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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Have your say: Credit card clampdown
A man holding a credit card
Late charges "need to be reduced", OFT has said recently

Credit card companies have been tightening up on their deals, as they make more provision for bad debt.

Customers who fall foul of the small print could find they face a bill for hundreds of pounds.

We asked if you have been caught by a late payment charge or a change in terms and conditions, and if you think it fair that a cardholder can lose their 0% deal if they miss a payment.

This debate has now closed. A selection of your views are below.

I set up direct debits to pay my 0% credit cards. It is simple, all that is involved is signing an extra form.

Once the direct debit has been set up, you can never be charged late payment fees as long as the transactions go through.

No more effort checking whether you have received the statement, or making the payment before the deadline each month.

I am surprised that so many people still try to remember everything themselves when there is a system which does it all for you.
Andy Yu, Cambridge

I had a 0% balance transfer and got caught by the late payment hit too.

I had arranged on the 26 June, using the website, to change payments to direct debit.

Playing the balance transfer game is usually worth it, but you have to read all the small print and stay very alert!
Michael, Solihull
I naively assumed that this would take care of payments due on 28 July and later. WRONG. They took nearly six weeks to process the request!

So, I got hit with a 25 fee and a month's interest payment on 10,000.

On complaining, they reduced the interest rate to 6.9% but that was it.

Playing the balance transfer game is usually worth it, but you have to read all the small print and stay very alert!
Michael, Solihull

You can't blame the credit card companies for everything. They are not being underhand in their charges. Remember, there is no such thing as free credit. A 0% interest rate has to be paid for somewhere.

If you can't be responsible for your own credit card use, pay your cards off with a bank loan and then cut them up!
Patrick Cartney, Hemel Hempstead

I took out a credit card. The first statement appeared with a 15 late payment penalty on it. I rang them and there was no problem about taking off the 15, but I had to find two month's worth of payments at short notice.

This month the statement has come in with the payment and the 15 credited back on and a 5p interest charge. Obviously the computer thought that the 15 was a purchase!

I don't know if I should contact them again to prevent this interest being an ongoing and growing problem, or if I should leave well alone.
A. E. Thorpe

I'm often amazed when reading about how some people regard credit cards in the UK.

There is no such thing as free credit. The companies are commercial companies. If they can't make money on the (introductory) interest rates, they will make it another way.

In the Netherlands we pay a yearly charge for using the card, but you always get a warning first before they can fine you.

The fact that it takes four days - or more - to clear payments is ridiculous
Sander, Netherlands
Often a monthly direct debit to the full amount is mandatory as well, which does protect you from yourself.

That being said, the fact that it takes four days - or more - to clear payments is ridiculous.

Nowadays, it cannot be that hard for banks to transfer money, it's all electronic anyway.

Over here, it takes one day between current accounts. Between current and savings account from the same bank is usually immediate if you using internet banking.

Hey, it only takes one to two days to transfer money from my German to my Dutch bank account. The euro does have its advantages! And if our banks can do it, so can yours.
Sander, Netherlands

At last the credit companies are coming to their senses and are realising they are not going to get the money back that they have lent out.

Youngsters just think credit cards are like leaves on a tree: when it dies, just pick another one!
Mr Alexander

I pay my balance off in full each month by direct debit, that way I don't need to worry.

At the beginning of August we were in the process of moving house and I happened to check my bank balance.

I discovered that the money hadn't gone out. When I phoned the credit card company they said that they had accidentally stopped my direct debit and I would need to pay the balance and set up a new direct debit.

I paid the balance on the phone and was told not to use the card for three days as the account was in arrears.

I had been charged 18 for their mistake
Liz Taylor, Bristol

Once I had the internet set up I checked my credit card and noticed that I had been charged 18 for their mistake!

Once again, I was on hold, wasting my time. They refunded the fee, but with no official apology or compensation for the stress I have gone through.

As a result, I will be leaving them and my bank, as they are the same company.
Liz Taylor, Bristol

What a bunch of whingers! I have no great love for the banks but believe a contract should be honoured.

You sign a contract with them when you take out a credit card. Part of that contract is that you agree you'll be charged if you miss a payment, and that you confirm that you've read all the small print.

It is best to avoid missing a payment by paying at least the minimum by direct debit. After all, if the payment is late then, it's their fault, not yours, and they can't charge you!
Eamonn, Isle of Wight

It's not only fines for late payment, but for going over your limit. I've been charged 20 for going over my limit.

Surely it's the fault of my credit card company for allowing the transaction to proceed in the first place?
Angus, Lincoln

I grow quite weary of the tales of the supposedly "hard done by" found on your website. Most of these tales - like the story on Money Box itself - relate to people who simply didn't bother to make payments on time.

Credit card companies are not a charity, they are a business
Alan Line, London
The woman on Money Box who transferred 13,000 to a new credit card to take advantage of 0% interest knew full well - just like the rest of us - that she needed to make monthly payments.

She should have had the sense to check up if she didn't receive a statement.

Credit card companies are not a charity. They are a business. You know roughly when you should make a payment and should ensure that you do!
Alan Line, London

I use one of cards exclusively overseas as it doesn't make a foreign exchange charge.

Whilst I can pay a bill in New York and it goes straight onto my account, paying the account itself is a different matter.

I usually draw cash and pay it into a bank branch. Does that pay off the bill? No it doesn't.

Believe it or not they draw a cheque which they then send on to their credit card handler. So even though I give a bank cash they still say it takes seven days to hit my account, and I've been charged for making a late payment!
John Trayner, St Ives

I cancelled my credit card after over 20 years of loyalty due to a change in its terms and conditions, in such a way that I feel it is now no better than a cheap rip-off card!

I cancelled my card immediately, but was surprised at how readily they accepted the cancellation
David Newhouse, Southampton
Why? Each month I pay the card off in full. Last month I underpaid by 20 on a monthly payment of 500 by mistake and ended up being charged the full amount of interest on the total amount instead of the outstanding amount.

I was so angry at this cheap trick from a company I had thought to be "on my side". Who needs enemies? I cancelled my card immediately, but was surprised at how readily they accepted the cancellation.

Maybe they can afford to lose my custom, or perhaps I'm just a number to them after all.
David Newhouse, Southampton

I have just had a 20 late payment charge levied in respect of an unpaid credit card balance of 94 pence!

I rang my card company which refused to withdraw the charge as it had previously withdrawn another late payment charge when I asked it to.
Tamala McGee, London

I have a card with 0% interest on balance transfers on which I transferred 2,000. I also set up a direct debit so the minimum balance was collected each month by my bank.

Recently, I switched my current account and used the new bank's account transfer service. It undertook to take over all existing direct debit instructions and notify all organisations with whom I had set up direct debits.

Make sure you do not get stung by hidden charges in the small print
Praveen Thank, Solihull
However, my card company failed to register the new details and started to charge me 25 in returned payment fees plus 25 late payment fees and interest.

I complained. After two months, it agreed to refund all charges and interest and has agreed to put back my 0% rate.

I am aware the 0% applies to balance transfers, not purchases, so I have not used this card to purchase any goods or services.

My advice is: read all small prints and yes, take advantage of free credit but make sure you do not get stung by hidden charges in the small print!
Praveen Thank, Solihull

My card company suggests you send in your payment five days before the payment date. I've been charged in the past even though my payment arrived before the due date, but within the five days before. It leaves you wondering what is the payment date!
Geoff Carr, London

My card company took ages to set up the account, and then when it did, it gave me a credit limit of 475 which, given I wanted to transfer around 5,000 from another card coming to the end of its 0% period, was worse than useless.

I'll just pay the card off from my savings
Robert Dibley, Stroud
It claimed it was because I had so much "available credit", because I still have some cards from previous 0% deals which I haven't yet closed down.

So I'm cancelling all those cards, and the first one? I'll just pay the card off from my savings.

Luckily I still had a couple of weeks left to pay off the other card before it starts charging me interest.
Robert Dibley, Stroud

I applied online for a card to take advantage of the 0% balance transfer. The following day, I heard the company was charging 2%, to a maximum fee of 50, to transfer funds.

I looked again on the website and found the small print of terms and conditions where the charges were detailed.

You really have to be on the ball when dealing with these companies
Penny Keeble, Bakewell
At no time during my application was my attention brought to the possible cost of transferring.

I immediately applied to a different company, having first checked on the phone that there were no charges, and completed the form.

You really have to be on the ball when dealing with these companies.
Penny Keeble, Bakewell

I won't be the only one to report that I have been fined 20 for a payment that arrived one day late.

I pay my credit card bills monthly via internet banking, and earlier this week received the standard threatening letter announcing the late payment charge and demanding a further payment by a given date.

I was told that failure to comply would result in cancellation of my card.

I have been a customer without fault for over 40 years!

On receiving the demand I immediately checked my bank account and noted that the payment had been deducted from my account some three days before the payment due date.

They sat on it for four days before making an immediate electronic transfer
Douglas Robertson, Weybridge
I called the company, to be told that the payment had arrived one day late, and that if I wanted to dispute it I should take up the matter with my bank.

I called my bank, to be told that it still took four working days to make the payment. They sat on it for four days before making an immediate electronic transfer!

I don't call this service from either my bank or my card company, who on receiving the payment just one day late, should surely not impose a punitive 20 penalty?
Douglas Robertson, Weybridge

I missed a credit card payment and was fined 25. I couldn't believe it.

I didn't receive the statement in the post. I'd been away and just didn't think of checking.

I've had a card for several years, I've usually paid in full and feel that the fine is unreasonable. I feel it is mean to an old customer.

I was tempted to cancel the card but probably won't, and will probably arrange to pay the minimum by direct debit as you suggest.
Lesley Saltmarsh, London

We were away for over a month this summer.

Our credit card balance is always fully cleared each month. It was paid in full before we went away on 5 July.

We rang the company but it was unsympathetic
Phil and Jenny Morris, Cambridge
When we returned we paid the bill for June/July in full online, 93.37 on 10 August, which was the due date for payment.

In August, we were surprised to be charged 25 for late payment because one it takes four working days for the payment to clear.

This is unreasonable. We rang the company but it was unsympathetic.

Is there no justice? We do not really want a credit card but have no choice. It's the currency of the day.

We intend to change cards.
Phil and Jenny Morris, Cambridge

I am having serious financial difficulties at the moment like many people in this country.

I would like to see a cap put on the amount that credit card companies can charge, perhaps a proportion of the minimum payment, not about five times as much.

If you were not up against it, you would pay. But last month I could not pay, so this month I thought it would be about 80, but when I opened my statement it was 108!

The Banking Code is the biggest load of rubbish I have ever seen
Lesley, Cardiff
These companies are forcing people into debt, and rubbing their hands together when they do it.

In the old days they protected their customers. Maybe they would not let you have money easily, but they played fair with you.

I look forward to the day when I can pay in my money in the morning and it will reach its destination by the afternoon, instead of taking four days.

What is the matter with this country, that the authorities cannot get their act together, and stop this?

The Banking Code is the biggest load of rubbish I have ever seen.
Lesley, Cardiff

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

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