I followed by own advice on saving money on holiday – only to be turned down for a Halifax Clarity card
We all have our Martin Lewis moments. When we go to extreme lengths to save a few quid here and there. Goodness knows, I’ve written scores of articles on money-saving tips, and feel, as money editor, it’s my duty to put them into practice. I like to think I’ve the right mortgage, the best energy deal, the lowest price car and home insurance, and the cheapest broadband. But every now and then a money-saving tip can backfire spectacularly.
Four years ago we published an article entitled “Twenty ways to cut the cost of your summer holiday before you leave home“. I like to think that most of the advice still rings true. But number 8 has a serious sting in the tail.
We enthusiastically encouraged readers to “Get a Visa Electron card”. At the time, it was the only way to avoid the £4.75 Ryanair card fee, charged per person and per journey. Pop along to Halifax, we suggested, and open an Easycash basic account.
As a frequent air traveller and committed money saver, I took my own advice. I popped into a Halifax branch, and a couple of days later the Electron card arrived. Infuriatingly, Ryanair introduced fees on Electron cards in 2009, closing off that particular money-saving route. I let the account go dormant and forgot about it.
Fast forward to spring (this is spring?) 2013 and I’m making a Guardian online video on saving money on holiday (in personal finance there are only so many topics we cover). I tell people how to save when using a debit or credit card abroad. Currently, the best deal is with Halifax, whose Clarity credit card comes with no foreign exchange fees, and no cash withdrawal fees. That saves holidaymakers around 5% compared with using the standard debit card in a restaurant or ATM. Slam dunk sensible advice I felt, and indeed Mr Lewis thinks so too, rating it his top card for overseas spending.
Once again, I decided to walk the walk, and ahead of making the video, applied online for a Clarity card. After all, I was about to say it would be easy to obtain online.
Except it wasn’t. After completing a few online pages and pressing “proceed”, the screen clock ticked for a few seconds, and a blunt message came back. I was rejected. Declined. Verboten. No reason given.
My initial reaction was: “How dare you!”. I’ve not been overdrawn for years and always pay my one other credit card on time. My next thought was “Oh God, is there something on my credit record I don’t know about?”
Halifax gives an address for applicants to appeal. I knocked out a letter asap, and paid Experian £2 to obtain my credit file (it’s outrageous we have to pay an organisation that profits hugely from our personal financial data to see our own records, but that’s another story).
I fully expected Halifax to write back with a tedious standardised letter citing commercial confidentiality, and telling me to obtain my Experian record. Instead, I received a call from someone in the appeals department (he didn’t know I’m a reporter) who was, rather shockingly, polite, intelligent and informative.
What emerged is something that should be a concern for anyone with a Halifax Electron card. I was an automatic fail simply because I had an Easycash account with Halifax. This is the bank’s basic account, aimed at people with poor credit scores. Halifax operates around one million of them. Maybe it’s being responsible about granting credit, but if you have one, no matter how well you run it, don’t expect to obtain a credit card.
The kindly man on the phone assured me that I will be accepted for Clarity if I pop into a Halifax branch, and that there’s no stain on my credit record. But my apologies if you took our money-saving advice four years ago and wonder why you haven’t been too popular with Halifax ever since.
It’s prompted me to wonder what other money-saving tips have a sting in the tail?
Email your examples to me at firstname.lastname@example.org