Beware. There's a product out there that claims to be your flexible friend, but could end up as nothing more than the gremlin in your pocket.
This beast is known as a "prepaid debit card", and is basically a "pay-as-you-go"-style payment card. You load money onto it, then you spend the money again. It's touted as an easier way to pay, being able to use contactless payments for smaller amounts, and negating the need to carry big sums of cash around for those bigger purchases.
The price of this convenience? £5 to buy the card. Not a lot, no?
Just wait until you try to withdraw some of your money from a cash machine. Even in the UK, you'll be hit 2.95% of the amount you're taking out as a charge. What if you want to change your PIN? No problem - that'll dock 20p from your balance each time you change it though.
Of course, you'll need to have loaded some money onto the card in the first place. Depending on the method you use to get the money onto it, you'll possibly end up being charged £1.50 or 4% of the amount for the privelege.
If there's a problem, or you've got a query, you'll probably like being able to call a customer service rep and get it sorted out. They're waiting at the end of the (premium-rate) line, to hit you for 50p a minute to speak to them. And they'll happily take another £5 for a replacement card if you've lost yours.
Now, somebody please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see the point in this particular product. It just seems like an unnecessary money drain, and it does nothing that, for example, the Barclays Basic Bank Account (or a similar product from another bank out there) would provide for free. Even if you've got a dire credit rating, you can still get a basic bank account with no hassle - the law says so.
So why would anyone actually want one of these prepaid cards?
Sunday before last was Census day - the day that comes once every ten years and requires every household in the UK to answer some simple questions. It can be done by paper questionairre or online, and only takes a few minutes, and yet BBC News reports today that up to 7 million people still haven't done it, 10 days late and counting.
TV ads, radio spots, outdoor posters and even the questionairre pack itself warn that not completing it carries a £1000 fine - but I'll bet nobody will actually get the bill.
Another government department, HMRC (the tax man to you and I) hit you with an instant fine if your tax return is even one minute late, so why not the census?
If the response is "required by law", combined with the government's need to raise extra money, surely it would make sense to hand out instant £1000 penalties to anyone who breaks the law by not filling it in?
Of course, this would also remove the need to employ 9000 "door knockers" to go round people's houses, coercing them into filling in the forms, thus saving money there too.
But no, there will still be millions of unsubmitted census forms, lying unopened in the kitchens or magazine racks of millions of households who just can't be arsed to spend ten minutes ticking some boxes... And until heavy fines are handed out like candy and the perpetrators made a public example of, there they shall remain.
OK, so it's been a week now since I got my brand new Windows Phone (Thanks Microsoft!). To be more precise, it's a Samsung Omnia 7 (or an i8700 if you're nerdy) - and there was only one real question that would prove its' salt... Would I pine for my iPhone 4 to come back?
Simply put, no. Not once.
I've had a few close calls where Nadine has tried to steal it from me, and even though she has an iPhone 4 too, she's been overheard saying "I want one of those Windows Phones now...", which is quite a feat to get those words past her lips.
The OS is just so pretty - everything flows. It all just makes sense too - hitting the search button actually searches what you're doing at the moment for example. It gets rid of stuff like the signal meter and "3G" icon, which you don't need 99% of the time, unless you tap the top of the screen to bring it back.
It's useful too - the voice dialing actually works. Email actually comes down in readable format. And contacts pair with their Facebook profiles to provide an "all-in-one" place to find everything relating to a particular friend.
There are a couple of things I'm still grappling with that are annoying - it'll only sync one Google calendar, so I can't see Nadine's without going into the web browser - and the ringer volume reduces with the music volume, so you have to remember to turn it up again after listening to the music player.
Apart from that, though, it's very positive. My iPhone is up for sale, it's off to a recycling company soon - the Windows Phone has truly cemented itself in my life as my main phone.