Sunday, 23 August 2015

Can I have my pocket money please?

With so many different passwords and pin numbers to remember it is always a relief when the words ‘Code Bon’ appear on the payment machine at the supermarket.  The pleasure is greatly reduced when it is followed by the words ‘Paiement Refusé’.  This is quite a regular occurrence and I can assure you it is not because the account is overdrawn.  No, it is simply that, according to the lady at the bank, I have spent enough money for the month.  Seriously!  I have the money in the bank and yet somebody has decided that I can only spend a certain amount each month!  And this is ‘normal practice’ in France.  To be fair, the bank  did explain that I could continue to use cheques and also to draw money out of Cash machines but the debit card would remain ‘blocked’ until a certain period of time had passed.   Obviously I am not going to starve but given that I don’t have a cheque book for that account, and there is a daily limit on the amount you can draw at a cashpoint, this is a problem.

To be fair, in normal daily life, having a monthly spending limit isn’t a problem.  But when is life ever normal?  The first time I came across this problem was when I was furnishing our first apartment.  My shopping spree ground to a halt on day 2 because I had already reached my limit for the month – ‘frittering it away’ on beds, sofas, appliances etc!  You can (and I did) telephone and ask for a ‘temporary increase’ on your limit but I find it very annoying to have to ask somebody for permission to spend my own money – and also to have to explain why.

Apart from the monthly spending limit, the bank has now come up with a new way to attempt to govern my spending.   My brother has bought a holiday home here in the region and has asked me to oversee the renovations.  As he doesn’t yet have a French bank account he is transferring money into my account and I am buying materials and paying tradesmen on his behalf.  Simple?  Apparently not.  When the first transfer arrived the bank lady actually rang me to complain that I hadn’t warned her that some money would be arriving in the account.   I did mention that, although I am not greatly experienced in the world of banking I believed that it was perhaps normal practice for banks to expect occasional deposits into accounts and accept them without being surprised.  I don’t think she appreciated my sarcasm and we have a ‘rendez-vous’ next week....

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