Changes, Privilege, and Good Fortune

Every so often, in situations like this week’s need to organise a change of cars, I sit back and realise just how lucky I am.

Ten years ago I was just out of my official bankruptcy period, with another five years to come with it still on my credit record. I was doing OK, but something like this week would still have made life interesting. (As it was, I did have to go through a car change while in that bankruptcy period, but thankfully got through it OK because the administration people were excellent)

It’s taken a long time, but everything since then has been in a positive direction, and I’m happy with it all.  It leaves me somewhat gobsmacked that now I can again pay for a car on a credit card (and once everything’s gone through, I’ll move it all to an interest-free balance-transfer card)  with no real hassle.

Hopefully the new car will also not need anything major for a while (fingers epically crossed!) which will also help a lot.

Obviously, it’s more debt than I’d ideally like to be in – but it’s feasible/affordable, and I can sort the rest.  It might even give me some impetus for getting some other things off the ground and get some extra income that way.  We’ll see.

Regardless though, it’s good to have these occasional reminders that I’m fortunate enough to be in a good place, and simply appreciate that simple fact.

Finance Trials

Over the last few months I’ve been intermittently fighting with two different finance companies about their shitty ways of handling things. I’m not going to name names (yet) so it’ll be “Company A” and “Company B”

Company A

The shorter of the disputes started back in June when I logged in to the app for their credit card, and discovered that my credit limit had dropped from around £6,000 to £1,000.  With no notice or warning. Which is, it’s fair to say, a bit of a concern…

I rang them (I know, old school!) to find out what was going on, and was told “Oh, well you weren’t using your full credit limit, so we dropped it”.  Which is, to be honest, well within their rights – I wasn’t using it, and *shrug*.  But it’s still not right to do so without any notice or warning – if they’re increasing the limit they give you 30 days notice and allow you to decline the change, so why not do the same for a decrease?

I got the change rescinded, but made a complaint about how it had been done. There could’ve been any number of reason why I might’ve been relying on that card/limit that Company A were unaware of (if I’d been getting the car significantly repaired, as one example) and where a sudden drop would’ve landed me in the shit.  (Fortunately that wasn’t the case – but they didn’t know that)

Alongside that, a drop in credit limit would almost certainly have a negative effect with the credit-scoring people – at a bare minimum it would have raised the Credit Utilisation percentage (the amount of your available credit that you’re actually using)  But it also makes other lenders twitchy – that whole perception of “why would Company A drop the limit if they didn’t think there was a problem?” and so on, and would’ve lessened my credit score as a result.

I got the response from them last week that my complaint wasn’t being upheld “because we can’t find any errors in how we administered your account”.  Which again is (kinda sorta) true/fair. Errors weren’t made in the decisions (although who ever heard of a credit card company decreasing a limit?!?)  But errors were definitely made in how that decision was then actioned, which was the actual reason for the complaint.

So today that’s gone off to the Financial Ombudsman for them to have a look at.

Company B

Company B’s problem has been *far* more long-winded.  Back in December I had fraudulent transactions made on the card, which got spotted and reported.  No idea where that leak came from, as it wasn’t a card I used often, but there we go. Stuff happens.

When I next used the app, as a result of the fraud, I had a flag put on for “heightened security”. Just to check it was me, verify transactions etc. And then they sent me a new card (as expected)

Only somewhere in that process, things went tits-up.  I went through the “heightened security” checks, validated myself, had to call them (I know, old school again!) and that should’ve been that.  But instead, the app locked up, and stayed that way – every time I went through the process for registering the new card in the app, it froze on insisting I needed to give those checks again. I did that four times, with Company B saying each time that they couldn’t understand why it was still wanting those checks, I’d definitely already done them.

I *suspect* that what happened was a clash – the “heightened security” was on the old card, which then got cancelled, but somewhere in the depths of their system, it wasn’t cleared in my account. So when I registered new card, it was still checking back and seeing that flag from old card.

Anyway, complaints (yes, plural) were made – firstly because of how badly it was handled (they agreed, and I got their default compensation payment) and then because the problem was *still* ongoing three months later, I couldn’t log in to the app.  That ended up going through their app support team, who might as well have been a black hole for all I heard from them.  And so I gave up for a while, and left it. I wasn’t using the card, didn’t have any payments to make, so *shrug* what the hell. Their problem, not mine.

Last week I reinstalled the app again, just to see. It’d been six months, after all…

And lo, it finally worked.  No-one from Company B had been in touch, despite those outstanding complaints and support issues, but at least it was working.

I got back in touch with Complaints because not being told was a bit shit, and they agreed. (In an hour-long phone call)  It hadn’t been handled well, the support team were rotten, blah blah.

So I’ve had another default compensation payment out of them, and it’s now all done and dusted.


All told, life could be worse.  I’m stupidly lucky to be in the position I’m in now, where neither of those issues has actually caused me any more inconvenience than yelling “Oh for fuck’s sake” on a regular basis.

But both of these companies are supposedly specialists in dealing with people with credit issues – as I was when I got them – yet haven’t seemed to have any real insight on how these issues could/would affect someone who truly was still having those issues, or anyone for whom life was a bit tight at present. (and god, who *isn’t* in that situation to some degree or other – even if it’s “just” being aware of how much prices have risen and so on?)

As such, I’ll be the person to use that fortune/luck and privilege to be able to have the time and energy to raise these complaints and hopefully make things better as a whole.

But really, neither of these things should ever have been as much of a problem as they turned out to be.  And that’s what makes it all so frustrating.

Credit Check

Since the bankruptcy, I’ve used a couple of free services – Credit Karma (which used to be Noddle) and ClearScore – to keep track of my credit score.  It’s always been interesting, seeing what things affect the score and what doesn’t.  (For example, moving dropped it by a good 150 points until I was verified on the new electoral roll and so on)

Part of those services is the alerting, that tells you when your record has been searched (either a soft-search or a hard-search, which have different effects on the record) which is also useful in helping to prevent scams – you’ll be told if someone has tried to create a new loan or bank account for you, for example. Obviously this is A Good Thing.

This week I got an alert from Credit Karma about a soft search of my record, which was a warning sign as I hadn’t done any credit searches or applications.

So I logged in to Credit Karma, checked the alerts and yes, there was a search there.

By Credit Karma.

So for some convoluted reason, they’d decided to alert me about the fact that they had themselves been doing a (fully expected) soft search.

Sometimes I just despair of these things…

Christmas Debts

This week, the BBC has had a couple of pieces about Christmas Debt – the people who’ve overspent, or put Christmas purchasing entirely on credit cards etc., and now don’t know how it’ll be paid off.

According to that piece, in a poll of people who used credit to help get through Christmas and the holiday season, a third of them said they were not confident about their ability to repay what they’d borrowed.  And that’s pretty scary.

You can open up the Excel Spreadsheet from that survey here : The BBC News Cost of Living Survey, Jan 2023. (It’s not mine, I got it from a link in that feature about Cost of Living and so on, but it’s a useful reference point)

Now I’ll admit that I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for people who overspend and/or borrow in order to “have a good Christmas”, but equally I do understand that lots of people feel pressure to do that, to make everything “ideal and perfect and shiny and happy” despite whatever is going on under the surface, and to hell with the cost.  I understand that even more when they have children, and the thought of a bleak Christmas can be too much to handle. (Although it’s entirely beyond me why it’s too much to handle a bleak festival of gifts but OK-ish to have a bleak year as a result of paying off those presents)

But all the same, I don’t quite get that whole thing of “We’re going to buy these things even though we’ve no idea how we’ll actually pay them off“. Even in my own worst times, I wasn’t in that situation – when I bought stuff, I knew how I’d pay things off, and what I was committing to, and I was managing that as best I could until the time when I couldn’t.

It’s a terrifying situation to be in, to see those bills coming in and knowing that they can’t be paid. (Although, as always, it’s better to talk to the lenders and explain the situation, rather than hiding or running away) My own debts were the result of furnishing houses, rather than buying the latest/greatest gadgets, or just “whatever was cool” – I imagine it’s even worse when you’ve actually not even got anything to show for it other than the ephemeral “but everyone had a good Christmas”.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, really. Life’s expensive and complex enough for everyone at the moment, and we all know it – so I just don’t quite get why some people are so willingly throwing themselves even further into the shit for no really good reason.


Credit Clusterfuckery

Over the last few years (well, really since the bankruptcy) I’ve kept a fairly close eye on my credit score – mainly using ClearScore (who use Equifax data) and CreditKarma (which used to be Noddle, and use TransUnion’s data). Both services are free in perpetuity, and have done a pretty good job so far.

Anyway, back in 2019 I’d put a few things on credit (intentionally) and then merged it all onto one interest-free balance-transfer card which gave me a longer term to pay things off.  And my credit score went super-high, and has stayed there since.

In the last couple of months, I’ve completely paid that off, and all my cards now have a zero balance – which is a pretty good feeling, I can’t deny.  It’s always been well within my means, but still, it’s nice to be completely clear.

However, that’s had a significant knock-on effect on my score – because I owe nothing, my credit score has dropped by about 10% this month.  I know it kind-of sort-of makes sense, that they ‘can’t gauge my indebtedness’ if that figure is zero, but it also means that I could utilise 100% of my income to go into credit, yet somehow that’s less valuable. As is, of course, the perfect record for borrowing and paying back.  (Albeit without paying any bloody interest whatsoever)

All of which goes to show, yet again, that credit-scoring really is a monumental load of old bollocks.

Gradual Improvements

Over the last couple of months, I’ve slowly been upgrading some things around the house.  Nothing major, but a few things had started breaking or failing, so it’s made sense to replace them with better versions.

Among other things, a lot of my cookware was on the way out – my main frying pad had buckled (my own fault for thermal-shocking it too many times), my baking trays were grim and no longer non-sticking, and my wok had gone horrible with rust.  So I’ve replaced them all with better things – and in fairness, none of those bits was less than a decade old anyway, so it’s not like I’ve not had my money’s worth out of them.

This weekend, I’ve also replaced the main lamp in my living room.  I’ve had a (revoltingly cheap) uplighter for six years, that I bought while bankrupt, when the previous one’s halogen bulb died. I think it cost me £20, and it was ridiculously wobbly, but did the job – and has done the job for that six years without fail, and without any replacement bulbs.

However, during the week it started buzzing – not just from the bulb, but also from the switch, and to me, that’s not a thing where it’s wise to keep it going. So I had a look round for something new, and ended up with an interesting LED light that offers a range of white-balance colours, as well as being able to move lighting to my requirements and so on. It wasn’t the cheapest, and the lamps aren’t replaceable in the same way as a ‘normal’ bulb would be, but there’s also very little that can break, so we’ll see. Regardless though, I’m really pleased with it at the moment.

All told, I’m happy with how things are going – I’m not paying out stupid amounts for things, but I’m also not staying at the cheapest levels, because I simply don’t need to. Hopefully all these new bits will last me another eight to ten years minimum, and god only knows where we’ll all be by then…

Into 2020

It’s been interesting (for no good reason other than that this is a year that ends in a zero) to look back at what was going on this time ten years ago.

It’s fair to say that a lot has changed in that time – albeit none of it recently.

Back then I was still in Norfolk, and working in Bury St Edmunds (and I did keep the promise to stick with the one workplace for the full year of 2010)  I’d just had the first (and still only) accident of my driving career, sliding on ice onto a set of concrete fence posts, which did a blinding job of twatting the front nearside.

So in that ten years, I’ve

  • split with Herself, had another shorter-term relationship, and been single now for much longer than either one.
  • moved four times – and been in one place (the current one) for far longer than anywhere else I’ve ever lived since leaving home
  • changed jobs more times than I care to think about (I could work it out, but truly can’t be chuffed) and been doing the current one for far longer than I ever expected
  • been through the whole bankruptcy process, and come out the other side
  • been to more plays and theatre things than I’d ever have thought I’d have been to
  • and the same for restaurants – Michelin-starred and otherwise. This time ten years ago, I’d not been to any Michelin places – that happened in mid-2010, and I wasn’t impressed at the time. Maybe I should go back there, maybe not.
  • changed car twice, and rented a bundle of others as needs directed

There’s a lot of other stuff – it’s interesting to see how a lot of the things I wanted to change then that I still want to change now, for example – and I’ll write more about that elsewhere/elsewhen.

It’s a whole new decade out there (and I can’t be arsed with the argument about whether that’s 2020 or 2021, so don’t bother) and it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.