First Direct: excellent bank but iniquitous cashpoint charge

I’ve been banking with First Direct for something approaching 20 years, and let me say up front that I am very, very happy with them. They don’t charge for current-account activity, they let me link my savings and mortgage, and most amazing of all, their customer service is friendly and efficient. Any time, day or night, I can call them (08456 100 100), they’ll pick up within three or four rings, and I’ll be instantly speaking to a cheerful, knowledgeable human.

Against that very positive backdrop, I have one complaint.

I have a Visa debit card on my current account, which I use for nearly everything. I also have a Visa credit card which I now need only very rarely — basically for work expenses that I am going to claim back. To avoid paying interest, I have a standing order to pay off the full balance of my credit card at the end of each month.

Today I find that I was charged £2.76 interest in October, and £3.18 in November. That made no sense to me so I called up and asked how it could be when my standing order is in place specifically to prevent interest from being charged. Immediately the person I was speaking to asked if I’d withdrawn cash on the card. Bingo! On 12 September, I accidentally used the wrong card at an ATM — the Visa credit instead of the Visa debit. (It doesn’t help that they look so similar.)

So it turns out that when you do this, the interest on the cash somehow “rolls over” — it’s not paid off like other uses of the card. And it rolls over for three months, so apparently I can expect another charge for a similar amount in December as well.

There are several things wrong with this.

  • How can I still be paying in December for a cash withdrawal made in September?
  • How can they charge so much? It’s going to come to about £9
  • It turns out that this is in addition to a cash advance fee of £5.98, which I was charged back in September.

Altogether, First Direct are going to have charged me £15, spread over three months, for a single cash withdrawal.

That can’t be right, and they must know it. Most disappointing of all, this is unworthy of a bank that is otherwise so exemplary.

2 responses to “First Direct: excellent bank but iniquitous cashpoint charge

  1. Call them back, say it was a mistake and ask them to refund the charges in recognition for your years of loyal business.

  2. Unfortunately, that’s the case with *every* credit card — I used to work in a call centre for Barclaycard, and that was one of the things we used to have to deal with on a day-to-day basis — customers would sometimes rack up huge bills because of it (it’s one of the reasons I stopped working for them very quickly).

    You might be able to get them to refund the money — the people in the call centres have more leeway than most people think, so it depends who you get — but the chances are you won’t, because it’s interest rather than a ‘charge’.

    But it’s not a problem with FirstDirect per se, it’s a problem with the whole credit card system. And yes, it’s awful.

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