Nothing to be cheerful about at smile…

My debit card expired today. Has my bank – smile – sent me a replacement? No.

I’ve been chasing them up for a week, trying to get some information, to no avail. Finally, I got a message – my new card had been blocked because they didn’t like the look of my credit rating. To be fair, it sucks, but it’s sucked for years, and it’s never bothered them before.

Anyway, my credit status should be entirely irrelevant – it’s a debit card, not a credit card – it’s my bloody money, FFS!

What really pisses me off is that nobody from the bank  could be arsed to talk to me about this – they just blocked the issuing of a card that would give me access to – and I can’t stress this too much – MY BLOODY MONEY!

Then they had the brass neck to send a message saying that I should have my card in 5-7 days. That prompted me to reply asking them what they suggest I use to buy food?

That’s not an issue, I have ample food, and I also made sure I had money, as I doubted I wasn’t going to get my card in time. Thing is, though, they don’t know that.

OK, they know I took out £100 a couple of days ago, because I could see this coming, and I still have most of it, but as far as they know I could have blown it all on whores and booze. Ha! Chance would be a fine thing!

For all these incompetent fuckers know I could be broke and entirely without food – they couldn’t give a shit. And try using cheques these days…

So be warned – if you’re on benefit, and have a poor credit rating, and you bank with smile (or maybe with the Co-op Bank too – they own smile), you might suddenly find you’re penniless and you can’t actually get at – all together now – YOUR OWN BLOODY MONEY!

And they have a £100 cap on withdrawals – what’s that about? Other banks allow you to withdraw up to your balance limit, if you feel the need. The only way I can exceed the cap is to go to my nearest branch of the Co-op Bank – that’s in sodding Liverpool – it might as well be on the moon.

It is actually hard to get a bank account if you have no earnings (i.e., you’re on benefit), which is how I wound up with smile, but I’m seriously thinking of putting some effort into finding an alternative, as I clearly can’t trust the buggers.

I have money, and a friend has offered to lend me more, but as far as these asswipes are concerned, I could starve. They simply couldn’t give a shit.

The people to complain to are the Financial Services Ombudsman, and I certainly will, but be warned, if you’re on benefit, and have a poor credit rating, and bank with smile – you could be left totally without money, or access to money, and with zero warning. And that, by any measure, is totally unacceptable.

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Afterword.

I did, for a while some years ago, operate a cash economy. I just banked enough to pay my Direct Debits and kept the rest, getting my benefit paid into a Post Office card account. However, queuing at the Post Office every Thursday became too much of a burden. And to be honest, living entirely on cash is massively inconvenient these days – the whole world runs on plastic, and I do too much shopping online to make it viable.

Oh, and despite having been overdrawn a lot in recent years, I’ve had no problems getting my debit card. Now, when my bank account is in better shape than it’s ever been – substantially in the black – the twats are getting antsy about it. It makes no sense at all.

11 thoughts on “Nothing to be cheerful about at smile…

  1. Ron, I had the exact same problem when I came back to Britain after 16 years in Spain in 2008. And I had the same objection, that it was my own money that the banks (several refused me debit cards, although Nationwide was happy to take my money and hold it to ransom for months).

    Spain had been happy to give me a card and I had just as little – actually less – money there, but, of course, their system is different. As a side issue, I think it’s about time a good banking record in one European country counted when you move to another – after all, we’re supposed to be able to freely move to work and live. /rant 🙂

    Anyway, the problem is that with a normal debit card, with a standard bank account, whether you do or not, you COULD spend more than you have and create an overdraft. We don’t have the credit rating for that and, where banks have allowed this to slide in the past, they are now tightening the rules and refuse to carry the risk.

    What you need is a Visa Electron card on an account that has no overdraft facility – I forget exactly what they call this type of account, but this is the same as the Spanish system. The Electron card is accepted in ALMOST all the same places as any standard Visa credit/debit card and, in practice, has certainly been more than enough places to satisfy my needs over the last 18 years.

    You can get this type of card and account in the UK at Barclays. I just explained to them that I was on benefits, but also because of my health issues, need to be able to shop online. The card also gets cash from machines and the account comes with internet banking. Opening the account was pretty instant and painfree too.

    • Hi Pamela,

      A debit card that has a credit limit of what’s actually in the account, allowing for impending Direct Debits, is very easy to implement, especially now checks have been mostly phased out (no debits being processed weeks or months late to screw things up). And, anyway, I have a small o/d facility, so it wouldn’t be a problem.

      An Electron card is no use to me – there are just too many places online that don’t accept it (especially the companies I buy my drugs from – they take Amex, Mastercard or Visa Delta only – smile knows this). So it has to be Visa Delta. They were happy to give me one when I was consistently overdrawn – there’s no excuse for playing silly buggers when I’m almost a grand in the black.

      They often send me an Electron card, and I have to send it back and get a Delta card. Last year they said, OK, email us a few weeks before your card is due, remind us why you need Delta, and we’ll fix it. I did that, explaining that I was doing so at their request – and got some halfwit asking me why I was telling them that. You simply can’t win.

      Ron.

  2. Oh bummer, then Electron isn’t going to be the answer for you. I guess I get away with it because I tend to buy most things online either via Amazon or using Paypal and, because I’m really not anybody’s definition of a spendthrift, I’ve been jolly lucky not to find anywhere that refuses me.

    • I got a Visa card today, so I’ve just restocked my freezer courtesy of Sainsbury’s. Or, at least, I will when they deliver tomorrow.

      I would have gone in person, but I’ve managed to poison myself. Very, very, occasionally – I mean years apart – I somehow get into my meds while I’m sleepwalking, and on Monday night I took two days worth of Angitil – a calcium-channel blocker. Not the most dangerous drug I’ve got, but still nasty, until I remembered that potassium would get my heart working properly again. Angitil causes potassium deficiency, and the right potassium level is critical for the correct functioning of the heart. Too much can be lethal, but too little is no fun either. 200mg of magnesium has settled things down and, hopefully, I’ll be back to normal soon (as long as that’s all I took – it’s impossible to tell).

      Luckily it’s a rare event, because there’s nothing at all I can do about it – if I lock up my drugs, the knowledge of how to unlock them is still in my head, awake or asleep. The answer, I suppose, is a safe with a time-lock, but that’s too expensive. I’ll check it out, though, just in case…

      Ron.

  3. I’m glad you got the card and will have some food coming – that’s a point, I wonder if Tesco’s would take my half-arsed Visa, I mean Electron? I’ll have to check. Mother pays for the groceries at the moment – I just plan the menu and do the cooking – but the time will come when I need to buy my own groceries again and I certainly can’t manage to go in person at the best of times.

    Goodness me. Yes, there has to be something you could do to deter yourself from doing a thing like that. Do you think a box with some sort of alarm – I’m just thinking this is probably something that can be rigged up cheaply – might wake you up and stop you, or is that dangerous?

    I can chat in my sleep – probably make more sense than when I’m awake – but have never been know to walk.

    Take care.

    • Hi Pamela,

      Pretty sure Tesco take Electron – most UK companies do. I used to shop there, but my local store is pretty rubbish – and unreliable. They got into the habit of phoning, claiming the van had broken down, but they could deliver at 9.30 at night. After the third time I gave up (I’m pretty sure they were consolidating partial van-loads, rather than breaking down). I asked them – they flannelled – but didn’t deny it. So when I have to buy online I get it from Sainsbury’s. I’d like to try Ocado or Waitrose. The former has a £40 minimum charge, plus a hidden surcharge on delivery, the latter has a £50 minimum but free delivery – I hate minimum charges – they’re discriminatory https://ronsrants.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/discriminating-against-the-poor/ .

      It’s supposed to be dangerous waking sleep-walkers, but I can’t imagine why, unless they have a very weak heart. I’ve suspected I’ve been sleepwalking for a while, as I’ve woken up with bruises, and sometimes small cuts, that I didn’t go to bed with. Not too worrying of itself, except for the question of where I’ve been!

      Whatever the solution, it’s not a time-lock safe. Apart from the price (I need something about the size of a microwave to take all my meds), they all have user over-rides. Back to the drawing-board…

      I keep my meds in a plastic toolbox – current stuff in the compartmented tray in the top, stock in the bottom – it works quite well. Something similar that’ll take a padlock, plus a combination padlock, might be the answer. I can probably manage a key in my sleep, maybe not a combination. Worth a try, and not too expensive.

      A bit much, though, when I have to protect myself from myself.

      Oh well, hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow – I’ve calmed down the heart problems with potassium, which helps – I’ve really got to get some bread made, I’ve had a starter fermenting in the fridge since Sunday.

      Ron.

  4. Oh yes, I agree that Tesco is rubbish – well, except their delivery guys are always helpful and obliging – but they’re unfortunately Hobson’s Choice in this NO horse town.

    I think I’d be upset that I might have done something I enjoyed while sleeping and missed it!

    You know, I was thinking about what you said. To some degree and, obviously, in a variety of different ways, I think we all probably need protecting from ourselves, so you probably shouldn’t worry too much about it on that level.

    Hope you’re feeling a little better now.

    • Hi Pamela,

      Yeah, I’m over the hump now, but I’m amazingly weak for some reason. Got to clear and scrub the worktop, though, so I can make bread later – it’s been pretty much left to its own devices this week.

      To be honest, apart from the side-effects (and potassium took care of the worst of those), I felt much better not taking Angitil (in fact, by yesterday, I was feeling pretty good). I started it again last night, and now I feel rubbish. There’s probably a moral there. I do need it, but I have to think about how much that need is tempered by how bad it makes me feel – is it, in fact, worth it?

      The drug’s a calcium channel blocker, but it also has benefits in COPD, as the mechanism that relaxes the smooth muscle of the vascular system also works on the smooth muscle of the bronchi (probably more information than you wanted, but what I write here might be useful to other readers). Perversely, though, my breathing was better without it. Really got to look into that – from what I know it might not be good.

      Ron.

  5. Oh, I am used to perverse – a lot of my symptoms seem to be similarly counter-intuative, but it just underlines the need to know your own body and make your decisions about drugs.

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