No thanks, bank.

I don’t get my cash from a “hole in the wall”.  Instead I go to the “money box”:  a squat little stand-alone unit that stands inside the hideous shopping mall that I use. But when I went to the money box last week my card was returned with the ominous message that my card was declined and to contact my bank.  There must be something wrong with the money box, I surmised, and  trotted off to the supermarket , intending to EFTPOS my cash when I got to the register.  But – oh dear- the card was declined again and once again I was told to contact my bank, which I promptly did after scraping together enough cash to buy my groceries.

My card had been compromised, the voice in the call centre said.  There had been a suspicious attempted withdrawal of 56 cents from “Melbourne Mobile Services” or something, and so they had closed my card down.  If desperate, I could go back to the money box, call them on my mobile and they would lift the ban for five minutes while I stood there withdrawing my cash, then reinstate it instantly.  No thank you, I thought, envisaging my pre-paid phone balance leaking away with each recitation of “Our customer service officers are busy at the moment….”  I could wait until Monday to withdraw cash in person from the bank, and I would patiently wait for my new debit card within 5-6 working days.

You might note that it is a debit card, not a credit card.  I am a rather old-school bank customer.  In the wake of the breakdown of my first marriage, panicked by the tightness of my budget in paying a mortgage on just one wage, I started withdrawing a set amount of money every fortnight and using only that money for food and pocket money while paying bills and mortgage from the account and through BPay.   Once my allowance of “spending money” cash is gone, it’s gone and I do without.  I haven’t had to change the amount in ten years, probably because my children have either left home or pay for their own food now, so it’s just me. And I admit that  I now have to use the card for petrol instead of paying it from “housekeeping”, and I sometimes have to withdraw extra cash for large one off purchases, clothes and haircuts.  But in general, I pay myself a cash allowance and use that.  I have never had a credit card, only debit.  I B-pay everything, and have only one direct debit which was unavoidable.  I’ve never understood automatic debits- I wouldn’t dream of opening my purse to Telstra, the council, electricity etc. and saying “Here, help yourself once a month”, relying on them to take notice of me when I might say someway down the track “That’s enough- stop taking it now, please”.  I am uneasy when I send off my credit card details to pay through the mail- how do I know that it’s not going to fall into someone elses hands? How do I know that they’re only going to make that one withdrawal?  I’ve never had any trouble with this, but it still seems a remarkably lax system.  Likewise when I use my debit card- why don’t I have to sign AND pin?  Often I sign when my card has been given back to me and my signature is never checked.  Why are the banks encouraging this?

So, given my old school proclivities, I was horrified to find that my new debit card arrived with Paypass technology.  No need to sign or pin- just wave it in front of the console beside the register and away I go with up to $100.00 of purchases. Or maybe it’s someone else waving it in front of the console and going away with $100.00 purchases on my card without my knowledge.  I didn’t ask for this.  How ironic that the alert on my card was triggered by a small purchase, and yet this technology encourages a string of small purchases, all of which would be so small that I doubt that I would notice them.  No worries- says the bank- you’re covered against fraud as long as you comply with the terms and conditions on the website.  But  I can imagine a whole number of scenarios where this could be abused- the sulky teenage child who slips the odd purchase here or there (not that MY children would do that!), the elderly neighbour who asks someone to pop down to the shop, or an opportunistic use of a card in a wallet left carelessly.   I can’t understand why this is the default provision- given to everyone whether they want it or not.

I have complained to the bank and asked for this feature to be blocked on my card. That’s another irony: being left on hold in order to complain.  After 5 minutes waiting, I sent an email.  I’ll be interested to see what the response is.

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8 responses to “No thanks, bank.

  1. If your debit card is not a Visa or Mastercard, which are normally credit cards but have recently become available as debit cards, which will be very useful for o/s travel, then I don’t believe that PayPass works. So far as I know, it only works for credit cards or Visa and MC debit cards.
    While I don’t concern myself too much about using my card online etc, I will not allow regular direct debit. No one can automatically take my money, thank you very much. I think inserting your card to pay to use its chip combined with a pin is quite secure. It has been done in other countries for years.

    • It is a Mastercard debit card. Perhaps I’m missing something with all this. The banks seem happy enough to claim that they cover fraud so either there’s not much of it; or they weazle out of it when push comes to shove, or else they’re so determined to dissuade us from using cheques (carrot and stick) and even cash itself, that they’re willing to take a hit for a while.

  2. Those chips for paypass rubbish allow scanners walking past to get all details then cloning your card.
    Some recommend removing the chip or wrapping it in foil in your pocket/wallet.

  3. I was impressed by the bank’s decision to act on a possible fraudulent use of my card recently. The inconvenience was worth it. These things are with us now, unfortunately. There will always be those who make a living from fraud and theft.

    • I, too, was impressed that they detected such a small amount, and I suspect that it was the small size of the withdrawal that alerted them. I wonder if that will be the case when we are encouraged to use our card multiple times for small purchases, which is no doubt the whole purpose of this ‘feature’

  4. The whole thing is becoming so complex we just go with the flow – credit cards, direct debit, online purchasing through credit card or paypal, b-pay.

    I had my wallet stolen from my purse two years ago (SouthBank Melbourne) and of course the Bank covered the purchases – but we were horrified by the banks refusal to provide information to the Police that would help them in their investigation – such as which phone kiosk it was used at so they could check the CCTV. (No wonder we have fees, high credit card interest etc – they are using these to cover fraud rather than help the police to reduce the fraud.) We’ve had cards stopped while travelling (because there was unusual activity – well, yes, us overseas!). And so on. Irritating at the time but as Christine says, these things are with us now and so we use them as carefully as possible to do what seems safest and most efficient for us with each transaction we are engaged in. I have a very security conscious husband, puts locks on everything that moves (more or less), won’t let a merchant take a credit card out of his sight, puts hand over keypad when entering pins, checks that ATMS look secure, wants all paperwork of failed transactions etc. If he’s comfortable with a process then I am!!

  5. Oh I feel a bank rant coming on. I have a Visa that the bank has cancelled twice in the last 18 months or so. The first time was for a very small amount. This is apparently what people do to try and check out a card for a bigger amount. But the banks are onto it, so I don’t know why they don’t just use 20 bucks- they wouldn’t notice that. They would give us no details of where this happened and went on and on about how the card is always their property and they just let me hold it in my wallet and use it with their permission. It is not “my” card. Months of inconvenience follow with notifying everyone (I am happy with direct debits- have only been caught once with a computer game Lachlan was using)

    The second time was in May this year when 1000s of cards were “breached” on the same day. We had 6 x $149 charges appear on the same day, of course we didn’t know that til the statement came. The bank again cancelled our card without telling us. We only find out when we try to use it and it is declined. This was an online transaction, so we didn’t actually realise there was a problem. Eventually I ring the bank to ask them why they cancelled the card, and they said it was for fraud. Then they said I had to ring their fraud office to report it! What! But you just told me it was fraudulently used. I didn’t know. I ignored that for a while, but if I don’t want to pay the 6 x $149 charges which they told me are fraudulent then I have to ring and notify someone else, so that these charges can be taken off. But you told me it was fraud! So I get to ring their fraud office and “report” it, then I have to fill out a form and fax it back to notify them again, so I don’t have to pay the charges that they told me were fraudulent. Every phone call is half an hour, and I have to talk to multiple people in multiple sections. Not happy Jan. Yes write that down, put that on the file.

  6. This cancellation at the drop of a hat business is very irritating, particularly as you say when you have direct debits or your credit card lodged with an organisation (such as PayPal). You have to have good records to manage all this. As for that fraud paperwork that they identified … hmm … of course their point is that they stop it because they “believe” it’s fraud and then you have to sign to say it “is” fraud. There has to be a more streamlined way than this, surely.

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