It’s five years today since I declared myself bankrupt. As of today, I’m in the final year of it being on my record – and who knows what’ll happen from there.
It’s been a tough process, and it’s not one I’d recommend to anyone else – if nothing else, I’m pretty sure that most people going through it would also end up losing a lot more than I did – but for me, it’s worked out for the best.
I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts along the way, and will end up writing another post for a year’s time, when it’s finally all done and dusted.
Over the last week or so, I’ve been trying something new (well, new-ish) in the financial sector – Monzo.
I’ve been aware of a few of this type of “new banking” start-ups of late, but Monzo interested me when I read this article that talked about how closely it kept track of payments, and their whole customer service set-up. In my own experience with banks, it’s customer service that is their greatest weakness, so I’m interested in how other ‘non high-street’ new financial organisations address it.
At the moment it’s “only” a pre-paid credit card option, driven entirely through a smartphone app – but they’ve got their banking licence, and are aiming to be starting a current account as well, again all driven through smartphone apps.
So far, the experience has been pretty good. (Note – for purposes of this, I used my iPhone – I can’t say anything at all about the Android version) I got the app through the App Store, and went through the initial stages. Basically, just a name and date-of-birth for verification purposes, and then they order your card.
This took some time – but the expectations were managed all the way through, showing the queue of applicants, where I was in that queue, how many people were before me, and how many after. Now, my cynicism kicks in slightly here, as I noticed that the number of applicants always stayed around the 25,000 mark, so it *could* just be a steady flow of incoming customers, or it *could* be all smoke-and-mirrors guff to make me think they know what they’re up to.
It took about four days to get to the top of the queue (I could’ve jumped places if I’d promoted Monzo on social media, but frankly, fuck off) and once that happened, I got a notification to say so. This was where the identity stuff came in, and needed address details, plus an in-app photo of driving licence for proof-of-address, and a 5-second video to prove I’m real.
I’ve done an initial top-up (of a completely manageable amount – if the entire thing turns out to be a scam, I won’t be screwed) and the card has been sent to my home address. It’s due to arrive today, at which point I’ll have to connect it to the app – slightly annoying, as surely they know all the necessary details already – and then it should be ready to go.
I’ll write more about it in a month or so, once I’ve used it and seen how I feel about the entire thing. So far, though, it’s been an interesting and positive experience – I hope it continues to be so!
So far, this year has involved a number of customer service clusterfucks, some of which I’ve mentioned on here, and it looks like a number of those issues are now on the way to being sorted, thankfully.
That list includes
- The Cat boots – successfully returned to manufacturer, and a replacement pair are (apparently) on the way
- The Credit Card company – seems to be sorted, with outstanding issues rectified.
- My Accountants – this has been something that’s been ongoing for a year or more, where they’re just ridiculously slack and uncommunicative. If it weren’t for the fact that they’ve been free (for the last 18 months!) then I’d have moved on well before now.
The free stuff is a story of its own, but basically when I complained to director level at the end of 2015, they told me I wouldn’t be charged until they’d fixed the issues. Eighteen months later, the issues are still there, although having had some productive conversations with the Operations Director, I think they’re turning the corner at last!
- BT – Hopefully, that’ll be sorted today. The engineer is due between 8am and 1pm, and fingers crossed things will be sorted.
There’s a couple of other things coming up that so far seem positive, but I’m waiting for them to come through properly before I write about them.
All told though, yeah, it’s all feeling a bit more fixed and positive.
A couple of months ago, I got a letter from one of my credit cards (well, from the company behind one of my credit cards, to be pedantic/accurate) telling me they wanted to upgrade my credit limit, and if I wanted to accept, drop them a line.
I was OK with that, so I confirmed the upgrade, and it got applied to my account two and a half months ago. (That’s relevant in a minute)
This weekend, I got a text message confirming that my upgrade was being processed. Then on Monday I got a letter, also confirming the same thing.
Now, one of the main things you’re always told by card companies is to get in touch with them if you start getting unexpected letters from them, and particularly when it’s either replacement cards, or stuff about credit limits. Additionally, with my own credit history I’m more aware of these things.
I gave the card company a call yesterday, and it did not go well.
First of all, the person I spoke to seemed to think she was working in a different department, and her first question was “What are you going to offer us?” (I’m assuming she’s usually in debt recovery or something, or dealing with people who are going to say they’re in the shit)
I explained that I had concerns about my credit limit, because…
“Your credit limit is £[x]. Anything else?”
“Yes, I’ve got concerns about the security of my account. As you’ve shown no interest in even listening, let along caring, I’d now like to speak to your manager, please.”
*Huge sigh* “I’ll just look at your account activity”
“No, I’m not happy with you doing that. I’d like to speak to your manager, please. And the sigh is not helping things.”
*Pause, and then another huge sigh* “I’ll see what I can do, but I need to check your ID and activity”
“No, I’m not happy with you doing that. I’d like to speak to your manager, now, please”
“I’ll see whether I can find someone”
I did eventually get to speak to a manager, who sorted out that there *had* been a problem in the card company’s processes, but there was no evidence that the account was compromised. I also left a complaint about the first person, because their attitude sucked so hugely.
I don’t expect anything else to come of it, but it’s all reported and dealt with, and I’m happy with how things stand, so at least it’s had a fairly positive outcome.
Amazingly, I’ve been in the current house for five years today. How time flies when you’re having fun, and all that piss.
As it stands, this is now the longest I’ve been in any one place since I moved out of the parental home. It’s certainly not my “forever” place (whatever the hell that means) but it does suit me for the moment – and even admitting that feels kind of weird.
There are two significant reasons why I’m more settled here than pretty much anywhere else I’ve lived…
- The location. To coin a cliche, it’s easy to get away from (as I’ve said before) with the M1 for North-South travel, and the A421 for East-West, both within easy reach. It gives me plenty of options, and lets me be away from here on a regular basis while still having somewhere that’s easy to come back to. Compared to (for example) living in Norfolk and Suffolk where it was an hour to get out of the damn county – or onto decent dual carriageway – and this is just easy. Because of that, I’m not keeping on thinking about where would suit me better.
- The finances. While I’m doing a lot better now, and could easily fund a move, it’s more about the credit-checking and so on that would go with any new tenancy. At the moment, I’d likely faily it (or at the least it would cause problems) so it’s easier to stay here. That wouldn’t stop me from moving if I really wanted to – but because of Reason One, that’s not currently the case. And without an urgency to it, why cause myself more problems or hassle than I need to?
As things stand, my tenancies expire in November – because the first tenancy was just six months, and then they’ve extended as 12-month ones. The bankruptcy comes off my record in August 2018. Unless things change radically in the meantime, I think I’ll be here ’til then, and from there I’ll see how I go. So the odds are, another 18 months here, and who knows after that?
On Friday evening, while I was out for a meal, I paid using the card for one of my Barclays accounts. That transaction, while all went OK, had traits that felt… odd. Wrong. Or at least just Not Quite Right.
So I called the bank straight after, and cancelled the card with immediate effect. That took a bit of explanation, as “I want to cancel the card from right now, no more transactions” apparently still needs discussion, and a whole bit of scripted text from the bank about “With the card cancelled, you won’t be able to use it”. (Well yeah, that’s why I’ve cancelled the cocking thing.) But I assume they’ve had to deal with morons in the past who’ve cancelled the card and then complained they couldn’t use it for something.
Anyway, they told me my replacement card would be sent out as soon as possible, and all that jazz – all fine, I’m just happier knowing that I’ve handled it to the best of my abilities, should that transaction have turned out to be as dodgy as it felt like it could’ve been.
When I got home last night, there was the new card.
And I can’t deny, I’m impressed with that – a card that’s been requested in the late evening (10pm-ish) on a Friday, and is delivered on the Monday? Not bad going at all.
While Barclays have their moments of driving me absolutely crackers – and that’s still going through the Financial Ombudsman, so I assume Barclays are being dicks with the Ombudsman as well – I can’t deny that some of their systems are also pretty bloody good.
[Updated to mention : Having looked back, it turns out it’s not the first time I’ve been impressed by this replacement card system]