When your card is eaten: Three-in-one cards are great until you lose them, writes Maria Scott

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MULTI-PURPOSE plastic cards seem like a great way to slim down the wallet. One card can extract cash from automatic teller machines, guarantee cheques and act as a plastic cheque by debiting money from a current account.

But they can become a great inconvenience if you lose one as Rosemary Taylor has discovered. Miss Taylor a Reader's Digest picture researcher, put her Firstdirect three-in-one card into a Midland Bank cash machine on 20 April. A technical problem caused the machine to keep the card.

Miss Taylor forgave Firstdirect for this since the telephone bank had provided excellent service until now. But she is finding it hard to forgive it for keeping her waiting nearly three weeks for a replacement card.

This weekend she is still waiting although Firstdirect has promised her that a new card will be couriered to her at her office on Monday.

'You feel so helpless without these cards,' says Miss Taylor.

She has been able to cash cheques at a Midland Bank branch but since she has no guarantee card to back her cheque, must telephone Firstdirect so it can get in touch with a branch. This process can take at least an hour.

'Thank goodness I had a dormant building society account I could use. I have been cashing cheques for pounds 200 or so at the Midland Bank and depositing it in the building society account which has a cash card that I can use to obtain cash.'

Tony Williams, a spokesman for Firstdirect, said the bank would normally try to replace a multi-function card within seven days. But said that there had been problems in Miss Taylor's case.

He pointed to the facilities available to Firstdirect customers to cash cheques at Midland branches and also defended the convenience of multi- function cards.

Miss Taylor is not convinced. 'In future I think I will maintain a building society account in case this happens again.'

(Photograph omitted)

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