Topcashback – get cash back on almost anything & save a small fortune!

I’ve mentioned TopCashBack in many of my blog posts and thought I’d dedicate an article to the this great service and way of saving/making cash.

TopCashBack is an online service whereby you click through to a merchant (i.e. seller) via their site. They track this site visit, and if you make a purchase, you receive cash back.


The service has literally saved me over a thousand pounds since I joined a few years ago, and continues to do save me money.

Of course you have to sign up with TopCashBack and register you bank details. It costs nothing though. You simply search for a merchant, or services description, and it will list the merchant or suitable alternatives, with the amount of cashback on offer.

For example, say you want to book a hotel for a night and have spotted a good deal on Instead of booking directly through, you log into your TopCashBack account and enter in the merchant search. Usually they are offering around 7% cashback with this site. You check the terms and click through to; a new window is opened and ‘tracked’. You then place your booking as normal with

Behind the scenes, the booking is tracked. Once your hotel booking is completed (i.e. after you have visited, as potentially you could
cancel) then informs TopCashBack and they are able to claim cashback from them, which is later paid into your account.

It can take quite a long time sometimes to get your cashback – usually 6 to 8 weeks – but you will get it eventually.

7% cashback on a £80 hotel booking is £5.60, so well worth doing.

And once you get into the habit of checking TopCashBack before buying anything online, you can save a small fortune – I’ve saved over a £1000 over the years.

Sometimes only a very small percentage, as little as 0.5%, is offered, but it all adds up. Cashback can be a percent of the purchase price,
or often a fixed value, for example, I recently had a £65 cashback offer on home insurance I took out.

Some of the best cashback deals are on services – such as switching Energy suppliers. Currently Npower are offering £47.25 cashback if you switch to them on their dual fuel plan. Mobile phone providers also offer high cashback volumes – O2 are offering up from £26 up to £126 cashback for some of their mobile contracts.

I mentioned I got a good cashback deal on home insurance; you can also save on car insurance, motorcycle insurance, business insurance – most forms of insurance, really. Just have a search in the TopCashBack merchants list.

Perhaps the insurance broker or service you were planning to use isn’t listed; but there is usually a suitable alternative. Occasionally,
you may find a better deal without cashback, but it’s always worth checking.

I’ve saved a small fortune in hotel bookings by using TopCashBack (see my article, The Art Of Cheap Holidays). I usually search several hotel sites such as, ,, and for the ideal hotel, then check current TopCashBack click through rates.

I may find a hotel for £60 on and cheaper on for £55; but TopCashBack may be offering 15% cashback at that point with Venere as opposed to’s 5%, so purchasing via Venere effectively costs me only £51, as opposed to reduced price of £52.25.

Now it’s coming close to Christmas time too there are some excellent cash back offers. The Buy a Gift and Red Letter Days sites are also doing cashback currently at 12.6% and 18.9%!

TopCashBack tracks your cashback in a dashboard so you can easily see what you’re order and how the order is processing.

My TopCashBack account
My TopCashBack account

Of course, there are other cashback sites out there, such as Quidco, but personally I prefer the way TopCashBack works and it’s simple
interface. Only on a few rare occasions have I had to ‘chase’ cashback, but it’s always been sorted out eventually.

So what do I ask for giving you this wonderful advice on how to save so much money?

Just sign up with TopCashBack through my referral link here please 🙂

Happy savings!

My beloved winter friend

Winter has finally arrived, and rather suddenly.

Halloween 2014 in the UK was the warmest on record, with temperatures in London of 23C. Yet only 6 days later temperatures plummeted to freezing. Thursday morning I was confronted with an iced up car.

What I needed was my best winter friend.

My leather gloves? Well, they are indeed very handy (no pun intended) in this weather, much more so than woolly gloves, which instantly get wet upon touching the car door handle, and then are rendered useless. Really, what is the point of woolly gloves in the cold and damp UK climate? They always get wet very quickly, and once they are wet, you hands get cold. About as useful as a chocolate fire guard.

So yes, I value my leather gloves on a cold morning and I didn’t suffer when opening my car door.

My woolly hat? Very useful for me, being bald. Not that I get a cold head – no, my head normally feels ok; but I suffer from Raynaulds syndrome, and when my body temperature drops – without me often realising it and thinking I’m reasonably warm – my fingers and toes turn to ice and go white (post coming up about this soon). Very annoying, not to mention rather uncomfortable. Wearing a woolly hat though seems to stop the heat escaping from my body through the top of my head; my core temperature stays higher and my ‘pinkys’ remain, well, pink.

No, my most favourite winter friend is my trusted, rusty old scraper.

The best scraper in the world.

Well, let’s put it another way – it’s a scraper that actually works.

Icy mornings are a pain to all car commuters; first thing in the morning, in the dark, still half asleep, the last thing you want to do is work your way around you car trying to get the ice off. Some people prefer to get in and wait in the car for it to warm up, but this is quite time consuming. Most of us get up as late as we possibly can to ensure we get adequate sleep before setting off for work; we don’t have spare time to be hanging around. I have to get up at 6.30am as it is; I’m not getting up any earlier to sit around in a cold car thankyouverymuch!

Many will choose the de-icer spray route.

I find de-icer annoying for many reasons, such as:

  • If you leave the can in the car, it rolls around and rattles irritatingly
  • If you don’t leave it in the car, you can never find it (and you’ve already locked up the house)
  • If you leave it in the car, the can is absolutely freezing to the touch
  • You always seem to run out at the worst time
  • It absolutely stinks
  • The nozzle very often gets blocked and the spray is a useless dribble
  • It can damage your paintwork
  • It ends up all over your hands – bad for skin, and cold
  • It quite often just doesn’t work – you end up with a sludge on your windscreen that then freezes again into a lumpy mess

No. I’ll use a scraper.

But scrapers are useless. Well, most standard plastic scrapers, that is. They will simply leave two marks on your window where the two far edges scrape a thin sliver of ice off. Rubbish.

But I have a superscraper.

When I passed my driving test in 1995 at the age of seventeen and my Dad bought me my first car (a bright Orange 1 litre Metro – see my car history), I was also handed his spare scraper.

It was a rusty piece of metal with a rubber end.

I wasn’t overly enthusiastic.

He assured me that I’d apprecriate it when the time comes – and he was right.

It’s the only scraper I’ve ever used that actually works.

It may sound over the top, but I loved that little scraper. It took seconds to scrape off the ice, and did so in clean, clear sweeps. On the rare occasions I didn’t have it for some reason, and was forced to use a standard plastic scraper, I would dispair. My fingers would be frozen and the view through the windscreen barely adequate to see the road.

When I lost it I was gutted. I faced a couple of winters struggling to clear icy windscreens. I tried lots of different plastic scrapers but they were all pratically useless. They’d scrape off only a thin layer; or leave thin trails in the ice; or they would simply snap. I reverted to the de-icer spray, which I hate, as per my above points.

When my Dad passed away unexpectedly over a couple of years ago, it took me some time to get over the shock. After some time, we all went through the usual motions, and I agreed to arrange disposing of his car.

I found his ice scraper in there.

I was happy to share any inheritence and possessions fairly and equally with my brother.

Not the scraper – that was mine.

I am the eldest so I think I can justify my actions 🙂

So, for the last couple of winters I have laughed in the face of the icy windscreens again.

This morning, the first icy windscreen of the season, was no different, and my windows were clear in seconds.

I hear now that you can buy ‘better’ scrapers made out of materials other than plastic. I suppose I could try one. But whilst as have ol’ Rusty, I’m quite happy.

Here is a beautiful picture of my beloved winter friend for you to drool over.

The best windscreen scraper in the world - ol' Rusty
The best windscreen scraper in the world – ol’ Rusty

I hope you enjoyed.

My car history part 16: Ooo la la

I’ve owned Leona, my ten year old Seat Leon 1.9TDi, for a couple of months now, and, perhaps predictably, I’m bored.

It was a good choice and more or less meets my requirements for a daily commuter, but I’ve decided to treat myself to something a little flasher.

I’d considered the Audi TT and A5; the Merc CLC or a Jag XF. I’d ruled out the Hyundai Coupe and the Honda CRZ. A GT86 would be great but I will have to be patient until the price drops somewhat.

One day, I was sat in Leona with my 6 year old daughter, waiting for her to finish the snack we’d just bought at the supermarket before setting off to visit a relative. A car pulled into the space in front of us.

I asked her what she thought of it.

Her response was simple: Buy it.

And I’m seriously tempted to take her advice.

There’s one problem…it’s French.

A Peugeot.

A true petrol head can’t own a Peugeot, can they?!?

But this is no ordinary Peugeot – it’s the stunning RCZ.

It’s sleek sexy lines and unique double bubble roof are captivating.

The Peugeot RCZ
The Peugeot RCZ

But did I mention it’s French?

And that it’s a Peugeot?

I’d already suffered with the unreliability and expensive servicing of the Peugeot 306 I had owned for three years. Did I want to go down that route again?

I started to do some research. No doubt the engine options were rubbish, and they were terribly unreliable.

I was suprised to find that this isn’t the case.

The engine options (aside from the top of range and expensive RCZ-R model) are a 2.0 litre diesel or a 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol engine in two different guises. Dismissing the diesel, I looked into the 1.6 petrol option – surely that would be too small and underpowered? My 306’s 1.6 engine only produced 90bhp.

But that was back in 1993, and it was a natural aspirated engine.

This turbo charged unit produces either 156bhp or 200bhp.


Assuming at the time that the 200bhp engine would be horribly inefficient – ‘better’ (sorry Peugeot) car makers typically struggling to better 35mpg with a 200bhp engine – I considered the 156bhp option. Would that be enough power?

The car is pretty light, and reading the official as well as owners reviews, it sounded sufficient – and promised an excellent 44mpg.

That’s about what I’m getting when driving the Leon, erm, ‘enthusiastically’.

So perhaps the 200bhp option wouldn’t be so bad… I guessed 36mpg.

The official combined figure is 42mpg.

That’s impressive. Go Peugeot!!

But how realistic is that claim?

I checked the owners reviews.

A Peugeot RCZ in grey
A Peugeot RCZ in grey

The more I read, the more I fell in love. The RCZ sounds perfect for me. It’s fast enough, makes a nice noise, is spacious (at the front – rear is for children only, which is fine), and is surprisingly efficient.

Some people were only getting 32mpg, but they weren’t even trying. I read that most people doing regular ‘motorway speeds’ were getting around 40mpg, which I’d be very happy with for a 200bhp petrol engine. Revs at 85mph in sixth gear were reported to be 2,500rpm – that’s the same that Leona achieves at that speed (apparently, of course), and that’s a low revving diesel. So it’s comfortable & quiet & economical at those speeds.


Hang on hang on hang on.

I’ve been down this road before.

I always buy a car and then get bored or realise it’s not suitable in some way or another after 2 or 3 months.

Won’t this be the same?

Well, in this case, I won’t rush into it. I can’t – I don’t have the money to.

So I will take my time and read more information, check out potential problems etc, and try and go for a test drive in one.

And so what if it’s a Peugeot? It’s a RCZ. It’s still special.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t have special needs, like most of my previous car choices.

My car history part 15: What next?

Leona and I aren’t getting along as well as I had hoped.

Don’t get me wrong – the Leon is an excellent car and the reasons I bought her for were all good, and the criteria has more or less been met.

Let’s recap those points.

  • Sensible – yes, spacious hatchback, storage cubbies, drinks holder etc
  • Fuel efficient – yes, the 1.9TDi VAG engine is probably the best diesel in that price bracket
  • Reasonable power – yes, 150bhp is plenty to safely overtake, convenient for motorway miles
Leona (Seat Leon) and Maggy (MX-5)
Leona (Seat Leon) and Maggy (MX-5)

Yet strangely enough, I’m not comfortable in her – I’ve been struggling with back ache. Ok, the back ache was due to sitting / sleeping in awkward positions on a couple of long haul flights, and having an awful new office chair – but Leona wasn’t helping. I decided to use the MX-5 one day, and despite the small cabin, and the fact that the aftermarket cup holder (there isn’t one as standard) is inconveniently placed so that for the first 20 minutes of my morning commute I’m having to change gear in a very awkward manner to avoid knocking over my coffee cup, my back was actually happy for the first time in days.

Perhaps all these years of driving daft sports cars has moulded my back so that I’m more comfortable in a sports/low coupe type car?

As it was, I had the seat set low in the Leon for that ‘sportier’ feel. However, it wasn’t very comfortable – it felt like even though I was fairly close to the wheel and had a good arm reach, my left leg had to travel a long distance to fully engage the clutch; and returned to it’s rest position was bent up too much. I even started getting pins and needles in my right leg!

However, I’ve found that a lot of adjustment can be made to the seat, especially with the height. Bringing the seat up to almost maximum height has more or less resolved the clutch pedal issue and I’m no longer getting pins and needles in my other leg. But the higher seating position is less ‘fun’, and I’m still not as comfortable as I’d like to be.

Moving onto fuel efficiency… well, it seems I can get 54mpg… but OMG I have to drive like an old aged pensioner to achieve it. I tried it for a week but the depression I suffered wasn’t worth it.

Driving ‘realistically’, and trying to change gear as soon as I can without spoiling all of my fun, and at prolonged speeds of – well, let’s say, ‘typical UK motorway speeds’, then we’re looking at somewhere around 45mpg, max 50mpg.

That’s not bad – but not quite as good as I’d hoped.

Because, moving onto the third point, power: is the mpg figure good enough to justify having a less powerful (than cars I normally have) diesel (when I prefer petrol)?

Possibly. But I started having a look at other options out there… just in case.

The conclusion I came to previously, and that I’m still arriving at, is that the 1.9TDi diesel engine still is the best you can buy for the money, in terms of power vs efficiency. The diesels that came in after 2005 to meet new legislations are less efficient (although admittedly more environmentally friendly) and prone to problems. The latest diesels are excellent, but out of my price range.

Or are they?

I’ve decided that having a 10 year old car – and one that was out of date for its year anyway (it having been around 4 or 5 years and the new shape having come in the year later) – as my daily commute is fine – but not as pleasurable as I’d like.

Loving cars as much as I do, I feel that I’d like something that bit ‘nicer’.

I’d set my budget for the Leon at 3 to 4 grand, and had purchased Leona bang in the middle at £3500.

Looking at the market and what options are available, I’ve decided to save up over the next few months and treat myself to something in the £10,000 price range early next year.

Is that enough to buy me one of these ultra efficient, powerful, diesel cars?

Sadly, no.

But it does open up the option of some newer petrol engines which offer a reasonable amount of performance for the ‘claimed’ MPG figures.

Besides, I’d prefer a petrol engine – I’ve had two diesels now, and the big heavy rumbly lumps aren’t winning me over… yet. I’m very interested to see how Jaguar’s new XE with it’s lightweight aluminium body and lightweight Ingenium engines fair… but it will be some time until they are affordable to me!

So… what cars do I like? What meets my criteria?

I’m thinking a smart/sporty looking coupe, with a spacious yet sporty, low seated cabin, with hatchback/decent boot practicality.

Something with between 150 and 200bhp, probably a 1.8 or 2.0 turbocharged petrol engine?

Hyundai Coupe S3
Hyundai Coupe S3

I’ve always liked the third generation Hyundai Coupe, the S3. I owned a first generation model – it was a tad unrefined, but fun. I looked into the S3, but was disapointed with the engine range – you either have a lacklustre unit that’s also not particularly efficient, or an over the top V6 that drinks petrol like my best friend drinks beer (far too quickly).

How about the Honda CRZ? That’s an ultra funky looking thing… and I like to be different. But it’s way too underpowered for my liking.

A Beetle? Too cute.

A Mini? Too – well, not too small – mini’s these days are pretty large – and I did used to quite like them. But for some reason, they just don’t appeal to me any longer. I guess they’ve become a bit too popular.

An Audi TT? Ah… now we’re talking. Nice lines, a bit different looking, comfortable cosy and sporty cabin… there’s even a diesel option. But I’ve ruled that out… it’s the same 2.0 unit my brother experienced numerous problems with in his A4, and not really to my liking either. But the 2.0 petrol unit looks pretty good – claimed combined figures of 34 mpg – is that good enough??

Not sure… would have to check the ‘real world’ figures – and it’s motorway cruising efficiency.

I actually raised an interesting question on pistonhead regarding reduced fuel efficiency at higher speeds, and the effect of drag – worth a read at Cars economy.

Besides, the TT’s are a little common… and ‘hairdresser’ ish. Although can I actually say that, when I love MX-5s so much and I’m on my fifth??

Moving swiftly onwards…

Audi A5? I loved these when they first came out. I still like them. There’s a 2.0l petrol option with reasonable economy I’d consider. I love the amber/terracotta leather they do in one model… but otherwise the interior is a tad dull. Would an A5 be ‘interesting’ enough for me?

I considered the more luxurious options… how about a Lexus? Nothing takes my fancy. A Merc? The CLC is quite nice… more sporty than most Mercs. The problem I’d found before is that most Mercs are autos, and I prefer a manual gearbox. However, the CLC does come in a manual version. There’s a good range of engines, with power and MPG figures in the acceptable ball park… should I get a Merc?

Quite possibly. But how about a Jag? I’d love to own a Jaaaaag (the way Jeremy Clarkson pronounces it). The XF is a lovely looking car – although I prefer the facelifted front end version, and that’s out of my price range. The other issue is the engine options; realistically the only desirable option for me is the 3 litre diesel. This is one time I’d consider a diesel again – 240bhp and 42mpg? Sounds great! The other issue though with the XF is that’s its an auto only car.

So a diesel, and an auto? Not really my cuppa tea, luv.

There’s something about the XF though, something unshakable. Perhaps I should test drive one, just to be sure.

Desirable... the car's not bad, either (GT86)
Desirable… the car’s not bad, either

What about my good old friend Toyota? I’ve already had a Celica – and they’re too outdated now… it’s replacement is the GT86. I would love a GT86… that’s right up my street. But they are still too new, and expensive. I will have to wait a few more years.

Then I found a car I would never had considered before…