Losing Your Marbles

I didn’t set out to get a Marbles Credit Card, I sort of got sold into it.

A few years back we changed around our credit cards, in particular we took the advice of the Money Saving Expert site and swapped to credit cards that provided benefits or perks. It has definitely been a good move as we get a steady although small cash back on one card, but the other, which gets us frequent flyer miles has now taken us twice to Canada and back on free miles. The only downside was that on one of the old cards in particular we had built up a pretty good credit limit. Whilst we never came anywhere near needing to use it, it was reassuring that in a crisis we knew we could use that card.

In order to keep the account ticking over, I had a monthly charge of £4.75 going through on the card every month, which with the repayments cover of 4p a month for that size of balance was a grand total of £4.79.

A couple of months ago we got a letter from the card issuer saying that they were getting out of the credit card business, and that they had sold all their accounts to another company, who were “reassuringly backed� by the Bank of Scotland – although that is perhaps somewhat less reassuring considering what a mess certain other parts of HBOS are like… Alongside this, the new owners seem to have transferred all of their customers like us onto the Marbles brand credit card that they had also brought. The transfer was all automatic, so largely I wasn’t expecting to have to make any changes.

Then yesterday the first bill arrived, for £5.54. A quick check found that I was now being charged 79p for the repayments cover about 16% of the outstanding balance rather than less than 1% – not a problem, I’d just phone up and have it taken off.

I phoned up the call centre who said that unfortunately they couldn’t take the repayments cover off, and to have it stopped I would have to contact the insurance company that provided the product. (The joke here is that the same customer advisors at Marbles can add it onto the account themselves without a problem, they just can’t remove it.) The customer service operator then provided a phone number for me to phone. Unfortunately they were closed for staff training last night, so I had to wait until this morning. However when I phoned this morning before even answering the call there was a recorded message saying that this number could not remove insurance products and that you needed to talk to the card issuer. When I eventually spoke to a real person they said that they were quite frequently getting calls from Marbles customers who had been redirected to them by Marbles.

Phoning back the Marbles call centre, they double checked, and this was the number they were being told to give out.

At this point I was starting to get fed up, so I phoned the company that were making the monthly charge, and within about two minutes swapped it over to another source, and then went back to Marbles, and I think I ended up with a trainee.

He started off okay but once I’d prompted him over the right questions to ask, he then, with my customer record in front of him showing that I’d phoned five minutes before, proceeded to ask me whether my contact details had changed since I’d last called – probably not the best question to ask when I’d spent about twenty minutes bouncing between call centres with the problem. “Not in the last five minutes they haven’tâ€? I retorted. I then asked him again whether he could terminate the charge to which, as with all the others he said no, they couldn’t do it, so I just told him to terminate the account. There was a short pause, at which point he said “But you’ve got an outstanding balance.â€? – I told him that I wasn’t proposing not to pay that, but that the one regular charge on the card had been moved, and that since they were incapable of terminating a simple charge I was terminating instead,  at which point he agreed to close the account without any further argument – in fact it was remarkably quick to terminate the account unlike the multiple phone calls to try and terminate a simple repayments charge.

One interesting little post script is that a colleague at work half jokingly suggested that maybe the front line call centre staff are told to say that they can’t remove the charge, as since the charging structure for the repayments insurance is 79p per outstanding £100 or part thereof, it is a bit of a money spinner. The introduction message on calling the Marbles number goes to great pains to highlight that other cover is available, but certainly it seems that getting rid of the cover once you’ve got it is rather difficult, and I’m not the first person to encounter problems if the agent at the insurance company is to be believed. I’m perhaps not quite as suspicious as my colleague, so maybe it’s just a mistake somewhere in the process of handing over the card accounts, and one that will be ironed out in the future. Suffice to say as an ex-Marbles customer I won’t be around to find out.

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