How to reclaim unfair bank charges

Money Advice Service

If you have incurred excessive overdraft charges or other bank fees, you could try to reclaim them or come to an arrangement with your bank, especially if you’re in financial hardship. Start by talking directly to your bank. If that doesn’t work, you might be able to get free help.

Is it worth trying to reclaim unfair overdraft charges?

Yes. It takes a bit of effort, but remember:

  • You’ve got nothing to lose. Except, perhaps, some time calling or writing letters.
  • It won’t cost you anything. If you have got a case it will be investigated for free.
  • Your bank won’t penalise you. You won’t be treated differently for complaining.

Who can reclaim charges?

Anyone can write or speak to their bank and ask for a refund. Some banks might even write off charges as a gesture of goodwill to a valued customer.

A Supreme Court ruling in 2009 made it more difficult to reclaim charges, but it is still still possible, especially if you’re struggling.

If your bank refuses, you can always ask the Financial Ombudsman Service to investigate (for free).

They can help if:

  • You’re in real financial hardship. For example, if you’re struggling to buy necessities and pay bills, or you’ve lost your job.
  • The charges are unfair compared to what you did. For example, if you went overdrawn £1 and were charged £35.
  • You’re stuck in a spiral of charges. This might happen if the charges keep putting you into the red, and the overdraft keeps costing you more in charges.

How to claim back bank charges

Money Saving Expert step-by-step guide

We think Money Saving Expert has the best guide on how to reclaim unfair overdraft charges and bank fees.

Their guide will help you:

  • Decide whether to complain
  • Work out how much you might get
  • Complain to your bank
  • Write good complaint letters, with sample letters and templates
  • Take your case to the Financial Ombudsman if your bank won’t help
Everything you need to know is in their step-by-step reclaiming guide.

Avoid using claims management companies

Avoid using a claims management company. They’ll charge you to manage your case, but you can get the same help for free.

Most online search results about reclaiming bank charges are from claims management companies trying to get money out of you. And, because the rules changed in 2009, the web is riddled with wrong information about reclaiming bank charges.

These companies will charge you to reclaim money – you can do it yourself using the guide above and avoid paying them a portion of any refund.

Why were you charged in the first place?

It’s no fun getting overdraft charges, but before you complain, ask yourself why you were charged.

  • Did you read the small print? Make sure you understand what you can be charged for. For example, you might be fined for going overdrawn by a small amount, for a short length of time.
  • Are you struggling with debt? If so, many organisations can help with free, confidential advice.
  • Could you manage your money better?
Learn how to take control in our Beginner’s guide to managing money.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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