Latest on the blog

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


As a part of our London Relocation Guide improvements, we're digging deep into each neighborhood. This week the focus is on Kilburn. And if you've got some free time on your hands thanks to the bank holiday, you might be looking for somewhere new to ear! You will never be short on good food around Kilburn. From traditional British fare, to Italian, to Thai, there are options aplenty. Its best to show up hungry, because you will want to try more than one item on these menus.

  • Little Bay: Little Bay is slightly off the beaten path, making it somewhat of a hidden gem offering some great continental cuisine. With a unique interior that features elevated indoor balconies for a select number of booths, you won’t soon forget eating here. 
  • Spicy Basil: Right on Kilburn High Street, Spicy Basil is a small Thai restaurant with generous portions at great prices that all the locals flock to. They have a small dining area with recently opened downstairs seating. 
  • Small and Beautiful: If you’re looking for quirky and affordable, Small and Beautiful fits the bill. From a full English breakfast to a 3 course meal, there is surely something for everyone. The interior is cosy, featuring exposed brick and chandelier lamps.
  • Casareccia: Head over to Casareccia for home-style Cucina cuisine, including some great special offers, in a cosy, friendly atmosphere. The menu is extensive, crafted by owners who are passionate about good eats.
  • Hugo’s: Hugo’s began in 1994 as The Organic Cafe, and still brings all of their ingredients in from sustainable, fair trade sources. It is located in a cosy cobbled mews, perfect for dining al fresco or by candlelight indoors.



Everyone likes a warm welcome when they’re traveling to a new city, and everyone loves mail! FlatClub is combining these two great things and adding a personal touch to your London check-in. If you’re staying in London for over a week, you’ll now receive a FlatClub Welcome Pack to show our appreciation. The welcome pack is your introduction to London.

We made sure to add a few British classics: a PG Tips tea bag and a Cadbury Eclair. So while you browse your copy of Time Out London, enjoy your cuppa and plan your first week! Other good things include a Tube map and Oyster card information to help you get around on public transport and a printed version of our London Relocation Guide to tell you all the best places to go.

All of this cool stuff comes in a sturdy clear FC folder that you can reuse for other things - maybe your boarding passes on the way home? But we don’t want you to think about heading home just yet - when you check in to London you’ll have an entire folder full of fun things to try!



Tuesday, 19 August 2014

We’re pleased to announce the integration of the Yelp API with our flat postings! Yelp on FlatClub means less questions & more fun.

You've seen how we improved on our flat postings, and one of the biggest overhauls was to our maps. The Yelp API integration was a big part of that. Take a look at this map as an example:


When you’re traveling it’s very nice to see suggestions that are near where you’re staying. Since you’ll likely need to stay in a specific place, you may not want to go out every night on the underground to the trendiest or most popular areas of the city.

There is so much awesome stuff in London, but it’s not always easy to figure out where those things are in relation to where you’ll be. There are lots of hidden gems across the city, and seeing them can sometimes be a challenge. With the Yelp API you’ll have access to over 20,000 restaurants and nightlife spots in London with the additional bonus of being able to narrow your search to within walking distance. No more attempting to decide which top 20 pub to go to - Yelp will give you suggestions right on your doorstep.


When it comes to being rewarded for seeing things differently, our office experienced that first hand with Yelp. We had some fun testing the API out for ourselves, and found a very well-loved coffee shop near our office. We hadn't noticed it before, as it’s not the sort of place you’d walk into off the street - as it’s off of a side street on another side street! Certainly out of the way, and very ‘locals only’. It’s a small little shop doing some of the nicest coffee nearby - and specialty Australian sweets! How else could you hear about it but through word of mouth & Yelp recommendations? It’s not the sort of place you’d stumble upon by exploring the city.

Experiences like that are what we hope the Yelp API will bring to our guests - fun things that you never even thought to look for right outside your door.

That’s not all the Yelp API can do, though. It’s also the backbone of our great transportation overlay - so you’ll know the nearest bus stops & underground stations to where you’re staying.

In the future, we’d like to include something that can help our guests find cool venues & special events nearby, and we believe Yelp can help us accomplish this. We’re also curious about being able to suggest certain flats to people based off of their reasons for traveling or their preferences for nearby things - for instance, if you want a flat in Bloomsbury and you love coffee, we could suggest a room near some of the top rated coffee shops of that neighborhood!

What are some other cool things that you believe Yelp & FlatClub could bring to your London trip?

Monday, 18 August 2014


Short answer is a lot. Nearly all of it is behind the scenes. When you request to book a flat on FlatClub - it’s no different and we think the details are actually pretty interesting. Whether it’s a confirmed request, declined request, or cancellation, this post will help you understand exactly what happens and why. Let’s start with the lingo. Here are the most important payment system terms to understand.

The Vocabulary

Gateway: the service that receives, records, and encrypts your card details to send them to the payment processor. The gateway connects FlatClub’s website to the payment processor.
Payment Processor: the company that handles FlatClub’s bank transactions and communicates with FlatClub’s bank. It sorts and sends your card and purchase details to your credit card company.
Pre-auth: Pre-authorization happens when you make a credit card transaction, but the bank holds, or sets aside, those specific funds instead of sending them to FlatClub until after your successful check-in. While the money is still in your bank account, you cannot use it until the pre-auth period is over.
Credit Card Company: The company you got your credit card from, such as Visa or Mastercard.
Encryption: When information is encoded so that only verified parties (your credit card company, your bank, etc.) can read it.
Issuer: The bank that approved your credit card and gave it to you to use.
Merchant: FlatClub!

Your Booking Was Confirmed?

Great! Here’s what happened

It’s a complex process to make your booking successful. If all goes well, all you see is a return confirmation. However, from the moment you enter your card details, several companies must handle the information so that your bank can handle your money properly. This list outlines what happens during the process of a successful confirmed booking on FlatClub.

  1. You enter your card details into the booking payge and send your request.
  2. Your card details go from FlatClub to the gateway for encryption.
  3. The payment processor sorts and requests pre-authorization. 
  4. Your credit card company runs fraud detection and sends the pre-auth request to the issuer (your bank) to be approved or rejected. 
  5. Your bank accepts or rejects the pre-auth request and tells the credit card company.
  6. If accepted, your credit card company adds the transaction to your bill and sends the info about funds held by pre-auth to the payment processor.
  7. The payment processor confirms a successful pre-auth to FlatClub.
  8. FlatClub confirms your request as valid and greenlights the host to accept or reject.
  9. If the host accepts, your pre-authorized payment is transacted and you’re booked!

A Declined Booking

It happens that booking requests are declined. When that happens, the successful pre-auth must unwind and the process takes a different turn at step 8. Your money is still in your account and the info must go back through the channels to release the pre-auth funds.
When a host declines, the path picks up at:
  1. FlatClub communicates a decline through the gateway to the payment processor.
  2. The payment processor tells the credit card company to release your pre-auth’d funds.
  3. The credit card company notifies your bank that these funds should be available.
  4. Your bank must process this info, release your held funds, and notify the credit card company to complete the circle.
  5. Your credit card and bank statements are changed to show those funds are available.

A Confirmed, Then Canceled Booking

Things happen and plans change. What happens to your credit card when you have a confirmed booking but decide to cancel later? Here’s the process that happens from requesting your booking to after your cancellation.
The Confirmed Booking Process from numbers 1-9 still applies. The path then picks up at:

  1. The same process has to happen in reverse. After a successful booking, the funds are held in FlatClub’s account (to be transferred to the host 72 hours after check in). Through the gateway, FlatClub then tells the payment processor to initiate a refund.
  2. The payment processor sends this information to your credit card company.
  3. The credit card company checks the refund request against your past account activity, and notifies your bank a refund should be accepted.
  4. Your bank must process this information, and greenlight the credit card company to accept the refund.
  5. The credit card company receives the processed refund from the merchant’s bank, and notifies your bank.
  6. Your credit card statement is changed to show those funds have returned.

*The time it takes for these processes to happen usually depends on the time it takes your own bank to make a decision, perform the task, and alert the next party in the transaction.

The Illustration

Visualizing this process can be difficult. First Atlantic Commerce has allowed us to use their diagram to illustrate all the steps.



Why Pre-Authorization?

Pre-auth helps both the merchant and the customer.

  • Fraud Detection for you - It gives the processor time to make sure you are the one trying to pay. 
  • Fraud Detection for us - It gives us time to make sure we charge a valid card.
  • It guarantees to a host that your reservation request is ready to go.
  • If the host declines your request, you don’t have to request a refund because the payment wasn’t processed.
  • When the host confirms your booking request - you don’t have to re-enter payment info.
  • If you change your mind after sending a request, (because for example your better half also booked a different flat on FlatClub) you don’t have to request a refund.

Conclusion

Payment systems are wildly complicated, but essential to FlatClub’s process. This is also one of our most frequent customer service inquiries. Our goal was to pull back the veil on how and why the process takes time and looks the way it does on your bank statements. How did we do? Let us know if you now understand about the behind the scenes booking process on our system! Talk to us on Facebook, Twitter, or G+

Friday, 15 August 2014

Our London Relocation Guides continue - this time, we're covering cultural hotspots in our neighborhood guide for Bloomsbury. If you live in Bloomsbury, we'd be happy to hear from you about where you like to go for a bit of culture!

If you want to soak up some uniquely London experiences, spend a few days in Bloomsbury. From historical buildings with brilliant architecture to museums you cannot find anywhere else, the neighborhood has a little something for everyone. There is even a museum the kids will appreciate! Here are our five favorite cultural attractions in the neighborhood.

  • British Museum: On Great Russell Street, the British Museum is among the most comprehensive museums in existence dedicated to human history and culture, and it contains some 8 million works.

  • Wellcome Collection: The Wellcome Collection calls itself “the free destination for the incurably curious,” and offers an eclectic variety of galleries and events, as well as meeting, reading, and eating places.

  • St. George’s Church: The final London church to be designed by English Baroque architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, St. George’s is a working church, concert venue, and community arts centre. They occasionally offer guided tours.

  • Pollock’s Toy Museum: Benjamin Pollock was a Victorian toy theatre creator, and toys from all over the world reside in the museum that takes his name. From an Egyptian clay mouse to doll houses, you’ll find just about every sort of toy. Toy theatrical performances run during school holidays.

  • Charlotte Street Gallery: This Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery on Charlotte Street is known for its displays of non-Western artistic traditions, as well as Western contemporary art that strays from the
    norm.
Do you have any other great Bloomsbury tips? Drop us a line on Twitter and let us know! We'll include them in the official guides on our site.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014



Everyone loves a good green space, especially when the sun manages to shine in London. Bloomsbury is a neighborhood with an abundance of landscaped squares. There are plenty of ideal areas to choose from for your run or picnic, whatever strikes your fancy! Grab a coffee beforehand at one of these spots, and a nice refreshing drink after - the perfect day out in Bloomsbury.
  • Bloomsbury Square: The basics of Bloomsbury square have been around since the 1660’s, and has since been redesigned several times. It features oval tree lines and pathways, and is the perfect space for an after-work run.
  • Russell Square: Russell Square has received multiple awards for its beautiful landscaping. It also holds a great cafe, drawing in many locals and tourists alike for lunch on manicured lawns and next to pretty blooms.
  • Gray’s Inn Gardens: Also known as “the Walks,” the Gardens were originally laid out by Sir Francis Bacon. On a sunny day lines of trees cast dappled shade on the spacious footpaths, and make the space a perfect haven from the busy city around it.
  • Brunswick Square Gardens: The former recreational space of an orphanage in 1739, Brunswick Square Gardens are tranquil and picturesque. The garden is also home to a “Great Tree of London,” according to the charity Trees for Cities. If you have children in tow, a play area is just around the corner in Coram’s Fields.
  • Gordon Square: A picturesque garden, this square was put to multiple uses since its original design in 1800. Named after Lady Georgina Gordon, this square features mature trees, a well-maintained landscape, and winding footpaths.
We hope you're enjoying our neighborhood guides as part of an expansion of our London Relocation Guide! Moving to Bloomsbury? What are you looking forward to most of all? Visit FlatClub to find temporary accommodation - just perfect for exploring the area!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


Not thinking about a pint yet? Well, lucky for you Bloomsbury has even more to offer in terms of drinks - a certain caffeinated beverage rather than alcoholic, perhaps? These are the top 5 coffee shops in Bloomsbury!


Coffee is meant to be enjoyed. Take a break from trekking around Bloomsbury, taking in the culture, and discovering all that the British Museum has to offer and enjoy some perfectly crafted coffee. You could even grab some coffee and pastries to get energized before your day at work or sightseeing. Here are five of the best coffee shops in Bloomsbury!

  • Bloomsbury Coffee House: Serving up Allpress coffee, Teapigs teas, and homemade bakery items, this coffee house has it all. Their daily changing lunch menu acts as a great starter for all the sweet treats.
  • The Espresso Room: This independent specialty coffee shop mainly sticks to serving up what they do best: caffeinated drinks. Previously the recipient of Time Out’s Best London Coffee award, you can’t go wrong with a brew from The Espresso Room.
  • London Review Cake Shop: Walk through a history section corridor in the London Review Bookshop and you will find the well-liked Cake Shop. Filled with sweets, savory lunch items, tea, and coffee,
  • Bea’s of Bloomsbury: If you’re looking for high-end sweets or light savory lunch items along with your coffee or tea, Bea’s of Bloomsbury is the bakery for you. From tea specials and coffee to elaborate cakes, Bea’s has an impressive array of offerings.
  • Cafe in the Gardens: Head to Russell Square for a quality little cafe, where they offer great coffee at a nice price. What better way is there to enjoy a nice day in one of Bloomsbury’s many green spaces?

We hope you're enjoying our London Relocation Guide & the neighborhood guides for London. Please make any requests for content to our Twitter, @flatclubcom!