Monday, March 19, 2012

A worrying moment with the bank...

On Wednesday last week, I banked some cheques. They were from another European country, and totalled around 330 euros. I knew from past experience that this amount would be 'blocked' for 21 days to allow them to clear, so our 'available balance' would be less than the 'actual balance'.

On Saturday morning, we went to the fruit shop. We bought quite a bit, so rather than handing over cash, I presented my debit card. It was refused. Twice. This occasionally happens due to bank problems, but the cashier seemed to think that there was a problem with our account. I had enough cash so I paid with that, came home, and immediately went online to check our bank balance.

To my horror, I saw that our 'available balance' showed as about minus €32,000!  I blinked, refreshed the screen... and it remained the same.

I didn't panic - well, not much - since the 'actual balance' showed roughly what I expected it to be. I quickly ran through the 'recent transactions' page to see if there was anything suspicious going on.  I couldn't see anything unexpected.

The lightbulb went on in my mind. I had banked my cheques with a fairly new cashier. I reckoned that she had somehow got confused between the decimal point and the comma. We've done it ourselves... I once tried to pay a bill of about €12.50 only to find the software asking me if I was certain I wanted to pay €1250...  I should have entered 12,50 (with a comma) rather than 12.50.

I did the calculation, assuming that for some reason the blocked amount was 100 times more than it should have been, and was pleased to see that the resulting balance would indeed show exactly the amount listed. Not that the bank system should have allowed that kind of thing to happen...

As it was the weekend, we could not go to the bank to sort it out, and telephone banking also wasn't available. Thankfully we didn't need either cash or the debit card, so this morning I went back to the bank.

I presented my case to a different cashier - a guy whom I hadn't previously met - and he saw immediately what the problem was. He found it pretty funny.

'Oh,' he said, 'thirty-two thousand negative... that's nothing. Is it a problem for you?'

I said that yes, it was a little problem, and he nodded, and chuckled again, and said that it would be a problem for the bank too.

He didn't have much idea what to do, but the cashier next to him was a very experienced, efficient and intelligent lady who's been there for years, so when she had finished dealing with someone else, I was handed over to her.

I thought that it would be as simple as removing the block on the large amount, and re-entering a block on the correct amount. Apparently not. It must have taken five minutes before she finally managed to sort it out, and then she had to make a phone call to explain what she had done.

At one point she did look up, and asked, 'Did you sleep at night?'

I said that once I'd figured out what the problem was, I wasn't worried. In fact I'd forgotten about it for most of the weekend.

She apologised for the mistake - not that it was her fault! - and I immediately went to check, in the bank ATM , whether the balance was showing correctly.

Thankfully, it was. I just hope we don't get charged interest on our apparently huge unauthorised overdraft....


Mhairi said...

Whew! A little scary so I'm glad it was all fixed. Gotta watch those . and ,

lilegyptiangoddess said...

They did that with my in-laws, however that was linked to the Bank of Cyprus trying to take out the mortgage TWO whole months a head of time. Took them another two or three months to reverse the original charge but failed to refund the 300 odd euros they had banked in fees from over drawn account issues. It took some time after that to get those refunded as well.