I’ve been wary about voicing my opinions on the usurious Spanish financial institution, Santander.
Finances are a very personal and private matter and there can be quite a stigma attached to debt.
But I feel that I have to share our story.
The ombudsman won’t do anything and so only word of mouth will warn people of the inherent dangers in working with Santander.
A few years ago, Santander took over the Alliance & Leicester building society, with whom my partner has banked for years. In fact we also re-mortgaged with Alliance & Leicester, opening a joint account through which to manage the bills.
Santander also took over my building society of choice, Abbey (formerly the Abbey National), as well as other UK financial institutions.
Now I have no real issue with this kind of take-over. My own “regionally titled” bank is in fact Australian.
When my partner opened her Alliance & Leicester account, she had no mandatory monthly payments to make into it but when Santander took it over they upgraded it to their premium account; an account that demands £500 be paid into it every month.
The first we learned of this upgrade came when my partner was made redundant a few years ago and the fines started racking up. The account was empty but grew a negative value as the monthly fines were taken out; fines for not paying money in and then fines for going overdrawn.
We argued with Santander but were treated like scum.
We were told to go into the branch when talking over the phone and then told to phone when in the branch.
All this could have been avoided if we had been told the account had upgraded. We could have simply closed the account whilst it had money in it.
We complained through correct channels; writing to Santander and then the financial ombudsman. We explained that we felt we had been unfairly treated by being upgraded without notice.
Around the same time we also found that our Payment Protection didn’t cover her redundancy. We managed to get some of what we had paid on that returned to us.
As I mentioned before, the first issue was raised with the financial ombudsman; our claim was investigated and resulted in our being told:
You have no evidence that you were given no notice of the upgrade and Santander don’t have to offer you the old account
The response was written in a “don’t waste our time” style and just reinforced our belief that the ombudsman is there to support the banks, not the consumers.
After all this the account was several hundred pounds overdrawn and so further fees were accrued month by month.
Likewise, the joint account began to accrue fees as my partner’s wages, when she found work, were swallowed before being transferred into the joint account
– I personally refuse to hold any money with Santander, whose practice it is to take the owing balance on one account from any other that you have in credit.
So we decided we needed to pay one or both of them off and close them.
The only way we could do that is to sell our car; the current economic climate has stifled any possibility of me getting a pay rise at work over the last five years and we’re both working as hard as we can.
So we sold the car and used some of the cash to close the joint account.
Initially we were going to close my partners but she finally got through to a helpful person at Santander… somebody senior in their collections department.
She managed to get through to useful people whilst complaining that my workplace had been phoned by somebody trying to speak to her!
How Santander got my office number and then used it for a sales call is still a mystery. I was livid at the time.
The helpful person couldn’t believe that my partner hadn’t been offered a decreasing overdraft on her own account.
The principal being that she pay off the low overdraft at £50 a month and the overdraft limit decreases by £50 a month.
There would be no charges as my Partner had never been given a card for that account under Santander anyway and all the bills come out of my own bank.
On top of this kind offer (ignoring for the moment that the overdrawn figure is made up of charges we should have never had) they allowed my partner to close the joint account.
Knowing from experience (and searching the internet for similar stories) that Santander would somehow try to mess us about, my partner asked for the final balance so that we wouldn’t be told we owe more later.
We were given a balance of £491.20, which my partner paid over the phone.
She received verbal confirmation that the account was closed.
She even checked with the lady again, who reassured her by saying,
Here’s ,my extension number. If you get any letters demanding more money, call me and I will sort them out.
Shortly before Christmas we received a statement from the closed account stating that the balance before the payment we made was £491.25.
This left an unauthorised overdraft of £0.05
The statement then went on to tell us that an unauthorised overdraft fee of £5 per day would be applied and that a total fee of £100 would be taken from the account on December 29th.
You can likely imagine the fury in our house at the time.
5p over because they hadn’t given us the right figure and then charge us £100 for the pleasure.
We tried several times to get through to the helpful person and as far as I know my partner has since spoken with said person and resolved the issue… but that is far from the point.
We should have never had those charges in the first place and how anyone can justify payment of £100 for a 5p error that the bank made themselves… well it’s beyond my reckoning.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the harassment and emotional stress that Santander have put my partner through; ever since they took over Alliance & Leicester, my partner has had nothing but grief from them – primarily down to their practice of paying funds into an account after direct debits have been paid out on the same day.
We could expect money to go into the account on the 1st of the month but that money would not be classed as cleared until all the day’s debits had been taken out of the account; if this happens to take you into your overdraft before the days payment is cleared – BAM! – the account is fined for going over.
I appreciate that a lot of banks are similar but I have never worked with a bank as bad as this before.