Barclays / Stranded without cash on holiday
I've been a Barclays customer for over 25 years and have noticed
that the service has got worse and worse. The straw that broke
the cammel's back though was when Barclays left me stranded without
any money for most of my recent boliday to Crete. I tried my
debit (Connect) card in an ATM in Stalis but got a "refer to card issuer"
message. I thought nothing of this - Stalis is a small village and probably
the network connections were down. A couple of days later I visited the
main city on Crete - Hiraklion where there seem to be even more banks than
on the Isle of Man or Jersey (or the Cayman's for that matter). First
one gives - "refer to card issuer", second one "refer to card issuer", third
one same. Now I'm starting to think that there may be a fault with my debit
card so my partner tries her Nationwide card (Note: Nationwide does not
charge their customers fees for foreign transactions !) - it works fine.
Undeterred I try another ATM and another and another ...
until after a couple of dozen I finally give up.
Back at the ranch I decide to give the number Barclays have given me for
their call centre a ring to find out WTF is going on. Helpfully there
is a reverse-the-charge-anywhere-in-the-world number. Unhelpfully it
doesn't work (Note to Barclays: Greece is that funny shaped country
in the south east corner of Europe - turn right at Bulgaria). So I try
to give the other number a ring and guess what ... yep the dreaded "choose 1 for ..
choose 2 for ... " messages. After a half a dozen menus I'm prompted to enter
my card number (doesn't sound very secure but WTH ... ) and guess what the
line goes dead. I try again this time with the "stolen card" line only
to be put on hold while the phone steadily eats up the last of my euros
at international call rates (to the UK ... during office hours ...). Why do
Barclays charge customers to report stolen cars - are they punishing them ?
Eventually I hang up in exasperation and the hotel owner, noticing my rather flustered
manner asks what it wrong. I explain the situation and she looks at the
bank card and with a look of deja vu says that "many people have had problems
with these cards, perhaps it is your bank"). You've got to hand it these
people - they didn't invent philopsophy for nothing.
Later on I'm drowning my sorrows in an (obviously cheap !) beer or two
and happen to recount my woes to the barmaid (bit of Dean Martin/Frank Sinatra
in the background please ...). Without prompting she says - "you're not with Barclays
are you, people have had problems all summer with getting money out of the ATM
So now the penny/euro has finally dropped. Barclays has been blocking the cash
withdrawls of holiday makers all summer leaving them stranded high and dry.
In light of this my partner and I scraped up the last of our euros and worked
out an emergency daily ration to see us through. No more evening meals, no car
hire, no trips out just a whole week and half of scrimping and saving all thanks
to Barclays. Welcome to the return of the student budget holiday - I'd have brought
a backpack and an InterRail pass had I known.
On return to blighty where at least Barclays have graciously allowed me to withdraw
my own money I came home to two letters on the doormat from "the bank that likes
to say no" (to cash withdrawls by its own customers). It turns out
that they had thoughfully decided to block my card because they thought it was
being used fradulently. How very considerate. Seems they've introduced a new
Barclays Fraud Detection service supposedly for my benefit but not actually got around
to telling me about it (perhaps they were too busy sending out unwanted
adverts for loans). Maybe Barclays assume that their customers never go
on holiday abroad or perhaps (because of the credit crunch) they don't want
to give up their sterling - who knows.
Anyway I'm currently chasing Barclays for compensation and I will let you
know how I get on once all the legal bits are tied up.
Moral of this story: if you are going abroad and don't want to use travellers
cheques get yourself a Nationwide account. Amazingly enough they do allow
their customers to withdraw their *own* money and they don't rip you off
with transaction charges like Barclays.
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