Money Grouse: Frank exchange over some Swiss francs

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The Independent Online
HALIFAX Building Society is a cheap and convenient source of foreign currency, according to a recent report by the Consumers' Association magazine Which? But opening a small savings account specially to take advantage of the service is not a good idea, as Chris Rivers, of Swinton, Manchester, has discovered.

In June last year he went to a Halifax branch to buy Swiss francs for his son's school trip.

'To my surprise the counter clerk informed me that only Halifax account holders could have foreign exchange, even though I was offering cash,' he reports.

Mr Rivers opened an account and immediately withdrew the cash in the form of Swiss francs.

'After making a further deposit and withdrawal of pounds 250 in French francs that August, I left the balance of pounds 11.38 in my account ready for excursions this year,' he says.

'On 23 March this year I returned to my branch to deposit pounds 100 before withdrawing more French francs, only to have my pass-book 'adjusted' with two deductions of pounds 2.50 a time on 10 November and 10 February for a quarterly fee.'

Halifax introduced charges on small account balances in February 1992 but Mr Rivers says he was not told about them.

There is a quarterly charge of pounds 2.50 where the balance is less than pounds 50 for 30 days or more during any quarter. A withdrawal charge of 60p is made where the current balance is less than pounds 250, but the first two such withdrawals are free in any one month.

Halifax has looked into the case and insists that the reader was given information about the charges.

Write to Money Grouse, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Include a daytime telephone number. Do not send SAEs or original documents.

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