Eleven things happening in March that will hit your finances – including the end of Covid sick pay and job support

HOUSEHOLDS have been hit with interest rate rises and warnings about higher energy bills this month but March isn't looking any calmer for your finances.

Here are the key changes that will hit your wallet during March.

Families may be looking forward to warmer months as spring begins in March.

Many will be pleased to see the back of February after interest rates rose and the energy price cap was increased.

But households are still facing a cost of living crisis as well as uncertainty over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which is predicted to push up the already rising energy bills.

Additionally, the remaining Covid financial support will be removed during March as restrcitions fully lift.

Here are the dates to look out for and how it will affect your finances.

Rail fares increase – March 1

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Commuters will be hit with the largest increase in rail fares for a decade in March.

Rail fares are set to rise by 3.8% from March 1.

The rise has been tied to the July retail price index, which is lower than the most recent inflation figures of 5.5%.

Following the increase, an annual commute from Oxford to London including a London travelcard will increase by £245 to £6,700.

A yearly ticket from Tunbridge Wells to London including travel card will rise by more than £220 to £6,033.

Virgin Media price hikes – March 1

Most broadband providers are due to increase their monthly fees from April.

But Virgin Media customers are set for price hikes from March 1.

Bills for 2022 are set to rise by almost £5 a month or £56.40 for the year.

Customers have reported being able to arrange discounts by phoning Virgin Media.

Mortgage variable rates to increase – March 1

Mortgage borrowers on a lender's default deal or tracker product could see their monthly payments rise from March.

The Bank of England hiked interest rates at the start of February for the second month in a row.

Anyone on a tracker mortgage, which typically follows the base rate, will be hit with higher payments from this month.

Additionally, many lenders use interest rates as a benchmark for their default standard variable rates (SVRs).

These are rates charged to customers who have come to the end of a fixed period and haven't moved to a new deal.

At least six lenders have confirmed to The Sun that their SVR will increase from March including Barclays, Santander and Lloyds.

For example, the Barclays SVR is due to increase from 4.74% to 4.99%.

Bank of England interest rate decision – March 18

Mortgage borrowers could get hit with another rate hike just as they get used to new monthly repayments.

The Bank of England's monetary policy committee is due to meet on March 18 for its latest interest rate decision.

It has already increased rates for two consecutive months and the base rate is currently at 0.5%.

The cost of living remains high at 5.5%, way above the Bank of England's 2% target and the central bank has warned there are more rate hikes to come.

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine and fears of rising energy prices as a a result of the war may restrict the Bank of England's next action as it looks to limit stock market volatility and the impact on households.

Spring Budget – March 23

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to deliver his latest Budget on March 23 when he will reveal the latest government attempts to balance the books.

It takes place amid most coronavirus restriction being removed, the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Households have already been told about energy bill and council tax support but the red book will be monitored for other positive and negative changes particularly around benefits, tax and pensions.

End of Covid statutory sick pay – March 24

Sick pay rules were altered during the pandemic for workers.

If you were self isolating with Covid and couldn't work then the payments kicked in from day one.

But the old rules are being reinstated from March 24.

That means workers with any illness, including Covid, will have to wait until the fourth day of being ill before they can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which is £96.35 per week.

It means you'll lose out on cash to help you get by if you fall ill with the virus.

Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claims – March 24

People who are ill or disabled may be eligible for Employment Support Allowanceworth up to £74.70 a week.

The government tweaked the benefit at the start of the pandemic to allow those eligible to make a claim from the first day they were absent from work – instead of the usual eighth.

But this change will be scrapped from March 24 and claimants will have to return to the old system, meaning a longer wait for payments.

Cold Weather Payments end – March 31

Spring may be approaching but you could still get payments if the temperature has plunged in recent months.

Cold Weather Payments worth £25 are dished out to eligible households when temperatures are recorded as zero degrees or below on average for seven consecutive days.

The idea is that these help cope with the extra heating costs for people on low incomes.

More than 4million households have received payments over the past year but March is the final month that they can be sent until next winter.

You’re eligible for the cold weather payment scheme if you’re in receipt of one of the following benefits and meet certain criteria:

  • Pension credit
  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Support for mortgage interest

Warm Home Discount scheme ends – March 31

The Warm Home Discount scheme provides a a one-off payment or money-off bills worth £140 that goes towards heating costs during the winter months.

Claimants on the guarantee element of pension credit will be eligible for the payments as will some people on a low income who get certain means-tested benefits.

You need to check if your supplier offers the discount and apply directly with them.

It has been provided in the past by firms including British Gas, Eon and Shell Energy.

March is the last month for payments during the winter period and some may have already closed their schemes.

Winter fuel payment application deadline – March 31

People of state pension age can get winter fuel payments worth between £100 to £300 depending on their age.

These tax-free payments are sent automatically if you get the state pension.

But you need to apply for the support if you are eligible but haven't taken your state pension yet or if you live abroad in Switzerland or another EEA country.

The deadline to apply for this winter's payment is March 31 2022.

You can make a claim by contacting the Winter Fuel Payment Centre either by post, phone or email.

The contact details will depend on where you live and a full list can be found on the gov.uk website.

Household support fund – March 31

The government launched the Household Support Fund in October 2021 to help low income and vulnerable families through the winter.

A £500 million pot has been distributed to councils that can help eligible claimants with food, heating, white goods and essential repairs.

The amount and level of support will depend on the council, with each given different sums based on their size.

You need to act fast if you want support though as the fund closed at the end of March and many local council schemes have already stopped.

You can find your local council using the search tool on gov.uk – just enter your postcode.

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