Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q. I was a customer with Barclays for several years, but closed all my accounts in spring 2008 – I thought. I was badly injured in the London 7/7 bombings and received compensation for my injuries. On one occasions I went to the bank with a compensation cheque, the woman at the counter was very rude and quized me as to ‘where I got this money’ and ‘what was it for’, as if I was a drug dealer. This was despite the cheque clearly stating ‘London Bombing Charity Relief Fund’. So I closed my account. Then in mid 2009, I received a phone call saying I was overdrawn and that I was jeopardizing my credit history. Barclays checked and discovered that a standing order used to send money from my current account into my savings account had been left active, even though there was no money in the accounts. As a result, fees of over £600 had accumulated. I thought that Barclays’ call handler had eventually understood the situation and rectified it. But a year later, I got the same calls again. I was then told to go into a Barclays’ branch to ensure that the accounts had been properly closed. This I did, where I had to explain the situation, the clerk agreed that Barclays had made a mistake and promised that a letter of apology would be sent to me – which I never received. Now I have received calls from RMA debt collectors, telling me that they are now in ownership of the debt and seeking to collect it. RMA says it needs a letter from Barclays to clear the account before it can cease collection action. This is apparently affecting my credit rating and I am stressed by the situation. WW, London.

A Your ‘debt’ reached £725.04, when collectors contacted you. Although the standing orders had eventually been cancelled and removed from your accounts, an administrative oversight meant that a charge of just £3.01 was left outstanding. Afterwards an accumulation of account charges, fees and interest caused the balance to escalate to a shocking £725.01. Not surprisingly, an investigation by Barclays has upheld your complaint and the bank apologises. It has cleared the balance on the account and corrected your credit file. We hope that Barclays is suitably embarrassed.

Q. I am disabled and problems with my Santander card are damaging my mental health. I have been notified by Santander that dormant accounts will incur a £10 charge. As I’ve not used its Debenham’s store card for some time, I decided to close the account. I wrote to the bank by recorded delivery and cut-up the card. I also logged-on to my account online and requested the card be deactivated, just in case it was intercepted. Three weeks later, I still haven’t had confirmation that the account has been closed, nor have I had a response to my online message. FM, London.

A It was good that you took seriously the lack of response to your account closure request – Santander has no trace of receiving this. The card account has now been closed and Santander has sent you a goodwill payment of £50 to apologise for its failure to respond to your online message.

Q. In February last year, I booked a flight on BA’s website, for return travel between Aberdeen and London Gatwick, travelling with Flybe on 19 February at a cost of £180.90. The flight was cancelled; no explanation was provided; and passengers were asked to report to the Flybe desk at Aberdeen Airport to make alternative onward arrangements. But for me, a later flight would have been pointless. As my booking was made through BA, I approached their ground crew at Aberdeen Airport. I was advised to contact Flybe, though I considered BA to be responsible for the refund as the booking was via them. After two emails to Flybe, I was informed that BA was liable for refunding me.  I wrote to BA and received an email on 20 March with a case number and promising to get in contact “as quickly as we can.”  I heard no more, then in May I wrote and was told the refunds team would get back to me “as soon as possible”. I emailed in August, but there was no reply. I emailed again in January and still no reply. It is now almost a year. CL, by email.

A According to BA, the credit card account you used to make the payment was credited with £180.90 on 5 June last year. You have not replied to our email asking you to check your account to see if the payment was received – so we assume it was. It is important to check accounts in circumstances such as these, as companies making refunds do not always notify customers when the payments are made.

Q. I have never had a credit card. I am now about to travel as part of a career break and a credit card would be useful. I am concerned that applying for a credit card now, with no regular income, would affect my credit rating, damaging my chance of getting a mortgage when I come back. AS, by email.

A Successfully applying for a credit card would be positive for your credit reference report – it would demonstrate a history of behaving responsibly with credit, assuming you make all payments on time.  But a rejection could cause you future problems.  So you should try to make sure before you apply that you would succeed. Lucy Davies of Experian explains: It can be tricky to get on the first rung of the ladder, but there are some cards on the market aimed at people with little or no credit history.” She suggests that you use Experian’s CreditExpert service to find out which credit card issuers are likely to approve your application based on your own financial situation, but without leaving a ‘footprint’ on your credit report. You should also consider setting-up a direct debit mandate for any credit card, to ensure that while you travel you do not miss any repayments.

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