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…