Being an expat with a bank account in a different country is not always easy. We have been with Barclays for quite a few years and they have always been great while we were living in the UK, but when we decided to move to Cambodia (outrageous!) they decided that it would be fun to keep shutting our Barclaycard down every few months or so. We told them where we’d be by phone, by email, and face-to-face at our local branch and were assured it was registered in their ‘system’, but alas….

Not only is it very inconvenient to be abroad and suddenly without any access to cash, but it also costs a lot of money (and patience!) to resolve the issue as the only way to deal with it is by calling their disfunctional call-centres. I don’t have to tell you that calling a call center from a Cambodian mobile phone is pricey, especially as you never get through to anybody in less than 15 minutes. But what annoys us most are the ridiculous security questions you are asked and how easily you can fail them. This might sound like a rant (it is), but I will give you a few examples in the hope you can understand my frustration, and perhaps let me know if you’ve suffered the same insane experience.

BarclaysThat’s how I feel every time I phone Barclays. Photo by Marttila/Rex Features

The security questions

So you get through to customer service after 15 minutes of Wagner and get your first round of security questions. At this first hurdle, we pass every time. You then get transferred to the ‘fraud team’ for the second round of questions, which is where you enter into a parellel universe and where without fail both my husband and I always, always fail. This is a transcript from some of our numerous conversations with Barclay’s Fraud Department.

Conversation 1
Call Centre – You have taken out a loan with Barclays, can you tell me when this was and how much it was for? 
Me – We’ve never had a loan with Barlcays
CC – I’m afraid you’ve just failed security
Me – but we’ve never had a loan with Barclays
CC – sorry, you’ve failed security
Me – what can I do now?
CC – you need to go to your nearest Barlcays branch
Me – but I live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
CC – According to our computer your nearest branch is Bedford, UK
Me – that’s a long way away when I don’t have any access to money
[and this loop continues until I go crazy and hang up]

Conversation 2
CC – Who is your current employer?
Chris – answers (correctly)
CC – I’m afraid you’ve just failed security
Chris – I’m sat here drinking a cup of tea from a company mug, looking at emails from my company account, in my company’s office. Plus, they pay me money every month. I’m pretty sure I work for them.
CC – I’m afraid you’ll have to go to your nearest Barclays branch.
[you can guess the rest]

Conversation 3
CC – When was the last time you bought something in a sports shop?
Chris – I can’t remember
CC – I’m afraid you just failed security 

Conversation 4
CC – You have recently booked a flight, can you tell me how much it cost and with which airline it was with? 
Me – I’ve booked four flights recently, which one are you referring to please? 
CC – I am afraid I can’t tell you Mrs Lowe, please give me one answer. 
Me – Air Asia for $75. 
CC – I am afraid that isn’t the flight I was asking about  
[he might just as well have asked what colour he was thinking of]

All of which ends up with us having to call another number for the ‘international fraud team’, where we pass security every time without fail. And after doing so Chris asked them who they have down as his employer – sure enough it turns out his records are up-to-date and his answer was correct. And what about the loan – they agree, we don’t have a loan and never have had.

So 45 minutes later and much phone credit down the drain, our card is un-blocked, by the same third unit that always enables us to sort things out – which begs the question what is the point of the first two?

Either way I think I know what the first thing is we’ll be doing when we get to the UK! If anybody can recommend a bank that let’s you spend your own money, even if you have the cheek to travel outside of Europe, please let us know in the comment section below and we’ll be eternally grateful.

Photo: mainstreet


About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

48 Thoughts on “Why does Barclays bank hate travellers?

  1. On the plus side, they aren’t letting just anyone have access to your account 🙂 Is there any way you can call them via Skype or something to save money? And no – I’m yet to find a bank that doesn’t freeze my cards whenever I do anything crazy like travel with them, even if I let them know about if beforehand. Now I just skype them when they’ve frozen them and hope to pass the security questions (which are a lot less insane than the ones you’ve posted, admittedly!)

  2. Funnily enough, after failing the security questions recently Chris asked if there is anything at all the guy could do to help us. He said he is helping us, by stopping people accessing our money. “but as it’s our money, can’t we access it please?”, was Chris’s resigned response 🙂 And no, no skype I’m afraid, but good tip for when we look for our next bank – thanks!

  3. First Direct. They are legends. I’ve been with them since 1994 and have been out of the UK on and off for 15 years. It’s all by phone or online, but you can use any HSBC high st bank to lodge money.

    No probs with roaming. We’ve been in Oz/Europe for 5 or 6 months at a time and there has never been a problem. We’ve even changed our permanent address to our Oz one and all is going swimmingly so far.

    Oh and they have set passwords/questions too, but I mine haven’t changed in years (prob should) so easy to remember.

    Honestly, you should go with them. Can’t rate them highly enough.

    ps. I don’t work for them! 😉

  4. Wow, Barclays sound awful by any standard! I think I would have just become poor instead of increasing my blood pressure talking to them and failing all the questions haha.
    I’m with Lloyds and I’ve not had any problems with them. They blocked me once when I was in Japan but one quick (!) call and I was free again…I went through the rest of Asia and Southern Africa without any problems! 🙂

  5. Oh wow – time to switch banks! I thought ours was bad with their super annoying card fraud system that puts our card on hold all the time…

  6. @Linda: Thanks very much for your tips. Will check them out when we are in the UK in April. If we go with them I’ll suggest to them to give you a commission. 😉

  7. @Toni: Other banks give you nice freebies and with Barclays you get high blood pressure. 😉 Will check Lloyds out too. Thanks.

  8. @Andrea: It seems every other bank is better than Barclays. I think you are right. Time to change indeed!

  9. Barclays have done this to me too. Such a pain!

  10. @Kate: I was starting to think that we were the only ones. Yes, a real pain!

  11. Omg, I’d have gone berserk and hurt someone. But at least, phew, in the end you access to your money.

  12. Believe me Jill, I nearly did.

  13. To be honest guys, Barclays Bank has saved us a lot of times during our travels. The staff have been always flexible with us no matter where we traveled to and so understanding with overdrafts and stuff to it related. But we understand it might not work well for others. Good luck!! x

  14. Thanks Agness. You are very lucky! Usually we are happy with them too, but the fact that they keep shutting our card down is a bit irritating.

  15. That is hilarious. I travel with two banks, one HSBC and one Scotiabank so if one goes haywire (and it does) I always have the other as a backup while I figure things out.

  16. That is such a good idea Ayngelina! Think we might set up a second bank account too. There is nothing worse than not being able to access any money abroad.

  17. I share in your frustration over banks and yes Barclays appears to be about the worst although my experiences with HSBC (Whatever there tagline about being the worlds local bank might say) is that they are little better. I have been with Natwest for Business and personal banking for over fifteen years and have found them excellent. I also have a Nationwide account (20 years +) and have found them great too. Whether it helps having one of the truly international banks when you live abroad I do not know however my comments above re Barclays and HSBC tend to destroy that theory! What about opening a local account in Cambodia to use whilst you are there?

    • Tammyonthemove on October 2, 2013 at 7:53 pm said:

      I am glad that I am not the only one. Used to have a local bank account too and it was good for local transactions, but I still need a UK based account. HSBC would be a tempter as they have so many branches worldwide.

  18. I hate Barclays. They always block my card when abroad because they think no one travels these days so it’s suspicious activity… (Sarcasm) Even after a 25 minute phone call using up all the cash I had left (calling from abroad) they had to put me through to another department which is of course a long queue with pleasant music playing in the background and a recorded message saying how much they care about me.. Then the phone went dead as money had run out.. Now I can’t call them as I have no money and even if I do eventually sort out the problem – most of the remainder of my money will have been spent on phonecalls. Thanks Barclays – I hate you and would suggest that the billions of pounds profits you make could be spent on improving the speed of your call center service and helping set up services better for people abroad,,, I HATE YOU!!!!

  19. I HATE BARCLAY ! ! ! ! !
    The story comes later.

  20. Any chance you can remember the number for the international team?
    I’m going through *exactly* the same now 🙁

    • Tammyonthemove on December 30, 2013 at 6:04 pm said:

      Oh no, sorry to hear. I don’t know I’m afraid. They put us through different people all the time. I hope you can sort it soon. They seem to have become a bit better now though after so many incidents. Good luck Dave!

  21. Dave Sobey on February 23, 2014 at 9:56 am said:

    Hi, Had exactly the same happen to me when I was living in Spain. AND I had told them before I left where I was living and where I would be withdrawing money. If you manage to answer the first batch of questions WHY have to answer more. Probably because they get a kickback from the telephone company so make even more money by keeping you on the phone. Don’t forget, this is a bank that pays the rent on ALL it’s banking outlets by failed Direct Debit charges alone.That’s how much they rip people off.

    • Tammyonthemove on February 23, 2014 at 1:44 pm said:

      So annoying, isn’t it? We wanted to tell them were we were going, but they stopped that service, so even though we told the call center staff and staff at a local branch they still kept shutting our card down. Touch wood, ever since we had to call them a few times last year we haven’t had an issues since. They must have marked our account somehow (and they have seen this post 🙂 ).

  22. nomad on June 23, 2014 at 12:29 pm said:

    I’m just going through the same thing from Thailand. except that I can’t even get through to their number!!!
    They act as if it is their money, not mine.

    • Tammyonthemove on June 23, 2014 at 7:02 pm said:

      Oh you poor thing. I really feel for you. It is terrible when you have got money in the account, but you can’t access it. Good luck getting access again!

  23. Oh my days, I am having a very bad experience with them right NOW! I am currently traveling around South East Asia for 5 months. Last night my wallet was nicked in Bangkok. I cancelled my card using the online services and called them to get a new card ordered to my house back home so I can get i forwarded on to my next destination. After being told by the first person to get a new card I need to print out and fill out a form and then sent it to Leicester and wait for the card in the UK, after explaining I was on the other side of the world. Then I called again and failed the security questions which I obviously know and got correct. I called another 5 times and got cut off 3 times and put on hold indefinitely the other 2 times. I have now used up all my minutes on my international sim. My mum went down to the local branch in the UK and explained the situation and they told her they can’t do anything and I need to call them, which I have obviously done. So I have no access to any money, luckily I have my hotels booked for the next two weeks or so, otherwise I would basically have nowhere to stay. I have about £50 in local currency which will have to last until I get this sorted. They have nothing in place for there customers in this situation and on top of that are totally incompetent. I will definitely be switching bank when I get back. Nightmare!

    • Tammyonthemove on January 9, 2015 at 10:31 am said:

      Oh no Charles, I really feel for you. I hope you can get it sorted. Try and get some skype credit (maybe your mum can set some up) and call them again that way. It is super cheap. Good luck!

  24. Has anyone thought of moving into another bank instead with better services? That would be a more reasonable decision. If it doesn’t benefit you, why stay?

    • Tammyonthemove on August 18, 2015 at 10:59 am said:

      If only it was that easy. Not having a permanent address anymore, nor any utility bills makes it impossible to open bank accounts these days. Our experience with Barclays has improved a lot since we have written this post though. Every now and then they still shut our account down, but nowhere near as much as they used to.

      • Oh I see, It seems that online banking services such as paypal, etc. is the most feasible option for you. I guess western union gives a good job regarding these too. Or you can as I have mentioned previously have another account with other banks. It wouldn’t hurt.

  25. Re the question someone asked about why not just change banks.

    Not easy to do when you are abroad or travelling long term. Banks normally require you to visit them in person. This is due to government anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism regulations – Know Your Customer – KYC as its called (which always reminds me of KFC – Know Your Chicken).

    I too hate Barclays. That horrible PinSentry device you have to use, umpteen different PIN numbers, pass numbers, passwords, memorable phrases, memorable words. Its a minefield and I dread it whenever I have to use the account.

    The Barclays PinSentry is now defective/batteries run low, through this I typed in the PIN or whatever it was that it wanted wrongly and my VISA card is now blocked. Its going to be such a palaver to contact Barclays and go through all the security rigmarole and wait for a card from Barclays Bank and new “PinSentry” to arrive that I dont think I can face it. Ive had enough of Barclays.

    So I too am looking for an alternative bank to Barclays.

    I am looking to close my account with Barclays.

    The fact is that all the big name high street banks are all pretty much the same. They are too big, they are dinosaur corporates of yesteryear who have no future anymore now that digital banking, and the new fintech (financial tech companies) are springing up to offer better services and capture their customers away from from.

    Good riddance to Barclays – and all the others.
    Kevin recently posted…Finding Visitor Accommodation in BerlinMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 18, 2015 at 10:42 am said:

      Yes, it is indeed very difficult opening a new bank account when you have no permanent address or utility bills. It has gotten much better with the shut down to be fair, but we still get them every now and then.

  26. Forgot to mention one other thing,

    the fact that the banks put their customers through all this dreadful “security” passphrase, memorable word, card reader rigmarole shows that they don’t understand the digital online economy. They come from a different world of old style bank branches and they are out of their depth when they try to offer banking online.

    It’s not secure because it just confuses and overwhelms people (and Im an IT person and it overwhelms me). People resort to noting down all this memorable word/phrase/password/passphrase/secret code mumbo-jumbo because thats the only way they can remember it.

    It’s not “memorable” at all, far from it. Make one single mistake at any stage when entering any of it and you are out and your account blocked.

    So there is opportunity for new fintech startups to offer better banking services online and with mobile.

    My advice: forget the high street banks and open an account with one of the new cloud based startups instead.
    Kevin recently posted…Finding Visitor Accommodation in BerlinMy Profile

  27. I too live in Cambodia (Battambang) and have all the pain in the arse troubles that you guys had. I only kept my account active as I couldn’t get a visa / debit card here from a local bank, which I needed for buying flights etc…. Anyway, now they have sent me a letter saying that they are closing my account! !

    ” As part of a global review of our business, Barclays has taken the strategic decision to focus on a core set of 70 Markets globally. We have therefore taken the difficult decision to, over time, close the accounts of our clients who fall outside our new market strategy.
    As a result of this decision, we can no longer offer you access to Barclays services and are writing to give you notice that your account will be closed shortly on or after September 11 2015″

    I’ve had an account with them since 1987, to be honest, I’ll be glad to see the back of them!

    • Tammyonthemove on September 7, 2015 at 4:34 am said:

      Are you serious? It sounds like they haven’t even given you a proper reason. What does it mean when they say you don’t fall within their market strategy anyway? Good luck trying to find a new bank and I hope you won’t have the same problems again.

  28. H Grafton on October 2, 2015 at 4:29 pm said:

    My brother too lives in Cambodia is married with 2 children and has just had his Barclays account shut down which has his pension going in how is he suppose to live without it .

    • Tammyonthemove on October 5, 2015 at 10:34 am said:

      Oh no, I am sorry to hear this. I know how frustrating this must have been. I hope he can get it unblocked soon.

  29. Darren on October 3, 2015 at 1:30 am said:

    So after they told me they would be closing my account on September 11th…. I withdrew all my money and then on September 25th I received an new Visa Debit card!!!

    • Tammyonthemove on October 5, 2015 at 10:33 am said:

      Seriously? Think someone has to work on their internal comms…Sorry you had to go through this. It must have been such a frustrating process.

  30. Pingback: Barclaycard Notify Use Abroad | Unsecure Credit Cards

  31. Ian Draper on January 28, 2018 at 2:14 am said:

    I work in PNG and live in Bangkok, and I have had exactly the same experience.

  32. Jamie Willis on February 27, 2018 at 5:35 pm said:

    It’s not just Barclays, it’s all of the High St banks. My debit card is about to run out and I am in Cambodia. The new card will go to my UK address, I’m not there! Can you send it to my bank in Cambodia? No, sorry sir, nat west do not send anything to South East Asia! Why? Security issues. But I want you to send it to a bank? No, sorry sir, nat west..etc…
    I have 3 weeks left to sort this out!

  33. Lucky me! With two other bank accounts combined, still thought to give a try at Barclays when had to travel the Western European countries. Eventhough some security issues were nuts to handle but at the end they were able to clear my overdraft issues.. Hope your feedback really helped Barclays to move along. Cheers..

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