Customer intolerance; why it’s tough for banks to be relevant.



A couple of days ago I wrote about Barclays moving my credit card from i24 to their new “infinite” card. I’ve since had a detailed letter explaining what’s changed.

  • I’m moving from MasterCard to Visa
  • My annual membership cost is falling
  • I’m losing cash back on my purchases

In truth I don’t think that Infinite is a bad deal as the annual fee buys you plenty of goodies  and Barclays have given us all some fee free time.

But it’s not what I bought when I took out my i24 card and I’m still in the dark about most of the new Ts and Cs. The truth is that I don’t have the time to read all the stuff I get and even now I’m not really interested in finding out what I’m winning or losing from this enforced migration.

It’s interesting to find out why the switch happened

We made the decision to withdraw the i24 card due to recent legislation to cap Interchange rates. This cap has resulted in significantly lower Interchange revenue, so we’re reluctantly withdrawing the i24 card as it’s no longer feasible for us to offer it under current market conditions. This means that you will no longer earn cashback on your spending. I’m afraid that we do not have another cashback card that we can offer you.  

There are two interpretations of this, the first that I had become an unprofitable customer and have been dumped into the nearest available contract or that my new card better suits current market conditions. Either way customers don’t get a great say in what happens.

We are streamlining our products and moving from MasterCard to Visa. I appreciate that this means you will have to notify companies of your new card number. This is standard practice when card numbers change, for example if a card is reported lost or stolen, and I apologise for the inconvenience this may cause you.

Well apologies are well and good but this wasn’t me losing my card, this was me having my old card cancelled to suit Barclays.

Which begs the question “what are you buying when you take out a credit card”

Clearly you are not buying certainty that what you were originally offered will remain, you  are not buying into certainty.

You are not buying into a brand – this product started being managed by Mastercard and Morgan Stanley and was called i24, Almost nothing of my original brand proposition remains.

It’s certainly not about service. The promises made a decade ago for i24 quickly evaporated

I’m not actually cross with Barclays, apparently they wrote to me about this

I’m sorry you don’t recall receiving any information about the closure of i24. Affected customers were sent a letter on 29 April 2016 explaining the changes.

Barclays and Morgan Stanley have behaved properly and I have no cause for complaint. Nonetheless, I feel unhappy, I simply wanted to have what I purchased all those years ago.

At the heart of this is a problem with financial services that is deep and system-wide. Customers want to have long-term relationships with trusted partners, we choose big brands like Morgan Stanley and Barclays for their permanence. But nothing is permanent, the idea behind i24 went out of fashion and instead we have something quite different. 

But customer loyalty remains an aspiration for these financial institutions, they want what we want, a longstanding easy relationship.

But we have lost the will to talk the same language. In the letter I received (but probably threw in the bin as yet another item of junk mail) Barclays offered me choices

The letter explained that if you did not wish to transfer to Barclays Infinite card, you could instead have a Platinum or Freedom Rewards card. This latter card gives reward points on your spending that can be redeemed for vouchers

So I had the choice between “infinity”, “platinum” or “freedom”, none of which offered me what I’d originally bought (cashback). It was fair , it was proper and it was compliant, but that letter was totally useless!

Customer tolerance levels are very thin. We are so abused by spam and junk that we become desensitised. I only open letters from HMRC, the NHS and tPR. Everything else goes in the bin – pretty well unread.

If I want information, I ask for it by email or by text, unsolicited invitations are spammed.

'There's so little understanding. Why can't we all just get along?' 'Get a long what?'

Barclays and I will probably part company soon, not because I dislike Barclays , but because they don’t speak my language. They are interested in higher interchange revenue and I am interested in a simple life. They are interested in their banking licence , I am interested in my off licence.

I am really not intolerant of Barclays and I’m not making a complaint. I’m simply pointing out that they are totally out of touch with the way that I conduct my life!


cashback by cheque- how quaint!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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