Monzo, metal cards and bullet journals

There are intrepid folk like RIT and TA flaying fees on their investment products. Quite rightly so. Anything to do with storing and processing your money should cost as little as possible, subject to delivering a satisfactory service. After all, your money is embodied life-force. You exchanged hours of your life for it, and you want the leak in the tank to be as low as possible.

Oddly enough, when it comes down to credit cards, this seems to escape people totally. I can live with over 20% APR on my credit cards because I don’t pay it. I pay them off or I use promotional deals. If you carry debt on a credit card at 20% off, that’s like every store you buy things from using that card having a big notice – Anti-Sale – pay 20% more for everything. However, clever marketing folks being what they are, there are even more methods to separate credit card users from their money – even if they don’t pay interest! Step forward modern fintech fast-movers. Y’know, the guys that don’t come with lots of legacy Big Iron in their IT systems, who can most fast and break things, and rip you off on the Q.T. , make you feel special about the colour or materials your credit card is made of. The thing replaced by that whizzy fintech app is on your phone so you don’t need to use?

The Ermine  failed to understand why some of da yoof chooses to spaff £72 p.a. for a Hot Coral Monzo card. It’s not a one off. I sparked up You and Yours on the wireless1. The programme was mainly about Greta Thunberg, but there was a segment about money saving.

handsome Monzo CEO in front of the colour he’s managed to separate his customer from their hard-earned money for

Apparently as well as rushing some punters for a brightly coloured card, Monzo is ripping off their even vainer customers charging a premium for a Metal card, as are Revolut. I was tickled to hear Alexander, a fresh-faced and insecure twenty-something digital media wallah opine that a metal card is also more environmentally friendly, well, no use of plastic, innit? Dude, if you are in the presence of a fire, piss on the nearest bit first. That’s your food packaging and Amazon Prime packaging, not a 5×9cm piece of plastic you replace every three years…

In the You and Yours piece the target customer base for metal cards tends to be young men, according the some fintech consultancy. Life as a young man is troublesome, particularly in a society with no rites of passage you can afford2. In years past you were incarcerated in long barrows while the adults of the tribe whirled bullroarers through the night, later on boys became men by chasing down wild hogs. Now they pay over the odds for a metal credit card to prove their status as a Real Man.

You gotta love capitalism. In its endlessly adaptable attempt to squeeze money out of consumers, it wraps itself around their insecurities like a boa-constrictor, applying the squeeze. If only every Metal card came with a free copy of Erich Fromm’s To Have or To Be

That’s the fellas dispatched, but the distaff side seems to have its own foibles. There was one young woman on the end of the program that couldn’t understand why ASOS canned her account because she ordered something, wore it on an evening and returned it the next day for a refund. Endless wardrobe of new and exciting stuff. I don’t know much about fashion, but I can see why a business would give that sort of customer the bum’s rush.  But I do have to tip a had to the savvy shopper while it lasted. Sort of like Klarna, but with less danger to the customer’s wallet.

A Bullet Journal

Somewhere off the you & Yours site I was introduced me to the concept of the Bullet Journal, which is an instagram sort of thing. Writing down your spend is hardly new in the world of personal finance, although the choices of a Money Diary as a weapon seems to have a female bias. Obviously it’s totally pedestrian to use a spreadsheet or, in my case, a fifteen-year old copy of Quicken to do that. Like many analogue technologies, a bullet journal has soul in a way a digital thing like a  spreadsheet doesn’t. Just as well, because the reason we moved away from analogue paper versions of this was because reconciling your ledgers was an absolute bear of a job. It’s bastard enough even with computers to tally your receipts with the bank statements if you do it at the end of the week/month. Sad MBA wannabees have been here before with GTD, which also had a massive paraphernalia of courses, essential stationery, gizmos and wotsits.

However, I suspect that the way these things really work is by getting you to get all your coloured pens out and decorate the pages of your bullet journal in lavish detail, which takes up loads of your time. That gets you off your phone buying consumer shit that you don’t need to impress people you don’t know and all that pack drill. Never fear, though. You can use all the money you saved with your bullet journal to buy into the book and the system and if you get really good at it you can get on instagram and start selling your drawings, presumably to make bullet journals for people who have Ermine-level talents for drawing.

It’s the silly season

Yeah. It’s the silly season, Leonard Cohen’s on the radio as far as Brexit is concerned, let’s have a little bit of fun, eh? This Forbes brand-consultancy puff-piece/paean to the virtues of the metal card to separate people with too much money from some of it needs fisking.

Apple are into metal cards. History shows what’s good for Apple is invariably not good for you, though it will make you feel better

Metal signifies luxury and “the experience of actually holding one in your hand is pretty cool. The cool touch and weight of the card itself actually makes the card feel quite substantial and throwing one down at dinner produces an audible sound that industry insiders call the ‘clank effect.’” Blander explains.

Ah, the *ank effect. Doesn’t everyone pay with their mobile phones these days3, so you’ll stick out as a right clanker with your ‘pretty cool’ method of payment. You know what? If metal signifies luxury then pay for your meal with….coins? Or gold sovereigns, then you can look an absolute arse as you pull out your phone to get the current spot price of the yellow metal. The laugh’s on you if they only give you the legal tender rate.

In this digital world, people are less likely to pull out their cards to make a payment. Blander points out that a change in material “allows us to explore additional sensorial cues like touch and sound that consumers experience as brand rituals. From a design perspective leveraging new form factors and materials makes it possible to create simpler, more refined beautiful designs. Making the product feel more coveted and personalized just for them.”

Funny critters, people, eh? Here is a gizmo that you are increasingly unlikely to use. FFS, do these card issuers have no imagination? Rather than make your metal card out of aluminium, make the buggers out of gold, charged at 200% bullion value. In a really crafty twist, get your attorneys to write in the hundred and eleven pages of small print that the physical card belongs to the issuer and is returnable on demand.

Haase expands on this point that metal cards may be an easy way for brands to provide something different, something cool. “Many financial institutions are looking for a market differentiator in the card space. With the rise of mobile payments, a cards form factor has become more important – almost like a piece of jewelry or a status symbol.”

The Ermine has attempted to parse this message for content, and failed to discover any, other than the violation of English grammar in the missing apostrophe. A status symbol has to be capable of being flaunted by it’s gauche and worthless owner, not merely pictured in his mind’s eye as he waves his iPhone in some London bar for the five jeroboams of champage he and his acolytes quaffed.

As fewer cards are needed, move to digital wallets, it is entirely possible the unique form factors will become more prevalent and appealing to consumers.

WTAF? When we made our carriages horseless, we didn’t gild the horses. We shot them and turned them into glue and cat’s meat.

Enough with this madness. It’s a credit card, FFS. Soon to become purely a cryptographically authorised exchange between your phone and the merchant terminal.


  1. Mine doesn’t actually have vacuum tubes in it. I haven’t bought a radio for decades – I seem to inherit people’s DAB cast offs. I am in a strong signal area and while telescoping aerials do snap off easily, replacements are to be had on Ebay. 
  2. passing their driving test and later on getting a job that paid enough to buy a house were some of the ways a young chap could prove his worth in the transition from adolescence to adulthood in years gone by. These are now barred to many. 
  3. Not round here they don’t. I’ve seen it in pubs, an people buying Lottery tickets, but nowhere else. I presume that in hip places like London people pay with their phones. 

32 thoughts on “Monzo, metal cards and bullet journals”

    1. Apparently you can use ferrite waveguide material in thin strips against the metal page 39. NFC seems to favour 13.56MHz, a 22m wavelength, just as well it’s in the near field so you don’t need a half-wavelength antenna . Normally you only think of ferrite as being suitable at MF, but I suppose broadband transformers for HF antenna baluns etc show you can get mixes good for up to 30MHz. So your well-heeled punter can still have the front of the card made from a solid billet of gold…

      It still puzzles me how my Casio watch can receive 60kHz MSF through what to me a pretty solidly enclosed metal back and surround, and there are solar panels in the bezel which are also probably shielding at 60kHz. OK so the data rate is only 10Hz passband or so but even so, it’s a tough ask.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Having once tried to construct a front end to receive MSF, it’s drowned is the miscellaneous smog of thousands of cheap Chinese switchmode wall-warts. You can sort of detect the signal is there, but it must take a lot of processing. A PLL recovered the carrier, but it was tough.

        In the mid-seventies , Wireless World published a design where they took the raw signal, demodulated it with a monostable looking for missing pulses and fed it into heroic amounts of TTL to make a MSF clock. Bet that would display random garbage nowadays. Makes the witchcraft in the Casio watch even more amazing

        Liked by 1 person

  1. There’s one born every minute, etc…

    It brings to mind the fuss made in the 80s around black cards like Obsidian and such, which City boys liked to flash around in the wine bar.

    I remember when I was employed and so much money cascaded into my current account each month that my bank said I could have private banking for free. This meant that I could also have my credit and debit cards reissued with the words ‘Private Banking’ printed on them. Only thing was, to get these cards I had to change the account numbers too. I certainly could not be arsed to do that, and so I politely (!) declined this kind offer.

    The (apparently 12 year-old) private banking person could not conceive of a world where someone would turn down the chance to have such a prize and clearly thought I was a bit odd. Come to think of it, he was probably right… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I talked to a marketer once. He explained that in his sector of Fast-Moving Consumer Goods the art was to make his products fashionable among young, working class males. I asked him to summarise his profession. “I sell cool crap to cretins.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hehe – well, I once owned a 3l 130bhp car for a while. Nothing outrageously fancy, but nobody needs something like that. Fortunately fuel prices were lower. It was fun, and fortunately got it out of my system.

      Fast-Moving Consumer Goods – that really shouldn’t be a thing!

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    1. You have no soul, sir. These are sellable works of art in the making, well, for those at the top of the pyramid, at least. There’s also a whole language in the • and the o and the – and the x and the * and the !. Each has its special meaning in the lingo of the BuJo

      Oh all right. More Moleskine than Filofax, with a heavy side order of copying your crap over to the next month…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Nope. They’re filofaxes with pictures. I used to underline important things in my filofax, or even use a yellow highlighter pen, so I guess I would be a total failure in the BoJo world!

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      2. Yeah, still not getting the BuJo thing I’m afraid. For some years, I happily tracked my spending, mortgage pay down and my savings using a series of basic Black and Red notebooks plus a biro, so I’m clearly entirely lacking the decorative BuJo gene…

        Liked by 1 person

    2. You don’t need to have pictures :-), the guy (Ryder Carroll) who came up with the concept did it to help manage his diagnosed attention deficit disorder. So you don’t need any fancy notebooks, pens, stickers, washi tape etc and he certainly doesn’t promote any of these items.
      I must admit I am a complete convert to the original system but it’s just a plain biro for me, and although I do have a dot-grid notebook at the minute but the first one I used was just from the poundshop. I guess the industry/instagram thing has grown up around it, but the original (and simple) method is worth investigating especially if you struggle to keep track and plan things.
      I find it useful when life gets busy/stressful as it gives you a visual on what is going on and helps me make decisions and prioritize.
      I still keep my finances on a spreadsheet though, BuJo is OK for tracking your small day to day spend if you feel you need too, but perhaps not for FIRE/Retirement planning.

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    1. Could be the most satisfying part of the whole exercise. Bit like the way you render hard drives unreadable by GCHQ. Lump-hammer applied with brute force and ignorance. Tinsnips for pussies among us 😉 Mind you, I am not as hard as the Graun’s angle-grinder wielders after a fellow at work had an accident with one. If the answer is an angle-grinder the question is wrong. But there’s something very satisfying about smashing the crap out of something with a big hammer.

      Oh, it’s just me, I’ll get my coat…

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  3. Thanks for the link to the lingo of the BuJo. I don’t have a bullet journal myself but whenever I’m away from home, I always write a few pages in a notebook which probably resembles one and the lingo will actually come in handy to organise my scribblings!

    Metal cards look great but I’m all for free banking.

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  4. Monzo seems very popular amongst younger colleagues at work. The cards are all neon orange/coral so I guess you notice them more than other bank cards – a great marketing idea!

    When the subject has come up a few times, they’ve mentioned liking the budgeting features, savings pots and automatic categorisation of spending within the app. Seems to be a good thing for getting people who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered tracking their spending in a notepad or Excel to pay attention to what they’re spending. None of them are paying for the account as far as I know/can tell, the current account and coral cards are all free, as are limited foreign cash withdrawals at good rates.

    I can’t really begrudge Monzo for taking advantage of idiots who are willing to pay for showy features that add no real benefits, everyone else does it, and it keeps banking free for the rest of us!

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    1. It is Monzo Plus that is chargeable, didn’t realise the colours were part of the normal offering. Couldn’t see that they offered the choice on regular, but clearly they do from your observations.

      The facilities of the new banks do seem streets ahead- I got a Starling account explicitly for the better exchange rate overseas and foreign payments. If I used it as my main account the app tracking and classification would be useful. Likewise being able to see a transaction minutes afterwards, rather than the day afterwards. Being able to turn the card on and off with the app is a nice to have. So I am all for challenger banks, and I guess ripping the insecure for their vanity makes it cheaper for the rest of us 😉

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  5. If you think the money people spend on Bullet Journal supplies is bad, check out the people (entirely women, so far as I can tell) on Youtube who fill expensive planners (eg Erin Condren) with expensive stickers.

    (I’ve been using a notebook for years but I just call it a notebook so it isn’t cool.)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. @Ermine – thanks for some good weekend colour! You haven’t mentioned N26 which is the one that particularly riles me – their vacuous alphabet campaign on London’s tube, including gems such as “B is for Branchless” – erm, or shall we call it Last Direct?
    Good to know I am not only denuded soul using Quicken 2004…. I spent 3 hours yesterday fighting 9 months’ worth of joint accounts transactions into it, with CSV convertors you name it. But my data is in, categorised, and can now spit out ‘Gift aid contributions in the last UK tax year’ and other such abstract queries in a jiffy. There simply must be a better way but I still don’t know what it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. > There simply must be a better way but I still don’t know what it is!

      There is for importing data / bank stuff. PERL. Was the dog’s bollocks for munging the statement from the farm bank account to import straight into quicken. For share prices I use Google drive livedata with the GOOGLEFINANCE command and import prices. Although I would imagine in your case you have something more sophisticated for that function 😉 I use this to try and get Quicken to roughly estimate share values for networth, not sure I’d rely on it for anything critical.

      When I last looked at trying to replace Quicken I ended up either having to rent the software (all your data belong to us) or use cloud storage/apps (all your financial shiz belong to us, and anybody who cares to buy us and hack us) or in many cases both. Seven years later I’m still using it.

      N26 is news to me. They do, however, have a premium metal offering for discerning Millennials with more money than sense. Metal is where it’s at, an interesting form of jewellery.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. PERL! Yikes. That is a bit above my paygrade.

        These days I use a mixture of
        1) Quicken (2004)
        2) Excel
        3) Google Sheets
        4) Interactive Brokers

        I think this calls for a blog post…. you’ll be credited!

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    2. I recently discovered Tiller Money on tillerhq dot com which can write transactions to Excel or a Google sheet on a daily basis. It’s very easy to set up, but not free, and also requires giving them your password (as it uses a Yodlee feed rather than proper Open Banking). Once you have the transactions updating automatically you can add extra sheets or otherwise query against the data to create any reports you like, just by using normal Excel tools. I’d like to see a more useful app that takes advantage of Open Banking but allows you to choose your own categories and split transactions. Offerings like Monzo and some others (I forget exactly which ones I tried) are very limited and quickly become frustrating. They definitely seem to be aimed at younger people – one of them had 3 or 4 categories for eating/drinking/coffees out but nothing for childcare expenses or caravan maintenance for example!

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      1. > but not free, and also requires giving them your password (as it uses a Yodlee feed rather than proper Open Banking)

        Yikes. Call me paranoid but I canned Sage Accounts when I was doing the book-keeping for the farm because at the time Sage used Yodlee*. Which as far as I could determine contravened the bank Ts and Cs so if anything went wrong even if it had nothing to do with Yodlee the banks would wriggle out of any responsibility if they picked up we’d shared logins and passwords with a third party.

        I flagged that and said I don’t want to take responsibility for this if anything goes titsup. Hence the Perl wrangling into Quicken, I downloaded the statements electronically using the bank’s website and Perl munged that into a suitable format.

        However, aggregation is the way to do it if you are happy with the kosherness or lack of. Any Monzo account only works if it’s your only account. Which is a very bad thing to do, because the bastards can freeze an account and then hide behind ‘money laundering regulations’ to refuse to say why or give you your money back – habeas corpus does not apply in that sort of kangaroo court. So you need bank accounts with different unlinked organisations.

        My aggregator is entering the stuff into Quicken. Perhaps I have fewer transactions than normal people, I don’t find that particularly onerous. Strange that you’re stuck with their categories and can’t add your own, another win for the old-skool ways IMO.

        * It appears Sage have sorted their crap out and don’t demand you violate your bank’s Ts and Cs now with Sage Bank Feeds.

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      2. Update: Tiller no longer works for UK bank accounts. Yodlee feeds are all going wrong from this month due to Open Banking. Probably better options in the long run, but not for now.

        Like

  7. I’m not least surprised the fintech startups realized there are other ways of charging their customers to compensate for the skinny profit margins on the base product. Well done to them. To those who fall for the marketing – need to grow up and look after your money.

    Curve also has a metal version but at least they offer some other extra benefits to go with it.

    Like

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