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The Halifax

The halifax used to have a good name, then it stopped being a mutual, and merged with the Bank of Scotland, and it has been getting worse ever since. Circumstantial evidence from a number of different people suggests that they no longer have an interest in good customers like they used to, and only really want those who are feckless enough to get in a lot of debt, but not quite so bad that they cannot keep servicing it.

The experiences of one customer lends quite a lot of support to this. First, a credit card was got with a different building society, but underwritten by HBoS. This was for the express purpose of using it to transfer the balance from an expensive card and paying it off.

Initially this was not a problem, but after paying off a couple of payments at considerably more than the minimum amount, they decided to punish the customer by reviewing the account and dropping the credit to the current balance.

Then they added that months fees (which they should have known were going to fall due at some point), and because this took the customer over the new limit, added penalties as well, and then they sent out the monthly statement.

After quite a bit of fuss and too much wasted time, the penalties were reversed, and a payment had to be made that was well in excess of the amount which had been being paid in order to not have the same problem with the fees next month.

The attitude of the company was basically "it's nothing to do with us, its the review department (of their own company).

This basically happened every six months until the credit limit reduced to 500 pounds, making it almost unusable, but in the mean time, they were bringing this other company into disrepute by their actions, and it was only found out by accident that HBos were to blame..

Eventually the other company ditched HBos and went to MBNA who only want customers who don't need credit cards, so there was no way to just move the outstanding balance to their new provider.

HBoS also trebbled the interest rate. This combination meant that for a long time it was impossible to build up a sensible "available to spend" on this card, because as soon as a few hundred was available, it was review time, and the limit was stupidly dropped to the current balance, resulting in having to fight them again for the reversal of penalties when the interest was added.

Eventually the balance dropped below 500 pounds, and the card was paid off in full, and a surprise increase in the "available to spend" occured. As this would leave the balance high enough to pay for the upcomming vehicle insurance, the customer quite rationally did not fritter the capacity away, but kept it to renew the insurance with.

A fortnight before the insurance was due, the company decided to review the limit again, and reversed it back to the 500 pound limit, and when the customer rung to query this, basically told them to wait six months for another review.

Upon being told this the customer did not just go away, and use the card to get monthly payments for the insurance, but instead asked them to look at the range of options, which resulted in the customer being refered to another department.

After a lot of mucking about, the people in the other department contacted the review department (but refused to let the customer talk to them) and it turned out that not only had the dropped the credit limit, but they also decided to cancel the card. In all these cases it was because the customer had not been spending lots of money on running up debt on the card, despite the fact that for almost all of the time the company in question had made this impossible to do because of their limit reduction policies.

The customer is still waiting for the written notification that the card had been cancelled. The lesson to be learned from this saga, don't get a credit card from HBoS. If you are unlucky enough to have one, pay only the minimum payment until you have paid off any other cards you have, and make sure you put some silly expense on the card every quarter whatever happens.

NOTE: They refused to say how often you have to spend on the card, only that something every quarter should be good enough to stop the card being cancelled.

Another cautionary tale about this company is that they were quite happy to put a disabled person without transport through considerable fuss to get an account where bill payments could be set up for payment at the counter, only to inform them at literally the last second that the nearest counter that this account was compatable with was over 40 miles away.

So much for giving a damn about your customers.