Friday, April 24, 2009

Nationwide is yer lot

It's never that great a feeling. The sense of impending doom when you bend down to pick up the mail from behind the door and it's an envelope with a little plastic window on the front.
I mean, how often has it turned out to be your bank offering to refund all those charges they've hit you with over the years? (Which you should be the process of reclaiming) Or the power company telling you they've decided to drop the prices of gas and electricity?

Not often I'll wager, so I was expecting something not that barry when the latest was lying on my doormat. But when I ripped open the envelope and pulled this little sucker out I wasn't too worried.

The Nationwide bank after all are the good gadgies of the banking world. They run their business properly and profitably. I like to think of them as the bank equivalent of The Guardian (when nepotism goes wrong) newspaper. They are the cats who don't charge you for taking money out or using your card abroad. Who needs traveller's cheques? Why carry your entire spending money for your trip around with you after getting it changed at M&S the week before you leave? (If you're organised that is, often it was a last minute dash to the Post Office on my way to the airport.)

And we get these things all the time, telling us that the interest rate we receive on our savings has dropped to 0.05% per annum or some other boring information about something or other.

Ostensibly it was the same as any other mundane circular, but within its folds was the news that as of 1st June 2009, the bank will now pass on any charges they incur as a result of 'transactions in certain currencies other than sterling'. The bank has, until now, covered these charges but it will now be hitting us with a fee every time we use our Nationwide Visa card on a non-Sterling transaction.

The only reason I got a Nationwide account in the first place was because they offered the free overseas transactions. Until recently they built their advertising on it. Remember of the guy from the ad saying 'Think of it as a tip'? So for them now to do a U-turn this policy is a bit rich. (Pardon the pun)

I know that the bank will point to this as a necessary measure to remain a properly run and profitable business. And I am also aware that the charges exclude the Visa Europe region where you can still get charge free transactions. But what about the rest of the world?

The main point is that it wasn't so long ago they were using the very fact that they didn't charge for using your card abroad as a marketing tool. To paraphrase another of their ads; they used it to hoik people in.