Friday, 20 July 2012

The UK's Leading Debt Help?


Here at Zero-credit, we're always checking out what professionals say about themselves. We've been Mystery Shopping for online credit and debt help since November 2010 - it's all part of our commitment to making informed choices together.

The Claims Trend
Recently, there's been an increase in claims that "we're the UK's leading debt specialist", so we thought we'd ask you what qualifies someone to state this.

Because we're interested in genuine consumer opinions, we are asking professionals to refrain from taking part. By all means have a look at our questions - we think you'll find them fair - but we will name and shame anyone who tries to play the system...


Monday, 9 July 2012

Back to Basics Banking


We had the good fortune to connect with EUFFI (the European Foundation for Financial Inclusion) on Twitter the other day and we like what they're doing!

Ever since Zero-credit was the seed of an idea, we've been great believers in basic banking (note that MoneyMadeClear is now the Money Advice Service):



The thing is, you simply cannot access basic household goods and services without a bank account these days, so it makes sense to set down in law that banks must provide these.

We've all seen with the recent Cookie Law how much clout the EU can carry, so let's back EUFFI to campaign for a fairer deal for us all.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

??47 million to #Liebor


The face of Jerry del Missier, the man who took £47 million for alleged rate-fixing. In March 2011, the Daily Mail ran an article: Greed 'is good': Anger as Barclays bosses hand themselves up to £47m a head in pay and bonuses - and then claim it's in best interests of Britain. It featured this neat little graphic of executive earnings:


Of course, we could argue whether anyone should earn £47 million, especially from employment in which risks are taken with someone else's money, but that's another debate.

The real question lies in the judgement of an industry prepared to pay such wages without even checking the legality of what staff are doing. Since when were the "best interests" of any country served by lies and deceit?

Until recently, were we told that to toughen regulation would result in an exodus of top talent, yet a century or so ago, such talent would be in exodus to a penal colony.

Homes and businesses may have been lost to the lining of Mr del Missier's pocket, a pocket aggrandized by a whole host of denial in which ordinary people are suffering.

Four years we have been waiting to sort this mess out, yet all we see from Westminster are "vote for me" soundbites and spin. Never mind whether an enquiry is judge-led or parliamentary, get the Serious Fraud Office in, get our money back and give us some justice.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Itching to Switch Bank?

The Barclays LIBOR scandal is just about the last straw for British bank customers.

You don’t have to know what LIBOR is (the interest rate at which banks lend to each other); or whether the fact that banks, including Barclays, were trying to manipulate it meant you paid more or less for your mortgage to be furious that there seem to be no depths to which the banking fraternity will not stoop.

The rate-fiddle came hard on the heels of IT meltdown at RBS and NatWest that locked customers out of their accounts, halted payments and still hasn’t been fully resolved. Benighted customers of RBS subsidiary Ulster Bank have been told that they may have to wait until the end of the month until their accounts are in order.

As an aside, another RBS subsidiary the posh people’s bank Coutts, whose most famous customer is probably The Queen, was unaffected by the computer chaos, which probably tells you something about who gets looked after best in the financial services world while the rest of us fend for ourselves.

So in the wake of all this chaos, anyone in their right mind would want to switch banks or even get out of the banking system altogether, wouldn’t they?

Hey, not so fast. There are some great alternatives to the banks for savings and loans and everyone should check out the building societies and credit unions to see what’s on offer, particularly for loans, where dodgy brokers and payday lenders should definitely be given a wide berth.

But if you want easy access to your cash, direct debits, quick cheque clearance, or international services you can’t beat a bank account.

You can’t really avoid the banks anyway unless you have a current account with Nationwide, the world’s biggest building society. All the other UK building societies bank with a bank. Even the four that in addition to Nationwide offer their own current accounts clear their cheques and stash their cash with a high street clearer. The same goes for credit unions. You’ll get a different type of service from a credit union, but you won’t avoid your money being routed through a bank.
Even Think Banking, which offers paid-for accounts with budgeting assistance for those with credit problems, was hit by the RBS outage because it banks with it.

So what can you do if you are fed up with the big banks? The answer is to play them at their own game and don’t fall for their tricks.

With anything in financial services, the golden rule is to find a solution that suits you personally. Avoid the hard sell and the freebies and get an account that’s right for you. There’s really no point getting “£100 when you sigh up” if you have to pay £1,000 a month into the account to avoid punitive charges and you can’t do this. It’s a waste of time and money paying a monthly fee for an account that gives you “free” mobile phone insurance if you don’t have an expensive phone.

It’s simple really. Get the best rate you can on your savings; avoid rip-off loans and don’t pay charges if you don’t have to - including expensive pre-paid cards. This could mean putting your savings in a building society or borrowing from a credit union – or not, if you find a better alternative. It could also mean using a bank for your everyday financial transactions.

The reason is that bank accounts are a bit different from other savings and loan accounts and you can find yourself put to a lot of inconvenience if you don’t have one.

Remember that if you have problems getting an ordinary current account because of your income or credit history, just ask for a “basic bank account”. All the big banks offer them and they are absolutely free.

More information on the implications of switching: Why you shouldn't switch your bank account - and why you should.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

I just can't get you out of my head

It is a beautiful morning, one of those when you feel inspired to make it up as you go along and one that will end with a sunset of satisfaction that you lived it. I thought I’d tweet for a bit.

My nightmare returned.

In February, I met a man who has had a profound effect on me. I feel trapped by whether I should talk about him. He is too easily pigeon-holed into that most disassociated of experiences, the case study, and the man I met is not a “case”.

Off the page of my report to the DRF, he may well read as a working class pensioner, predictably irate. He was so much more.

Some days I’ll be honest with you I don’t want to wake up. I know it’s a bad thing to say, but I don’t. I just wish I could close my eyes and not wake up and that’s how bad it is.

The point is that our humanity must transcend ideology, not the other way around. Our preoccupation with economies of truth to prove a point condemns us to a catalogue of cases.

I do not ever want to sit in the parlour with a host in tears again.