Questions Of Cash: Barclays gets plenty of currency from Connect card

Q. I recently purchased foreign currency at a Post Office branch, using a Barclays Connect card. I bought €220 across the counter at my local Post Office, which cost me £203.44. When I received my bank statement, the amount debited was £207.50. Barclays told me that the additional amount was a 2 per cent commission charge for foreign currency purchase. It seems that I should have withdrawn cash from my Barclays account in the Post Office using my Connect card – for which no commission is charged – and then hand the cash back across the counter to purchase my foreign currency. CP, by email.

A. Barclays explains that a condition for using Barclays Connect cards stipulates that there is a 2 per cent charge – a minimum of £1.50 and maximum of £4.50 – to obtain sterling anywhere in the UK other than at a cash machine or Barclays branch, or to obtain currency or travellers’ cheques other than from Barclays. So there is a financial incentive to use your card to obtain the currency direct from Barclays. The bank says it offers a commission free foreign currency service, including free home delivery. But, as a gesture of goodwill, Barclays will refund the fee on this occasion.

Q. Vodafone alleges that I owe £691. It has twice acknowledged that this amount should be removed from my account, yet keeps sending demands for it. It is also threatening to damage my credit rating. I told Vodafone in February that I wanted to change phone providers and, instead, it generated an order for a new phone. I explained that I had not ordered this, but in March it sent me a bill for £691.43 for cancelling the order for the new phone that I had never actually ordered. DO, by email.

A. Vodafone accepts it generated the order for the new phone by mistake and that the bill was automatically produced because of that earlier error. This was made worse by the fact that its systems then automatically referred the ‘debt’ to a debt collecting agency. It has now cancelled the charge, told the debt collecting agency that the bill was wrongly produced and has assured us that there is no adverse entry on your credit file. It also apologises.

Q. My son left home for the United States at the age of 18, 22 years ago. He still lives there: now with a wife and two children. He has |always had a credit card on my Barclaycard Visa account: if I want to buy anything for him and his family, he uses this card. It has been used only sparingly and without difficulty. But on the last two occasions he tried to use the card, the payment has not been accepted. Not only this, Barclaycard blocked my son’s card and mine and my wife’s. Barclaycard says this is for security reasons, my son’s payment being considered unusual, and therefore suspicious, as it has taken place in America. Barclaycard tells me it is not possible for his card to be recorded as being used only in the United States, which seems remarkable. JT, Preston.

A. Barclaycard confirms that its IT system is not ‘smart’ enough to flag individual cards on an account to indicate those cards are used differently from the rest of the account. Barclaycard offered to flag the account as a whole as being one which is occasionally used in the United States. However, Barclaycard says that even after doing this it might still periodically block the use of the card in the US where spending appears unusual, though this “should” happen less often. You have reached a more satisfactory solution. Your son now has a Barclaycard on a different account, which is also billed to you.

Q. I received a mobile broadband dongle from Orange last September and, as a result of an error caused by Orange, I have been charged each month for two dongles. It has taken six months and many phone calls to Orange to get the additional dongle cancelled, but I am still |waiting for the refund. HR, by email.

A. Orange has now promised to make you a full refund.

Q. I have been contacted by Westcot debt collection agency, which is trying to collect a debt on behalf of Virgin Media. But I have never had an account with Virgin Media. Westcot is trying to collect the debt of someone else with a similar name. I have been promised by Virgin Media that it will sort this out, but I don’t have any confidence that it will be. WB, by email.

A. Virgin Media promptly contacted Westcot after we passed on your complaint and we have an assurance that you will not be pursued further. Westcot has written to you directly to apologise.

Q. In August 2008, I decided to upgrade my Tiscali Broadband 8Mb package to “Broadband plus Talk”. This added a landline phone service to the existing internet service. Before the phone service was transferred to Tiscali I realised that its call diversion facility could only transfer to UK numbers. As it was essential for me to transfer calls to France, I cancelled the upgrade and told BT that I had reverted to its service. The transfer to Tiscali did not take place. But in January, Tiscali started billing me for £17.61 per month, having previously billed me for £14.99. When I phoned Tiscali, it told me that the service I had been on was no longer available. However, it was still advertising the same service for the lower amount. I have received apologies from Tiscali, but it has not got the problem right. KB, Bradford.

A. Tiscali has now |refunded the overcharge of £20.40 and has apologised for the error. It also says sorry for the several months and the |significant amount of |correspondence from you and ourselves that it took them to finally resolve the problem.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we’ll do our best to help. Please email us at: