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Spend & Save

Questions of Cash: What a pain with Spain when I tried to get my Santander cash


Q. I have a current account with Santander in Salamanca in Spain, where I taught English during 2010. I was unsure if I would return, so I kept the account open containing €1,600 (£1,43.50). I now know I will stay in England but I have been unable to transfer the money to an English account. I have online access to view my account, but it turns out this is insufficient to make a transfer of funds, for which I must prove my identity.

Each time I phone the English-speaking call centre in Spain I am told something different. It seems I must go to Salamanca branch to prove my identity and sign security forms, but I am unable to. I have written to the branch – in Spanish – to send me the forms to make the transfer but I have heard nothing.

I visited my local Santander branch in England and asked if I could open an account with them and have the balance transferred. They said the two banks are separate and they cannot help. Their advice was to take a holiday in Spain and get the money while there. I need the money for living expenses, not holidays! I cannot believe that in the digital age the only way for me to access my money is to visit Salamanca in person.

RP, West Yorkshire.

A. This has proven a surprisingly difficult challenge, but after several weeks and several false leads we eventually succeeded. Although Santander Bank in the UK is separate from Banco Santander in Spain we realised it would be much easier if the UK bank could provide introductions for us to resolve your problem. Introductions were made and initially it seemed that the matter would be easily resolved.

We were given the phone number of an English-speaking Superlinea service – 0034 91 273 7090 – which we were told would enable you to make the transfer after answering some standard security questions.

We were also told that your branch in Spain was "not aware" you were trying to make the transfer. However, when you made the call things did not work out as we expected.

Again it seemed you would have to provide proof of identity in person, involving a trip to Spain. We made fresh contact with Santander's head office in Spain, and it was then agreed you would email the Salamanca branch directly to state you instructed the branch to close the account and provide details of your account in the UK to receive the funds. You were permitted to prove your identity by attaching a scan of your passport, to enable the release of the funds.

That did not immediately work, as the branch apparently did not receive the scan. Eventually, however, everything worked smoothly and your account was credited with over £1,400.

The bank says that to avoid problems like this customers should make arrangements while still in the country for remote access to an account. Its spokeswoman explained: "It is normally a simple process to arrange phone and internet access. However, once a customer has left the country security procedures make this much more complex. Banco Santander has an English-speaking phone-banking line for customers in Spain, but a customer has to be previously registered for phone banking to use it."

Orange made me see red over my mobile

Q. I lost my iPhone in early February. I informed Orange and it blocked my account. I then signed with EE for an iPhone 5, but decided a few hours later to cancel the order.

It was too late to prevent the handset being despatched, so I had to refuse it on delivery. EE was to cancel my new contract and refund all charges when the handset was returned. Despite repeated requests EE never repaid the money and owes me £70.

I ordered a new iPhone 4s from Orange, but the SIM card did not work. A new SIM card was despatched, with a new PAC code for me to keep my phone number.

My new handset showed my old number on my handset, but a different number on recipients' handsets.

A few weeks later the voicemail stopped working. In September, when I was moving and needed to be in regular contact with my solicitor and estate agent, my phone stopped working altogether. My husband phoned my number and a stranger answered, saying she had just bought a phone and my number had been allocated to her! I phoned Orange and terminated my contract. It refused compensationand is still collecting money from my account.

RP, London.

A. Orange, part of EE, said: "We apologise sincerely that [the reader] did not receive the high standard of customer service that Orange strives for. We have offered [the reader] a gesture of goodwill, which she has accepted." Given the scale of your problems we hope it was reasonably substantial!

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But we'll do our best to help if you have a financial dilemma. Email us at: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk