Wednesday, September 26, 2007

England is death by a thousand paper cuts

I knew that London was going to be expensive, but I failed to really grasp how until I got here. It's not the big ticket items that I can budget for -- it's the little things that are really sticking it to me. On Monday we paid $25 to do our own laundry at the laundry mat. $25! The washer takes two pounds sterling and the dryer takes one pound. We needed four loads for our clothes. That's 12 pounds, which is now equal to $25.

Yesterday I finally paid Sarah's tuition. That cost me $300 just to pay. Tuition is 5,000 GBP, which today is well over $10,000 U.S. dollars, but there is also a 3% transaction fee for using a credit card in a foreign country, and there you go -- $300 bank fee.

I have a Capital One No-Hassle card, which is good because it doesn't charge you the foreign transaction fee, but the credit limit is so laughably small it is almost worthless. I'm using it for day purchases, but for larger purchases like tuition I need to use my other Visa. I don't understand how the same person can have one card with 15 times the credit limit of another card and not get the limit raised, but there you go.

When my Visa card wouldn't work (fraud prevention) I had to call Providian's toll free number -- except it isn't toll free from the UK. Several calls with hold times and minimum phone charges per call meant that I spent around $40 calling the toll free number to get the tuition charge to go through.

This place is expensive. So, my fellow Americans, enjoy your cheap Wal-Mart goods from China and your 20 mile-per-gallon trucks, because (in case you were curious) it is our enormous trade deficit that is killing the U.S. dollar.

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