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17 December 2015

Opinion: Using your block

Bank's blocking makes for a humiliating shopping trip.

It was just over a year ago I got a Kiwibank MasterCard. That was as a result of my experiences using an ANZ Visa card overseas. It’s all gone hummingly since. The bank has alerted me a couple of times to potential fraudulent activity, and one time of actual fraudulent transactions.

That was until I went to the United States and South America recently. After a seamless three weeks of travelling, countless flights and hotel stays, I had one day in LA to shop. Off to Santa Monica it was. I know the stores. I thought some of them would like to know me (or more particularly my ability to spend), but shortly after arriving my card was blocked. I know the drill now. I rang the bank. Yes, it had blocked my card because of suspected fraudulent activity. Apparently, Santa Monica is rife with feral card users. It would be unblocked immediately.

And so it was. For nearly two hours. Then it was rejected.

The store rang my bank for me. Yes, the woman on the line said, my card was blocked. Sometimes it took 24 hours to clear, she blithely said. How could that be, I questioned, when just two hours ago it was unblocked and I had been using it. Off to speak to her supervisor. Back to the phone. The card was unblocked again. Thirty minutes after the transaction started, it was completed.

I accept banks have to worry about security. That’s their job. But what I don’t accept is the way it blocks access to funds without letting me know. And the often completely useless information staff give when you do ring, stressed and humiliated. The whole point of a card is to make transactions easy.

How about a text or an email? My partner was in the US the weekend after my return. He received an email from Kiwibank’s Financial Crime Team while he was shopping, suggesting there might be fraudulent transactions happening via his card, and for him to confirm he was overseas using the card. Great. But why does he get that service and I get the block wall?

About the author:

Sue Chetwin has been our Chief Executive since April 2007 after more than 25 years in print journalism. She was formerly the Editor of Sunday News, Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday. She says there are strong parallels between consumer advocacy and journalism.

Sue oversees all of Consumer’s operations and is also the public face of the organisation. Sue is a director of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, an alternate on the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commission and a member of the Electricity Authority Retail Advisory group.

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