Monday, July 6, 2009

Credit Card Ramblings

Credit Card Ramblings

The UK won't accept anything but British chips!

I have a MasterCard Gold credit card issued from my bank. The last time I was in England, some three years ago, I found that I could not use my Israeli credit card in many places due to the fact that it had no chip. A standard Israeli credit card does not come with a chip because the system is not in use in Israel. When I tried paying for toys for my kids in a large toy shop in Romford they told me that company policy was not to accept any cards without a chip. I explained that I was a tourist and that they had an obligation to accept my valid card. Nevertheless, they would not budge. The famous UK camera shop "Jessops" also refused to take my credit card. No chip! I generally had no problems with supermarkets except one mini market in Scotland that refused to accept it.

When I got home I asked my bank if they could issue me with a credit card that had the chip.The bank checked with the credit card company Isracart and they replied that the chip was only available to Israel Platinum card holders. OK I said, so give me a Platinum card! The bank refused. In other words, according to Israecart, only wealthy people were allowed to use their credit card in England! I complained to the bank and to the credit card company but to no avail. They would not issue me with a chip card.

In order to vent my frustration (this was before I opened my blog) I sent out an email to all my contacts telling them about this "rich only" policy. The email got forwarded on until a few days later I received an email from a high up executive in a rival Israel credit card company who expressed interest in what I had written and wanted me to supply him with further details so that he could check and follow this up. I complied with his request and he found my experience to be true. He thanked me for this information and expressed alarm at the UK's new policy towards foreign credit cards.

That was almost three years ago. As I am planning a trip to England this summer, I recently enquired at my bank whether the situation had changed. To my pleasant surpriseI found that it had and now I have an Israeli Isracart Mastercard Gold with a UK style chip!

Who to give the Credit?

But do I really have a credit card that I can use in Britain now? Actually the answer is no because Israecart's policy is that when you purchase anything in foreign currency they debit your account immediately. In other words, you use your card in the UK and it turns into a direct Debit card. No credit!

I complained to the bank. They told me that there was nothing they could do as this was Isracart's policy. Again, it seems that Israelcart has a "rich only"policy whereby you have to have lots of money in your account to cover purchases made in Britian.

The bank did however offer me another solution. They could issue me with a second card that I could use as a credit card while in Britain. An American Express card."Great" I thought! However it transpires that there are two little problems with this solution.

(1). My parents inform me that most places in Britain do not accept American Express. It's not very popular.

(2). There is no option whatsoever to order one with a UK style chip!

"Service is not available to you!"

Recently I tried to take out some cash from the caspamat (ATM) here in Israel with my British credit card. After putting in my pin and requesting a small amount of money I received the reply: "Service is not available to you!"

After trying another three caspamatim and receiving the same message, I spoke to my parents and asked them to phone the bank up in England to find out what was going on. The situation is like this. The bank said that Israel was one of the worst countries in the world for credit card cash withdrawal frauds and that as a result, they had blocked all cash withdrawal transactions in Israel. Yes, that's right. These international credit card criminals are operating mainly in Ukrain, Russia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Israel. Interesting isn't it; all former Soviet Union states plus Israel.

It is a chilul Hashem on an massive international scale!

You can still use the credit card but only to purchase items in shops.

How ironic. It seems that when I get to Britain, they won't accept my card in the shops without a chip and I will only be able to withdraw cash.

In Israel however, I can only use my British Credit card to purchase things in shops and I cannot withdraw any cash.

Go figure.

**** UPDATE ****

Chevrat CAL offered me a VISA Platinum card with British style chip that can be used as a true credit card while abroad for a monthly fee of NIS 13 a month. I received a simple form in the post, filled it out and returned it the same day. It took about two weeks until I received the card in the post. You receive an Internet code with your first statement which allows you to check the statement at anytime online wherever you are in the world. I used this card exclusively while I was in England and only paid the next month. The pin and chip method worked perfectly in every store I used it. Thank you thank you chevrat CAL !

Nightmare at Tescos

My wife on the other hand, tried to use her Isracard Mastercard (no pin) in a Tesco's supermarket. The bill came to around £40. My wife pointed out to the check-out girl that she could not use the chip and pin system as she had no pin on her card. The checkout counter woman examined the card and totally freaked out. She called her supervisor who also freaked out. The supervisor pushed some buttons storing the transaction in the computer and told my wife to go to the supervisor's desk at the front of the supermarket. People stared at my wife and wispered (had her card been rejected? had she tried to use a stolen card?...).

She found her way to the desk and there she queued up waiting to speak to the supervisor. People passing by stared at her as this desk is where you go when your method of payment has been rejected. After a humiliating 10 mins she eventually got to speak to someone. The supervisor phoned up Mastercard and eventually, after a few minutes of tension received a permission code to complete the transaction. My wife received a new receipt and left the store after a very embarrassing 20 mins. Within 2 mins she received a phone call from Isracard in Israel on her mobile phone. They had noticed that Tesco had debited my wife's account twice and that she needed to go back to the store to sort it out. My wife, who was still outside went back to the supervisor's desk and queued up again. After another embarassing 5 mins of waiting she explained that she had received a phone call from her credit card company that they had debited her account twice. The supervisor went off to check. My wife was left there for another 5 mins while passers by stared at her as if she were a shoplifter.

Eventually the supervisor returned with a ream of papers and explained that the original transaction had been cancelled when the check-out counter woman realised that she had no pin on her card but the money had still been debited from her account. However the amount had within seconds been returned. Then after the permission code it was again removed. The supervisor advised my wife that the next time she shopped at Tescos she should tell the check-out girl to immediately store the transaction and then go straight to this desk to receive a permission code. Eventually, after some 40 mins of embarrassment and tension, my wife finally got to leave the store. She never tried to use her card again whilst in England except to withdraw cash. BTW, only the cash point tills outside banks accepted her card. She tried twice in two different places to withdraw money from cash point tills in motorway service stations but her card was rejected. Let this be a warning to all of you!


Bouncer said...

Unbelievable; I just wouldn't credit it!

Reb Mordechai said...

Don't those chips look good! hmm hmm.