First Direct

I'm a huge fan of First Direct. I've banked with them for near on 11 years and have always been delighted... until now. I'm sad to say their ability to cope with the fact that I am overseas has been tragically underwhelming.

Local ATMs seem to have a withdrawal limit of AR300 (approximately 50GBP), so at times I have to perform a couple of transactions at a go, at least while I'm gathering a little war chest of funds to pay rent for the next three months (due on Saturday). Every time I make a withdrawal it sends the First Direct security systems into alert mode and my card gets suspended - usually rectified by a phone call. No matter how many times I explain to them that I am overseas and will be for several months they seem unable to stop stopping my card.

Now they tell me that another security alert has been actioned on my card and that they are going to be permanently suspending my card and I need to call them every time I want to make a withdrawal and request a temporary override to the suspension to be applied! Obviously this is not sustainable. Apparently the alert comes from a third party and could be related to a variety of things, they keep citing a possible police investigation of a store where the card may have been used.

They can't tell me any more. This, of course is absurd and I suspect the suspension is due to the number of times my card was suspended whenever I made legitimate withdrawals. The card is brand new and I collected it the day before I left the UK and only used in the WH Smith at city airport and to draw money here.

They have said that they can send me a new card by DHL (at my expense) but I'm loathe to even try that because I'm sure I'll be in the same position as soon as I start to use it. It's worth mentioning that Chris has had no such problems with Nationwide using similar withdrawal patterns.

Anyway, I have written to First Direct requesting more information before I decide what to do. It's not an emergency, but just a little annoying for a bank that promotes itself as "international". Before I left the UK I did call them to ask if their HSBC network would be of any use to me while abroad, it isn't. It seems that are related only in brand and nothing else.