BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Saturday, 18 February 2006, 11:52 GMT
Have Your Say: Bank charges

As high street banks prepare to unveil their profits, they are facing increasing criticism from customers and consumer groups over charges.

We asked for your thoughts on bank charges, and whether action be taken to bring them down. This is what you said.

This debate is now closed. Thankyou for your comments.

It amazes me this is still going on. It keeps returning but no progress is made and the banks must look upon our feeble complaints with quiet amusement.

Where is the logic in taking money from people who haven't any?
Graham Thorne, Amersham
The gentleman who moved his money did the right thing, if we all did that every time the banks took our money we would teach them a lesson.

After all, where is the logic in taking money from people who haven't any, usually for a very temporary period. Is this caring for the customers?
Graham Thorne, Amersham

I think the BBA Chief Executive is living in a dream world when he says that these charges are imposed due to "human intervention".

If you go to your bank in person (which i have done several times) I get the reply from the bank staff: "Sorry about this but it's the computer system that sends out these letters automatically and there is nothing we can do."

After pointing out how many years I have been a loyal customer and then checking the account for how much and when money is deposited, they take the charges off the account, which I'm sure ties up more bank staff than the original automated letter does.
Keith Thomas, Cheshire

As a bank manager I would offer the following advice to people wanting to avoid charges:

Ask for help before these huge charges accrue
Irene Mills, bank manager
1. If you haven't got the money please don't write cheques and use your debit card.
2. Cancel standing orders and direct debits and make other arrangements.
3. Keep a record of your payments - only you know your commitments.
4. Remember, the bank staff haven't spent your money - you have.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Ask for help before these huge charges accrue, because if you don't our options are very limited.
Irene Mills, Coulsden

My bank charged us huge fees when our current account went overdrawn for a few days. Nor did they write to tell us.

Throughout those few days our credit balances on other accounts with them exceeded 50,000.

When I saw the charges on our statement and pointed this out, the call centre told us the bank didn't have enough staff to check personal circumstances or to write to us.
John Bridges,

The Bank Action Group launched its free support service and internet forum just over six weeks ago.

From the stories we regularly receive, it is clear there is a systematic oppressive domination of bank customers being practiced on a national scale. People who fall down because of some trifling financial problem are frequently not allowed to pick themselves up and get going again.

There are serious legal issues to be addressed and the banks have so far refused to deal with them
The Bank Action Group
There are serious legal issues to be addressed and the banks have so far refused to deal with them. The authorities such as the OFT and the FSA - who are required by law to investigate precisely this kind of thing - show a reluctance to so.

No-one questions the right of the banks to make money and their right to require that customer accounts are conducted responsibly. However to hold themselves outside the Rule of Law in the way that they currently do is a scandal which can no longer be ignored.
The Bank Action Group

Surely if someone uses more money than they have or are allowed to borrow, why should they complain when they are charged? No-one has to overspend!
Mr Kenneth Law, Exeter

After many years paying up the full amount each month on my credit card I was furious to see they had charged me a 20 fine when I missed one payment because of being on holiday at the time. It struck me as totally unjustified.

I also work for Citizens Advice and have seen how charges of this nature are crippling for those who are on restricted incomes, and how they can drive someone just about managing into a cycle of debt.

I am in full admiration and support of those in the Scotland CAB
David Chapman, Worthing
Many of our clients are not sufficiently confident, forceful and articulate, or have a sense of outrage at these changes to challenge them.

I am in full admiration and support of those in the Scotland CAB who are furthering this campaign and I also think you are doing good work in spreading the message!
David Chapman, Worthing

Banks are definitely harsh when it comes to charges but most of them are just a formality.

If you contact the bank most of them will simply reverse it... once you have got past the horrendously long telephone queue!
Charles W Brown, West Yorkshire

The charges are excessive and bear no relationship to the real costs involved. Any approach I have ever made to any bank, has generally resulted in an unsympathetic response.
Ken Morris, Bristol

It isn't only bank charges. I have challenged my credit card company over a 25 penalty for paying off my card a couple of days late, and my mortgage lender who increased their "Sealing Fee" from 100 to 225 on closing a mortgage. Both backed down without even trying to justify their charges.
Tony Eldridge, Somerset

Don't close your account if you are not happy. Move banks but leave one penny in the bank. That way you will have the satisfaction of costing the bank money to send you a monthly statement, and so on.
Richard Battell, Enfield

Recently, my wife's debit card was cloned and, somehow, the PIN number was also obtained with the result of 700 being taken out of her account.

She never misplaced, lost, or revealed the details to anyone, and the fraud remains a mystery to them and to us.

However, they promptly charged her 90.00 for being overdrawn and she has to wait up to eight weeks to have the stolen money credited to her account.

We are pensioners and we only have our pension to live on.
Peter Chronis, Middlesex

I was astonished by the item on your programme and the complaints about bank charges for those who exceed their overdraft limits.

I thought that taking money without permission... is theft and as such a criminal offence
Derek Haselden, Chepstow
I may be old fashioned but I thought that taking money without permission, as in exceeding an agreed overdraft limit, is theft and as such a criminal offence. And those that do it then have the nerve to complain about the charges the banks impose! The mind boggles.

We all know about the rights of the individual, but what about the associated responsibilities?
Derek Haselden, Chepstow

One account I use for day-to-day spending once went overdrawn by 8p for about 2/3 days whilst a deposit cleared. At the end of that month I was charged 28, which made me overdrawn again (by a pound or two) for which they actually charged me another 28.

After spending the best part of half an hour on the phone I eventually got the charges revoked. 56 in charges just for being a few pennies overdrawn - pathetic, absolutely pathetic!
Al Smith, Cardiff

My bank deducted 28 from my account for being 2 overdrawn for one day last August. They buried the charge under "maintenance charges" in the weekly statement.

I wrote to them pointing out how disproportionate and irrational this charge was, and closed the account. Their curt reply was to thank me for the feedback, but they would not refund the amount.

There seems to be a real problem with regulation here. These huge organisations are allowed to do what they want.
Dave Wilson, Glasgow

I know it's been said before, but banks and building societies. are not charities, they're in to make money. Folk who cannot manage their accounts efficiently have an alternative, they can keep their money in a shoe box under the bed!
Chris Jones, Harrow

My foster daughter, who is 20, has with a one-year-old child and is living on Income Support, was charged almost 90 for going overdrawn by 3.00.

How are these families ever to get out of their financial hell?
Kate, Dorchester
She had even taken the 3 in cash and paid it into the account but as her credit card took the money out a few days later than usual, the 3 was swallowed up by something else.

How are these families ever to get out of their financial hell when the banks are allowed to do this?
Kate, Dorchester

I currently have an ongoing complaint with my bank, which I have taken to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which tells me that due to the large volume of complaints against financial institutions it is unable to allocate the complaint to an adjudicator.

Clearly, there are many dissatisfied customers making use of the service. I urge all Money Box listeners to use the ombudsman if your bank refuses to listen to you.
David Sandall, Birmingham

I'm an international student in Birmingham. I find the charges are ridiculously high. I was charged 40 because there was not enough money in my current account.

I did not notice it because usually they take money out of my savings account.

For students like myself, we really cannot afford such high fees.
Myrna Xie, Birmingham

I have an income of 105.27 per week Incapacity Benefit. I am receiving treatment for depression.

I have had charges imposed today of 200 for going 33.07 over my overdraft limit.

I am now 127.62 over my limit and my benefit won't clear that, so more charges will be imposed
David, Birmingham
I asked my bank for the charges to be waived, giving contact details of my NHS therapist. But I had no response.

I am now 127.62 over my limit and my benefit won't clear that, so more charges will be imposed. I'm going to file a claim.
David, Birmingham

I was charged 180 for going 14 overdrawn. This was three small debit card transactions. I was overdrawn for 10 days and had more than 1000 in my savings account.

I e-mailed the managing director and had the full amount refunded.
Iain Baxter, Sheffield

When I exceeded my agreed overdraft by 18 when paying an Inland Revenue bill last July, I was charged 30 and had the cheque returned.

I queried this, as the following day my wages had been paid in as they had been for the last 10 years!

I was told that nothing could be done as the whole system was automatic and there was no human intervention.
Judy Byrom, Grantham

If a human checks all transactions that take the customer overdrawn, why did no one question two cheques from a cheque book stolen from the post which would have taken my account several thousand pounds past my overdraft limit if I had not noticed it in time? The signatures were nothing like mine!
Jane Lessells, London

I used a cash machine which couldn't give me a balance. Thinking I still had 10 left of my overdraft I withdrew it.

On my next statement I found that I had not had 10 and it had taken me over my overdraft limit, subsequently I was charged 30.

If I have an agreed overdraft limit, why do the banks allow me to go over, if not a cynical ploy to extract more money?
Andy, Bristol

I had a 30 fine which turned out to be the bank's fault (they hadn't emptied my deposit in the ATM).

I suggested I should fine them 30 for making a mistake
Meeko, Wantage
I suggested I should fine them 30 for making a mistake but they just laughed at me.

It resulted in my mobile phone being cut off as my direct debit to them was not paid due to the mistake.
Meeko, Wantage

We have had a building society account for over 20 years. We've gone overdrawn numerous times in that period, and all we are ever charged is the interest on the amount overdrawn for the number of days concerned - usually under 1. I think the most we've ever been charged was about 1.50.
Liz, Leigh-on-sea

I spent 32 years in the banking industry. In that time systems were automated to handle the increasing volumes.

Any payment that exceeds a limit is printed on a "refer'" list and has to be investigated manually, the item found in the thousands handled by each branch.

A manager will then look at the run of the account by looking at past transactions before deciding to pay or return. This is the same for a cheque for 5 or 5,000.

The best way would be to use the US system: it's a criminal offence to issue a cheque or payment authority without having funds available. Americans are very careful about their accounts!
Brian Gibbs, Croydon

Investment in IT systems has reduced costs dramatically and has - in high street banks - reduced staff numbers.

As someone who worked for BACS some years ago and has intimate knowledge of what the banks are doing to reduce their internal costs, I find it unbelievable that a senior banker can sit there and tell us that the charges they make are realistic.

The charges are ridiculously high and bear no relationship to the real costs involved
David Quarterman, Cirencester
We all know that our bank managers now have no authority or responsibility in determining what happens: they admit this to us when we ask for more than the standard service - 'Sorry, it's all governed by the computer systems now'.

The charges are ridiculously high and bear no relationship to the real costs involved. If they did, bank profits would be a lot lower than they are!
David Quarterman, Cirencester

Last year my daughter, a penniless graduate, fell foul of the "going over the agreed overdraft just before getting paid" trap.

Over a three month period she was overdrawn, and passed the agreed limited to the sum of 500, of which a staggering 550 were charges.

I pitched in threatening to remove my own mortgage, home insurance, savings, and shares all to no avail. So I carried out my threat.
Ray, Sutton, Surrey

I find that the charges are very high. I have been charged 30 for exceeding my limit by 1.48.

In one month, they charged me 120, and my fortnightly incapacity benefit is around 122.

It seems that the banks always hits the poorest hardest
Jan Cantle, Isleworth
I did write to them, and they said they could not do anything in the way of a refund. I will be writing back with the letter mentioned on your programme.

It seems that the banks always hits the poorest hardest.
Jan Cantle, Isleworth

My partner and I accrued a massive 298 charges from our bank over a period of 18 days.

This was due to an oversight, and having an online account we were not made aware because of problems with our computer.

Following complaint from me they graciously reduced the extortionate charge to 208
Mr Robert Rice, Newport
A small number of our cheques were submitted and each attracted a charge of 30 and an online letter cost of 28.

Following complaint from me they graciously reduced the extortionate charge to 208.

I was informed they intended to raise their charges even more.

We also had a deposit account with several hundred pounds in it. We have now closed both accounts but any excuse to attack this I am pleased to oblige.
Mr Robert Rice, Newport, Isle of Wight

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.

Money Box



Download or subscribe to this programme's podcast

Podcast Help

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific