Something unconventional: Bank Review

Something a bit strange, I’m going to write a review of the banks that exist in New Zealand since I’ve had accents with pretty much all the major banks (BNZ, ASB, ANZ, Westpac and Kiwibank) but I’ve never written a review about my experience regarding each of them – so now I thought it would be the best time given that I’ve got a few days up my sleeve and I want to keep myself occupied. One thing to keep in mind that for someone like me I’m all about self service – if I need to go into a ‘store front’ to get something resolved that could possibly be done via the internet but the bank is too lazy to invest money into making it possible then it is a sure fire way of losing me as a customer.

Internet banking (which includes mobile banking) is the corner stone of that experience and when it comes to the best experience I’ve had it is with ASB Bank – everything you could imagine that can be done online such as order a replacement credit card or debit card, the payees for billers are synchronised between the mobile version and what is available on the website, activate a new card and choose a new PIN number, a system where your financial situation is monitored and you are offered an overdraft of credit limit increase on your credit card (saving time, rather than going through the process of applying for something and being declined – if you’re eligible for it then you’d know about it).

The website itself isn’t as modern/sleek as say Westpac’s and BNZ’s banking platform – the BNZ has a lay out view that one can choose between a more spreadsheet style lay out (columns and rows) but those wanting something more colourful and icon driven to act as reminders as to what each particular account is setup for – maybe have a long term savings account for your son or daughter with a photo of your son or daughter for the icon as a reminder of who it is for (might work as a good incentive not the spend the money in there). Westpac’s own website makes great uses of layering and slide out draws/menus resulting in a less disjointed experience where you’re not hopping between different parts of the service. With all that being said the slick design cannot make up for the lack of features such as the ability to activate and set a pin over the internet as both Westpac and BNZ required me to go into a branch to do something that Kiwibank, ANZ and ASB seem to be capable of delivering.

When it comes to ANZ’s own online banking, although it hits the mark in many of the same places where ASB and Kiwibank did, the problem I found was that the payees I set up on the website wouldn’t propagate over to the mobile application meaning that when I’m at work on my break and I see that my pay had gone through I couldn’t pay all my bills. What makes the situation even more bizarre is the process of updating personal information – you cannot see what they’ve got on file and when you’ve submitted an update to the details you never get to see the final version – oh, then there is the delay between submitting and it becoming active. Reminds me of State Insurance and how with Southern Cross Health Society I can update my direct debit but in State Insurance infinite wisdom I am unable to update that online.

In terms of the costing the best value I found was with ASB Bank – the ASB Visa Lite credit card has no account fees, interest free for 6 months for purchases over $1000 but that being said Westpac do have the best value when it comes to balance transfers by having the option of either 12months at 0% or 5.95% until the balance transfer has been paid off. When it comes to the running costs of having an account the most expensive was BNZ which charges a flat $5 per month where as the cheapest being Kiwibank, ASB and ANZ but keeping in mind that the fee free accounts at the  three of those banks are purely electronic transactions so if you do want to have manual transactions rather than using the smart ATM or one of the automated services then there will be a service fee. That being said, the flat fee at BNZ doesn’t cover everything – there are service charges such as if you want to print out a statement at the bank which kind of makes me wonder what the $5 is paying for.

When it comes to Kiwisaver ASB once again is the best value for money and best performing (for the balanced fund) with ANZ being the most expensive, BNZ sitting around the middle of the pack along side Westpac’s BT Fund with Kiwibank being more expensive than ASB but cheaper than BNZ, ANZ and Westpac.

Over all if I was going to draw a conclusion I’d say that ASB is the best value for money and best technology except when it comes to Apple Pay which is where ANZ and BNZ have the edge but that being said if you’re into balance transfers with the best rate then Westpac seem to be a lot more aggressive in terms of competitive pricing than what others offer. When it comes to Apple Pay, as much as I love Apple I have to admit that it is a technology that is solving what is a uniquely American problem of an antiquated banking system with Apple Pay and Android Pay being a patch over a gaping wound. When it comes to Apple Pay in New Zealand my experience at least working in the banking sector is that it is a gimmick used by banks in lieu of fixing critically fundamental flaws in their banking experience – “don’t look at our short comings…check this out…we’ve got Apple Pay!”.For someone like me the idea of Apple Pay is very much something that is ‘neat’ but it is more the icing on the cake and most certainly not something that can be some how used as a replacement for getting the basic banking fundamentals sorted out.

Awesomely awesome!

My MacBook Pro ‘Retina’ has finally arrived! yay! man, it is fast, so damn fast – I hadn’t realised how much of a boat anchor the old spinning had disk was when compared to the built in 512GB SSD along with the maxed out the memory to 16GB. So fast and damn is the display sexy – I’ll probably finish off the review by tomorrow after I drop off the Sky decoder to the offices in Wellington. To go with the fancy new laptop I’ve sold off my Airport Extreme and VDSL modem to replace it with a Huawei HG659b which will be UFB compatible for when UFB arrives in January in 2015.

After being shafted around by ASB after returning from Westpac (having paid off my debt via Westpac’s ’12 months interest free’ deal) they’ve shafted me around when it came to applying for a credit card and then add insult to injury they then screw me around when it comes to moving my money from Australia to New Zealand then fail to setup my Kiwisaver to a balanced investment profile rather than conservative (every time I’ve asked them to change it they have never actually changed it). Honestly, when you’ve been with a bank for almost 8 years you really have to stand back and ask, “hang on, I’ve been loyal to you guys, I’ve always paid my credit card on time and paid off my loan before the due date so why am I being shafted?”. I’ve moved all my bills over to my new Kiwibank, I’m going to keep my American Express mainly because I’ve been with them since God was a teenager so why not, and my Gem Visa is just hanging around since all the major retailers and Apple use them for their 6-12 months interest free deals. I might end up moving to a low interest MasterCard but it probably won’t be until I’ve fully paid off my Gem Visa but I’m pretty happy with my AMEX card so far.

Music snobs

Music snobs are right up there with coffee connoisseurs; annoying and tacky. This thread oozes with it.

God you listen to house? I only listen to eastern samoan post industrial retro-visigoth on vinyl like any self respectable musician should. Stick with your disgusting mainstream pop hits you cretin. I’m going to an underground show where we listen to a dj skin a cat while spitting rice grains onto a washboard in a toilet at 120 bpm.

So far so good

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog but I’m around 95% of the way there to pay off my debt so I’m going to change where my pay goes into from Westpac to ASB Bank then hopefully by the end of next week I’ll have it fully paid off and no more debt to worry about which should make life a lot less stressful. When I’m stressed I gain weight and sleep horribly so hopefully I can focus on getting my diet and exercise under control along with losing a few kilos which is much needed.

I’ve bought my bike licence for the next three months with a scheduled maintenance going the done around half way through November and then when December rolls around I’m hoping that a few extra dollars up my sleeve will mean I can go and purchase an iPhone 6 – although I am tempted for the 6 Plus there is a huge lead time (3-4 weeks if bought from the Apple online store) and given my experience with an HTC One M8 that has a screen of similar size I’ve been pretty happy with it so far. Although normally I’d prefer buying it direct from Apple or through a carrier, if Harvey Norman have stock available which enables me to ‘cash and carry’ a 6 Plus then I’ll go for that option instead.

Going to start cleaning up my home ready for an inspection in the next couple of weeks but I’m going to have to borrow my sisters vacuum cleaner or buy myself a new one because the one I have now has next to no suction power. On a good side I’m going to get some time off next year over the summer to paint the inside and outside of the house which will enable me to patch up the places where the old telephone outlets were along with painting over where the panels heaters on the wall used to be. I’m still contemplating the idea of getting a heat pump but that comes down to where I can put it because I would prefer to have the outlet in the hall way because if it is installed in the living room the heat pretty much will stay in that room and I’ll be in my bedroom being a little bit cold.

I’ve got work tonight so I’ll be heading off to sleep and I might head in early tonight to grab something for dinner.

Apple bashing is becoming an illness

Just reading through the headlines and it is pathetic how hating Apple has gone from merely being something a noisy fringe participated in to now large mainstream websites get in on the game for the sake of generating page views, traffic and revenue from advertisement – and to hell with whether what is being reported is actually accurate. Take this one with the hysterical title ‘Apple’s OS X Yosemite slurps UNSAVED docs into iCloud’ ( link ) but of course such idiots ignore the fact that Apple never made it a secret. Honestly, how the heck do these people think continuity works? how do they think there is the ability to pick where one has left over and resume? do these hysteria prone security analysts (a term I use loosely) and fear mongers in the media some how believe that what Apple has promised is delivered with magic and pixie dust? Honestly, this is bad as the hysteria regarding Spotlight and ‘information being sent to Microsoft’ when in reality Apple never hid the fact that when you used Spotlight and there was a usable connection available that it would return search results from local as well as online via Bing’s search service. Honestly, the straws that journalists grasp at to get those punters clicking on links is amazing yet sad at the same time.

Admiring the beauty of UFB and OS X

Just looking through ‘System Information’ specifically the Frameworks and it is amazing how modular OS X is – it seems that although Apple has put a lot of effort to talk about the razzle-dazzle of the consumer facing side of OS X but there is a lot of work that has been done under the hood to improve the system – the gradual piece by piece cleaning things up and fine tuning. Although Windows 10 has made some giant strides I still feel that by their failure to go back and start with a clean slate or at least a strong foundation such as adopting FreeBSD (then building in features from OpenBSD, NetBSD and DragonFlyBSD) that we as the end user will always experience the rough edges of Microsoft trying to turn the ship around whilst still trying to keep everyone happy – especially those cheapskates with 30 year old software and demanding that he industry pivot on every whine, whinge and complaint they make with each new release of an operating system when their ‘important legacy software’ doesn’t work flawlessly.

Things are looking well with the iPhone 6 Plus and it appears the lead time is improving so hopefully by the time the end of November to Mid December the lead time will drop to 7-10 days and then it’ll eventually go ‘ships in 24 hours’ in the new year. It truly is astounding even with all the doom and gloom along with the dipsticks who wear skinny jeans bending their phones that it is the best selling iPhone yet. It is amazing the number of people who are flocking back to the iPhone after deal with Samsung only for the sake of a larger screen. The latest financials that have come out from Apple was not only positive sales numbers for the iPhone but also the 20% growth in shipment of Mac’s – the halo effect is impacting their other divisions.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with UFB – I received the letter stating that they’re working on installing UFB in my area but there isn’t exactly a time table given but from what I understand they try to re-use the existing ducting rather than tearing up the footpath and road where they avoid doing so. According to their now updated website they’re aiming to get UFB up to 100Mbps installed by January 2015 which means that I’m probably better off sticking with Spark for that fibre goodness or otherwise I’ll have to deal with Vodafone, it’s constantly broken HFC network not to mention the 2-3 hour waiting times on hold when ringing up to get something fixed up or billing resolved. They’ve started going up the street marking off where all the utilities are laid – power, water, gas and so forth which will hopefully mean that once UFB becomes available I’ll keep my existing Huawei hg659b 802.11ac wireless router since it is already UFB compatible and sold by spark as a business grade router which does a pretty good job already. By that time I would have cancelled by Sky subscription and gone flat rate naked UFB which will still end up saving me $40 per month – money I’d sooner spent on WordPress and Vimeo Premium. If things go well with Lightbox (Spark’s TV on demand service) then that might also be a good deal to sign up for as well. Oh well, off to sleep I go and read for another long night at work.

1 day down, another 4 days to go

Well, another day has come and gone but on the good side I’ve been told I’ve only got one more week travelling out to Porirua for work then I’m back to my old store and to be honest I prefer to be in an environment where things are predictable. I enjoy the crew where I work and the customers are great – not having to deal with customers who complain because they like the sound of their own voice and then come in only to treat those behind the counter like the person serving them is beneath them in some sort of hierarchy they have sitting in the back of their mind. Side note, before saying anything I suggest that a good number of people out there need to hear the sound of their own voice and then ask whether that voice really represents who you are as a person.

I’m going to purchase a 3 moth rego rather than a 12 month because it gives me enough breathing room for the next three months to finish off my ‘pay down the debt’ drive then in January when that expires then I’ll just purchase one for 12 months because by that time I’ll have the spare cash left over to make it possible.

Just having a look through on Apple’s online store and pricing things up – the iMac 5K with 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, upgrade the CPU to an i7 4.0Ghz along with a MD Radeon R9 M295X then I priced up a MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and 3.0Ghz i7 CPU.  As for my old computer, I’ll probably sell the laptop but I might just give my old desktop to my sister since she’ll appreciate it a lot more than if I just went out and sold it to some person on the net then get stung with a massive trademe fee.

I’ve been putting my 802.11ac router through its paces along with my HTC One M8 which is 802.11ac compatible and although there isn’t a massive sped improvement I do find that the signal is a lot stronger given that my network is sitting on the 5Ghz frequency. The big question now is what I do once Vodafone has completed its upgrades by the end of November and whether I make the move to Vodafone – hopefully by then Apple will have more iPhone 6 plus in stock by that time.

Just been watching a series called Helix and Strain – both of them science fiction apocalyptic series – great way to just chill out after a long day ant work, vegetate in front of the laptop watching some episodes direct from the US. Goes back to my original thinking whether it is even worth having Sky – maybe I’m better off having an Apple TV and using that to watch television from overseas – hopefully Netflix will finally get its act together and come to NZ after creating a laundry list of excuses as to why they can’t come to NZ and the issue surrounding data caps and bandwidth being very much a non-issue.