Questions of Cash: 'Foreign currency cheques are a nightmare'


Q. I recently inherited some money in France. On 31 March, I paid in a cheque of €81,000 from my French bank account into my HSBC branch, to deposit in my sterling account. HSBC then wrote indicating that this would take six to eight weeks, attaching the terms and conditions for the transaction, but not explaining why there is such a long delay.
I have called HSBC to complain, but got nowhere. MH, Bromley.

A. By coincidence, the transaction was credited to your account on the day we raised your problem with HSBC, four weeks after you presented the cheque. A spokesman for HSBC says: "Foreign currency cheques are a bit of a nightmare: we don't have a great deal of control over how long they take to clear. International banks will only transfer the money once they have physically seen the cheque, so it needs to go back to the foreign bank – and in some cases the specific branch – the cheque is drawn from for authentication. This means we are beholden to the issuing bank in being speedy in clearing the cheque.

"We aim to have sent the cheque overseas within two working days. International cheques are not bound by sterling cheque 2-4-6 timescales [two, four and six days to clear various stages in the cheque processing system]. [International cheques] clear in a UK account only once the cheque has been authenticated by the issuing bank and the funds transferred.

"The good news is that France is geographically close and their banks are certainly not the slowest in clearing cheques internationally, so although we state it should be cleared in six to eight weeks, in the majority of cases it is considerably quicker.

"It might be frustrating advice after the event, but if someone is simply writing a cheque to themselves from a European bank account, we would highly recommend electronically transferring the money instead. SEPA [Single European Payments Area] payments normally take just two days, and from 1 January next year all EEA electronic payments must clear the following day. I appreciate the customer's frustration, but hope this also shows it is not an issue unique to HSBC."

By chance, the delay has worked in your favour, earning you, by our calculation, around €2,000 because the euro gained in value against sterling during the delay – but it could have gone the other way, of course. The cost of the SEPA transaction would have been determined by your French bank, but would probably have cost significantly less than €50.

We wondered whether any delays had been caused by conducting money laundering checks – a matter of widespread concern. But HSBC tells us that in your case no money laundering checks were required.

Q. My wife and I were due to travel from Edinburgh to Heathrow in early December. The night before, we received a message from BA saying that the flight was cancelled because of bad weather and to check the website for further information. We did so and found that we could rebook flights free of charge. But the website would not let us rebook and the phone line was constantly engaged. So our travel agency rebooked us flights from Glasgow. The agency said I had to pay for the new flights and request a refund of £567.43 for these from BA. But the refund from BA was for the value of the original flights – £167.26. We wrote to BA requesting the balance, but it says the agency should not have obtained the tickets on the basis that they did. Eventually BA contacted us requesting our bank account details to pay us the balance, but nothing has arrived. BM, Fife.

A. BA paid the balance of £400.17 into your account shortly after we contacted them. As we have found with previous inquiries relating to BA refund requests, it can take a while for refunds to be credited to customers' accounts.

Q. I took out a loan with Asda in October 2009 for a car purchase, with repayment by standing order. In February 2010 my loan was transferred to Santander. In May last year, I received a letter from Santander stating that I had missed two payments. I produced proof of the payments, produced bank statements and had my bank produce a track of the transactions. In the mean time, Santander registered a defaulted payment on my credit record.

In July last year, I received a letter of apology from Santander, accepting that I had not missed any payments. Then I received further letters stating I had missed payments in September, October, two in November and then again in February. On each occasion I had to repeat the previous process. Eventually I received another apology, explaining there had been a "systems error". Now I find that my remortgage application has been rejected because of a failed credit check.My credit history has always been good.EK, Louth.

A. A Santander spokeswoman says: "We are sorry for the delay in resolving [the reader's] complaint and we're sorry she is unhappy with the service provided, particularly with regards to her loan account. We understand she has been making monthly payments to her Santander loan, from her HSBC account. However, due to a Santander technical error, payments made prior to November 2010 were not applied to the loan account.

We can confirm the payments have been received and we have ensured there are no adverse comments on [the reader's] credit file as a result of this error. To acknowledge the inconvenience [the reader] has experienced, we have arranged for a goodwill payment of £300 to be sent. We hope she will be able to accept this in full and final settlement of her complaint."

Despite this, you are concerned that your credit record may have been damaged, with the reason for the rejection of your remortgage application possibly not properly recorded. At our suggestion, you have contacted the three credit reference agencies – Experian, Equifax and Callcredit Check – to request that each logs your explanation of your recent problems. This should ensure that your credit status is fully repaired.

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: questionsofcash@ independent.co.uk.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

    £40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...

    Recruitment Genius: Loan Adviser - OTE £30,000

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy