Questions Of Cash: HSBC in error over fraudulent card transaction

Q. A fraudulent transaction showed up on my HSBC credit card statement in July last year to Cyb/ for £153. I had never heard of this company or bought anything from them. The bank's card services section cancelled my card, issued a new one and promised they would investigate the transaction.

My card has never been stolen and I have never given my pin to anyone. I rarely use it in person, but often online – because I thought it was easier to get money back with a credit card if something goes wrong. Eventually the bank told me the transaction was shown as chip and pin verified so there was nothing they could do. But the transaction took place in Leicester – which I have never been to – and I had the card with me at the time on the Isle of Wight.

I looked into the company online, but none of its contact information worked and its website had disappeared. I spoke to the company hosting its website who said they had been contacted by someone else with a similar complaint. I asked HSBC who I could complain to, but the man repeated "there is nothing we can do because it is showing up as a chip and pin transaction". I asked if this could be a mistake, had there been a fault in the system, or could it have been a cloned card, but he repeated the same thing. I had to phone HSBC repeatedly and push for written confirmation of the decision. I still have not had a full written explanation of what HSBC did to try to resolve this. EW, Isle of Wight.

A. We have become sceptical of banks and building societies that blandly reject customers' claims about fraud. We are not convinced that sufficient investigations take place before claims are rejected and would be interested to hear more readers' experiences. In this case, HSBC has accepted that it simply got it wrong. The HSBC spokesman James Thorpe responded quickly and honestly to your complaint. "I'm afraid we'll have to hold our hands up and apologise to [the reader]: we incorrectly assessed the transaction," he said. "Her pin was not used: it was in fact a 'cardholder not present' transaction and we acknowledge that she didn't make it. We are writing to her and will offer to refund the transaction of £153 and, as a gesture of apology, offer a further £100." You are very satisfied with the result, but it is a shame it took nearly a year. We could find no trace of a business called Cyb/Electro-manic.

Q. I took out a £25,000 savings bond with Santander in September last year and gave instructions for the interest to be paid monthly into my bank account. This has not happened, despite repeated requests in a succession of emails and phone calls. I have now been given another phone number to follow this up with, but the line went dead after five rings. JH, Caterham.

A. Santander apologises and explains that it has had a systems problem affecting "a small number of customers, all of whom are in the process of full resolution". Your due interest has now been paid into your nominated bank account and, by arrangement with you, future interest will be credited to the value of your bond. In addition, you have accepted goodwill payments of £60 as full resolution of your complaint.

Q. You helped me three years ago when I was looking for a savings account to put money in for my grandchildren. They are French citizens, living in France, and I am a UK citizen living in the UK. One grandchild is nearly four, the other is three. You recommended Nationwide International, based in the Isle of Man, and I opened accounts for each of the grandchildren with them, which I have topped up for Christmas and birthdays. But the favourable interest rate has shrunk to almost nothing – 0.25 per cent. Nationwide International now offers a new account with a better rate of interest, but it is only available for balances over £5,000. The balances at present are slightly short of £2,000 for each child. Can you suggest a better alternative? I want the money to be held in the accounts until the children are 18. HH, Sale.

A. Gareth Flanagan, of Principle First financial advisers, says: "I would recommend the reader now place her savings into a cash ISA in her own name and suggest the Alliance & Leicester instant access cash ISA, paying 3.1 per cent. We have been unable to find any offshore accounts that are now open to UK residents. [The reader] could take out National Savings & Investments' children's bonus bonds for the children, even though they live abroad. NS&I would run money launder checks on the grandparent and parents. These should run until the children are 21, but can be accessed earlier. They are controlled by the parent until age 16, when the child gains control. There is no tax on proceeds.

We suggest the reader should assess the benefit of tax-free growth cash ISA products against other taxable savings accounts, rather than just go with the ISA automatically. If the reader is saving for the medium to long term, or building a lump sum for the children's future costs such as university, she should complete a risk profile, and ensure that she is investing the money efficiently across the correct asset classes, based on her risk profile. Other asset classes – such as fixed interest or equities – may be more suitable in the medium to long term."

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:

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

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