Archive for the ‘Life: Personal’ category

MBNA – PIN security, slightly lacking

March 2nd, 2012

Due to a card fraud incident (CNP), MBNA have had to reissue my Miles and More credit cards (I have a Visa card and American Express card on the same account). They’ve also issued me with new PIN codes. However, I received one letter today that read:

“Your American Express credit card PIN is here

Please be aware:

  • The PIN for your VISA credit card has been sent to you separately
  • The PIN for your American Express and Visa credit cards will be the same.

and another letter reading:

“Your Visa credit card PIN is here

Please be aware:

  • The PIN for your American Express credit card has been sent to you separately
  • The PIN for your Visa and American credit cards will be the same.

Yep – both PINs were the same: so why did they have to send two letters (doubling the chances of interception of the letters?) giving the same details? Why not just one letter saying “Here’s your new PIN code – it’s applicable to your Visa card (ending XXXX) and your American Express card (ending YYYY) which you’ll be receiving in the next few days. The PIN is the same for both cards, and you can can the PIN on either card via most high street cash machines.”

Too many good ideas

June 20th, 2010

Dammit, I’ve had an idea for a really good service/website, but I haven’t got the time (nor the money) to invest in it to get it built: which is a shame as I think it’ll be brilliant and a godsend to many people. Why can’t I win the lottery so I can help make the world a better place?

Where does my money go? (or how much does the Government make from me)

April 5th, 2010

I’ve done a breakdown on my income and expenditure and it’s scary how much of my money (39.72% or 39.72p per pound) is going directly to the Government in Taxes.

Here’s the full breakdown (in pence per pound) of where my money goes.

I’ve bolded the money which goes to one government department or another.

  • 26.01p Income Tax: yes, I’m a “higher rate” tax payer, but I am working in Central London so costs are higher: see rent!. Don’t forget, that to pay me my employer needs to collect money from their customers which they have to pay VAT on to the government along with business rates etc
  • 20.83p rent: don’t forget that the people I’m renting this house from will need to then pay income tax on this
  • 14.17p savings
  • 6.22p National Insurance
  • 4.17p food shopping
  • 3.69p takeouts/evening meals/other hot meals
  • 3.33p Personal pension contributions (as the pension I’m supposedly paying for through National Insurance will be minimal)
  • 3.15p lunches (ouch – I’ll have to reduce this!)
  • 2.54p Council Tax
  • 2.50p web hosting server rental
  • 2.40p Oyster (London Underground) Card
  • 2.06p Gas and electricity (the property we are living in is currently poorly insulated, but we are moving soon)
  • 1.77p on VAT including:
    • 0.72p (17.5%) on my mobile phone bill
    • 0.65p (17.5%) on takeouts/evening meals/other hot meals
    • 0.10p (5% VAT) on gas and electricity
    • 0.09p (17.5%) on Internet access
    • 0.06p (17.5%) on Sky television subscription
    • 0.06p (17.5%) on £20 worth of VATable shopping each month (mainly cat food)
    • 0.05p (17.5%) on clothing
    • 0.02p (5% VAT) on Insurance Premium on Car insurance
    • 0.01p (17.5%) on Car MOT
    • 0.01p (5% VAT) on Insurance Premium on Life Insurance
  • 0.60p Mobile phone bill
  • 0.50p Internet access
  • 0.43p Fuel tax and VAT on Fuel
  • 0.40p car insurance
  • 0.33p Sky TV subscription
  • 0.28p domain name registrations
  • 0.28p clothing
  • 0.27p Water bill
  • 0.24p Petrol costs (excludes fuel tax and VAT – see 0.43p above: yep, we pay nearly double the amount of the fuel in taxes here in the UK!)
  • 0.24p life insurance
  • 0.20p TV Licence
  • 0.17p Car Tax
  • 0.06p MOT
  • 0.04p Car breakdown cover

Yes, I’ve included the following as “government contributions” – but that’s because the money goes either directly to a government department (such as TfL) or goes to a subsidiary wholly owned by the government. It’s up to you if you want to include these figures in your own “breakdown”:
* 0.20p per pound TV Licence: Should go towards funding the BBC – but £1.01 of that goes towards “Digital Switchover” costs and that 5.2% of it goes towards collecting the licence fee – and the current Labour government has made mention that they want to use the money to fund other causes. I actually think the BBC does a quite good job (and an excellent job for news), but I do disagree with the way the licence fee is managed by the government (who sets amount the licence fee is charged at and then routes the money to the BBC which is wholly owned by the government…).
* 6.22p per pound National Insurance contributions: These are not, technically, a tax (you can recognise the taxes by the word “Tax”)- but you can’t get away from not paying it and the money goes into the general government pot – I’m actually ignoring the fact here that my employer, to employ me, has to pay the same again in Employers National Insurance contributions.
* 2.40p per pound Oyster Card: This money goes towards me travelling on the “good to really bad depending on the day/time” London Underground system. This money actually goes to Transport For London – which is a government department controlling transport across the London area. Yes, I know it falls under the remit of the Mayor of London – but note the part of TfL’s web address: domain names are only available for the government to register…

Assumptions made:
* Out of the 260 Monday-Friday days, we have 13 bank holidays and I take 20 days holiday – leaving 227 working days that I’ve got to travel each way on the ‘Tube and have lunch.
* I travel 4,500 miles per year (currently not possible due to a broken car – but it’s roughly what we managed last year) and petrol costs at the pump 114.9p per litre and I get 49mpg – giving me 417.87 litres of fuel used per year.

Car Costs: Buy and replace or just hire?

March 21st, 2010

It appears our 9 year old Fiat Punto is on its way out – after buying it a new battery (£40) and putting it in, we checked it worked. White smoke started coming out the exhaust. We then checked the oil dipstick and it looked like chocolate milk – a sign the head gasket has allowed anti-freeze to enter the engine. Research on the internet showed a new head gasket would cost between £300 and £450, but since anti-freeze has already entered the engine, it might need to be stripped down which would cost a lot more.

So, we decided to see if it was economical to replace it with another car (2nd hand or brand new) or whether to use hire cars/car clubs: we make around 14 trips a year (6 trips to Yorkshire @ 200miles each way, 6 trips to Leicester @ 100 miles each way, 4 trips to see friends @ 40miles each year = 3920 miles total: say 4,000miles for “spare”) and we live close to London so it might be worth it…. Here’s our figures:

Yearly running costs for the car
Road Tax £130.00
Insurance £304.00
M.O.T. £50.00
Breakdown cover £30.00
Total fixed yearly costs
(exc Petrol and repairs)
Petrol on 4,000 miles a year based on 5.7litres/100km at 116.8p/litre [4000 miles= 6437km/100= 64.37*5.7litres= 367 litres per year * 116.8] £428.66
Repair costs (guestimated average) £250.00
Total costs £1,092.66

Ouch! But how much would it cost for a hire car for the same sort of period?

Well, the journeys to Yorkshire and Leicestershire are typically weekend ones, so we’ll need to hire a car on Saturday morning and returning it Monday morning (as car hire places usually close at 5pm on Sundays – if they are open at all – and that’ll be too early). Avis has cars at £75.47 per weekend. The friends trips are same day, during the week, and that’s £110.00 from Avis – although I found another local company offering car hire for a single day at £40.00 and Streetcar offers £49.50 – so we’ll say £50 for a day).

So that’s

6 * 2 (14) weekend trips @ £110 each £1,540
4 one day trips @ £50 each £200
Total hire costs £1,740
Petrol on 4,000 miles a year based on 5.7litres/100km at 116.8p/litre [4000 miles= 6437km/100= 64.37*5.7litres= 367 litres per year * 116.8] £428.66
Total costs £2168.66

Even without adding petrol on top (most hire car places want you to pay for the petrol as well) – it’s already more expensive then owning a car (even taking into account repair costs!).

If we were to buy a second hand car for £1,500 (we’re actually looking at a third of this) and taking into account this “capital expenditure” the prices per year would be:

Running costs Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6 Year 7 Year 8 Year 9
Buying 2nd hand* 2592 3685 4777 5870 6963 8028 9121 10214 11306
Buying new car* 8902 9685 10617 11600 12583 13565 14548 15531 16513
Hiring a car 2168 4337 6505 8674 10843 13011 15180 17349 19517

* = Second Hand card purchase price estimated at £1,500
* = New Cars do not need an MOT for the first 3 years of their lives. We’re looking at a Toyota Aygo which costs £8,220 “on the road” price, is taxed at “B” rate (which is £20), does not need any tax paying for the first year (this is included in the “on the road price”) and includes 1 year breakdown cover. Repair costs are estimated at £50 for the first year, £100 for the next year and then £250 for each consecutive year.

So as long as the car lasts us more than 1.5 years, it is more economical for us to have a car that sits idle for over 91% of its life than it is just to hire cars “as and when needed”. Even buying a new car is cheaper than hiring over 7 years.

Quite shocking and saddening really….

Moan: Single occupancy hotel prices

January 15th, 2010

I’ve watched some of Channel 5’s “The Hotel Inspector” about Walpole Bay Hotel in Margate and I thought I’d go to their website to see if they were still in business and they are. However, I then saw their Rooms and rates prices which offered “Prices below are per room per night including breakfast ” – but then said “In a double or twin room is £50 per night increasing to £60 during high season” (note a “Standard double” during “Low season” is £60 so you are nearly doubling the price – and also note that they don’t actually offer single rooms, nor is there a single supplement charge on their sleeps 3 Family Rooms or sleeps 4 Family Suites!).

If you are charging by the room, why does it matter how many people are in it? And if you are including breakfast in the price of a double/twin room and there is only one person staying, doesn’t that actually *save* you money? And what happens if you actually book it for two people, but one person is ill and can’t make it or has to go home half-way through.

I wish this practice would stop – either charge per person or charge per room: don’t do both!

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