Sunday, May 20, 2007

Not more bloody bank charges!

My problem took a turn for the worst when my department was sold to our sister company. My pay date changed, and with me being busy in union meetings, other meetings and just doing my job, I didn’t get round to changing some of my direct debits.

On pay day, I was trying to buy my monthly travelcard in my local newsagents when the guy said the card had been declined. “What? How, I just got paid today – your machine must be playing up,” I said to him. But he looked at me like I was broke and should just accept it.

Something smelt fishy, anyway, so I rang my bank and hey presto, I’d been landed with about £1K’s worth of bank charges – in one month. After the direct debits that I had moved to the correct date had been paid for, I was about £10 in the black. That’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

In situations like these, I don’t even get that flush of panic that most would, because as far as I was concerned, the bank was going to put every single penny they’d charged me back into my account. I had a mortgage to pay, car insurance, union membership, magazine subscription, bills! And I hadn’t even treated myself yet!

But I’m sure there are loads of you reading this who know how much of a brick wall these so-called customer service officers/advisors/assistants – whatever they want to call themselves – put up when it actually comes to servicing customers. That wall is bigger than the one that divided the former East and West Germany. Hell, it’s taller than that Great Wall of China. While I’m at it, I think the whole “customer service” bit should be taken out of their job titles because that is not what they do. But “customer disservice” or “bank service” would be more appropriate.

Anyway, to cut a long, tear-jerking, can’t-believe-how-stupid/insensitive-these-people-are story short, the bank refunded a miniscule two £38 charges out of the £1K “as a gesture of goodwill” (I hate that term so much it makes my skin prick every time I hear that!). I was lived. “How am I supposed to live this month?” I asked the woman on the line. All she could suggest was putting me through to lending to set up a “repayment plan”. At this point, I had lost the will to live.

In my mind, a repayment plan is what pays back a loan or a mortgage. Why the hell would I want one for paying back automated bank charges?

But what choice did I have? Either have some money to live on that month, or get a pointless repayment plan that swooped £152 out of my monthly wage, and whacked on about £40-50 worth of interest every month because officially, I’m in overdraft! The bastards…

At this point, I’d heard something about a website that helped people get their money back from the banks. And if you’ve read my entry about financialphobia, you’ll know that my student days were something of a financial grave. The guy on GMTV had claimed back £5,000 worth of bank charges. And I was on a warpath with Natwest, so I was ready.

Logged on to, downloaded all the letters I needed and let the games begin!

They tried all their delay tactics, but nothing made me smile more than demanding my money be refunded into my account within 14 days… but that didn’t happen of course.

After a couple of months, they’d sent me an offer letter for £995. I settled with it as I reasoned that it had been my fault in a way for not sorting out my direct debits. But I was not gonna let them keep that money because it costs them about £2.50 to send out a letter to me. So where the other £35.50 9are you with me? £38-£2.50 = £35.50) comes from is beyond me. And that’s been the whole point of this whole bank charges conundrum.

Now, I’ve started telling everyone I know to reclaim bank charges. You can go back up to six years, so get your statements out and start your claim! Think of the holiday you could go on, a new kitchen, alloys for your car, another handbag you don’t need and if you have a shoe problem like me, then another pair of silver stilettos never hurt anyone did it?

I’m on my next bank charges refund assault now. I’ll keep you posted…

Read this for someone else’s story:

Another step-by-step guide to getting bank charges sorted:


Anonymous said...

I must say that the banks are nasty pieces of work (even though I work for one!!). If you don't complain and action your rights, then they get away with your hard -earned money!!

Jonathan said...

£1000 in a day is certainly excessive. Perhaps there should be a daily
cap on the charges. I think a fairer model would be a single £38
charge, and the bank then contacts the customer immediately to notify
them (at least then you are getting a service for the charge). Of
course, should the customer ignore the warning, they will receive
another charge the following day.

Everyone (at least those who have credit balances) already pays for
their own banking in the form of the deposit, which the bank uses to
make investments.

Let's be clear, I'm not talking about "poor" people here, I'm talking
about the moderately well off people who still see the need to empty
their bank accounts every month. I can't understand that mentality -
just because they earn that much a month doesn't mean they have to
spend it. But saving is an alien concept to these people.

I don't know if the charge for the Paypal payment was one of those you
described in your blog. If it wasn't, and that happened in an
"ordinary" month, then, with all due respect, don't you think that
letting your account balance drop below 5p is asking for trouble?

Already we have a nation of people who don't save. People live right
on the line every month, and many get into debt. In later life, those
same people will have their care and benefits paid for by the state,
while those of us who saved for the future see our savings eaten up.
Again, being "poor" or deprived is not the issue. Many of the people
in the first group will have earned as much if not more, it's just
that they were reckless with their spending. There is already too
little incentive for people to behave responsibly with their finances,
so at very least it should be those who go overdrawn who provide the
banks' excessive profits, while the rest of us continue to enjoy
"free" banking.



Joycellyn Akuffo - likes to play with words said...

Hi Jonathan,
The 5p I mention was in a current account. every month I transfer th emoney I want to save into a savings or my ISA for better returns on my money. That way it is out of my main account and I can focus on paying bills etc with that account.

I think we will never agree on your point about people being charged for excesses paying for other people to have a bank account for free, and all the other services to boot. To me, it's plain that those who constantly spend excessively have a deeper problem, which needs to be addressed and they should not have to bear the brunt of this for the rest of the nation.

To me, it's like saying that people who work hard and make a million or a billion should pay for the roof over the heads of those who can;t afford it. Somehow I don't imagine there'll be many millionare/billionares queueing up to do that...