property.

Tenant background checks

To reduce the possibility of you choosing bad tenants who fail to pay the rent or look after your property, you can do some background checks. These checks should include:
proof of identity
current address and previous address history
credit history and income
references from previous landlords and employers

If a letting agent's sorting this out for you, it's worth asking them what checks they're doing. If you're organising it yourself you may want to use an online company to do some of these checks for you.

Gas & energy efficiency certificates

You're responsible for ensuring your property has a:
Gas Safety Certificate - an annual check by a Gas Safe registered engineer if you have gas appliances
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) - a rating of the energy efficiency of your property - you have to display this when you market it

Safety checks

You have a legal duty to ensure your property is safe. Any electrical equipment you provide has to be safe along with electrical fittings, such as light fittings, plugs and switches. You're also required to install smoke and carbon monoxide detector alarms.

If you're providing soft furnishings these must be compliant with UK fire safety standards.
Tenancy agreement

When you find tenants, you should get them to sign a tenancy agreement to protect both you and your tenant. This will usually be an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreement.

An AST should state:
the names of the tenants and the landlord
the property address
the deposit required
the rent price and date of payment
the length of the tenancy
the tenant and landlord's obligations

You can find further guidance and a template for creating an assured tenancy agreement at

Tenancy deposit

When you receive a deposit from your tenants, by law, you must to place it into one of the government-backed deposit schemes within 30 days and tell the tenants where it's held. If there's a dispute at the end of the tenancy the deposit will remain in the scheme until it's resolved. Further information on the tenancy deposit schemes is available on the
Property management

Your property needs to be kept in good working order throughout each tenancy; as the landlord you are responsible for ensuring the property is habitable. This includes ensuring the property has a working boiler providing heating and hot and cold water, installed and maintained by a Gas Safe heating engineer. If anything goes wrong it's your responsibility to get it fixed within a reasonable amount of time.

Insurance to cover the breakdown of appliances which commonly go wrong, such as the boiler or fridge is a good idea. And, if the property you're letting out is freehold, landlord building insurance to cover the structure of the building is a must. You should also get landlord contents insurance too, if your property is furnished.
Regional variations

Different parts of the country have additional legal requirements that you need to be aware of. For example, in Wales, landlords now need to register with 'Rent Smart Wales'. Scotland has also made some changes and the Government is consulting on other changes similar to Wales. To find out more information on what landlords need to do in Scotland, visit


Why you need to insure your bicycle

Around 25 million people in the UK own a bicycle, cycling a total of 3.5 billion miles per year. But not everyone insures their bicycle, even though many bicycles now cost a four-figure sum. The latest figures show that there were an estimated 297,000 bicycle thefts in England and Wales alone.

So how can you make sure you’re fully covered in case of theft and damage? Are there any extras you need to consider, such as a separate bicycle insurance policy, to protect yourself further? And how can you reduce the likelihood of your bicycle being stolen in the first place? Let’s take a look.

How to add your bicycle to your home insurance

You should always double check, but home contents insurance often covers bicycles when they are in your property as standard. But don’t assume you’re covered when you’re out and about. If you want your bicycle covered away from home, you will likely need to add this specifically with your insurer. This may push up the premium slightly, but you’ll have greater peace of mind against theft and damage.

Remember – if you’re ever unsure about the cover you have, always check with your insurance provider.
Do you need a separate bicycle insurance policy?

If you can add your bicycle to your home insurance policy, you may wonder why you would want a separate specific bicycle insurance policy.

A separate policy can provide even more cover, such as public liability insurance (if you were to cause accidental bodily injury), personal accident cover (in case you hurt yourself) and roadside recovery (in case you need rescuing) – plus more. This extra cover may be worth considering, particularly if you go on a lot of lengthy rides or participate in sportives where you might be cycling far away from home. And if you take part in competitions like triathlons, you may want to consider a provider that covers for competition use.

Once your bicycle is insured, remember that you still need to take reasonable precautions. For example, you generally won’t be able to claim for theft if your bicycle hasn’t been securely locked to an object that can’t be moved or in a locked building. Wear and tear is also generally not covered – so you’ll still need to be responsible for servicing your bicycle from time to time. Any exclusions are generally made clear when you take out a policy – so always check this carefully.
How to reduce the chances of your bicycle being stolen

As many insurers will not pay out if you’ve not secured your bicycle properly, you’ll need to think about how to keep your bicycle secure. Here are some top tips:

Register your bicycle with the National Cycle Database, also known as the BikeRegister. Simply register your bike for free using your frame number, mark your bicycle using one of BikeRegister’s security marking kits (for a small cost), then apply a warning label to reduce the risk of it being stolen. All UK police forces have secure access to the BikeRegister, so if your bike is stolen you can ’flag’ it as stolen, then if it’s recovered by the police the bike can be reunited with you.

Keep your bicycle out of sight. And if you’re out and about, vary your routine. Stick to well-lit and busy areas.

Use the best locks you can afford. Using two locks is best – that way you can secure the frame and both wheels. And using two different types of locks is a good idea, as the would-be thief may need more tools to access your bicycle.

Lock your bicycle to a fixed object – and lock it closely together to make manoeuvring it difficult.

Lock it every time you leave it – even if it’s only for a few minutes to pop into a shop.

If you have a bicycle and you want it covered against theft and damage, check your home insurance provider first to see whether what they offer is enough for your needs. And if not, you could consider a separate bicycle insurance policy to give you additional protection that standard home insurance doesn’t offer.