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We have a Capital One platinum credit card which we have had for several years. We liked the fact that they have id fraud protection, as someone who has been a victim of this in the past it was important to me. Also their low interest rate of 9.9% was very appealing, be ware though this doesn't last (more on that later!)
ON fraud protection and id fraud they are so hot it's truley scary! We have had our card replaced on no less than 7 occassions due to fraudulent (real or suspected)activity on our card. On 3 occassions fraud had actually taken place. In the first, someone was having a lovely time buying super outsized sportswear in the Houston, Texas, US fat capital of the world - I so don't need that image in my head!! The second, was petrol, how dull, can you not think of something more interesting to spend my money on?? And the third was truley inspired, 12 flights from Athens to Heathrow, I lived in the hope that the police and anti fraud squad met them at passport control!!!
On each occassion they contacted us (from a UK call centre). They went through our statements line by line. We then received forms to sign confirming they weren't our transactions, cards were stopped and new ones issued and received within 7 days - except for the time they went missing in the post (but that's a whole other review!!) So as you can see in the area of fraud they are impressive!
We also had the payment protection insurance (PPI) on our card. If you have read any of my other reviews you will see that my husband has unfortunately been made redundant 3 times in the last 5 years, so we have had plenty of opportunties to use our insurance. Now I know this type of insurance takes a bit of a bashing, and there are cheaper ways of insuring your credit card payments via third party companies. However, our insurance was with capital one and paid through our card on a monthly basis.
Once again on this I am unable to fault them! Yes the cost is higher than if you insure your credit card debt through a third party, but until recently we didn't know you could do this, so for the purpose of this review I can only comment on Capital One. The claims procedure was fast, you speak to a UK call centre, who goes through your details. They then send you a form to fill in which has to be partially filled in by your Jobcentre, confirming when you signed on etc. Within 4 weeks, on all three occassions we needed to claim they had come back and confirmed they would pay out. I would say at this point that there is no point having this insurance if you are a contracter or casual worker, it only pays for permanent staff.
Each month we had to fill in an ABI1 form at the jobcentre with it signed and stamped by them then send it to Capital one with details of what we had been doing to look for work.
They pay 1/10th of your balance, so considerably more than the minimum payment on a monthly basis so long as you send them the ABI1's. They do only pay out for 12 months or until you return to work. One major down side is that you do still need to pay your premiums while you are not working. But as the payments they make more than cover the premium, it's not a huge issue. They also allow you to take a short term contract job for up to 6 months, your payments stop while you are working but start up again when the contract ends. They don't however pay out on full time contract workers, unless you have had a 12 month contract renewed once, or a 6 month contract renewed 3 times, they don't pay out at all on contract workers on shorter contracts.
So that's two good points, now onto the bad, and I'm guessing you already know where I am going next!!
For many years they have been bragging in their adverts about their fantastic rate of 9.9% average! Well I would love to see how they work that one out! Within 6 months of having our card the interest rate lept up to 18.9% that's a 91% increase!! We had never missed payments, our balance was hovering at a similar level to when we took the card out. I called to ask why the huge hike, and was informed it was a customer wide increase! OK said I, they why are you still advertising your cards at 9.9% interest for new customers?? The answer will make you laugh - "Its for brand new customers only" Now where have I heard that one before! As a jesture of goodwill they did move the interest rate down to 12.9%.
But and it's a big but, that's not the end of my interest story! As mentioned above my husband is currently redundant, and in the current climate finding a job is nigh on impossible. For the last 12 months our insurance has duly been paying our monthly bill for us, however, our insurance has now finished (it only pays out for a year). During the last 18 months the interest rate had again crept up to 18.8%. The only notification of this being little addendums on your monthly statement - very crafty!
Anyway, there we were insurance finished, having to take on the payments again ourselves when out of the blue we receive a letter from them saying that due to the current economic climate our interest rate will be going up to a whopping 26.88% again a massive 43% increase. At this point I feel that I should add, we have still never missed a payment, never paid late and both have excellently rated credit scores.
Once again I phoned them and again was told it's a customer wide increase, once again I asked why then do you still offer new customers 9.9% - why should I be subsidising your new customers?? The response, "It's for brand new customers only" !!!!!!!!!!!! This time they wouldn't move on the rate they set, so I have written a complaint letter to them and am still waiting for a reply. If they don't decrease the rate I will go to the financial ombudsman, who I gather currently have rather a large number of complaints against CO going through!
So where does all this leave me in terms of rating Capital One?? If you are someone who always pays off your monthly balance in full, but who worries about id theft go for it, the fraud prevention is superb.
If you are looking for good payment protection, I have no complaints about this one, but you can get it cheaper elsewhere, try Martin Lewis's moneysavingexpert.com for suggestions.
If you are looking for a good rate of interest - FORGET IT!
OMG where do I start! Lets just say if our family situation gets anyworse, we may as well go throw ourselves off the nearest cliff!
My husband was made redundant in Jan 08 (his 3rd in 5 years). He was working in a senior role at a start up company. When the credit crunch started to bite their revenue didn't come through fast enough so they lost 25% of the workforce.
I was a stay at home mum, I'd just re-trained as the youngest of our 2 kids had just started school, freeing up some of my time. My plan was to start up my own image consultancy / personal stylist co (I used to be a senior fashion buyer), so it was a natural move for me. I had all my paperwork ready, business bank account in the process of being set up and a couple of clients waiting in the wings to get me going. My training had cost us £6000, a large chunk of our remaining savings after the first 2 redundancies my husband had.
Then bang, mid Jan hubby comes home from work at 11am, I jokingly said, "should I be worried that your home at this time of day" - he burst into tears!
And that was just the start of our problems. The redundancy package was minimal (as it was a start up it had run out of money - even paying the wages was proving difficult). Our savings had been massivley depleated by one 7 month followed, a year later by an 8 1/2 month stint of redundancy and of course my training course.
As you can imagine a massive cull of our expenditure was our first priority alone with a trip to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or jobcentre. Having filled in huge amounts of forms in quadruplicate for jobseekers allowance, council tax credit, child tax credits etc we then had to wait for the descisions to come back. 3 months later they finally did and fortunately they paid up. In the meantime I had earnt £200 from my clients, which I declared to the DWP. They then suspended all our benefits for the 8 weeks it took while they worked out how much impact my one off earnings had. In the end they decided nothing needed to be removed as I hadn't earnt anything else since!!
In the ensuing 15 months my husband has applied for nearly 500 jobs, many of which at 50% of the salary he was getting, we've looked at moving abroad, moving area, contract jobs, permanent jobs, you name it we've tried it. I have been looking to return to buying, but having not worked in it for 10 years my chances are slim. As I am not qualified in anything else my job prospects are frankly crap and that's being polite!
He did an electrical engineering degree at uni so we had the bright idea that as the DWP will pay for you to do training to help your job prospects it might be an idea for him to retrain as an electrician. But wait till you get this! When we went to speak to a DWP training adviser, he was told that they would loan him the £8000 it would cost to do the course, which he would have to start paying back as soon as he qualified. However as the course was full time, he would not be "actively seeking employment" and "available for work" so we would receive no benefits whatsoever!!! However if he'd been illiterate his training would have been free and all his benefits intact! How can it be in this country that being educated and wanting to help yourself is somthing that's held against you??
The moral being that they like you helpless and dependent, I always wondered why some people stayed on benefits for years, now I know! They make it virtually impossible for you to help yourself! I can't earn even a pittance without them suspending us for 2 months or taking away key benefits, like free school meals and child tax credit, and my oh can't retrain without losing all the benefits we recieve.
Even more annoying when I worked out over the years how much we had paid in tax in our working lives both as 40%ers we would have to be on bennefits for over 20 years at the current level of what we receive to get back what we have paid in!
In the last couple of months our mortgage insurance has also run out, so we applied to the DWP for Mortgage Interest Relief (MIR) . In the past this has paid out for the interest only on your mortgage after 9 months or your insurance ends up to a max mortgage level of £100k. In the mini emergency budjet when the recession started to deepen this was ammended to £200k from the 5th Jan 09 and you could claim after 13 weeks.
We claimed in Feb 09, it's taken 4 months for them to get back to us regardig our claim. And they have capped us at £100k as my husband was made redundant in Jan 08, and the new rules they state are for totally new claimants from 5th Jan 09. However thier own website states that if you are a new MIR claimant after 5th Jan 09 you are entitled to the higher level. We are currently appealing thier descision. If we rented our house, they would pay the full rent without any real questions asked - how can that be fair?
The additional stress this is causing is just huge. We have family and friends helping us out as much as possible, but it's like swimming through treacle. Massive effort with no visible return in any area.
As a couple we are very strong, we both have bad days, we both have good. We have two great kids. And I am learning to make the most of my tesco clubcard vouchers to give them free days out! We've done car boot sales, sold anything not nailed down on ebay, got rid of one of our cars. Next on the list is my engagement ring! How long we will be able to hang onto our house is anyones guess!
But, and it's a big but, we are all healthy, we all love each other and we can and will get through this.
I keep reminding myself of the words of Hans Cristian Anderson, "Just living is not enough, one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower"
Well we still have all of those, so we have more than many!
I have been an off peak member of Esporta Guildford for 3 years. I normally go on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings after school drop off. In terms of the facilities it is without doubt second to none in the Guildford area.
There are already reviews on here extolling the virtues of the various different areas of the club, so I won't bother repeating them here.
My main reason for reviewing will become very clear. Firstly I will say that up until recently I have enjoyed all aspects of the club with few complaints. The cleaning could do with being a little more regular. The manager could do with actively approaching members to ask their views rather than waiting for them to contact him - although a new manager started last week, so far it looks as though he will take a more active approach, so watch this space on that one!
My issue sprung up as a sign of our current times. My husband was made redundant and with money in short supply we started looking at our outgoings with a view to making some very drastic cut backs. Obviously my luxury gym membership at £60 pcm off peak was top of the list of things to go. I wouldn't have considered cancelling my membership unless this had happened.
Imagine my horror when on checking my contract I discovered that the notice period was not the usual one month but three! And to top that you can only give in your notice on the first of the month, if you hand it in half way through they carry it on to the next month! So having handed my notice in on 3rd May (yes that's right only 3 days late!) my notice period only actually started on 1st June and won't end until 1st September!
Now you could say that this was my own error for not checking the contract and you would be very correct in saying so. But my gripe does not end there.
I went onto the Esporta website and low and behold they are offering new members who have been made redundant reduced membership fees, in their own words and I quote "at very advantageous membership rates" .
So I thought hang on, I have been a member for 3 years, I have supported them, always paid my fees on time, never bounced a payment, recommended them, turned up regularly, bought coffees in their coffee shop, met friends for lunch etc. etc. etc.
So I figured that in my time of need they would support me back! Whoa, what a mistake that was. The reduced fees are "only for new members", I was told. Why is that I asked, "because that's the offer" was the reply! Very helpful, thanks a lot!
My next question, in view of my change in circumstances can you reduce the amount of notice. "NO!" (Short and to the point!!) Why not I asked? "Because it's our policy that we don't reduce the notice period for anyone", came the at this point not unexpected reply! Very democratic I am sure, but in the current ecomomic climate when clubs such as Esporta are losing members hand over fist as people tighten their belts, not very longsighted of them in my view!
I had the above conversation twice, with the head office membership team over the phone and with the old club manager in person. The club manager did actually go one better, with the incredibly insulting comment "I suggest you come to the club more often and make the most of your membership in your last three months". Anyone who is currently suffering from redundancy as we are, will understand that comments like this are patronising in the extreme. What do I care about my gym membership when I am struggling to pay my mortgage and feed and cloth my kids!?
To add more insult to injury, he then suggested that I didn't try to just cancel my direct debit (I hadn't even suggested that I was going to), as Esporta's policy was to immediately hand over non payers to a debt collection agency who would then send round the baliffs! Nice touch! What did actually happen to customer service? Oh sorry my mistake, that's only for the new members & members who stay and have no complaints!
So imagine my surprise when last week I received a letter from them asking for me to arrange an exit interview with the new manager! Great I thought, I will do a little research first.
I duly phoned up every club in the Guildford area, under the guise of writing a piece about the effect of the current recession on luxuries such as gym membership, how many members they were losing due to financial reasons (lost job, reduced wages, reduced working hours etc). I then asked them about their notice periods, and if they made concessions to those members who through no fault of their own found themselves having to cancel their memberships due to redundancy.
Sneaky you may say, but very very enlightening! Having spoken to clubs such as David Lloyd, LA Fitness, Fitness First, local council run sites the response was amazing.
EVERY single one will look at the individuals personal circumstances. All said they would waive the notice period or in the case of David Lloyd dramatically reduce it. Many said they would also offer to reduce the monthly cost on a short term basis to keep the member. Not one said they would keep a member suffering financial hardship locked into a 3 month notice period chasing them with baliffs if they failed to pay!
So fully armed with my research I headed into my meeting with the manager yesterday! What lovely man! For a start he has only just returned to work after a period of redundancy, and he has two small children, so already there was considerably more empathy that the previous manager, a very young single man with no mortgage, no kids, no worries!
I detailed my findings to him, told him about the Esporta offer on line for redundant new members (news to him!). I explained how shortsighted I felt they were being. My original intention had been to re-join when we got back on our feet. Would I re-join now - you have got to be kidding me!
I laid out how I felt members in my circumstances should be dealt with,
a) Offering current members a reduced membership fee for 6 months.
b) If they can't afford that, then let them instantly terminate their membership with no penalties.
c) Give them the option to return within 12 months without paying a new joining fee.
d) WITH RESPECT!!!!
In fairness to him he was understanding, however, did my meeting get me anywhere - Nope, nowhere at all.
Would I rejoin - what do you think?
Would I recommend Esporta to anyone else - I think you can guess my reply!!
Believe me if you have a pet that's as kamikaze as my siamese cat then decent pet insurance in absolutely essential!
I have used Pet plan for years, our old cat was 10 when she died and we had never had to make a claim, so when we got our new siamese kitten i ummed and arrhed about whether to bother. OMG am I glad I did!
Lets just say that my gorgeous cat is proving to be a bit of an "Eddie the Eagle" character, if he was human he'd be into extreme sports, just not very good at them!
At the age of five months, he jumped across from the landing bannister to the landing window, all well and good till he tried to jump back, didn't get a good enough grip on the rounded bannister and flipped down the stairwell. He then hit the bannister below. We heard the bang in the kitchen! Two minutes later he limped in dragging his back left leg behind him, it was horrible clear that cat's really don't always land on their feet!!!
A quick dash to the vet ensued. He was hospitalised, doped up to the eyeballs, x-rayed. His case was then referred to the orthopedic vet as he had broken his leg through a growth plate. He spent 7 days in hospital, had two lots of x-rays, and ended up with his leg pinned from hip to knee. The total cost £5700! Ouch!
As you can imagine, I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I filled in his Pet Plan claim forms, and suddenly the £20 per month we paid for his superior policy seemed worth every penny. Within two weeks of each claim my cheques arrived in the post. Perrrrfect!
Two years later my husband was made redundant, in my money saving extravaganza I looked at my Pet Plan policy and again ummed and arrghed about whether to keep it or not. At the last minute I decided to keep it (to this day I don't know why I didn't can it)!!
Within a week of making this rather monumental descision my stupid, sorry that's adventurous cat once again decided to test his extreme sport skills by skiiing off the upraised garage door!! He hit the car in the drive awkwardly and then limped into the house through his cat flap, this time dragging his back right leg behing him. This was at 4pm on a Sunday! So I made a trip to the emergency vet. Initially they thought it was muscular, so a massive jab of pain killer was given. The following Tuesday we still had one very unhappy cat so, headed off back to the vet.
Over the course of the next 4 weeks, he had two lots of x-rays, which again got referred to the orthopedic vet. They still insisted is was muscular, however, when after all this time he was still limping and obviously in pain we were referred to see the orthopedic vet in person. At this point the costs were at around £1200. The appointment alone was £200!! They then did another set of x-rays which proved he had broken his hip joint, with a spiral hairline fracture down his femur to his knee.
Four weeks cage rest was recommened. Bill now £3000! Our next appointment at the specialist and more x-rays showed that the break hadn't healed and he had to have an op to pin the bones back together, cost of op £2500, cost of seven days in the hospital £350, two more sets of x-rays £1200!
Four months later he is now well on the road to recovery. The total bill in the region of £7500!
Pet Plan have been fantastic, as a continuation claim they have turned round the cheques super fast, vital with my husband out of work and money in short supply.
They have a great new online account areas so you can check up the progress of your claim online. If you have any questions, the phone is answered promptly, the staff are friendly and helpful.
If you ask me if the policy is expensive, then yes if you compare it to other policies out there. But when you look at the small print you realise you get what you pay for! We have unlimited vet costs, he's insured for life and they don't limit long term illnesses to 12 months worth of payments as most policies do.
If you asked me if I will be cancelling my policy with Pet Plan the my answer is an emphatic NO! With a cat like mine I can't afford to!
The Dyson DC15 is my second Dyson, having had one of the original DC01's. Lets face it, we have all heard about their constant sucking ability, cyclone technology and hepa filtration systems rammed down our throats for years! So I don't plan on talking about them here at all!
We all know they are great vacuum cleaners, I guess that fact that I am now on my second one says a lot. Lets face it they do exactly what they say on the box. So why am I bothering to review it you may ask, why indeed! The question is is this the best vacuum on the market in it's category?
My current model is the DC15 animal ball. I have a cat who sheds lots of hair and there is no doubt that it does pick up lots of fur. The suction capabilities are impressive, that's a given. The manoeuvrability is fabulous, compared to a standard vacuum, it's mobile and responsive. The downdside is that because the ball is bulky you can't reach under low or not so low furniture. You end up having to use the attachments to reach under furniture, which just adds time to an already very dull job!
It's also incredibly heavy! I'm pretty strong, but I still struggle to get this up and down the stairs. If you have a bad back or are elderly this machine would be a disaster for you! In fact I have a friend that has two of these, one for downstairs and one for upstairs, just to avoid this problem. It's also made for quite tall people, if you are short heaven help you trying to carry this anywhere! I am 5'6" and I still have my hand tucked up under my arm when I take this upstairs, not a very comfortable position!
Onto the attachments! They are all attached to the machine, however when you are struggling upstairs with your very tall, heavy DC15, as it brushes against you you knock off at least two attachments which then bounce back down the stairs behind you. Very irritating and causes you an extra trip back down to retrieve them!!
The hose is not long enough to reach from the bottom of the stairs to the top (we have pretty average length stairs). This means that you have to then take it upstairs to do the top 3 or 4 stairs that you can't reach from the bottom. All very well as you have to take it up anyway. However, as mentioned this is a tall vacuum, so resting it at the top of the stairs while you vacuum down them is precarious to say the least. To say I have had to catch it on it's downwards fall on a few occassions is being kind to it. Believe me, catching one of these beasts is no mean feat! Especially as you are holding onto the hose at the time so your hands aren't free. It's a bit scary shall we say, and on one particularly bad occasion, it took me with it.
On the subject of the hose, it breaks so often it's a nightmare! To replace it is costly at around £30, it the two years I have had my DC15 I am on my 2nd hose. I have also had to replace the stair attachment twice too again at around £20 each.
The cheaper way of replacing attachments is actually to have an inhouse service, the last time I had one of these it was a fixed £55. for this they replaced any attachments that were broken or worn and all other parts that needed replacing except the motor (which if needed costs extra) so if you need lots of new parts this is definately the way to go.
On the whole it is a great vacuum, there are some irritation with it, as with most things. I guess the question is would I buy a third one? I think next time I would check out the sebo before making a choice!!
As a woman with an apparently awkward bust size (30F -32E depending on brand) I have always had a total nightmare trying to find bras to fit on the high street. In fact it was so difficult I invariably ended up in the nearest size I could find that almost fitted or if I was feeling flush, Rigby and Peller (for which I usually had to take out a small mortgage!)
Having suffered the indignity for years of being told that "we just don't have anything in your size" you can imagine my delight when figleaves started up!
The website is excellent, just type in your bra size, style of bra, state if you want matching sets and hey presto a gorgeous array of bras in my size appears before my eyes. I am no longer presented with grannyesq "over the shoulder bolder holders" in pointy 50's fashion burleigh style. Now I get lots of lovely stylish bras to choose from. With everything from T-shirt bras, plunge bra, swimwear, matching sets, fancy lace, printed, you name it the options are mind boggling.
I always end up buying around 10 matching sets so that I can try them on at home, the major benefit is that you can see which ones work under your clothes and make truly informed descisions (not an option you get if you are trying on in the high street). If I'm not too sure which size will fit I order a couple of sizes, that way you don't have to pay for a 2nd lot of postage!
Delivery time is really fast and any items that are out of stock you are constantly updated as to their expected despatch date. You can track your orders through your figleaves account too. When your order arrives it is always beautifully packed in a box and tissue. Once I have had my mamouth trying on session I then pick out what I want to keep.
The sets I don't like or that don't work for me, I then send back using their free returns service. Really easy to use, just fill in your forms re-box and take to the post office. Anything I return is credited back to my account really quickly and if you time when you buy and pay by credit card it has often been refunded before I receive my statement, so I only pay for what I keep and don't accrue interest on the items I send back.
Frankly Figleaves has changed my life, I now know that I can buy gorgeous bras and swimwear in all sorts of styles and colours in the correct size. I don't know where I would be without them! Probably still trying to squeeze myself into a 32D!
Having had my skin type tested under the Shiseido microscope I was recommended to use the Benefiance range including the Enriched Balancing Softner. Well, that was 21 years ago and I am still using it! I love the fact that they don't rely on someone guessing your skin type, but actually look at it properly using scientific methods, so you can be very sure that recommendations made to you are accurate.
You can get your skin re-checked at any time too, if you buy through a department store they always keep a record of what you purchase, which makes it very useful should you drop hints to friends and family at Christmas and birthdays - all they have to do is mention your name and you can be sure that you will receive the correct products! The other very handy thing about them keeping your details is that you then receive information about promotions and freebies that are coming up. Normally promotions are for you to buy 2 skin care products to receive your free gift. These usually comprise 5 travel size skin care items. You can also get mini facials done for too, often these are either free or redeemable against products bought on the day.
So onto the enriched balancing softner, it comes it a gorgeous frosted glass bottle with marble effect lid, so definately a product to keep out on display! And it's just amazing! Very gentle on your skin, with no abrasive substances! The texture is silky without being greasy. Perfect for dryer skin types or aging skin.
The fragrance is lovely and fresh but not so heavy that it competes with your perfume. It easily removes all left over traces of cleanser and is gentle enough to be used around your eyes. My top tip is to use it on a moistened cotton wool pad, then you only need a couple of drops for each use.
One huge bonus is that because you need to use so little of it each bottle lasts about 5-6 months.This means that initial hefty cost of around £35 actually becomes pretty cost effective when spread out. It actually works out cheaper that many "high street" brands that only last a month or so.
Having tried out many other toners in my time I still keep coming back to this one, it really is a gem!