Bamboo’s Guide: How to reclaim bank charges

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Sometimes, when you’re charged with fees from your bank – for going over your limit, or using your overdraft, for example – knowing how to reclaim bank charges can make the difference between paying the fine and getting your money back.

Is it even worth trying to reclaim my bank charges?

The short answer? Yes. Absolutely. Like many things, the hardest part about trying to reclaim bank charges is getting up the confidence to ask the bank – after that, the bank will handle everything for you. The key to not getting nervous is to remember – the worst that they can do is say no.

And if they say no, you’ve not lost a thing. Your bank can’t hold it against you or treat you differently because you asked. (In technical terms, it doesn’t affect your consumer rights.)
Plus, if your bank decides that you have a case (perhaps the charge was incorrect, unfair or disproportionate) – they’ll investigate it on your behalf for free.

Who can reclaim bank charges?

Again, we’ll give you a short answer – anyone. (Well, if you’ve had bank charges, of course.)

How do I reclaim bank charges?

If you’ve got a bit of spare time to write a letter to your bank, or pick up the phone and call, then you can try to reclaim bank charges.
(The Money Saving Expert has a great guide on this – including a number of template letters to send to your bank to reclaim bank charges – which is well worth checking out.)

Alternatively, if you think that the charges you’ve received from your bank are unfair – and fit quite strict criteria – then you could approach the free Financial Ombudsman Service to investigate your claim on your behalf. Since 2009, a Supreme Court ruling has made it more difficult to reclaim bank fees, so the Financial Ombudsman Service have started acting on behalf of those who have had unfair bank charges.

How do I qualify for the Financial Ombudsman to reclaim my bank charges?

As we mentioned, the Financial Ombudsman Service is happy to investigate bank charges and to arrange for repayment and/or compensation on your behalf, but only if you fall into one (or more) of the following criteria:

You’re in financial hardship. If you’re struggling to buy necessities, pay the bills or just generally struggling to make ends meet (and are having to make quite a few sacrifices) – then you probably qualify for this service. (If you’ve recently lost your job, that would make you eligible too.)

The charges are disproportionate.  As a quick example, if you’ve been charged £30 for going into your overdraft by a few quid, then the charges could be seen as disproportionate and you could be eligible for a refund.

You’re stuck in a spiral of charges. This one is a little less cut-and-dry, but if the Ombudsman believes that these fines and charges are preventing you from making a financial recovery – for instance, if you’re constantly spending a lot of your income on fines – then you’re eligible for them to investigate your complaint, and may be eligible for a refund and/or damages.

I’ve heard of companies that manage my claim on my behalf, are these a good idea?

Since 2009, when the new laws came in to give the banks more control over refunds, there has been an increase in the number of companies looking to use your claims to make money. And whilst some of these are legitimate and will get you compensation, you do have to be careful. Some of these companies are not 100% above-board, while others will take a big chunk of your money for doing the things that you could do yourself anyway. (Just sending a few letters, for example.)

The Financial Ombudsman Service – or giving your bank a call – are the best ways of trying to get your money back. Plus, if you do get a refund, you don’t have to part with a sizeable chunk of it straight away. Result.

If you’ve had bank charges or fees that you think you can reclaim from the bank, don’t hesitate to get in contact with the bank (via phone, letter or the Financial Ombudsman).

In the meantime, if you’re looking for ways of getting out of your overdraft, check out our Frugal Living page for tips on how to save money and cut back on your expenses. 

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