- minute forty four -

Movies, Craft Beer and Geek Stuff

Picture this scenario – You use a monthly budgeting spreadsheet to record your spending and provide a running total of how much disposable cash you have at any given point of the month. You know your spreadsheet is rock solid and you’re never out by more than a few pence when you balance it against your online banking, which you do a few times throughout the month. Then, one Monday morning, you log onto your online banking and you think “Shit! I’m miles out! I’ve got £££ less than I thought I had!”. Turns out, you’re wrong. Your bank has earmarked some direct debits a couple of days before clearing them and some contactless payments haven’t cleared yet, even though you made them a couple of days ago. So what you have is an account balance and an available balance, both showing you inaccurate information. Handy, right?

This happened to me the other week.

After a day or two I figured out what my bank had done and my account and my spreadsheet balanced out nicely, just as they should. But what a bloody annoying move on my bank’s part. Why, in 2016 aren’t transactions instantaneous? I mean, it’s not like I’m doing any foreign transactions here; they’re all domestic and all very much normal. This was the reason I signed up for Mondo. Mondo’s big selling point is that your iPhone becomes your one true banking portal. You can add/send funds easily and your balance and statement update instantly as soon as you make a purchase so you always know where you stand.

So I’ve had it just over a week and I want to take you through my experience.

The good

Firstly, the instant balance updates and alerts work flawlessly. To give you an idea how good this is, on the couple of times I had to use chip and pin (more on that later), my phone gave me a notification of the spend before I even removed my card from the reader. The app is slick as hell, too. The UI is totally simple but anything you’d want to see is right there on the landing screen. Current balance, total spent so far today and an easy to follow rolling “statement” showing what you did and where. Not only that, you get handy notifications when you do other things like change your PIN at an ATM or add your Mondo card to PayPal. Support is great as well. The Twitter account is very responsive and you can access live chat with support or the community forum right from within the app (I didn’t have to use either of these).

 

Mondo Home Screen

 

There are a bunch of really cool features when you drill down into individual transactions, too. You can see your total spend to date with that retailer, your average spend there and you can also upload scanned receipts using the in-app camera or from your photo library, the latter being preferable due to the fact you can use your document scanning app of choice to produce properly formatted receipt scans. You can also shame yourself by seeing how much you’ve spent at McDonald’s. That may be a bad thing…

Another awesome thing about Mondo is the fact that, because it’s essentially a pre-paid MasterCard, it’s great for travelling with. Mondo don’t charge you for foreign transactions, they just convert it at whatever MasterCard’s exchange rate is at that time and debit that amount; way cheaper than using your bank-issued debit card abroad. There’s a high chance I’ll be travelling for work in the coming months so this will be a godsend.

The Bad

Keep in mind these negatives are to be taken on board with the knowledge that Mondo is still in beta and, because it isn’t a fully fledged bank, there are some services it cannot yet provide. That being said, these are some of the bugbears I had.

Initial top-up to receive your card is £100. While this isn’t too much of an issue, it does mean committing quite a decent chunk of cash to a system you have never used before and represents a bit of a leap of faith, especially given the next point, and that is that you can’t transfer funds back out to your bank account. This is because Mondo isn’t yet a fully-fledged bank and, as such, your account doesn’t have an account number and sot code for BACS transfers. You can withdraw your funds at an ATM and, if you want, pay them back into your account, but this is a ball ache and you’re at the mercy of the ATM only being able to dish out cash in multiples of £10 so if your balance is, say, £59.97 there’s the better part of a tenner you can’t “get out” of Mondo. This, again, presents more of a problem when you consider my next point… You can only top up in increments of £10, so you can’t just top up £0.03 and withdraw your whole £60.

The contactless implementation isn’t properly supported by all retailers, it seems. I only experienced it with Morrison’s but the forum seems to tell the same story of a few outlets where contactless fails and you have to fall back on chip and pin. This is minor, but does detract from the otherwise very slick system. What detracts from it even more, though is the fact that Mondo does not support Apple Pay, other than for adding funds to your account. This was my biggest issue with Mondo, by far. It was especially surprising, given that the service launched exclusively on iOS. I’ve become a true Apple Pay fan since my bank introduced it late last year and being without it does seem like a pretty big step backwards, especially considering Mondo’s USP of being the bank for people who live on their smartphones. There is hope, here though…

 

Told you the Twitter account was active…

Verdict

Early impressions are good. The app does solve my problem of inaccurate balances and embarrassingly slow banking processes, and it also adds a really nice way of managing my monthly disposable cash. Because my trusty budget spreadsheet tells me at the start of the month how much I have to spend after bills and savings, I can just dump that amount (or as near as the top-up area will allow) to Mondo and let that be my running total. While the service is in beta, I’ll likely do this weekly rather than chuck all of my spending money into it in one go, just in case the service fails and I’m stuck not being able to access my money.

I’m super-excited to see how the service develops

So I went to Sheffield with Rick on Saturday to get some coffee and meet up with Ash. It actually turned into a pretty cool impromptu geek-up with Mark coming along with Ash and then Chris joining us in town shortly after. Here are some photographs I took using my iTelephone. Enjoy.

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Stress. Weather it’s from work, home or other it can be a real pain in the arse. It can kill your productivity and make you lose sleep. Companies have made millions… no, billions out of treating stress. From hypnotherapy to stress toys, to self help techniques there are a huge number of things available to help with your stress. Personally I manage mine with some fairly simple objects. Here are my top 5 stress busting…. erm… toys, I guess?

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Everyone has their own favourite Marvel character but I have to say, mine is Iron Man. Maybe it’s because he’s a tech geek’s tech geek, maybe it’s because he’s like Batman… but richer, smarter and cooler. Whatever the reason I had to write about the current run of The Invincible Iron Man, in particular, a series called World’s Most Wanted.

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So I’m always on the lookout for new comics to read and my comic-reading friends have got my back big time. Yesterday my buddy Rick suggested I read a pretty recent comic mini-series called Kick-Ass by Mark Millar (Marvel Civil War) and John Romita Jr. (World War Hulk). So far I’ve read issues 1-6 out of an 8 issue run and I have to say I am super-impressed.

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In my journey of becoming old and bitter I find myself more and more irritated with Americanisms. It seems, now, that not a day goes by where I don’t mutter “bloody Americans!” under my breath at something. Most of these, though are nothing more than manifestations of my own intolerance. I even annoy myself by how much they bother me. My top 5 annoying Americanisms, though, are ones that regularly get my back up. So here they are.

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It’s no secret that the most difficult kind of movie to make is one where there is an existing fan base for the story in another form. The “The book is always gonna be better than the movie!” crowd are notoriously hard to please. So much so that there have only been a hand full of truly great adaptations, and even fewer for movies that are adapted from comic books.

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Being a kid was fucking great. Of course, the irony of it is that you only truly appreciate how awesome it was when you grow up and find yourself wishing you could still be 10. I’ve been watching the videos of The Nostalgia Critic and it’s got me all in-the-mood for doing another (see my first) trip down memory lane post to bring you some of the “Man I wish I could still do that” thoughts that have been whizzing ’round the old noggin. So with that in mind, I bring you my top 5 toys/games/activities from my childhood.

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