When BCIT student Sheldon Irving attempted to buy a snack after class earlier this month, he was surprised that his credit card was declined.

The reason, Irving said, was because he'd been charged twice for three Royal Bank of Canada Visa cheques that he had written for various bills. Now he was over his credit card limit.

Visa cheques look like ordinary cheques, but they are treated as cash advances on a credit card. They are applied to the account holder's monthly credit card bill, and interest is charged as soon as they are cashed. 

Bank disbelieving, says student

In the span of two weeks, Irving, 37, of Surrey, said he was charged an extra $607 for cheques that he had written for his rent, a BC Hydro bill, and a line of credit.

When he first called the bank, a woman who answered the phone didn't believe him. 

"The lady was trying to accuse me of writing the cheques twice," said Irving. 

"They assured me that there's a system that prevents duplicate cheques from coming off the system, but on my statement I can clearly see that the cheque number is coming up twice for each cheque," he said. 

RBC has since said that a technical processing issue causing duplicate charges may have affected a "small group of clients who use credit card cheques."

Those who were overcharged will be reimbursed, the bank said. 

But Irving said he has still not been reimbursed for all the duplicate charges applied to his account. 

Irving said RBC told him he would have to dispute the charges and it would take about five business days to determine what was happening.

"I'll have to wait five days, or five business days for them to fix something simple, that just seems crazy to me," said Irving. 

Bank finds technical issue

The bank said it regrets the inconvenience to Irving, and it has issued a credit to his account for the duplicate transactions while it looks into the matter.

RBC spokesperson A.J. Goodman says any client who was overcharged will be reimbursed.

"The issue has been identified and we are working to resolve it.  All incorrect transactions will be reversed and any charges incurred as a result of the error will be remediated," said Goodman.

Irving said he has now received credits for two of the duplicate charges, but not the third. In the meantime, he had to get an emergency loan from BCIT.

"You're at their mercy," said Irving. "All it takes is one screw up and suddenly your life's affected."

The bank did refund a $29 fee it charged Irving for going over his credit limit.

He said this experience has taught him not to rely on his credit card and Visa cheques.

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