Free Ipad Mini from Wellesley – Honest!

Regular users of the internet are aware by now that there is no such thing as a free Ipad.

However all that changed for me yesterday.

I’d long been deeply unsatisfied with the rate of interest that I was receiving on my Cash Isa and had been considering moving my money (or some of it) regardless of the consequence of losing the allowance. Unfortunately getting a decent rate meant tying up my funds for years – something I wasn’t keen to do, as in the medium term it’s for a house deposit.

Out of the blue an email from Moneysupermarket.com arrived, trumpeting:

Exclusive! Bag yourself an iPad mini and up to 6.32% pa with Wellesley & Co“; Thanks to an exclusive offer with MoneySuperMarket, if you lend £3,000 or more for at least 18 months with peer-to-peer lending platform Wellesley & Co, not only will you receive a competitive interest rate of up to 6.32% pa, you’ll bag yourself a brand new iPad mini, worth £239! 

I had already heard of Wellesley, having been an “early adopter” of P2P (Peer To Peer” lending via ZOPA. Plus the service had been recommended by a friend. However financial inertia had meant that I failed to follow it up.

The incentive of a shiny thing that I coveted was enough to make me spring into action! Plus I quickly did the numbers and found that the £3000 in my ISA would earn me only £22.58, versus a projected return with Wellesley of £184! They have a handy calculator on the site to quickly show what you might receive in interest from your investment.

How does Wellesley work? That’s probably a subject for another article, another day. You can use Google to find out about people’s experiences with the service – and they seem to be generally positive. However there is a point to remember. Although Wellesley & Co Limited is Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), it is NOT covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. That means that your money is not protected in the same way as it would be in a traditional bank account. HOWEVER, you might take comfort from the fact that as an extremely cautious investor myself, if I choose to put my own funds in then I feel it’s pretty damn safe!

Because your funds are not just given to one person – the money you put in is lent out in small chunks to a number of people – the risk of individual default is negated. Also a major difference with Wellesley is that the loans are not unsecured – they only lend money to those with an asset of tangible value which could be sold with relative ease.

Even if all else fails, Wellesley keeps a “Provision Fund” which lenders can apply to in the fairly rare event that a borrower defaults, and the asset that underwrites the debt cannot be easily liquidated.

But HURRY if you want to take advantage of this rather generous offer – it only runs until the 7th of August!

FOLLOW THIS LINK to sign up and make your initial deposit!


UPDATE: It’s here!

Following minor courier-related shenanigans, it arrived very promptly on Monday – not even seven days after they emailed to tell me it was on the way. And it’s lovely – so much nicer than my old Nexus 7 tablet, which I tried hard to like but never succeeded…

Photos to follow. Don’t delay, apply for yours today – the offer is only open until early August – and don’t forget that Terms and Conditions will apply.

 

AVG Anti-Virus no longer free?

I kept getting ultimatums from the free anti-virus software on my PC this year, suggesting that my free protection would be ending and that I would need to upgrade. Clicking on any of the available links just funneled me into frustrating loops of payment options… Being the sensible person that I am I did the only option available to me as a person who isn’t keen to pay for antivirus protection. I ignored it!

Having some time today and having spent some time setting up various internet banking facilities (having recently moved my current account and opened up a business bank account for my limited company), I felt that it high time I sorted it out. Eventually frustration set in again, and a Google search seemed to suggest that the company had ceased to provide the free version of the software.

I decided at that point I should probably give up, remove the AVG installation completely and switch to another well-regarded free provider such as AVAST.

I struggled my way through Control Panel -> Programs and Features -> AVG 2015 (I still find the Windows 7 menus difficult to navigate) and clicked on “Uninstall”. Miraculously, in the box that now appeared was an option to “Downgrade to the FREE VERSION”! The software was clearly playing it’s last ditch, “pleeeeeaaaasssse don’t delete me!” card.

I happily agreed. I don’t like change.

Are there any other FREE anti-virus programs that you would recommend? Opinion seems to be so different and divided over which one to use – hence why I like to stick to what I know!

 

No tears for Wonga…

The emotion of schadenfreude is a particularly English one, apparently. As it’s not an terribly pleasant emotion – the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others – I try to avoid it when I can. Human nature has other plans for the human psyche, and now and then a story will emerge that is heartwarming for all the wrong reasons…

And so to Perpetual Payday Penury provider Wonga, provider of “short term” loans to the desperate and the financially illiterate. Sadly they are “in difficulties” and have been for some time:

Telegraph Wonga news

They ditched the irritating old rubber people some time ago, and now it seems like the name might be going the same way – if the company survives the tide of new regulation and the incredibly low base rates.

I realise that short-term, payday lenders fill a gap which genuinely exists and always will do. And that if Wonga does go completely Wronga, there will be (and already are) plenty of other companies ready and willing to step in and fill the gap.

Is it too much to hope that in some distant Eutopian future a real possibility exists of social lending, Peer-To-Peer and local credit unions consigning all of the commercial operations to history? Probably not, but I can still dream…

Why I changed my current account after 22 years!

I was perfectly happy with my Yorkshire Bank current account for many years. I didn’t expect to ever have to leave them, until recently. I saw no need to switch, even when they made it easier to switch – I happily ignored the “£100 credit when you switch to us” adverts for many years, in the almost certain knowledge that the grass was not necessarily any greener on any other side.

Although I have had an extremely variable income for much of my life, I’ve always been relatively prudent and avoided running up large amounts of debt that I would have had difficulty paying back. An overdraft was always essential, but only within a pre-arranged limit and only for short periods of time when I needed the extra liquidity. In short, I ran my account in a responsible way.

In turn, they were pretty good to me. On odd occasions when I had minor issues they were helpful. When I was charged fees at least once, due to my own oversight, they agreed to refund the penalty on the basis that I was a long term, valued customer in generally good standing. I’m particularly keen to emphasise how friendly and professional the staff in the Peterborough branch were whenever I visited.

Unfortunately out of the blue, a significant and sudden change occurred in the way that they charged fees. Unfortunately it followed the long period of historically low interest rates that had meant many current accounts – my own included – no longer paid any interest on credit balances. Because of this I had been transferring out credit balances into my cash ISA as soon as possible – and as much as possible – leading to the occasional small, very short term overdraft. Usually less than £200 for a few days to a week.

The fee changes were a thinly disguised way for Yorkshire – part of Clydesdale Bank and by now owned by National Australia Bank – to move away from the Free Banking model, while still appearing fee-free. Instead of simply charging interest on an authorised overdraft, they completely renamed it to “Planned Borrowing” and introduced a “Useage Fee”. This meant that every time I went into my planned borrowing by more that the “Buffer Amount” of £25, I would be charged a £6 fee for the month. As well as the interest.

As soon as I read the leaflet, I realised that the introduction of this new fee structure was going to be a problem for me when it came into effect in December 2014. But being busy I soon forgot about it – in fact the first time I remembered was when an unwelcome £6 fee appeared on my online banking screen. I dug out the fee leaflet, sighed deeply and got on the phone to “Customer Services”.

CS: We can’t refund it! (Stridently)

ME: I wasn’t asking you to refund it. I called to tell you that if this was the way that things were going to be now, it simply doesn’t work for me and my requirements for a current account.

CS: So what do you want me to do?

ME: Nothing. I will be closing my account.

CS: I can log it as a complaint?

ME: Yes, if you want. I’ll still be closing my account and moving to a bank that offers a fee-free overdraft facility!

I didn’t really need to find another current account as I already had another one already set up with SMILE – the internet banking arm of the Co-Operative Bank – but being the sort of person who likes to keep their options open, and in order to enjoy a switching incentive, I thought it would be an ideal time to open a completely new account.

I’d heard good things about First Direct – an internet based arm of HSBC. They had won various awards for customer service and seemed to be very fair and well regarded. They also offered as standard a £500 overdraft facility – free of fees – and the first £250 FREE OF INTEREST! Exactly what I needed. Add in a £100 incentive and I needed no further persuasion.

Reviews and tips relating to First Direct to follow in another article…

A load of complete bankers? Just shop around…

It may not have completely escaped your attention that over the past few years banking has been getting a fairly bad press. Whilst much of this is entirely justified, it’s important to distinguish between the “Casino” style banking practiced by the investment arms, and the day-to-day High Street operations, quietly and busily looking after our minor financial affairs.

An inseparability in the minds of the general public between these disparate parts of the same institutions has lead to some unfortunate scenes outside beleaguered parochial branches – stopping just short of sharpened torches and burning pitchforks* – often in a mistaken belief that their £26.72 in an ancient and almost forgotten savings account was soon to be forfeit.

(*Yes, you read that correctly. Mobs are always less clever than the stupidest person they contain.)

In reality, almost all of those cretins who QUEUED outside branches of Northern Wreck would have been completely protected by the (at the time) FSA Compensation Scheme, backed up by the government. I very much doubt that many of them would have had more than the maximum £50,000 in their accounts?

Why does this anger me so much when it didn’t affect me? Because as always, I would have been that person who despite rarely venturing into the town center, had ended up as collateral damage in that unnecessary line of idiots. Probably just wanting a mini-statement because the ATM was broken. I could have been that person. Just like I was that person trying to find somewhere to get something to eat on “Black Friday”, having found myself in Peterborough City Center through no fault of my own; simply due to having an appointment with the optician. I’m still traumatised.

So what’s the point I’m eventually getting to? Simply that High Street retail banking has improved immeasurably over the last 10 years, and that the pace of change is increasing exponentially – perhaps to reflect the fact that the progress of everything else in the world has taken massive leaps forward in increasingly short periods. Goodness knows it took long enough to happen, to an industry that for much of my life seemed firmly stuck in the Victorian era.

In conclusion; if you are unhappy with a financial product or with the service that you receive from your bank, then in the first instance tell your bank that you’re not happy, and why. They might be willing (and enabled enough) to help. If they can’t or won’t then shop around for a better deal and SWITCH as soon as possible. It’s what I did – and it’s simpler to do than it’s ever been!

Ebay For Charity – my experiences

I’ve recently been using EBay For Charity for the first time to sell some items for a small new charitable company that desperately needs the funds. It’s been a bit of a learning curve – although the help pages for a seller are reasonably good there were immediately questions raised about the process which were not easily answered on the site, particularly when you’re sending 100% of the sale price to the charity.

The main ones were:

  • Seller’s PayPal fees – is the sale value sent to the charity net of the fees that PayPal have charged me?
  • Postage – better to make it inclusive, or add it as extra?

I hope to be able to answer those questions definitively, in the near future.


 

Every time Ebay has a decent offer on, the site breaks…

Yesterday (2nd April 2015) Ebay announced an unusually generous offer – “20% off final value fees when an item sells at £30 and above”. As a keen Ebayer (I use it to supplement my income) I was keen to take advantage.

Create up to 100 listing(s) in an eligible category during the promotion period using the auction-style or fixed price format and you won’t pay an insertion fee per listing (promotional rate) during the promotion period when you actively opt in to the promotion via the RSVP link shown in the marketing communication.
In addition, if your item sells at £30 and above, you will also receive a final value fee discount of 20%.

I had plenty of things to list and so, with today being Good Friday and a Bank Holiday I set to making some listings. I don’t normally list during the day because it means your item will then end in the day – and it’s often not the best time for the biggest audience. However as they also have another offer running – “Schedule 20 listings per month for free” – I can do the work during the day and set the listing to start automatically this evening (or even the next day, if I was listing too late in the evening).

I made my finely crafted listing – as it happens for something that probably isn’t worth £30, but it can’t hurt to try! I have been surprised before. Unfortunately when I clicked on the button to list, I got the dreaded “perpetually re-loading log-in screen of doom”.

The only good thing about it is that now that Ebay has a “Drafts” section, it had automatically saved my listing, and I should be able to simply click it later to set up the listing. Assuming Ebay get their site working properly again! Fingers crossed.

In the meantime I will probably get on with something else, like venturing out into the beautiful Easter sunshine* to tidy up something or other outside, and find some more stuff to list on Ebay. When I can.

*There isn’t any.


 

An update – 14th April 2015

Due to the frequency of bank holidays at this time of year I was soon able to test this issue again. Having been working OK over the Saturday and Sunday, I got the perpetual log-in screen back on the Bank Holiday Monday. 

Fortunately this time I discovered that by simply closing the browser window and opening a new one, I was able to get into eBay without further issue.

For a moment it seemed like it must be a problem locally with my own system, but if this is the case why does exactly the same thing happen every time there is a Bank Holiday with a listing offer?

Did I make any extra cash from the 20% FVF offer? So far it looks like the only items that sold for more than £30 were a couple of things that I listed as EBay For Charity items, with 100% going to the charity, so there was no advantage to be gained there anyway!