Denied access to our money

The Other Half and I drove up to Huntly this morning to buy a few groceries and fill the Land Rover with diesel.

I paid for the groceries in cash, which is my preference as it makes it easier to manage the money day to day, and then we went to the service station.

I filled the Land Rover with diesel but when I went to pay, my Visa debit card was declined twice.

The OH came in to the kiosk to pay, but her card was declined too.

While she filled out a form promising to pay the service station the money owing, I used her mobile phone to call our bank, Abbey (or Santander as it now wants to be known).

Or rather, tried to call.

First, I tried the Abbey Chequeline number on the back of the card. This is the number you’re supposed to call when a transaction is declined.

The number isn’t available.

Next, I tried the standard Customer Services number.

It starts with a very long message about changes to the bank’s services and the way phone banking is handled.

Of course, a very long message means spending a long time on a mobile phone, from which call charges are much higher and so the phone’s balance was falling rapidly.

Finally, I reached the navigation menu and selected Option Four, which is supposed to put you through to someone who deals with “declined transactions”.

I had to type my card number and date of birth into the phone so the bank’s computer could identify me, but the mobile phone is small and the buttons are tiny so I mis-hit one number and found myself bounced off the system as Abbey’s computer hung up on me.

I had to repeat the whole process and, yes, that meant the mobile phone’s balance whizzed downwards.

This time I did get past the typed login, only to find that I had not reached the “failed transactions” section. Instead, I found myself being given my balance details by one of those dreadful robotic voices.

And then the phone’s balance ran out—and with our cards declined we couldn’t put any more money on the phone.

Fortunately, the service station was happy to take a signed form stating that we would pay in 30 days although, bizarrely, they wouldn’t accepted a signed cheque for the outstanding amount!

We came home and I phoned Abbey from the landline.

After navigating the labyrinthine call handling system I finally managed to get through to a callhandler—somewhere in Asia and with a less than good understanding of English.

By now, I was getting very annoyed with Abbey.

I’ve been with the bank for more than 15 years and have stuck with them because, unlike the other banks both the OH and I have been with, they’ve always been easy to deal with, make few mistakes and, when they do, they’ve resolved the problem speedily.

Not any more.

Anyway, I finally managed to give the call handler my name, date of birth, account number and card number.

He asked for my main contact number, but as I started to give it I was cut off.

I was fuming by this point.

I phoned Abbey again, listened to the long-winded messages, navigated the endless options, heard my balance again, and finally found myself talking to another call handler.

He told me Abbey’s Fraud Department believed our account to be fraudulent and had put a stop on it.

I asked why they had not contacted us.

The call handler said he couldn’t say.

I asked what we could do.

He said the Fraud Department was not open at the weekend and could only be contacted on weekdays between 9am and 5pm, adding that we would have to go to our local branch in person and speak to a member of staff.

I pointed out that it’s Saturday, that we now have no access to our money for the rest of the weekend, that we were now seriously inconvenienced on top of the embarrassment of having our cards turned down in front of a dozen people, and that we’re going to have to drive more than an hour to the nearest branch on Monday.

He was completely disinterested and reiterated that “the Fraud Department is open on weekdays from 9am to 5pm”.

I told him we’d get the problem sorted, but that was the end of our banking with Abbey.

Next, I tried contacting Abbey’s Complaints Department but unsurprisingly that only operates from 9am to 5pm on weekdays as well.

I tried a couple of other contact options as well, but again found access to Abbey’s departments is limited to weekdays, from 9am to 5pm.

So, we’re pushed into using electronic banking and payment systems on the grounds of security and convenience, we’re encouraged to rely on them 24/7, and we’re told the bank wants to keep us happy by offering good and convenient service.

But if anything goes wrong, then you just have to accept that you can’t access any of the things that money buys—use of your phone, use of your car, purchases of groceries, etc etc.

And you have to accept that the bank will only do something to correct any problems from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

To make matters worse, we normally keep a cash reserve at home for unexpected eventualities but it’s been eroded because of customers failing to buy the pigs they’ve ordered and we haven’t had the chance to top it up.

Abbey’s staff are going to be a flea in their ear on Monday, when the Other Half will have to take a day off work—yes, first day back at school after the holidays—and we’ll both have to traipse into Aberdeen to get something done.

Now we just have to find another bank. Not easy when we’ve had major problems with most of them in the past.

35 Responses to “Denied access to our money”

  1. Oh no… not the terrible Abbey/Banco Santander set up again?

    Earlier this year we finally managed to access a substantial amount of money at the end of a ten year saga!

    If they carry on like this… no wonder they won’t release money… they will probably run out of customers pretty soon!

    I get cross when in circumstances like this they have the gall to call the department ‘Customer Services’… Customer Dis-Services more like!

  2. We finally received an automated message from Abbey just after 7pm. I phoned back and managed to speak to someone in the Fraud Department. It turns out someone paid in £5 in Catford, London, on Friday and then tried to debit a couple of pounds to Oxfam. That flagged up an alert as it’s not a normal transaction. Of course, we still can’t take any money out and still have to go into the branch on Monday.

    Next, the OH and I started going through our transactions, thinking about where we’d shopped and what had happened there. The only unusual, as in out of the ordinary transactions, in the past week were at a garage, a restaurant, a clothes shop and a garden centre.

    When she thought back to the garage, the OH remembered that the attendant had made a swiping motion with her card behind a wall and then swiped her card through a machine on the desk.

    We contacted Abbey again with that detail and they told us to contact the police.

    I phoned Grampian Police, told them the details of what had happened and was promptly told nothing would be done as no crime had been committed. We might have had £5 paid into our account in London, we might have had an attempt made to take money from our account, and the OH might have seem something suspicious but Grampian Police’s call centre operative said that as nothing had been stolen, nothing would be done. After some discussion, he agreed to log it in their intelligence database but he sounded reluctant and that was the end of that—even though I pointed out that checking things out might prevent other people from being defrauded.

    I can’t say I’m impressed with either Abbey or the police.

    Abbey may have stopped someone from defrauding us but they failed to inform us immediately the activity was detected (more than 24 hours ago), their call centre handled things abysmally earlier today and gave us the wrong information, the call centre this afternoon gave us a phone number that is no longer in use, and the situation can only be corrected during office hours.

    As for the police, do they no longer concern themselves with crime prevention? Surely it’s better to prevent crimes from happening instead of waiting for them to happen and then detecting them?

  3. May I suggest you consider the Co-operative Bank? We haven’t actually been in a branch for years and you can apply on line. I find the Internet banking very easy and I always swore that I would never use such a thing. Call handling is done in the UK 24/7. I think that you can arrange to cash cheques at the Post Office (if you still have one!) and if you are a Co-op member you get a share of the profits in line with the volume of business you do with the bank. When they have suspected fraudulent goings on with our credit card they have contacted us straight away to check. I have been a satisfied customer for cough*40*cough years.

    Oh and they don’t go in for all that dodgy casino stuff that other so called respectable institutions have been indulging in, and no shareholders so none of that speculating to bring it down either.

    End of infomercial!

  4. I just did you a long post extolling the virtues of the Co-operative Bank. Where did it go? Something got through because I am subscribed to the post. How odd, I suppose operator error has struck again. Feel free to email me if you would like to know why I have been a very satisfied customer for nigh on 40 years .


    • Your comment was flung into the long, long queue of spam.

      As for the Co-operative Bank, I applied to open an account with them at the time that opened one with Abbey. I can’t remember why, but the Co-op turned me down and their staff at the local branch were quite rude. I tried again a few years later, when the OH and I wanted to open our first joint account, but again we were rejected. This time was partly because I hadn’t been a UK resident for long enough—I’d been here for several years but it wasn’t enough. Again, the branch staff were quite rude. And it was a different branch to the first time.

      But that’s by-the-by. The main problem with the Co-operative Bank is that it has almost no branches in Scotland. The nearest to us is in Glasgow!

  5. mummys little angel Reply 16 August, 2009 at 07:13

    I had a similar thing when I put a redirect on my address when I moved. However the bank I am with, First Direct, did try and ring me and promptly wrote to me to inform me of suspicious activity. We went through the transactions on the phone and I highlighted those that weren’t mine. First Direct contacted the police, their policy to do so, and immediately credited my bank with the amount for the dodgy transactions, their policy too. They also contacted the companies concerned who also contacted the police. I also was told the transactions were made from Germany online. A new card was dispatched to me immediately and upon receipt of that I had to phone to unlock the account. I was also told if I need cash to take a cheque into the a branch (HSBC)and they would make security checks before handing me the cash, but it would be available.

    We as a family will never use Abbey after the share allocation 20 years ago. My father was allocated shares but died before they were floated on the market. The account was a joint account with my mother but despite there being a Will and her name on the account Abbey refused to allocate the shares to my mother. The blurb said the account must remain open until flotation but nothing about dieing before flotation. But they still refused. They were also very rude to her, even though her husband has just died, and refused to believe he had died dispute them being handed a death certificate. The humiliated her in the branch and reduced her to tears with their rudeness.

    I hope you have contacted the shop concerned and report the suspicious activity.

  6. Well, it’s proving difficult to find a bank that has both a good reputation with customers and a presence near us.

    Last year’s JD Power and Associates retail banking customer satisfaction survey ranked the banks: the Co-op, Nationwide, RBS, Alliance & Leicester, Halifax, NatWest, Lloyds TSB, Yorkshire Bank, HSBC, Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Clydesdale Bank and Abbey. (First Direct has a good reputation in some surveys, but is part of HSBC which does poorly. Smile also does well and is an arm of the Co-op.)

    The Co-op’s nearest branch is Glasgow, Nationwide (a building society) has its nearest branch in Aberdeen. Abbey’s nearest branch is in Aberdeen, but we accepted that because of our bad experiences with other banks. It means we have to deposit cheques via the post, which is a free service from Abbey but can incur charges from other banks.

    RBS has a branch in Inverurie—and it opens on a Saturday. There’s also an RBS banking bus that visits the village weekly.

    The Clydesdale closed its branch in the village, and has a bad reputation.

    Lloyds has a branch in the village, but we’ve had bad experiences with them in the past.

    Have to leave it there as there are jobs to do.

  7. I am shocked and truly sorry to hear that Co-op Bank staff have been rude to you on two occasions.

    • It’s not your fault!

      • I know, but I am proud of the founding principles of the Co-op movement even if I am not particularly left wing in my politics, and I am proud of the Co-op Bank for being there as an alternative to the so called big banks (not that they look so big or clever now). I have never come across a member of staff either in the bank branch, on the telephone or in our local Co-op supermarket who has been anything but extremely helpful, and that people have been rude to you and put you off annoys me. Besides if they are driving business away my dividend share is not as big as it could be!!

  8. I keep 2 bank accounts and two credit cards. The former because banks do occasionally go bust and even with deposit insurance you can be without access to your money for some time, and the latter because occasionally you can have problems with credit cards not working.

    Would it not be possible to use Abbey for your checking needs and then some other bank as a backup with either a credit or debit card?

  9. With regard to RBS I’ll say that the service level is very much branch related. I’ve had all manner of annoyance since some dimwit in the Aberdeen St Nicholas branch lost my paperwork and mis-spelled my name; all solved apologetically and efficiently by staff in the branch my Dad uses in Merseyside (I was visiting) and by the Bridge of Don branch.

    So long as you find your nearest branch has competent staff, being able to go in and have them deal with your account there and then is a point in RBS’ favour. My personal account is with HSBC – I’d close it if I could stand the faff.

  10. We’ve just spent three hours driving in to Aberdeen, faffing about in the Abbey branch there, and then driving home. Apart from getting £250, we achieved sod all and it will take five days for the Abbey to investigate, decide what to do, and then inform us. It’s absolutely infuriating.

    I’ve twice had problems occur with my Abbey accounts in the past. On those occasions, someone phoned me as soon as the problem was spotted, told me the problem and asked me to go to the local branch the next day. When I went into the branch, I was met by someone senior, who was up to speed with the problem, and who invited me to a private room where the problem was worked through and resolved. I’ve stayed with the Abbey for many years because of quality of service I’ve received and because it was a marked contrast with other banks.

    Not this time. After Saturday’s problems, I was hoping things would be different in the branch but I suspected the service there would have gone downhill, too. And so it proved.

    We were seen at the counter by a teller who “dealt” with our problem in public. She clearly had little idea about what to do or how to handle customers who were stressed, embarrassed and ill-informed about the nature of the problem. She insisted the call centres could not have told me what I said they’d told me, she said our account had not been blocked and I could still access my other accounts.

    The OH and I pointed out that we could not access our other accounts as our cards were blocked, we could not check any of our accounts as e-banking has been blocked, and that the call centre operative on Saturday evening had said there was not only a block on the account, but that it would be closed.

    The teller we were dealing with was intransigent, unsympathetic and condescending throughout, and then couldn’t understand why we were getting annoyed.

    Anyway, we now find ourselves stuck without access to our accounts for a minimum of five days while the Abbey investigates and I’m sure there will be further delays after that while they decide what has to be done, and then do it.

    We’re not happy.

  11. I’ve just been trying to get through to Abbey’s Complaints Department. Yet again, I had to wade through a series of automated menus that finally delivered me to the banking Customer Services call centre—who don’t deal with complaints and told me to call the Complaints number. Argh!

  12. You need, I feel, to complain now to the Ombudsman…and when you speak next to the Abbey, tell them you’ve done so…

    Longer term, I’d recommend the Nationwide…after a lifetime of unsatisfactory banking I went to them five years ago, and they haven’t cocked up on me yet…


  1. Still no progress with Abbey « Musings from a Stonehead - 25 August, 2009

    [...] service, Daily life, Santander, Technology by Stonehead Eleven days have passed since Abbey stopped our bank accounts because of suspicious [...]

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