The development of the financial markets over the past twenty years has led to a wide range of products and services that can help us handle all our money matters.
Sometimes the choices are bewildering and sorting out the essential from the desirable and the best value from the expensive can be devilishly hard.
Furthermore, many of the offers that look attractive on the surface can turn out to be expensive in the long run once the introductory offers have expired, so making sure that the product chosen suits the need you have is important.
Comparison websites that cover all the financial services products can play an extremely valuable role in saving time and comparing products on a like for like basis.
Banking services, for many, mean a mortgage, insurance, current account, loans and credit cards. Added to that may be the need for a savings account where a rainy day fund can be managed.
As you can see, that is already a bewilderingly large number of services, so any expert help and advice to sift through the many offers has to be advantageous.
Financial service providers depend on consumer inertia to make money and, generally speaking, people do not move bank accounts or apply for new credit cards once they already have them.
That means that banks and other providers are able to charge high prices for borrowing and low rates for saving for those accounts that have been open for some time.
To get hard earned money working best, the consumer has to be prepared to shop around and take advantage of the many offers as they arise.
There is a balance, however, as constantly applying for new accounts, cards or savings accounts can adversely affect the credit record and the providers will determine that you are a savvy shopper and may decline your business.
So the art is to be clever. It is not possible to take advantage of all the offers, so make sure to optimize what works best.
Take credit cards, for example. There are many interest free transfer deals available on comparison sites such as Moneysupermarket, but ensure you are getting the best free period linked to the lowest fee charged and, if you plan to use the card for forward purchases, the lowest interest rate.
No balance transfer card comes truly free, so carefully calculating the cost of the fee versus the length of the free period is important. Ideally, a balance transfer card can give an interest free period in which to pay off the balance without incurring new spend at their high rates of interest.
As a rule of thumb most online accounts offer better deals, so online banking is usually the way to go.
Savings and insurance are other complex areas where care is needed to make sure that the best combination of either rates or cover are achieved. With inflation exceeding most savings rates, getting every last penny of interest can make a big difference over time.
As with all shopping, it pays to browse the market before choosing which products to buy but, unfortunately, that takes time, even though much of the hard graft has been done by experts to make the task easier.
Timing can also be important as offers come to the market and can expire quickly, so keeping an eye to the market by regularly checking the options can improve the chances of getting the best deals.