Sunday, 15 July 2012

Market-leading loan rates fall below 6%

Derbyshire BS and Sainsbury's have jumped to the top of the personal loan best buy tables by cutting their rates to less than 6%.

If you need to borrow money but are worried about the cost, the fact that Derbyshire Building Society has slashed its personal loan rate will be welcome news.

Now customers wanting to borrow anything between £7,500 and £14,999 over five years can apply for a market-leading rate of 5.9%.

This is the lowest the Nationwide Group (which owns the Derbyshire) has ever gone for personal loans.
5.9% is the new 6%
Derbyshire is not the only lender to cut its personal loan rate below 6% though. Sainsbury's
 has also moved its rate for loans of between £7,500 and £15,000 over a five-year term to 5.9%. In fact, you can get an even lower rate of 5.8% should you agree to pay the loan off quicker, over a term of one to three years.

And Barclays has cut the rate it offers on loans of between £10,000 and £25,000 from 6.2% to 5.9%.

The Barclays loan is available over two to five years and comes with a price match guarantee giving customers a £50 one-off payment if they can find the loan cheaper elsewhere within 30 days. But the catch is these loans are only available to existing customers and you have to borrow more than Derbyshire and Sainsbury's
 to activate the best rate.

Borrowing £7,500 over five years
Here is a roundup of the most competitive loans available for borrowing £7,500 over five years, ranked by lowest typical APR.
Typical APR
Monthly repayment
Total amount repayable
M&S Personal Loan
Existing Customer Personal Loan
What are the chances?
When taking out a loan you should remember that the attractive advertised rate is not necessarily the rate you will be given if you're accepted.

Lenders like Derbyshire are only obliged to give the headline price to 51% of applicants while the rest can expect to receive a higher rate.

Read what really damages your credit rating and make sure you check your credit profile to avoid being part of the 49%.

The alternatives
If you need to borrow money you don't always have to turn to a loan.

One alternative is to take out a 0% credit card. This could be more appropriate for your needs and help you cover costs without incurring any extra debt for a set period.

Of course this is under the proviso that you pay the amount back during the interest-free period!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Shard due for laser inauguration amid ticket price anger

           An adult ticket to the Shard's viewing platform will cost £24.95

The Shard is due to be inaugurated later with a light show visible across London amid anger over the "exorbitant" price of visiting its viewing platform.
The EU's highest building's external completion is to be marked with a laser show beginning at 22:15 BST.
Beams will be fired from its summit to 15 London skyscrapers and landmarks such as the Gherkin and Canary Wharf.
But there was dismay as it was revealed it will cost nearly £90 for a family of four to visit the viewing platform.
Tickets to the platform - which opens in February - will cost £24.95 for an adult and £18.95 for a child.
By comparison, an adult ticket to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris is currently priced at 14 euros - just over £11.
Russell Gray, of the Bermondsey Village Action Group, said: "It does sound pretty exorbitant.
"I don't think many local people will be going up to the viewing platform at that price."
He continued: "We have this massive pyramid slapped down here as a monument to the munificence of the Emirate of Qatar.
"Yet the price is yet another of the many examples of how the Shard is clearly at odds with the community in which it's defiantly planted itself."
But the PR firm representing the project insisted it was competitively priced compared to other major London attractions.
A spokesman also pointed out that the "visitor experience" would include such attractions as "kaleidoscopic lifts".
During the ceremony on Thursday the London Philharmonic Orchestra will perform classical music including Aaron Copland's Fanfare For The Common Man.
The 310m (1,016ft) tall structure will be inaugurated by the prime minister of Qatar, Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al Thani, and Prince Andrew.
'The building is yours'
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saoud Al Thani, governor of Qatar Central Bank, which joint-owns the tower, said: "The Shard is the newest London landmark and a beacon of the city of London's resilience and expansion, even during tough economic times.
"The lightshow will mark a key moment for the Shard, and one people around the world can enjoy."
The laser show will culminate in the illumination of the Shard itself, with the ceremony streamed on the internet.
Architect Renzo Piano said: "Up until now the building was ours. Now the building is yours.
"This building is not going to be a symbol of power."
London's iconic tall buildings

Monday, 2 July 2012

What really happens when your mobile is stolen

If your mobile phone is stolen, in many cases you are hit with a bill of thousands of pounds for fraudulent calls. But who are the thieves calling? And why?

Having your mobile stolen is stressful enough. Firstly you're without a phone and uncontactable. Secondly you have to go through the rigmarole of calling your network, getting your SIM cancelled and arranging a replacement.

However the real sting in the tail comes when you get your next bill and it turns out thieves have used your phone to ring premium rate phone lines anywhere from Algeria to Mexico, landing you with a bill of thousands of pounds.

For a long time I rather naively thought the thieves were calling their mums back in their home countries – but the truth is a lot more sinister than that.
Premium rate and profit share
The mobile phone thieves who nick your phone from your bag in the pub are part of much bigger organised gangs.

The gangs rent premium rate telephone numbers around the world and, after they've stolen your phone, use it to call them. These numbers can cost anything from £1 to £10 a minute to call.

Because premium numbers share revenue between the provider and the person who purchases them, the fraudsters can generate significant revenues by keeping your phone connected to their own premium rate number.

So, the premium rate number provider profits from the theft, the thief does, and so does your mobile network which bills you for the calls.

Liability for calls
If you're on a monthly contract there is generally no cap on the bill you can run up each month. Contracts state that you're responsible for all the calls made on your phone until the phone is reported as lost or stolen. So if you lose your phone on a night out but don't report it lost until the next day, you'll be liable for the calls made all night.

Thieves tend to act quickly – they'll start calling premium rate numbers the moment they steal your phone. This means that people who leave it only a few hours or a day to report their phone stolen can still face a massive bill.

Mobile phone insurance won't protect you either. The small print of policies says the insurance will only kick in once you've reported the phone's theft. So although it may pay out for a new handset, you'll be left footing the bill for fraudulent calls.

Mobile Phone networks
So, what are the networks doing about this scam? Well, nothing. Why would they when it's such as nice money spinner for them?

Critics have repeatedly asked UK mobile networks why they don't immediately spot fraudulent activity on a mobile phone account. After all, if you usually only use your phone to call landlines and mobiles in the UK and never exceed your monthly minutes allowance, surely a bill of £5,000 calling premium rate lines in Eastern Europe would arouse suspicions?

Unfortunately mobile phone firms are under no legal obligation to inform customers when they inadvertently run up high bills.

This lack of protection compares unfavourably with banks and credit card providers who have a legal duty to protect customers from fraud under the consumer Credit Act. Banks have processes in place which alert them to suspicious activity on an account and then either the customer is contacted or card cancelled. Mobile phone companies have no such system.

Credit limits
Some networks, such as Virgin Mobile, do allow customers to have a credit limit on their account but, worryingly, this doesn't necessarily protect you.

The networks themselves say that these limits can't be relied upon and don't work abroad. They claim this is because there is a technical delay – of several days – in foreign networks reporting usage back to the billing network in the UK.

This, of course, begs the question of how pay-as-you-go (PAYG) phones work? If you use a PAYG phone abroad and run out of credit you won't be able to make any more calls.

A cynic might say that as mobile networks are raking in profit from phone theft, they have no interest in protecting customers who fall victim to this type of crime.

But, then, I'm just a cynic.