What you need to know about bank overdraft charges

A recent study by Which? concluded that bank overdraft charges are so difficult to understand that they left a maths phD student feeling baffled. Peter Vicary–Smith, the chief executive of Which? said: "It's extremely disappointing to find that bank charges are still too high, too complex and impossible to compare."

So where does that leave ordinary customers? Bank overdraft charges and rules are difficult to understand, and even more difficult to compare.

If you think that you have been unfairly charged for an overdraft, it may still be possible to claim your money back. Follow these steps for the best chance of success:

  1. Work out what you are owed. You can try to claim back excessive charges (i.e. those regarded as penalties rather than charges than reflect actual costs). Look over old bank statements to spot excessive overdraft charges. If you don't have all the documentation, you can write to you bank and ask them to disclose details of any and all charges. Under the Data Protection Act, they must reply within 40 days.
  2. Write to the bank to ask for it back. Follow up with a call to check that it has been received and note the date and who you spoke with.
  3. If you do not have a response in two weeks, write again and make another phone call to chase the matter up.
  4. Consider court action. If you do not get a satisfactory result, consider initiating legal action. Keep in mind that you may be liable for costs for settling the claim.

You may be eligible for a refund of bank overdraft charges if you are in financial hardship. This can include people who can't pay debts, can't pay for necessities, have had a substantial drop in income, are going bankrupt, are continually living off credit, are frequently over the overdraft limit or if bank charges have made your financial situation worse.

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