Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  My friend and I went to Turkey last November. The Thomas Cook representative gave out a booklet at her talk, emphasising it contained a £50 voucher redeemable against a further holiday. We booked that holiday for the end of this month, sending our vouchers to a travel agency which booked the holiday with Thomas Cook.  But the travel agency says that Thomas Cook will not honour the £50 vouchers. The voucher states that the booking should be made through an ABTA or otherwise approved travel agent – which it has been. JB, by email.

A  Initially Thomas Cook advised that you booked your holiday before you had been given its voucher.  Vouchers cannot be redeemed retrospectively on holidays previously booked, so Thomas Cook confirmed its refusal to provide the £50 discount.  When we advised you of this, you insisted that this was untrue and that you had received the voucher before booking this month’s holiday.  After a further investigation, Thomas Cook conceded this was correct.  It had, in fact, sold a block of holidays to the travel agency you used before the voucher was issued – but you had not booked your holiday.  As those holidays were sold to the agency at a discount, holiday makers were not entitled to a further discount according to the Thomas Cook terms and conditions.  But it seems you were not informed of this by the agency when you booked your holiday.  On this basis, Thomas Cook is honouring the voucher and is sending you the £50.  However, it blames the travel agency for failing to properly inform you.


Q.  For several years I have had an Egg Money MasterCard and an Egg Visa card.  I attempted to use the MasterCard to buy a guitar for my son’s birthday.  The transaction was declined to my embarrassment.  Egg told me that my card was cancelled last year, although the details still show clearly on my internet banking page and there is nothing to say that the card is no longer valid.  There is even a credit balance shown. Egg claims that it wrote to me in August 2009 to say that the account would be cancelled if not used within a month.  This was despite the fact that a new card with a starting date of August 2009 had just been sent to me.  I have no recollection of receiving a letter saying that the account was about to be closed. When I asked to have the card renewed, I was told to apply for a new card.  NS, London.


A  Egg confirms that it wrote to you in August last year, pointing out that you had not used this card for 13 months.  It automatically advises customers who have cards that have not been used for 13 months “to protect customers’ security and guard against any potential fraud”.   You were told that you needed to use the card in the next month to keep the account open and the card valid.  This warning was issued despite you being issued with a new card at around this time.  You could still view your account online because of the credit balance – which was less than £1.  Egg apologises for the embarrassment caused to you, but believes it has acted correctly.

Q.  I opened a two year fixed rate bond for £77,000, paying 3.5 per cent gross, with Nationwide in April this year.  I had to close this in June. I understood there would be a penalty, but I was surprised that this was £750.17.  So I received less than I paid in – just £76,249.83 of my original investment. HC, by email.


A  Nationwide says this is consistent with the terms and conditions of the account.  A spokesman explains: “Fixed rate bonds are medium-term deposit accounts that offer customers a higher rate of interest in return for ‘locking in’ their money for longer.  Fixed rate bonds complement savers’ portfolio of savings and investments and are intended for those who do not need access to their deposits.  If a customer does need access to the money in their Nationwide Fixed Rate Bond, they are able to close the bond early, subject to an early closure charge.  This is made clear in the society’s literature when the bond is opened.  It is important to note here that some savings providers do not allow any early closure at all except for exceptional circumstances – e.g. death, bankruptcy – while others operate a similar policy to the society.”

Q.  I bought flights in March through Ebookers with Continental Airlines for a multi-city trip from London to New York to San Francisco, back to New York and then home to London.  But my plans changed and instead of taking the flight from San Francisco back to New York, I flew to Denver with a different airline to visit some friends and start a road trip from Denver to New York.  When I went to check-in at New York I was unable to do so, because I hadn’t taken my flight from San Francisco to New York.  The rest of my trip was now voided.  To get home with Continental I would need to buy a new flight at a cost of $1,970.  I phoned my parents, who were able to buy online a cheaper ticket with another airline.  AB, by email.

A  Continental Airlines says that the ‘fare rules’ issued to you by Ebookers make clear that “once an itinerary is ticketed, all flights must be flown in sequence or the remaining flight segments will be automatically cancelled”.  Once you were recorded by the computer as a ‘no show’ on the booked flight from San Francisco to Newark, your onward flight was automatically cancelled.  Continental says that while it is sympathetic, it is the responsibility of passengers to be aware of the rules associated with tickets purchased.  Ebookers says these are industry standard rules and that you should have contacted the airline once you decided to change your itinerary.


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