Beware! Barclays doesn’t know when your card is being used!

Is the second time in four weeks that Barclays blocks my access to my and my company’s accounts online. Or do they?

I have a couple of savings accounts with them and a current account where I receive a small amount every month. This amount goes straight to the savings account every month, so I only use the debit card to access my accounts online, no shopping, no ATM use (and apparently that qualifies as not using the card regardless of how many times you use it per day to access your accounts online).

A while back I already wrote about the inconvenience of their PINsentry invention, and how the ill-thought experiment cost me more than my share of stress for the sake of security (from their own incompetence, I guess.) They don’t even count the forced used of your card on their PINsentry as existent.

Two unrequested debit cards were issued from our business account and this created a problem too difficult for their little brains to handle.

My personal debit card was blocked (hence I couldn’t access the accounts online), I received a business debit card and no PIN for it, so I couldn’t access online banking.

After several calls with as many useless customer service assistants as I could speak to, they told me I had to go to the original branch where I opened the account to ask “why” they had block my personal debit card. Needless to say, living now 50 miles away, I refused to do a 100 mile round trip just for their incompetence.

I walked down the local Barclays branch and the manager couldn’t figure out what had happened and told me to call customer services again.

After a week without solutions, someone at business customer services told me that my account seemed duplicated, and they had blocked my personal account (even though we never asked for debit cards to be issued from our business account). The lady on the phone told me that she would try and fix it, but she couldn’t told me when. “Keep trying” she said. But if I tried more than 3 times, my online access would be blocked automatically, so I told her I could not do what she was asking me to. Her solution?  “You will have to call every now and then to see whether it has been fixed.” (!!!!)

After a week, I tried at an ATM and the card was working again.

Fast forward to last December 31. Same problem as above. Don’t try to sort anything over new year’s, so I just called them again.

Same thing but this time around, dealing with India. Duplicated account, expired card (true, but never got a replacement) and manual block of the card from the branch were I have to go personally. I refuse again and they told me to go again to a branch and try to find out. I asked to speak to someone who would tell me why business debit cards were issued without our consent and why my personal debit card was blocked and not replaced and she tried to put me through with the complaints department!! That’s how they solve problems, pass it on to complaints department.

I went ballistic and when I asked her why she was putting me through with the complaints department when I didn’t have any complaint (yet) I just wanted an answer, the lady on the phone told me that “that’s just the name of the department but they deal with it.” Ludicrous.

I am now waiting for the local branch to open and start all over again. Ridicoulous.

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Barclays going at it again. Account on credit, and returned cheques

I don’t normally insult or use swear words, but I think Barclays deserve to be called Bastayrds out loud.

The reason is no other than the fact that the Bastayrds did it again. A while ago I had a go for their twisted ways of playing the hours in a day and poor product knowledge at a branch level (On Barclays profiteering…)

Back then they told me that a pound paid in on a day at 0:01AM didn’t count towards paying direct debits that arrived that same day, as they said the money should’ve been in the account the day before. They direct me to their account’s T&Cs and somehow unsuccessfully tried to tell me that there was nothing they could do as the direct debits were run from a different company.

Fast forward 10 months later. Lesson learnt, we paid a supplier with two cheques, one for £500 and another one for £1,219.50. To make sure there were funds in the account on September 2 we transferred into the business account £1,719.50 from the Bastayrds savings account. If you want to follow the story, you can check the bank statement below:

BarclaysStatement

So by the end of September, there were £2,300.85 in the account. The bank statement above shows so, but for some strange reason, the cheques that on September 4, appeared as paid, today appear as unpaid even though there were funds in the account.

Now, again I haven’t got the slightiest idea why this happened. The supplier hasn’t contacted me yet (it’s currently Saturday night) but I know we are at it again.

As you can see, today is September 5 and there is a standing order for £90.02 due on Monday. Guess whose standing order this is? A Barclayloan.

Am I allowed to think that since we don’t have an overdraft facility, they cancelled the returned the cheques to make sure that THEY were getting paid?

I am mad, very mad. Again.

Again I have to waste emotional energy in trying not to shout, not to get angry, not to swear at a Barclays brainless staff member because, after all, they ARE brainless. Someone told me once that they train their branch staff “not to make decisions.” Urban legend? I don’t know, but it surely fits my picture of reality. How long am I going to waste on this? Any second is too long. And I still haven’t seen their returned cheque charges.

.calvin

On Spain looking down the tunnel, is that the exit or just a train coming?

I am sorry, I know I am a voluntary expat, but Spain is just the land of the joke. Yesterday three things happened that made me corroborate as a right idea leaving the Peninsula.

1. The financial health
The FT informs us that “Spain acts to help lenders”. Is this the same Spain that a few weeks ago was still bragging about the soundness of her financial system? The same Spain that was so proud that the rest of Europe was turning towards the “Spanish way” of dealing with bank reserves? (all coming from the Banesto/Mario Conde disaster of the early 90s). And I am still watching Banco Santander with a pinch of salt…

2. The moral and legal health
On a different note, again the FT tell us of how to do business in Spain. As a Dubai friend told me once, if you are not from Dubai [Spain], don’t try to do business without a local in Dubai [Spain]. And if you do, you will probably get ripped off and the court will not rule in your favour.

Anyway, the story is that of César Alierta, the chairman of Telefónica, the telecom monopoly (let’s call things what they are) that skins Spaniards alive with the most expensive mobile, landline and internet prices of any Western country (claim denied by the Spanish government, though). This fella, just set up a company to oversee his insider trader deals. In the best interest of the few, the court just cleared him of accusations of insider trading because “too much time had elapsed between the alleged offence and the start of judicial proceedings”.

3. The job market health
We heard drums of record unemployment in Spain (near 20% doubling the rate 12 months ago and near my own prediction of 22-25%). Also that the heat wave has brought American cockroaches to Barcelona. Inspired by G.W. Bush, I decided to launch a preventive attack on the little fellas and spent this morning ringing insect exterminators for my flat in El Born.

Conclusions:

a) Unemployment in Spain is partly out of laziness or deeply stupid laws and regulations. I only found two companies who worked on weekends but none did on Sunday. With unemployment over the roof, one would think that the government would relax the law and that people would be willing to work whenever.

b) The country is a rip-off. For a Roach Killer Gel I can get in a drugstore in USA for $6, they wanted €80-180 including spraying (and a 6-month guarantee when the gel producers promise 12 months).

c) All the companies I contacted quoted me the cost of the roach-raid with and without VAT, for my convenience. “In any case”, one lady told me without even thinking I might be a tax inspector, “you will get your 6 month guarantee”.

Sunlight might be the best of disinfectants, but surely rottens your spirit.

.calvin

On the British People’s Bank of Halifax hiking credit card rates

I have a mortgage and a credit card I pay religiously every month to the British People’s Bank of Halifax and to my surprise I received today an ugly piece of marketing literature. It didn’t even come in an envelope, so I almost discarded it, but close inspection made me realise that the content of the flyer was much important than the dress it came in.

Changes to your Halifax Credit Card Conditions

[…] The compound annual interest rates on your credit card will increase to the following:

  • Purchases 25.95% p.a. (variable)
  • Balance Transfers 25.95% p.a. (variable)
  • Cash Advances 29.95% p.a. (variable)
  • Credit card cheques 29.95% p.a. (variable)

The charges will apply to your account from your June 2009 statement date. […]

 

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On how not to run a bank, don’t trust Barclays online banking to work every day

There was a time when if your competition made a fool of themselves, you would storm in and get their customers. Market mistakes translated into a drop in market share.

But that was in the old days, my friend. We have reached such a level of mediocrity, that not only businesses don’t learn from their own mistakes, but neither take advantage to learn from their competitors’.

Paraphrasing Peter Griffin, what grinds my gears today is not other than Barclays online banking. Expecting some cheques to be charged today, I have been trying to unsuccessfully log on since this morning at 8am. With the usual routine (HSBC), I’ve tried with all computers, operative systems and internet browsers at home and I couldn’t log in. I gave up and went for a short run to check on the newly born lambs that pepper our backyard. Continue reading

On banks paying interest to people with mortgages or how NOT to run a banking operation: The answer

So it finally happened. This morning I received the letter from Birmingham Midshires answering the million dollar question: What happens when the Bank of England takes the base interest rate down to 0.5% or below and you are paying them 0.5% or higher below BoE base rate?

Well, since the bank’s decision back in March 5, it has taken them over a month to communicate with customers, but if you had hopes of getting paid for having a mortgage (absurd and ridicule thought, but these are absurd and ridicule times), drop it, in an interest only mortgage BM informs me that:

We’re writing to you following the Bank of England’s decision on 5 March 2009 to decrease the Base Rate. We’ll be reducing our interest rates on 1 April 2009, and so you’ll receive the benefit of the reduced rate from this date. We want to keep you informed of how these changes will affect you as outlined below. Continue reading

On saying NO to paperless banking, don’t fall in the guilt trap

As a principle, I refuse to change to paper-free statements, not only because the banks themselves don’t accept online statement print-outs as proof of address (ironic!) but because again, I don’t get anything out of it other than feeling less guilty for saving a piece of a tree. But let’s remember, it is the banks who want me to feel guilty about not saving paper and then they turn and mail me unsolicited advertising printed in non-recyclable paper.

I never felt guilty for getting paper statements, as a matter of fact, since I am a geek and keep my accounts to the minute using MS Money software, I never even looked at them. But then, I started having problem after problem after problem with banks and it became clear that keeping the paper statements was a sensible thing to do.

A good old marketer trick, is to create a need that didn’t exist before, and then harvest the profits. The immorality of using fear, guilt or customer stupidity as a means to higher corporate profit lead me to get my BA in Market Research and move out of the industry (not without the knowledge learnt and a permanent interest in the matter though).

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