I stupidly listened to a friend of mine several years back who advised me to leave my then current bank and move to Halifax and transfer my credit cards over, too. This would turn out to be the worst financial mistake of my life.
From the beginning, things went wrong, as the Halifax refused to give me a single credit card for the debt transfer, insisting I have two separate cards instead. The Halifax then proceeded to mangle the account transfer from my old bank – so much for their advertised a smooth transition – causing all sorts of issues with payments, direct debits and rent.
A few months after this debacle, I found myself without a job/income and, guess what? The insurance I took out on the credit cards didn’t cover my particular circumstances (never would have, as it happens). Being unemployed I racked up more debt virtually living off my credit cards, the ones I was supposed to have cleared if Halifax had done their job correctly. By the time I finally acquired a new job, I was obliged to take a seriously drastic pay cut, which left me unable to pay my bills. I sought help and have since been making payments towards my unsecured debt for nigh on five years – honourably. I did not file for bankruptcy because I was told I was ineligible; and I did not get an IVA.
All of my creditors (with one exception) agreed to drop the interest on my debts provided I paid off what was owing without missing a single payment. Great, I thought. At the time, it was estimated I would have everything paid off in six years. The one creditor who refused to drop, or even reduce interest was Halifax, who have continued to charge me interest at a rate such that the interest added to my account each month is more than the payments I am able to make – payments are pro rata based on overall debt owed to a creditor. So, instead of my debt decreasing over the last five years, it has increased. All my creditors receive pro rata payments and their payments have been reduced with each yearly review as the Halifax’s increases; which, in turn, has increased the overall time it will take to pay off my unsecured debts. Currently it stands it will be a total of 8½ years, ending in the last quarter of 2015. By the time I’m debt-free, Halifax will have extracted near double my initial debt to them. That’s almost 100% (simple) interest, isn’t it?
No matter how many times my debt management company speak to the Halifax, they will not reduce the interest. It currently stands at 19.9% p.a. and they say this is their reduced amount. I’d hate to see what the average person on the street is paying for their credit cards with Halifax; it’s almost akin to those awful pay day loan sharks who charge in the region of 2,000% p.a.
Halifax: I think you suck; you are despicable in your habits and practices and I will never recommend you to anyone, but I will continue to document your faults for others to read. Here follows just a few of my reasons for so doing:
- When I first found out I could not pay my debts, Halifax telephoned me daily; several times a day. I informed them I worked nights and calling me before noon was out of the question. Didn’t stop them. The people who telephoned were rude and, on several occasions, swore at me and even laughed. I wrote several letters telling Halifax to cease and desist to no avail. Finally, my debt management company told me to write a letter, copying in the Ombudsmen. Everytime they telephoned, I answered with the following phrase: “I must inform you that this conversation is being taped” in order to curb the abusive manner of the callers. I blocked the Halifax telephone number from my phone. Halifax still ring to this day, but it comes up as a blocked number, so I don’t answer.
- Halifax transferred one of my credit card debts to a debt collection agency, Blair Oliver & Scott, but not the other. Blair Oliver & Scott dropped the interest on one of my accounts for a short period. I queried the Halifax as to why those chose to forward one credit card debt to Blair Oliver & Scott but not both, to which I was told that the accounts had behaved differently. I asked how, but got no response because Blair Oliver & Scott said they didn’t have access to information on my other Halifax (see below). Of course they weren’t behaving differently, as my debt management company paid both at the same time every month at the same rate. Then, after a time, I started receiving statements from Halifax again for the account that Blair Oliver & Scott were handling. So, for those who aren’t regular viewers of Watchdog, and various other consumer programmes, here’s the scoop: Blair Oliver & Scott is part of the Halifax and not a separate institution; they even share the same premises.
- The hassle I had closing down my current account with the Halifax was extraordinary. It took ages to successfully close the account and, in that time, Halifax extracted fees from me for being overdrawn. Halifax kept charging the account keeping fee; I would go in and pay it, only to find they would have charged an overdrawn fee for the account keeping fee they had taken out on my zero balanced account which I had closed. So, the following month, I would be find myself overdrawn again as they took out the accounting keeping fee and added the overdrawn fee. I’d go in every month, make payments on the overdrawn amount and add for the next account keeing fee; but the following month, I was overdrawn because they had applied the account keeping fee and overdrawn fee – again. Round and round in circles, all the while me paying £30 a month for an account I was not using. And this after I had gone into the branch, extracted all my money and closed the account (sans any advice that they would extract an additional account keeping fee, bouncing my account into the red). Months of statements with fees, penalties, and more fees. I was near to insanity by the end.
The appalling behaviour and practices of Halifax is in very stark contrast to the reasonable stance my other creditors have taken. It make me wonder why they need to resort to such tactics.
So, what prompted this post? I received a statement today from one of my other creditors – who never hassled me, charged me interest, or tried to make my life difficult when I was already stressed – to find that within the next 17 months, my debt to them will be extinguished. Isn’t that great? Had Halifax behaved in the same civilised manner as my other creditors, all would all have received their money, in full and inclusive of the interest, already incurred on my debt, by July 2013. It would have been a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel had it not been for the horrendous Halifax and their appalling approach to banking and their debtors.
When I am back in the clear (at this point thought to be at the end of 2015), I am shifting all my accounts over to a building society, or other institution. Never again, a high street bank, and never, ever – you could not pay me enough – will I have anything to do with Halifax or Bank of Scotland again.