Santander hitting out at expat accounts again
|Published:||18 Aug at 6 PM|
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It seems that expats, particularly in Spain, are being targeted by the bank in a stealthy attempt to have them take their business elsewhere. In spite of the fact that expat options as regards offshore banks are limited, the high street bank is making its intentions clearer by the day.
Many expats now living in EU member states started their easy-access offshore accounts with the Alliance and Leicester, one of the UK’s oldest and best regarded building societies. When A&L was taken over by Santander, their offshore accounts were transferred to the Isle of Man, a financial jurisdiction well-known for its poor treatment of disaffected customers.
One expat living in Spain with her partner recently received a letter from Santander IoM stating that her offshore savings account and its balance of £68,000 had been made dormant due to lack of activity. The account was being used to automatically transfer her monthly interest to a Lloyds Bank current account.
At present, the transfers cannot be made and she cannot get access to her money until she sends the bank officially certified copies of her partner’s passport and utility bills, showing the couple’s permanent Spanish address. Certification must be by a professional person and include contact details and a company stamp.
According to the bank, the account has seen no activity since May 2010, but the account-holder stresses that, in August 2011, a withdrawal of £5,000 was made. Unbelievably, Santander’s customer service desk informed her that automatic monthly transfers were not considered as ‘customer transactions’.
To be fair to Santander IoM, once a well-known British newspaper became involved they apologised to the account holder and reinstated her account, giving the convenient excuse for their action as protection against fraud. However, no mention was made of the dormancy policy and its possible effect on expats’ finances worldwide.
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Santander did this to me also a year or so ago when I found out by chance that the Abbey National, whom I had an account with, had been acquired by them. Living in Australia it's not easy communicating with them as they only accepted phone calls. I did manage to sort it out and have my account re-activated; but because I "can't" have access to my account electronically I am unable to keep it active. As much as I am tempted to close the account down and take my money, doing so would mean I would I would no longer have a "stepping stone" to the UK should circumstances ever change and for me to return to the UK.