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Warning: Expats face losing their Barclaycards
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As a recent victim of Barclaycardís idiotic decision to take away credit cards from expats Ė even those with impeccable credit history Ė I share my experience here as a warning to others and suggest a possible way to avoid this happening to you.

When I came to live in Prague in 2010, I decided to keep my Barclaycard. Other expats who own a Barclaycard may well decide to do the same, and there are three good reasons for doing so.

  • Barclaycard deals in sterling. Most Brits who choose to live abroad come back to the UK periodically to visit their families. Having a British credit card means that when you come back to Blighty you wonít get landed with charges for currency conversion, as you would be if you use a credit card based in your country of residence. Britain is expensive enough without having to pay these extra charges!

  • Although it pains me to say this in the light of what will follow, Barclaycard is one of the best credit cards you can have. Yes, phoning Barclaycard is an annoyance Ė you have to swear your way through an interactive voice system before finally being connected to a chap in India who calls himself Dave Ė but the actual service is pretty good. For example Barclaycard were on to it straight away when my card got cloned, and they have refunded my money very quickly on the few occasions I have made payments to companies who overcharged or failed to deliver. Whatís more, Barclaycard is accepted pretty well anywhere in the world.

  • Thereís always a chance you may return to the UK Ė especially with the uncertainty of Brexit looming Ė and if youíve built up a good credit rating itís better to hang on to your card rather than throw it away and start all over again.

When I moved abroad, I had no trouble registering my new address in the Czech Republic with Barclaycard. It took one phone call, and the person I spoke to assured me that having a foreign address would not affect my status as a Barclaycard holder. For the following eight years I have used my Barclaycard without any problem, mostly for online purchases and visits to the UK.

That ended in July 2018, when I received a letter from Barclaycard telling me that I can no longer use my card unless I can provide a current UK address. I canít simply give them the address of a friend or family member, which may appear to be the obvious solution, because they require documentation such as a utility bill or driving licence.

The tone of the letter itself grated, as it was written in an inappropriately informal manner (ďHelloĒ instead of ďDearĒ, and contractions like ďyouíveĒ instead of ďyou haveĒ). This may not bother many people, but while I donít mind a chummy tone being adopted for promotional material or good news such as additional benefits from the credit card, it strikes me as out of place when announcing an inconvenience.

The letter was signed by one Scott Miller. I finally managed to find an email address for him after a long search (perhaps he doesnít want to be found?) and wrote to him to suggest that he reconsider. I pointed out that I have had a Barclaycard since the time of the Punic Wars, and always pay my bill in full and on time. In fact I often overpay in case the bill arrives late and/or I forget to look at my statement online. I suggested that I could switch to paperless billing, if the cost of foreign postage was a problem.

A few days later I received a phone call from someone at Barclaycard, who introduced himself simply as Pie, to discuss my email. I donít know what sort of pie he was, but he certainly wasnít humble pie as he proceeded to give a patronising explanation of Barclaycardís decision in much the same way as one would explain Pythagoras to a not very bright pre-schooler. More annoying still, he made out that he was really very sorry, implying that he canít sleep at night because he is so upset about taking my card away, before quoting Barclaycardís terms and conditions. To which I replied that itís no good hiding behind terms and conditions, because who makes those terms and conditions? Barclaycard does.

He made the reasonable point that some expats max out their cards and itís hard to recoup the money. Thatís true, but both sides could benefit from Barclaycard introducing a special deal for expats who have held the card in the UK for a given number of years and have a good credit history. Barclaycard could insist on a deposit or an annual fee to cover any potential losses. If someone subsequently defaults on payment, Barclaycard would then have every right to cancel the card.

I pointed all this out to Pie, but as they say, some fell on stony ground. The conversation was one of those that leaves you wound up at the end of it, although I made a point of not losing my rag. Arguing with inflexible apparatchiks is seldom successful, and when I hung up I felt that I knew what Galileo went through when he tried to make the case for his heliocentric model of the solar system.

So how can my experiences help others? Well, I certainly donít want to get into trouble for encouraging illegal or fraudulent activities, so I stress that what follows is purely hypothetical.

If youíre an expat living abroad, a possible course of action is to find a friend or family member who will agree to you giving Barclaycard their UK address. Itíll be too late if youíve already received Scott Millerís charming missive, but if you havenít, you could phone Barclaycard and ask what the procedure is for changing address. If you still need utility bills or other proof of address itís a bust, but if not you could change the address Barclaycard holds for you to that of your relative or friend. You would need to switch to paperless billing, so that the only correspondence you will get is your new card every few years and the occasional bit of bumf that nobody reads.

If you havenít yet moved abroad but are planning to do so, you could take the same steps (so long as documentary proof of address isnít needed) rather than give your foreign address at all.

I repeat that this is purely hypothetical, in the way that saying you could save money by shoplifting is hypothetical. I wouldnít encourage anyone to shoplift, and although Iím not Rumpole of the Bailey I have a pretty good idea that registering an address where you spend no more than a few days a year, if that, probably isnít quite kosher.

The most important message here is that if youíve had a foreign address registered with Barclaycard, you may well be on Scott Millerís hit list, and that there may be ways around it if youíre prepared to be a bit devious. Good luck!