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It’s 2012 and there’s one UK bank that still does not offer internet or mobile bank services

Trust you all had a good Easter break.  I did … full of chocolate.

Ah well, back to the grindstone, and thought that it might be worth mentioning a little incident that annoyed and then amused me last week.

I won’t name the bank – although those who follow my twitter account will know who it is – but it all stems from my visit to New York and the fact that I was forced to be cashless for the day.

It is something that happens often with the particular card that I use.

The card is a charge card linked to a private bank account.

It should be the easiest thing to use in the world, but it always gets blocked by the bank’s automated card fraud system when I ‘m travelling abroad.

The issue is that to unblock it, you have to call the bank and being in countries where Vodafone charges £1.75 per minute – that’s another story! – it finally made me mad enough to try to sort something out.

So, on return, I call the bank and ask that they put my card onto their text alert service.

It’s something that should be simple as, going back to the late 1990s, I worked with OTP Hungary who created the text alert service for card transactions.

It’s something that most banks in such markets offer.

For example, Alfa Bank Russia was advertising such alerts seven years ago:

I think the video speaks for itself but, just in case, it’s showing that every time a card is used, a text alert is sent to the main cardholder.

This is something that is so simple to do, and it’s very convenient for the customer.

All they have to do is set the levels of alerts, e.g. for transactions above a certain amount, and then they report suspect transactions to the bank rather than the bank having to block the card because they suspect something.

In addition, if the card is blocked, it can be unblocked through a couple of simple one-time password text messages too.


It’s now used by banks in markets worldwide, and particularly banks in Asian, African and Eastern European markets.

Not with my bank however.

My bank is stuck in 1990.

I ring them, and ask for this sort of text alert service.

First, they tell me that it can’t be done.

Then they tell me that the particular card I am using – a charge card rather than a credit card – cannot be used online or with text alerts.

We go through a lengthy dialogue, and then they tell me that it may be possible if I convert my charge card into a credit card.

I don’t want to do that, as I have credit cards coming out of my ears (almost literally) and that I want it on my charge card.

They then tell me that it may be possible to enter the charge card details through my online bank deposit account, and link the two together.

This is the private banking charge card for ‘elite’ customers (go figure?).

I go into my online banking account and try to link the charge card to my online account.


The online service says that the card number is not recognised.

I ring the bank again, and they tell me that this is because a deposit account only recognises a credit card number online, and cannot recognise a charge card.

However, they think they have a solution.

Open a private banking black label credit card.

No way, I say.

I’ve got so many credit cards, they’re coming out of my rear end – almost literally – and all I want is  a better, cheaper and easier way of using my charge card abroad please.

The online banking team representative then tells me that he has filled in a form and sent it to the charge card team asking them to link the card to my online banking.


So 21st century!!!


Oh … and this has so far taken two hours to try to achieve what should be a simple alert system for a card, and it’s still not sorted.

Think I’ll move to Africa.



About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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One comment

  1. Chris, I’m surprised you still use your bank card when travelling overseas. All the savvy travellers are using a Caxton FX currency card (unashamed plug) – and because it’s specifically for use overseas we don’t block it when you travel! And yes, it does have an sms service…

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