Money transfers meet a frontier

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The Independent Online
WHEN an international money transfer goes wrong it can be a disaster - as Jill Crowther, 27, a university student from Huddersfield who is temporarily living in Nicaragua, is finding out. In a few days Ms Crowther's student grant will be credited to her building society account in the UK. But she is losing hope that it can then be transferred to the bank account she has opened in Nicaragua.

Before Ms Crowther left Britain she took advice on how to transfer her grant. 'I spoke to NatWest and the Halifax Building Society, and no one knew anything about Nicaragua, not even what the currency was,' she said from Nicaragua.

'NatWest said 'take out dollar traveller's cheques, and open an account here'. The Halifax has my main account, and they lent me pounds 300 and said they would be able to transfer money to an account here.'

Ms Crowther has written to the Halifax asking for the transfer. But a return of correspondence can take six weeks because of poor postal connections. Other Britons living in Nicaragua have told her that they have found money transfers impossible.

A Halifax spokeswoman confirmed its advice to customers that the account number and name, and the branch of an overseas account are needed for a money transfer. Her advice to Ms Crowther is to issue instructions by fax.

Ms Crowther sought advice from the aid agency Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign in Managua, which suggested she authorise someone to collect cash on her behalf from her building society, to be handed over in Nicaragua. Not surprisingly Ms Crowther declined to make cash withdrawal authorisations in favour of a stranger.

British banks confirmed that transfers to Nicaragua are a headache. 'In theory it is possible, but in practice there are no formal links and the local banks are beyond our control,' a Lloyds spokesman said.

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