Getting the Bank Account that is Right for You

Finance 1 Comment »

Recently I discovered first hand how setting up a bank account as a new customer can be fairly tricky and without the proper guidance can often feel quite daunting at times.

I would have always have suggested an account upgrade would have been a preferable option for many, but as I recently found out this is not always possible. Your bank may not be able to give you the account options you are after, or the options you want may require a monthly fee at your existing branch when they could be free with another bank meaning you may have to move banks.

One such example could include persons holding a basic workers account, essentially a first account given to a person often under 18’s. Some of these accounts don’t provide a debit cared which can be used online or on the high street.

It was only this week that as a result of this scenario somebody I knew had to visit a cash point prior to going shopping, at which time the cash point broke leaving the person cardless and cashless. This all happened because they weren’t provided with a debit card on their account, something I would suggest in this digital age is a pretty basic, not to mention essential facility these days.

As in this case I experienced that some people still have these accounts at the age of 21 (although they are essentially children’s account) because there banks have failed to upgrade their account despite good levels of weekly/ monthly earnings being paid into the account on a regular basis.

It is also the case that when you phone up the appropriate people they seen somewhat short and reluctant to fulfil your enquiry as you are not deemed a premier customers. I get the feeling that some banks are reluctant to offer new free accounts. In the words of a personal banker on my last visit to a high street bank “I think we will see an end to free banking in the next two years”.

So where does this leave people who need a bank account in order to be paid, require the facility of a debit card with it to pay for goods and services and don’t have a need for all the extras that are provided with an account with a monthly fee.

It may well be that you have to bite the bullet and move banks to find an account that is right for you, but my feeling is you have to be fairly careful when opening up a new bank account and ensure you new account is opened before the old one shut down else you could end up accountless. For many this would mean no channel through which to receive wages!

There are several big name high street banks such as Barclays and Nationwide that still offer suitable free accounts. I also found this one from HSBC that fits the above criteria.
This bank offer a range of account options and their standard bank account is a current account with free banking, internet banking facility and debit card.

It may be the case that this particular scenario doesn’t echo your problem, in which case further digging is needed I’m afraid. I did however find this additional information on the FSA website for those people in need of some clarification of which type of account is best for them.

Basic bank account
Suitable if you want to make sure you don’t go overdrawn or you might not get through the bank’s credit check to open a current account.

Current account
Suitable if you want more than a basic bank account can offer you.

Savings account
Suitable if you want to set money aside for a purchase or expense that you know will come up fairly soon (like a holiday or a deposit on a house), and you may need to get at the money quickly.

Using Mobile Phone Contracts To Your Advantage

Finance, Mobile 2 Comments »

A freak accident occurred this weekend which left me without the use of a mobile phone. For the past five years or so I have mulled along with my present phone provider 02 which by and large has been more than satisfactory, collecting annual handset upgrade as and when they are available to me. Thanks to my handset being rendered useless however I was now in a position where I would be paying a monthly line rental fee for the remaining 7 months without actually being able to use my included minutes. Not only this, but the thought of seven months without mobile was not an option, being that it is essentially my only point of contact.

I did have the option of claiming off my mobile insurance, but with a £20 excess and lengthy claims process, I was looking down other avenues. It was then that somebody told me of the recent trend of third party mobile operators buying existing contracts out in order to get you to switch mobile phone networks.

After hearing about this option I popped into my local Jag shop at around 5.00pm on a Saturday and was quickly approached by two sales assistants attempting to make their last sale of the day. It is worth pointing out that I am very much a sceptic with scenarios like this, and in the past have mainly sorted out similar contracts online, allowing me to make a decision somewhat impartially without the sale banter that is thrown around in store.

As the friendly formalities passed I explained my situation and was promptly passed a sequence of four handsets, the Sony Ericsson K850i, W910i, a newer Nokia offering and the Samsung U700, pretty much the latest models currently available. I hadn’t recently looked at the latest offerings but they are newer models of popular handsets that I had previously come across, including my own the Sony Ericsson W850i.

Having seven months left on my contract the next step was to make a quick call to my existing mobile network provider. Currently on a the Online 30, a £30 monthly contract providing 400 talk minutes and 1150 texts, I was offered each handset on an Orange 18 month contract at a cost of £35 providing 500 minutes and up to 3,000 text messages. How anybody could go through the required 100 text messages a day and use 3,000 texts a month however bemused me.

So the drawback so far was entering into another contract, but as mentioned I would be likely to do so in seven months time anyway. Second my existing line rental still had to be paid. The next step was informing me that I would have to downgrade my current 02 contract to the Online 20, £20 a month, and they would give me the £140 cash up front to pay the remainder of the contract.

By including an up to date handset free of charge, and £140 cash back I couldn’t help but wonder where the money was for them. The entire contract would cost £630, minus the cash back leaves £390. Take the handset that retails for £299.95 on Pay as you Go, that leaves £90 for an 18 month contract. In terms of profit for the Orange this is more likely to take around the £340 mark over the 18 months as they possibly pay £50 a handset.

This still means that I receive an enhanced package for under £18 a month, which goes to Orange and for that they have to provide 500 talk minutes and near unlimited texts on my service. If text messages are deemed free this means for every anytime talk minute included on the package Orange will receive 0.27 pence. This doesn’t seem a lot to me.

To make things even better value three months insurance and a range of handset extras are also thrown in.

Add on top my existing insured handset retails for £100, and when the eventual claim came through if sold for £50 it would be the equivalent of nearly three months free line rental. Not stopping there the figures look even further out of Orange’s favour when you consider the option of reducing my contract after 12 months to £20 in a similar fashion, and moving to another network in tweleve months being bought yet out again.

After mulling this over I did ask the shop assistants where they make their money, not that I would believe their answer but having done my fair share of sales I find it interesting to see their response to such an awkward question. The response I got was that it was better to make a little profit than nothing at all, and at the moment it is more a numbers game with a drive to get people on to Orange in the hope of contract renewals in the future as opposed to short term profits. :|

I am interested to gage people’s opinions and similar experiences, as even as a sceptic, this deal looks very much in favour of the consumer.

Mobile Data Privacy

Finance No Comments »

With so many different mobile phone contracts and pre-pay packages available how do you know you are getting the best deal? One new scheme from Blyk is challenging the traditional format and is now offering completely free phone services to its customers. Instead of a monetary fee, the price users pay in return for free minutes and texts is agreeing to receive a daily quota of targeted adverts.

As part of the deal customers must agree to receive personalised advertisements matched to information that is provided when the account is set up. Customers must provide information on spending habits, planned online purchases and either passport or driving licence information. The offer is also only available to 16-24 year olds which clearly outlines Blyks target demographic.

This deal comes after recent articles have been released detailing how mobile phone companies are readdressing network policies, moving increasingly toward a system that enables them to better monitor messages and voice exchanges in order to compile accurate user information which in turn can be sold to advertisers.

Although any plans are in the very early stages, mobile networks have suggested that any technology used to monitor customer preferences could include an opt out clause, however no guarantees have been made. The Data Protection Act does currently restrict the use of personal data by mobile phone companies and they cannot pass on information to a third party without the consent of that person. However there are also ethical issues with such a technology, and the potential for this technology to be abused is a big worry for many.

Motorola are already said to have developed technology that can scan text messages for details on customer location and activity. This technology could enable keywords such as ‘Food’ or ‘Hungry’ to be scanned in text messages and as a result an advert for a local restaurant, in relation to the mobiles emitted GPS data, could be served to the users handset.

We can already see how exsisting models serving personalised adverts as a result of archieved user data have proved lucrative in the area of internet search, and many social networks are also devising such a model. As a result of recent developments in mobile search, information collected from mobile users would essentially create a gold mine for network providers, and as the web experience greatly improves on the mobile over the coming year this data could be harvested.

Some estimates predict the market for mobile advertising will exceed £5.5 billion by 2011, and companies willing to part with information on user trends would certainly receive a large slice of that pie.

With these estimates I’m guessing Blyk may be the first, buy will certainly not be the only network to offer the delivery of adverts to the mobile handsets of customers in return for cheaper or even free services. For now I’ll keep my personal data off limits and pay my monthly contract fee.

BoKlok – flat-pack housing?

Finance No Comments »

Do you, like so many people find yourself wanting to get onto the property ladder but simply cannot afford the practicality of buying your own home? If you are from the south west where the biggest deficit between average wage and house prices can be found then you could forgive yourself for being even more disheartened. Just remember that feeling when reading the following and perhaps you will take it that little bit more seriously.

Earlier in October of this year a new type of house went up for grabs on Tyneside, and costing £150,000 gave low income earners the chance to buy their own homes. The houses on offer are provided by the infamous home improvement store Ikea, and have aptly been nick named ‘flat-pack homes’.

The BoKlok – Swedish for live smart – structures as they are correctly known are timber framed and have low living costs. Each coming with a small plot of land and shared garden they are said to create unique communities and a safe environment that is particularly attractive to families.

Although new to the UK these properties are already well established in Sweden where they first appeared ten years ago in 1997. In 2002 they spread to Norway, the following year to Finland and then to Denmark in 2004, demonstrating the success of the BoKlok throughout Scandinavia. After the addition of the 92 square metre BoKlok villa in Sweden in 2005, it seems the planned apartments for Tyneside are yet another expansion of this popular housing product.

The initial sixty BoKlok houses being built in the UK will only be available to those earning between £15,000 and £35,000 who are not already homeowners. Although topping out at £150,000 there are a range of flats and townhouses available with up to three bedrooms from only £99,500.

As well as this initial build of sixty houses, approval has also been granted for a further 57 BoKlok properties on Tyneside. released on the 22 October, Alan Prole, Managing Director of Live Smart @ Home, the developer of the product said

“The first blocks of flats are already going up at St James and will be ready to move in to by the end of January next year, and now we will be able to build the houses, which will be particularly attractive to families,”

Although much is made of the lack of progress made by the government when it comes to affordable housing, I am glad to see one such innovative idea come out of the private sector that gives people the chance to get on the property ladder.

PCC Mobile Valet

Finance 3 Comments »

Keeping a car tidy can be a real challenge. There is no greater frustration than investing in a new car and seeing general wear and tear lead to a significant drop in the resale value. With the very nature of the motor industry the price deflation of a purchased car is expected, but I recently heard of a service that can help reduce this to an acceptable level.

A close friend tried a mobile valet service recently on his new VW Golf GTI and was extremely impressed with the service they provided. Although his vehicle was by no means in desparate need of attention, it was typical of a small family and as such had been neglected since its purchase. There were a few stains on the back seat and the time for a thorough wash and wax had passed.

A quick call to the PCC boys resulted in the scheduling of an appointment time convenient with him, and the subsequent arrival a smart mobile valet van with a selection of valet options on offer.

This mobile valet was a service I hadn’t previously heard of. The idea of bringing a valet to the car owner seemed a fairly simply one, yet was the grounding of a service I didn’t realise even existed. It seemed logical that those who didn’t have the time or energy to clean their own car would benefit greatly from it.

The valets on offer started at an Express valet which entailed a wash, wax, wheel clean and leather dry, to a Premier Plus valet which included services such as an upholstery and carpet shampoo and Roof lining clean.

Very good service at very competitive prices, and would recommend them to anybody who doesn’t find time to pay that extra bit of TLC to their car.

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