Some time ago, my wife and I decided that we would like to tuck some of our savings away in a good old fashioned, reliable, dependable building society. Anyway, we chose the xxxxxxxxx Building Society and made a substantial deposit. Then I/we needed to make a withdrawal.
I now qualify for a free TV licence so am no longer that young and my wife is not that far behind me. Knowing I would never want to go abroad again, when my passport ran out I decided there was no reason to renew it. About four years ago, I had all sorts of problems with my eyes and decided I should not be driving – a decision with which the optician firmly agreed as did the eye surgeons who were to carry out the operations needed for me to see properly again. I did not surrender my licence as I was told I would be able to drive after a period and this was the case. However, when I called to arrange the withdrawal, I was told that I could do this only if I could produce my passport or my driving licence with a photograph. As it happened I did not have my driving licence that day and so I was unable to make the transfer. I was, of course, told in no uncertain terms that these conditions had been explained when the account was opened. I am sure they were but I have no recollection of any alarm bells ringing then and I feel they would have done if I had properly understood the position.
This all sounds reasonable but . . . I was due to have another session with the eye consultant the following week which could well have resulted in it being suggested that the time had come to surrender my licence. Then I would have nothing which would enable me to withdraw my own money.
There was, of course, my wife and a week later (we live a long way from the branch) we reappeared and she signed the forms to enable her to draw out all our funds and to close the account – and presented her driving licence.
This all sounds reasonable but . . . my wife is in remission having had a “very invasive tumour” removed.
Two “ifs” but just where would I stand if I had surrendered my licence and if my wife had died? The money we have so carefully saved for our dotage would just not be available – at least according to the staff in the branch.
So I wrote to the head office asking the question. They have failed to answer it preferring to send me down the “complainers” route so I am now in the inevitable “customer relations” loop – even though I am no longer a customer.
Anyway, you have been warned – and if you have any elderly or infirm relatives or friends (or even ones that don’t drive and don’t go abroad) it would be kind to warn them too. Does this apply with other building societies? I really don’t know but it might.
In all fairness I should say that I have received a further letter which contains about eight apologies, a cheque for £25 (which I have returned – it felt like a bribe) and a list of acceptable forms of identification. Putting to one side that I do not have any of those other forms of identification, these options were not offered when I was in the branch.
Yes, we all want our money to be kept secure but we also want to be able to get at it when we want it. If a bank or building society want us to provide biometric evidence of identification they have the answer in their own hands: issue cards of their own with all the features they want on and in them but don’t rely on customers having a biometric passport or driving licence. A lot of people have neither.
Yes, I was very tempted to name the building society but I decided against that: no matter where you are keeping your nest egg you need to be sure you can get it back when you need it.
Yes, I did tell the building society that I would explain this on my blog. Was that why they sent me the £25? I do hope not.