It’s summer and we should feel relaxed. Instead I’m more wound up than ever.
Because my life is no longer mine to control.
It all began on Saturday.
I went to the cashpoint and the machine wouldn’t give me any cash. Even when I said ‘please’, it wouldn’t give me any cash.
So I tried another machine and the same. No cash.
Even when I hit it with a branch from a nearby tree in a John Cleese style manic moment, it still said no cash and to contact my bank.
I called the bank on my mobile.
“Sir, you are about to go overdrawn on Monday”, said the Mumbai man.
I’m standing in the rain in a crowded area of London on a wet Saturday night, ready to party and with no cash.
“Waddya mean, I’m going overdrawn on Monday?” I yell. “I put ten grand in the account just last Wednesday.”
I put £10,000 into my account because I knew £9,000 was going to leave the account the next Monday – the Monday I’m going overdrawn – due to a hefty tax bill.
“I see no such deposit sir”, mumbled the Danny Boyle extra.
It’s a wet Saturday with no cash, and the banks just lost my £10,000.
“We’ll see about that”, I shout and slam down the phone.
No worries, I’ll sort it out when I get home online.
Meantime, it’s time to party but I’m not happy.
No cash and I’m out on a Saturday night with just ten quid and a cash card that’s about as useful as a fart in a spacesuit.
Then I spot a down and out busker under Waterloo bridge with a hatful of change.
Soon, it’s time for a nice pint with me mates, as my pockets jingle with £12.21 pence in change and a £10 note.
Shame about the black eye though.
The next day, I go to logon to my internet bank account and sort out this overdraft mess.
The PC starts to boot up and then goes “the system has an unrecoverable issue” and the bluescreen disaster hits.
F***ing Vista crap.
My wife’s not happy as my £2,000 two–year old desktop sails through the study window into the yard.
I go out and buy a new PC.
At least my credit card works.
Returning hours later with a new shiny black powerstation, I finally can get on the net.
What’s this I see?
Overdrawn and no sign of the ten grand I paid in.
The bank’s lost my cash and is now going to charge me bloodsucking fees and overdraft charges.
Then I notice another account number.
I’ve only got one account though.
I click and find it’s a thing called a reserve account.
A reserve account?
Where did that come from?
And the reserve account has ten grand in it!
Paid in last Wednesday.
Case solved and the bank hasn’t lost my cash.
But what is this reserve account I didn’t open, didn’t know existed and have no idea why it’s there?
I ring the call centre to find out.
Mumbai man asks how he may be helping me today sir?
I ask, “what’s this reserve account?”
He tells me I’m very lucky. As a Premier Reserve customer, I’ve been given one by my account manager.
I ask, “given one what?”
Mister Mumbai tells me a very special reserve account that earns high interest, and tells me to call my account manager to find out more.
So I do.
My account manager is Paul.
I’ve never seen Paul, but I imagine him to be about fifty years old, 5’ 10”, 100 pounds, pale with an anaemic complexion, very thick bifocal glasses and a voice like former Prime Minister, John Major.
You got it – a typical banker sort of image.
Paul tells me that he set up the reserve account, which would normally cost £200 a year, because I’m a very special customer and I’ve been given it for free.
I ask him what it is though.
Paul tells me it’s a very special, super–duper account that pays very special, super–duper high interest.
Then I tell him how come I got this account without signing anything.
He tells me because it’s a special gift and I should be thankful.
The conversation is not going well.
And then to the point. I ask him why my ten grand went into the account.
Paul’s now getting excited and says that as a result of the super–duper interest on my super–duper account that I should be paying £200 for but, as I’m a very special customer, it’s been given to me for free.
Anyways, this account is set up so that any large payments, like those that are over ten grand, go into the super–duper reserve account because it pays super–duper high interest.
Feeling a bit lost, I reel with the news that I’ve got this account that I didn’t want that gets my large payments, rather than the account which I thought I had which should be getting them.
I then tell Paul about the overdraft situation.
He tells me to be more prudent and that this time they’ll only charge a one–off fee of £200 to put it all right again.
So net:net, I’ve gone overdrawn and paid £200 for an account that I didn’t want, didn’t approve and didn’t know existed, which should cost me £200 a year but is a gift.
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Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...