‘My fixed mortgage rate is expiring. How do I avoid higher payments?’

Cristina, Co Monaghan

A This information is correct – interest rates have risen, so your new payment will almost certainly be higher. If it looks like you’re going to struggle to afford any increase in your repayments contact the Money Advice & Budgeting Service (Mabs). You can speak to an adviser in person at your local Mabs office, call their helpline on 0818 07 2000, or email Their services are free, confidential and independent.

When your fixed-rate mortgage ends, your provider will automatically move you onto a variable interest rate. Current variable rates are typically more expensive than older fixed rates. However, your mortgage provider must send you at least 60 days’ notice of when your fixed rate is set to expire, and list your old rate, your new default rate, and a summary of their other rates. Make sure you check your outstanding balance.

The good news is that there are ways of securing a cheaper rate. For instance, the value of your home may have increased since you took out your mortgage, so your loan-to-value ratio would be lower. It could be worth having your home revalued because lenders, including your current one, may offer more favourable interest rates.

Review all the interest rates available to you. Our online mortgage comparison tool (at shows a difference of more than three percentage points between the lowest and highest rates, so make sure you get the best rate possible.

Talking to your current provider is a good starting point, as it may have a better rate it’s prepared to offer, which means not having to switch to another lender. You might also qualify for a green mortgage if you’ve made any home improvements that have boosted your Building Energy Rating (BER) to at least a B3.

If you have a good repayment history, you may be eligible to switch to a lower rate with another provider. Compare your options at and also contact your local or workplace credit union to check out their mortgage rates.

If you do need to switch to a new provider to get the best rate, there may be some costs involved, such as valuation fees and solicitors’ fees. Some of these can be reduced or avoided by shopping around, and, in many cases, banks will provide cashback to those who switch or offer a contribution towards legal fees. Be mindful of special offers like these, though: work out what the offer is actually worth to you, as the difference between an interest rate of, say, 4pc and 4.5pc is probably going to be worth a lot more than getting your legal fees paid.

There is some paperwork involved in switching providers and it can take time to complete the move, so act quickly if you want to avoid rolling onto a variable rate. In the long term, you could potentially save a lot of money, so it’s worth taking some time to review your options.

‘I bought an item online from Life Style Sports and it didn’t fit. A store gave me a gift voucher because it didn’t have the item in stock. Should I have been refunded?’

Q I bought an item online from Life Style Sports on December 14. In the email confirmation, it advised that there was a 14-day return policy for a refund. The item didn’t fit so I returned it in the hope of getting the right size at the Life Style Sports store in Dundrum. The store didn’t have the item in stock, and the cashier said they could only give me a gift voucher because the returns cut-off date was January 3. I didn’t want to keep the item, so I opted for the voucher. Later, I discovered on the Life Style website that the Christmas returns refund policy was extended until January 10. After being given the incorrect information on my order confirmation email and in store, did I have the option to be refunded?

Ann-Marie, Co Wicklow

A When you buy online, consumer law gives you a 14-day cooling-off period to change your mind. This means that for the vast majority of products you buy online from businesses in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU, you have 14 days from the date you receive the item to decide if you want to keep it or if you want to return the item and get a full refund. Beyond that, as long as an item isn’t faulty, shops can set their own terms and conditions for returns and exchanges. However, they must honour their own terms.

When you went to the Dundrum Life Style store, the cashier should have explained all of your options to you correctly, including any extended return periods that the retailer was offering.

As you feel you were given incorrect information, I suggest you submit a complaint to the company by email or letter, outlining the issue and how you would like the matter to be resolved, such as by approving a refund.

Include details of what you purchased and your order or reference number.

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