Monday, November 24, 2008


The European Union aims to generally support equality for its citizens regardless of which country s/he is living in.

This means general freedom of movement as well as freedom of trade, employment opportunities and freedom of consumer choice.

The banking sector definitely needs greater freedom for European citizens and greater portability of your financial/credit history when moving country.

This afternoon I tried to buy violin/viola strings on the internet, with my bank card. It's a solo card. The website I logged onto wouldn't take a solo card. I rang this particular website and was able to buy the strings over the phone with the same solo card which the website wouldn't accept. The man I spoke to said this often happens with solo cards.

Two weeks ago, I tried to buy train tickets on the internet. Yes, with the same solo card. More obstacles. You can't use a solo card on this particular train company's website. I rang the reservations line. You can't use a solo card over the phone to book train tickets with this company. However, you can buy tickets if you go in person to the ticket office at the train station. With the same solo card.

I rang my bank to ask about changing my card. They suggested 2 options
  • (a) upgrade my account. This might allow me a different type of card which would be more accepted than a solo card. However, the new account would cost £6.95 per month in charges.
  • (b) get a (free) credit card. This would have no charges provided the bills were paid on time. However, I'm not eligible. Why? Because I don't have sufficient funds moving through my bank account in the UK. That's because I'm a full-time student. Ah, so why don't I get a student credit card. Because I went to 5 different banks when I first moved to the UK and wasn't able to get a student account, for various reasons I won't go into here.
Now, my credit rating has suffered because my bank applied for a credit card for me, which was duly denied.

I have a good credit rating in Ireland and credit cards. However, that's irrelevant to banks here. I have effectively the same financial status as a person who has never earned money in his or her life, except that I don't seem to be allowed open a student account in spite of being a student. I'm meeting with my bank customer services officer later this week to try and get this sorted.

Meanwhile, I can't buy train tickets online with my UK bank card. I can't buy a cinema ticket at the local cinema with my UK bank card.

Has anyone else from outside the UK had a similar experience? Let me know.

Now this is where the EU comes in. If Europe is supposed to help with freedom of movement, freedom to study throughout the EU and equal treatment, why is it different for an Irish mature student?

I'm going to follow it up with various representatives of the European Union. Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated.

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