Problems with your bank
What happens when your bank lets you down?
I can't open an account
Your bank or building society doesn't have any obligation to open a bank account for you. They can choose who their customers are (although they can't discriminate on the grounds of race, sex, disability, religion or sexuality).
My bank have charged me too much on my overdraft
Banks are allowed to set their own charges, which must be set out in the terms and conditions when you joined the bank. They must give you at least 30 days notice if they change the terms and conditions, and tell you 14 days before they take any money out of your account.
However, due to the increase in complaints about over-charging there is currently an investigation into bank charges.
My bank goes out of business
Worrying as it is, and despite the recent financial woes, it's unlikely that a bank will go totally out of business. If a bank becomes unable to operate it will usually be taken over, either by another bank or by the Government.
No matter what, if your bank is registered in the UK, your first £50,000 is protected. However, this is offset against any debts you have with the bank, e.g. if you have a £200 loan and £800 in savings you will receive £600. If your bank is not registered in the UK but is based in the European Economic Area (EEA), you should be able to claim in that country.
Money goes out of my account without my authorisation
If a bank makes a mistake by wrongly removing money from your account then they must refund it and any costs you incurred by not having the money in your account (e.g. if you went overdrawn or you missed a credit card payment).
If someone else takes money out of your account without your permission, or you suspect that they may be able to (such as you lose your debit card), you must tell you bank immediately. As long as you acted reasonably, you won't lose more than £50, although often a bank will ensure you don't lose a penny.
My bank uses money from one account to pay for another account
If you have more than one account with the same bank they are allowed to take money from one account to pay for charges or being overdrawn on another.
Banks are allowed to set their own charges, which must be set out in the terms and conditions when you joined the bank.
However, even if you are overdrawn you do still have the right to choose how any further money paid into your account is used i.e. for paying your mortgage or your rent. This is called the 'first right of appropriation'. So if you are expecting a payment to be made into your account, make sure you write to your bank before the funds arrive instructing them how you wish to spend the money. You will have to do this EACH TIME you expect a deposit.
Extra money is put into my account
Unlike Monopoly, a bank error in your favour doesn't mean you get to keep the cash. The bank has the right to recover the money.
If you've already spent the money, the bank will usually allow you to pay it back in interest-free instalments. In some instances, if you didn't realise the bank had made an error and spent the money in good faith, they might let you keep the money.
However, if you don't return the money you could be taken to court for theft.
Complaining about my bank
If you think your bank has made a mistake, then you have every right to complain. Here's a quick step-by-step guide:
Make sure the complaint is genuine. Your bank isn't at fault if you let someone else take money out of your account (e.g. if you give someone else your card and pin).
Collect written evidence of the problem (statements, letters etc) and arrange a meeting with the person dealing with your account, or a branch manager. Alternatively, put it in writing and send it to your bank.
If you're not satisfied with the response, ask for the bank's complaints procedure and follow that. Banks signed up to the Banking Code shouldn't close your account just because you've complained.
After eight weeks, if you're still not happy you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Finally, you can consider going to court. This can be expensive, and you'll need expert legal advice.
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