Questions Of Cash: 'Using Barclays' exchange rate just wasn't worth the gamble'

Paul Gosling
Saturday 09 January 2010 01:00

Q. I withdrew $1,621.16 from a poker site on 27 September. I was credited by Barclays Premier Banking with £988.57 on 30 September. I had been told by the bank that I would be given the exact daily exchange rate and only charged £6 as a foreign transaction fee. On the days between the withdrawal and the credit, the exchange rate was almost constant at between 1.587 and 1.596: yet I was given 1.64. I phoned on 1 October and was told the poker site would have agreed the exchange rate used. Barclays said it would produce evidence of this. I contacted the poker site, who said they sent the money in US dollars and that whatever rate or fees the recipient bank uses is up to them and had not been agreed with the poker site.

Barclays did not contact me for the next two weeks, so I rang again on 13 October. I was told that the complaint had not been escalated, so nothing had happened. I was told a "complaint handler" would take responsibility for my case. Another two weeks passed without contact, so I rang again on 27 October. I was told that a letter had supposedly gone out on 16 October, stating that I would have a response by 9 November – nearly six weeks after the original complaint. There was no record of my call on 1 October, and I have not received the letter promised by 9 November. I expect Barclays to pay me £100 to make up for my loss on the exchange rate used, the cost of my phone calls and the hours of my time wasted on this. NS, Uxbridge.

A. Barclays defends the exchange rate used on the day of the transfer. It says that "exchange rates supplied on the internet are purely a guide and should be used for information purposes only" and will not necessarily be the rate actually applied. However, Barclays accepts it failed in other regards. One of your calls was wrongly transferred to its "Traveline" section. On another call you were misinformed that the poker site would have been told of the exchange rate being applied. It accepts you were given poor customer service by its call centre operatives – who have been given "feedback" about their errors. As a result of those mistakes, you are being given £100 as a goodwill payment. This does not include compensation for the exchange rate that was applied as Barclays refutes the suggestion that any error was made in this. Barclays says: "We have clearly failed to achieve the high standard of service to which we aspire". Our advice is that you consider using a large foreign exchange broker for any future currency transfer of this size: you should be able to obtain a better exchange rate than is normally offered by the main banks.

Q. I tried to get €500 from the Marks & Spencer ATM in Chester using my M&S credit card, but it failed to dispense any money saying the "transaction could not be completed". On holiday I was then embarrassed to have my card refused by my hotel. I returned home to find an extra transaction on my statement for the requested money £485.25. I am not out of pocket as the M&S store made a refund as a goodwill settlement. But I can't get anyone to put in writing that I did not get any money from the ATM. No one will accept responsibility for the ATM, which has a Travelex sign next to it. MG, Frodsham.

A. After weeks of corresponding with Travelex and M&S Money we remain confused. We approached Travelex to ask if it operated the ATM. While Travelex operates some cash machines and supplies the software for this one, this ATM is operated by M&S Money. This does not mean that M&S has any responsibility for it. M&S Money was established as a joint venture between M&S and HSBC – but is now a wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC. M&S Money cannot understand why you were given a refund by the Marks & Spencer's store. Liz Neild, of M&S Money, explains: "M&S Money has overall responsibility for the currency ATMs. As a card issuer, we also deal with any failed ATM transactions on the M&S Credit Card, by raising a chargeback claim. Travelex is responsible for ATM software and systems. FX Corporation supply the foreign currency notes. M&S Retail does not have any responsibility for the ATMs and should not give refunds for failed transactions." All M&S Money cash machines now display signs advising that where there are problems these should be taken up with the card issuer, not the M&S store.

Q. In September, a friend and I were due to go to Almeria for a short break. I took out the Ryanair travel insurance, provided by their partner, AXA. On the morning of the scheduled departure, my wife, who was not travelling, fell ill, so I had to look after our young children. My friend decided not to go alone. My wife is a nurse with 20 years' experience so did not need to consult a doctor. The total cost of the two flights, including insurance was £300. Axa refuses to pay me anything as I do not have a medical certificate from a doctor for my wife's sickness. MB, by email.

A. Your insurance policy was underwritten by IPA, part of AXA. A spokesman for IPA confirms that it will not meet your claim on the basis that you have "not provided any medical evidence to support [your] reason for not traveling". It adds: "Under the terms and conditions of the policy, cancellation for medical reasons is only valid when accompanied by a valid medical certificate." We suggest you exercise your right to lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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:

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