Monday 27 May 2013

I can’t use my credit card but thieves can!

A month ago I wrote a piece concerning my credit card, but you never saw it it, because at the moment I finished writing it, the story continued in a most bizarre fashion.

So now you’re getting the final story. Not the complete story, because I’ve had to walk away. My sanity and the future of my sweet peas required me to say to the lovely woman at the Ulster Bank Complaint Department:

“No thanks. Don’t bother to investigate it further, because I have to move on with my life. This could go on for ever. But thanks for the offer. Goodbye.”

Angry Punter makes funny copy for a while, but it’s a fairly boring read, so if scribbling about a consumer issue, it’s always to best to get ‘their’ side of the story. Trouble is, even though I’m armed with ridiculously good intentions, Ulster Bank kept screwing things up, even as I tried to let them have their say.

You know the way you feel when you have to tell the same story over and over again to people who work for the same company. I take that feeling of frustration, swallow it and persist. Working on the other side of these conflicts are people like you and me. Even if mistakes are due to human error, my gripe is always with the corporation, never the worker. I don’t want to jeopardise anybody’s job.

So yes, I’ve told this story often. I’ve told this story to Ulster Bank’s Charlotte, Andy, Helen, David, Pauline, Elise, Naomi, Ronald and Mary. Of those, Naomi from the Press Office shone out as a caring and more importantly, consistent employee.

I knew when I started writing about my credit card security that I was tempting fate, but my cavalier attitude rather fancied that face-off. My problem was that my credit card kept getting declined at extremely stressful and vital moments.

Last Summer I was driving to Knock Airport, on the way to my uncle's funeral in London, when my card was declined in a petrol station. It happened twice more in the intervening months and then yet again recently.

I’m a good little punter who pays his bills on time and leaves a nice balance for the credit card company to get rich off, so there was no error at my end. Over the last two years I’ve actually became fearful of using my credit card, because it has been declined so often. After speaking to several Ulster Bank Fraud Department people, I know that it has nothing to do with my spending patterns. 

Apparently it’s all about websites, yet despite booking trips to England using secure and established sites like Hertz, Aer Lingus and Premier Inn, by the time I reach the third transaction, my credit card is declined. Nobody can explain precisely why, but I was involved several times in rhetorical conversational loops with Ulster Bank’s Fraud Department:

“Don’t you want security for your credit card, Mr. Adley?”
“Yes of course I do, but I don’t want the security to make the card unusable!”

Instead of a convenience, my credit card had become a source of stress, so I wrote the piece and then…

...then I stumbled out of a certain Galway City hostelry at 3 in the morning and fell into a city centre hotel. Well plush, 5 hours open-mouthed sub-comatose snoring later, I checked out, only to receive a phone call from the hotel to say that they had reason to believe my credit card might have been compromised at checkout. I should call my card company and cancel it.

Still experiencing the world as a very bright place seen though letterbox eyes, I couldn't face all the inconvenience of cancelling it. Thanks to the over-zealous security I’d experienced from Ulster Bank, I had their Fraud Department's number on my mobile phone, so I called and had my card blocked.

Then my hungover aching too old for this sort of thing body settled into my armchair, while I berated my thick stupid self for being so dumb as to write about credit card security, because wasn’t that just bloomin’ asking for it, but hey, at least the card was safe.

A couple of days later Ulster Bank called to say that there had been two attempts to use my card, both of which had been declined. Okay, so the bastards were trying to rob me; time to cancel that card and issue a new one, but hey, at least the card was safe.

Or so ... as they say in all the best colyooms … or so I thought. Imagine my delight and surprise then, when online banking the next day, I see a debit on my credit card account. Not just any old debit, but a whopping €1195.95 to some golf club I’ve never heard of.

This was beyond absurd. I couldn't use my card because the security was so tight, yet even though I had called Ulster Bank to alert them of this security risk, and even though they had assured me that this transaction had been declined, it still went through and was added to the balance on my credit card account.

Needless to say, Adley unleashed made a few phone calls and the amount plus interest has been refunded, but while I’ve had apologies from the Complaint Department, nobody had offered any compensation for all the stress, hassle, time and telephone calls. More importantly, I’m yet to have any kind of explanation as to why my card is serially declined, or how a transaction that was not authorised managed to make it onto my bill.

My card’s security is so tight that I can’t use it, but the thieves can!

As if in symbiosis, credit cards and capitalism have fed and feasted on each other for fifty years. If Visa and MasterCard are to survive capitalism’s present trauma, they will have to offer immeasurably better efficiency and service.

1 comment:

Petrus said...

Ok so I am not the only one.... Every single time I book my holidays, my Ulster Bank CC gets blocked. It's super suspicious tu purchase a hotel on the most famous booking website in the world just after purchasing a flight....

This time, not only they blocked me after purchasing an appliance part on the official appliance website in Germany, but the protocol to unblock the card apparently changed and they refused to unblock my CC by phone!! They asked me plenty of questions, and I suspect that I got the electricity provider wrong: they changed their name not long ago and forgot about that.

Working in IT, I had the occasion for a couple of years to investigate and track hacked accounts (it was not a bank though). The investigation was based on common sense - like you can't logout at 9am in Paris and login again at 9:15 from China to give a simple example. Websites have certificates, and patterns are usually easy enough to track, so that suspicious activities are very obvious most of the time.

Clearly, it means that they don't even begin to verify anything in this bank. They just block your account, like this is trivial. Easy and cheap! Well, after 8 years of degradation of the service, I will simply open an account in a proper bank as well. Absolutely infuriating.