Pull up a chair. Grab yourself a glass of something refreshing. I am going to tell you a tale. A saga more like. I'd call it a fable but I'm blowed if I know what the moral is yet except to say some progress is, and will always be, backwards.
It begins, surprisingly, with my thinking ahead and planning. I know, I know. I'll try to stop.
Last year, whilst on holiday, my bank stopped my credit and debit cards after the first time I tried to use them in Malta. When I arrived home there was a voice mail on my home phone, from the bank, asking if I had been trying to use my cards overseas. Due to the 'extraordinary activity' they had put a stop on my cards 'for safety's sake.' Of course, being in Malta trying to use my cards made access to my home voicemail a little difficult. It is the sort of thing I go on holiday to get away from.
So I looked at my internet banking site to find out if there was a simple way to tell my bank about a forthcoming trip abroad. There was not, apart from phoning, so I phoned and managed to get through the various number-entering activities that put me through to a fine young man called Mohammed.
I explained what I wanted and he told me that he'd note it but that he could not promise that my cards would not be stopped again. He gave me two numbers to call in case it did happen again. He started to ask about other things but, dragging him back to my point and my reason for calling, I got him to note my mobile number so they could, at least, call me on a phone I might have with me if they needed to. My dictation took two goes but we got there in the end.
Then he asked if I knew that my instant saver account no longer gave me more than 0.01% interest and did I want to upgrade it? You bet I did. I wondered why nobody had told me about this. I was told it was my job to check my savings.
I was transferred to someone else who went through some security questions and then told me about the possible upgrades. When I expressed interest she said one of her colleagues would phone me back in ten minutes to make the arrangements.
The phone did indeed ring ten minutes later and, resisting the overwhelming desire to ask the caller to go through some security questions of my choosing, I went through some security questions of theirs. I then took out an ISA and a new savings account. I asked what would happen to the obsolete account with no interest and no money in it and was told it could only be cancelled in writing or by calling in to my branch. If I do nothing it will simply sit there and smirk, like my old, uncancelled credit cards.
I refused an upgrade to my account which would have cost me more per month and given me several services I didn't need, such as a fourth lot of mobile phone cover and a third of emergency breakdown assistance. I have never lost a phone and avoid it being stolen by always using an uncool one. If I have a breakdown I take the cork out of my assistance.
Towards the end of the conversation, and I have to say I enjoyed the irony of this, the bank employee asked if I was planning to go on holiday this year and if there were any travel services they could offer me.