Cash problem wasn't in the stars

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RACHEL DODDS, an astrologer, and her husband went on 'the best holiday we have ever had' when they spent a fortnight in Kenya in March.

They had not had a holiday for two years and decided to make up for it when they got to Mombasa. In two weeks they spent pounds 1,100, eating in top class restaurants, going on safari and wandering around the city.

It all seemed worthwhile until they got home and received their Barclaycard bill. The exchange rate was about 66 Kenyan shillings to the pound - a considerably less favourable rate than the local banks and their hotel had been offering in Mombasa.

On the day they arrived the rate in the hotel was 70 shillings to the pound. During their stay the Kenyan government twice devalued the currency, and by the time they left the exchange rate was 100 shillings to the pound.

The couple had taken traveller's cheques with them but decided to use Barclaycard instead. They could see that the Kenyan shilling was weakening all the time and by using plastic they thought they would be able to take advantage.

Back in their north London home, the couple were flabbergasted to receive their Barclaycard statements. 'I was absolutely furious,' said Ms Dodds. 'Whenever I have been abroad I have always used credit cards, thinking that my rate of exchange is protected.'

When she complained to Barclaycard it insisted that there had been no mistake. 'She was in Kenya at a time which was not a very good one for her,' said a Barclaycard spokeswoman. 'It was a bit of a freak.'

The Kenyan government had floated the currency at the end of February, but the move was reversed after the couple returned to England.

While local hoteliers and traders were offering attractive exchange rates to attract foreign currency, Barclaycard and MasterCard gave relatively cautious rates to compensate for the volatility of the shilling.

Ms Dodds is left feeling short- changed. Had she used her traveller's cheques instead she would now be about pounds 250 better off. Not even an astrologer can predict the currency markets.

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