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The not so flexible open plan mortage!
Member Name: dannahaz
Date: 29/08/02, updated on 29/08/02 (1430 review reads)
Advantages: additional funds available at mortgage rates
Disadvantages: the account does not deliver what it promised, It feels like big brother is watching you
Three years ago we took out an open plan mortgage with the Woolwich. We had bought a house that needed major work doing to it, and the idea of having a flexible finance facility - at mortgage rates - at out fingertips seemed perfect.
Taking out the mortgage was easy. The problems came as we started to use the facility. Our flexible facility ("reserve") limit was 20K. Every time we spent money - even just a couple of thousand pounds - we received a letter saying that they were glad that we were making use of the facility - and to help us they were now reducing the amount we could use in any one month - despite the fact that we were about 14K away from our overall limit.
The account also comes with a credit card. you can transfer balances on to this card and then they are added to your reserve account at a particular point in the month. This was fine - until the Woolwich handed this part of the business over to Barclaycard.
Credit cards have to have one principal card holder. Even though any outstanding balance on the card was automatically transferred to our reserve account for which we were both jointly and severally liable.
Shortly after the Barclaycard takeover, I rang to do a balance transfer from another card. I wasn't allowed to do so as I was only the additional card holder (despite having done this on numerous occasions beforehand).
So my husband rang. We wanted to transfer 6K. We couldn't because our monthly limit was 5200. OK, we'll transfer 5200. Can't do that because the maximum transfer is 5K.
We complained about my not being able to initiate a balance transfer, and were told that my husband could fill in a form which would enable me to have access. So he did.
The next time, I was again told I couldn't do it. I explained that we had filled in the necessary form, but I was told that the rules had changed due to data protection and I couldn'
t do it.
I then wrote to the Woolwich to explain the problems we were encountering, and to ask them what we needed to do to make this happen. They told me that we had filled in the correct form and shouldn't have a problem, and if we did we should speak to Barclaycard about it.
The next time - same problem. I quoted from the Woolwich letter, and the Adviser then said we couldn't do it anyway because we had already made 5 transfers in a twelve month period!! Where did this come from, it wasn't mentioned in the small print of our original agreement?!!
I rang the Woolwich to ask about this. They effectively shrugged their shoulders and said that if that was Barclaycard's rules, that was the rules. i explained that I had not signed an agreement with Barclaycard, I had an agreement with the Woolwich...and when the changeover happened, I had a letter from Woolwich telling me that the card would operate in exactly the same way. Not their problem, apparently.
Each time I phone it takes about twenty minutes to get an answer. There are tens of phone numbers to choose from, and at least three physical locations for the various departments. The numbers change from year to year - the number shown on my statement, for example, is no longer the number in use.
Unfortunately, we cannot leave the Woolwich until Dec 2003 without incurring a 6 months interest penalty. I wish I had just taken the hit when we started encountering these issues, but we didn't - and now I keep telling myself it is only another year or so until I can find a better mortgage provider.
Their brochure was great, the product sounded ideal for us. Unfortunately, for us the reality didn't quite live up to the promise.
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