Banks – a bunch of problems and what appears to be a neat solution.
At the moment I happen to travel a lot for extended periods. I have banked with traditional high-street banks for eons – but that’s now in the process of changing, quickly, due to the unsuitability and lack of adaptability of my traditional bank! I would definitely recommend one of these new digital bank services and card. I chose Revolut and I’m very happy with them so far – amazed at how they have evolved the digital banking space. They are one of the biggest, but there are others. Check them out. Their approach leaves traditional banks in the dust!
Revolut are headquartered in London and are regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) so they meet all the same regulatory requirements as any banking institution in Europe and provide the same consumer safeguards, regardless of size.
I can make this judgement because I have worked in regulated financial environments for many years in my past, including by the UK FCA.
Up to fairly recently there hasn’t been a major problem with my high-street bank, but for some reason around mid-July things started to unravel at a pace. It might be changes in my lifestyle, but they need to adapt and they haven’t been able to, or maybe aren’t bothered. Either way, they’ve gone from ok to being unfit for purpose as far as I’m concerned.
If you have time, the story goes thus.
I was in a very well-known area on mainland Europe for about three weeks – not my home country, and had arranged AirBnB for the period.
Long before this I had contacted my bank directly and asked if I needed to notify them if I planned to be away from base and in country Y. This was before a prior extended trip, so there is a significant precedent of being in country Y as well as other, non-EU, countries.
They replied “Oh, no sir, no need to let us know, it’s EU and you will have no problem using your cards”. Great! One less thing to stress about.
Then, a week or so after departure an email arrived in my intray, no phone call, no sms, just one of loads of emails to arrived that day: “To keep you safe, we are sending you a replacement debit card. You’ll receive a new debit card from us soon, as a safety measure, to replace the one ending with xxxx. Why are you sending me a replacement? Our fraud monitoring system has shown that an unauthorised source might have got hold of your card details so we are sending you a replacement to protect your account”.
By the way, who do they think they are kidding. They are only worried about their own liability under Payment Card Industry regulations – keeping me safe is not their main objective! So difficulties caused to me is of little concern to them no matter what spin they put on it.
Now, I’m not attached at the hip to my smartphone and consciously don’t order my life around gawking at the screen every 30 seconds or while I’m walking in the street – I prefer to manage my life with my brain.
So I can’t remember if I checked my emails on my laptop that day or the next, but when I did this was obviously very unwelcome news as I planned to be away for many weeks and of course would need to draw some cash, as well as pay for accommodation and other normal expenses.
I cranked up Skype and got onto their fraud department to find out what was happening. I knew there was no problem with limits, balances or anything like that.
They had no specific information on any fraudulent attempts and the best they could offer was ‘it was precautionary’ but sorry the new card is already in the post (of course to an address where I would be away from for many weeks!). Bloomin’ ‘eck! What now?
This I explained to the lady in very plain and understandable but polite language.
Then she said, “Don’t worry sir, your current card will be valid for a further 5 days, so just go to any ATM and you will be able to draw cash to carry you over”.
Ok, not optimal, but at least it’s some kind of solution in the circumstances.
Closed the laptop immediately, downstairs and out the door – there was a bank right on the corner next to where I was staying.
Put card in, put pin in, “We cannot process your request at this time – please contact your bank”.
Up the street to the next bank in case it was just an ATM problem.
“We cannot process your request at this time – please contact your bank” again.
I was getting upset with them now!
Back to the apartment, Skype, Fraud Department – and a terse conversation to find out what on earth they were doing.
Sorry, card definitely cancelled forthwith and no satisfactory explanation regarding what the previous lady had said about having 5 days to get some cash out.
Let’s say I wasn’t cool with this and made it clear to the lady in Fraud Department.
So they agreed to send another card express to my AirBnB address which I gave them, and I explained the situation to the AirBnB owner.
They didn’t send the card Express!
It arrived the day I was moving to my next AirBnB location almost 2 weeks later. But at least it arrived and it worked!
Then about 10 days further on I get a message from the previous AirBnB owner that a letter had arrived for me from ‘The Bank’!
Oh Gawd, what are they on about now?? But at least the card was working.
So I took half a day to return to the previous AirBnB to pick up this letter.
Here’s the gist of that stupid letter I had taken my time and spent on transport to go and collect: So now they’re telling me it appears I may be a tax resident in country Y and if so I need to fill out a pile of forms enclosed as they have to inform Revenue, Central Bank and Heaven knows who, what investments their clients hold in overseas accounts and I should return the completed documentation within 30 days!!
This was obviously the conclusion their brightest and best (probably a computer) had come to from the AirBnB address I’d given them! Sloppy at best – negligent, indifferent and autocratic / autopilot-driven at worst.
At this stage upset was turning to genuine annoyance, so would you lot just TAKE A HIKE!
I decided I wasn’t even going to respond to this ridiculous letter. But I thought I would at least keep it as a momento to Big Banking impersonal bureaucracy and stupidity to add to my collection of same over quite a few years now.
Ok, on with life – or so I thought. The card kept working.
Until I tried to book a flight from country Y to my next destination some weeks later! I also have multiple precedents with them in the next destination country, non-EU.
Got a good deal on the flight I wanted, got to the payment screen, and “We cannot process payment”!! WTF now!
Immediately on Skype to said Fraud Department, same problem, the ‘precautionary’ bulls***, and this time the conversation probably could not be termed ‘polite’.
Anyway, after I explained a few plain home-truths in very few words to their Fraud Department contact they re-activated the card and I managed to recover the booking and pay for the flight ok.
But enough is enough – they are simply not fit for purpose in the modern digital world, certainly not my world.
And Revolut is very impressive up to now, I have to say! I’m actually amazed – should have done this long ago.
I can do everything from the app. It notifies each electronic purchase within seconds, keeps logs of purchases, real-time balance, I can set and change security settings on the fly, such as permitting or blocking contactless payments, swipe payments, location-based security, ATM withdrawals, online transactions and a lot more. It’s just a question of enabling the feature just prior to needing it, and then disabling it straight away afterwards. And a lot more. These people are on the ball. Cash transfer from the calcified Big Bank is instantaneous. It’s perfect for my needs.
I might keep a just few Euros with that other bunch for now, but they are just so Jurassic and no longer relevant to my lifestyle! And if they don’t want my money, that’s fine too.