D4D

I may not agree with what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.

Archive for the category “Finances”

Something New

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!

Capital Issues

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.

Footwear Fails

For the last twenty-odd years now, I’ve been a pretty loyal wearer of Cat Boots. I’ve always found them to be comfortable – although the quality has gone down significantly over the years, but the price has always remained the same, so I understand why/how that’s happened – and to have a decent build quality that generally lasts me well in comparison to other boots.

However, back in March I bought two pairs from the online shop for Cat boots. All went well – and thankfully I paid by credit card – and I started wearing one of the pairs. All well and good.

However, last week, I started getting blisters on one foot while wearing the boots.  That’s less than three month’s wear, and that’s totally not acceptable. I know I can be tough on boots – I walk a lot, as has been mentioned before – but they haven’t even been worn every day of that time.  So I’m working on the fact that they’re not fit for sale.

I’ve been back in touch with Cat Boots, and returning the boots to Cat this week. We’ll see what they have to say about them.

Mind you, if Cat don’t come back to me satisfactorily, I’ve also still got Section 75 to fall back on – and I’ve already checked with the card company, and got all the documentation and photos I need – so I can go that route instead. Either way, it’ll work out fine from my perspective. Probably less so from Cat’s perspective, but well, we’ll see.

On Being A Cretin

With life taking several turns over the last year, I’d given up a bit on going to the gym.  OK, I’d given up on it a lot. So I’d put my membership on hiatus, paying a small maintenance fee rather than the full monthly amount. (Because while I’m definitely an idiot, as will be shown shortly, I’m not a complete idiot)   It meant I wouldn’t have to pay a re-joining fee etc., and could reactivate things really easily once I was back to being in the mood for it.

Last month, I decided I wanted to get back to going.  Again, a number of reasons, but mainly just realising I wanted to do more, as well as some preparation for my idiot event in September – of which more later.

So I went to the PureGym website, logged in, and reactivated my membership.  Oddly, I had to pay a joining fee again, but I thought I’d just not read the terms and conditions properly, and it’s not a huge amount, so there we go. The proper payment comes out of my bank about a week later, and all good. Job done, I’m going back to the gym from June 1st.

Come June 1st, I look at my bank account, and there’s that maintenance charge again.  Weird.  Maybe it’s connected to that billing cock-up where I paid a joining fee.

So I call PureGym, to try and find what’s going on.  They tell me that the Direct Debit reference I’ve given them isn’t connecting to any of their records, so they’ll need more information from the bank, to know where that DD started, where it’s going etc.   Annoying, but indicative that a significant cock-up has occurred.

I ring the bank, and speak to someone there.  Let’s cancel that under the DD guarantee, here’s the details, it’s a Direct Debit for The Gym…   And a light goes on in my head.   I’m a cretin.

For whatever reason, I’ve got “PureGym” in my head as the one I’m going to. (And it’s one I was a member of, in two different locations)  Only that’s not the one I’m using. I’m using “The Gym”, and that’s where the maintenance payment’s come from. So I’ve re-joined a gym I don’t want, and not restarted the membership of the gym I do want.   For fuck’s sake.

The lady at the bank (having laughed) reinstated the DD for the Gym, and re-paid the money to them that’d gone out that day.  Then I went back to PureGym, explained that I’m a complete idiot, what had happened, and asked if it was possible to get my money and joining fee back from them.  No problem if not, we’d class it as an idiot tax, but if possible it’d be great.

And they did. It’s not a standard thing, but I’d not used the gym, it was still on the first full day of “membership”, and – I suspect most importantly – I’d admitted it was entirely my fault, and that I’m a moron.  (It also made them laugh, which is fine)

All told, I got lucky in many ways.  I’m lucky that (in general) my bank are pretty good on this stuff. I’m lucky that both gyms in question are month-to-month ones rather than contracts. I’m lucky that the people in both cases were nice, and obviously far more used to people shouting and swearing, and making out it’s all Their fault.

I’ve not lost anything (except some self-respect) and it’s all worked out.   But man alive, do I feel like an absolute cretin.

What’s The Plan?

And here we are, at the start of 2017. Didn’t that come round quickly?

As with previous years, I don’t really make resolutions. It’s all pretty arbitrary, the whole resolutions thing, so I usually choose to make plans from one birthday to the next, rather than the whole “January 1st is for new starts” cobblers.

This year, I’ve got some plans for 2017 as a whole though – although they’re not much different to what I’d laid out back in November.  However, in my head, I’ve laid some of these down as being “this year” instead. I don’t quite know why, but it’ll work for me.

So – what are they?  Well, in no particular order…

  • Finances
    • Add a significant amount into the savings
  • Work
    • Figure out what comes next after the current contract (I’m sure that’ll happen at some point in the coming year)
    • Learn some new stuff, because why not?
    • Launch at least one of the projects that’ve been in my head for way too long
  • Writing
    • Complete at least one of the screenplay ideas I’ve started in 2016
    • and then figure out what the hell to do with it/them
    • Complete a book idea I’ve got, and publish it (for Kindle)
  • Health
    • Lose weight (I’ve put some on over the Festering Season, and want to lose that, plus a bit more)
    • Do some training/practice walks for that walking marathon in September
    • and then complete it on the day

And really that’s it. There might be a couple of other projects along the way, but that’s the main objectives, all in one place.

Whether or not they happen, I don’t know. (Obviously, as we’re only on Day One)  But I’m going to give it a damn good go.

 

2016/17 – What’s Next? The Coming Year

As usual, following on from my posts about what’s happened over the last year, it’s time to think about – and write about – what I want to do over the coming year.

Similar to last year, I’m going to keep it fairly simple and open, rather than being too detailed. I’ve got better details in my head, but they’re not going to be written down.

The basic goals are going to be :

  1. Continue rebuilding the finances, and keep boosting the savings
  2. Exercise, improve health, lose weight
  3. Complete September’s walking marathon – ideally in under seven hours. (My target is more ambitious than that, but I’ll be happy with 7 hours)
  4. Write more. (And ideally complete/publish some)
  5. Do more of the ideas around my own business
  6. Get out less.  Ideally, some kind of middle-ground between being ultra-quiet/sensible, and the idiocy of the last year
  7. Look more at some political ideas, and see how that goes. (This one’s the random ‘maybe’ one, I don’ tknow if anything will happen with it or not)

I could go into more detail – although that’s handled more in my notebook of to-do lists and ideas – but for now this’ll cover things.

On first viewings, it should be an interesting year.

 

Replacement Card

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]

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