A Guide to Reclaiming UK British Bank Charges

Well, I’ve decided to join the growing throng of folk trying to claim back bank charges in the UK. So read on, in this and subsequent posts, how to do it yourself & how I’m doing …

For the uninitiated, British bank & building societies have been hammering their customers for so long, there’s a fight-back brewing. The last 12 months have seen a spate of claims, resulting in over 10 Million being refunded through one consumer group alone!

The average claim amounts to around 973, which I’m sure you will agree is well worth having?

The story behind all this is that in UK law, a charge’ cannot also be a penalty’, i.e. if the bank charge you for going over-drawn, then the amount they claim off you has to be on a similar scale as well as being fair & reasonable. Clearly, the admin cost to the bank of returning a direct debit (approx. 4) should not then result in the bank claiming an average of 30+, as well as interest and possibly an unpaid overdraft fee.

Banks are in a fortunate position in that they are the only body that can actually take money off you that you don’t have, and then take even more off you for the pleasure. Suppose you buy something that takes you overdrawn, even a weekly shop of 20 say. That amount you spend may send you over an agreed overdraft, and the bank would levy a charge accordingly. However, if you are overdrawn when they raise their charge, it will send you further overdrawn and on a further downward spiral – double jeopardy time! Any other company seeking recompense would not be able to claim any money off you if it wasn’t there, but banks do .

So, what can be done about it? Given the general trend for debt rather than savings, it’s highly likely most folk have encountered bank charges in some shape or other. If you haven’t, and banked cleanly and by the rules, sadly there’s nothing for you apart from a gold star & apple from the bank manager. To add insult to injury, those that banked (arguably) badly, will possibly be able to cash in on their financial mismanagement – bummer, hey?

Right, how do we do it I hear you say? Patience – everything comes to he who waits – and I’ll try and give you an abstract.

Firstly, are you eligible?
YES – providing you have had any of the following bank charges :-

1. returned cheques
2. returned direct debits/standing orders
3. unpaid items or bills
4. unauthorized overdraft fees
5. interest charges – when exceeding an agreed overdraft

How much can I claim?
EVERYTHING – as long back as six years.

Can I claim interest?
YES – to a degree; you can claim interest above the sum of the charges, but only in certain cases. You need to calculate individual interest amounts for each instance you were overdrawn, but more of this in a later post (or check the external links). If the case goes to court, you can also levy for statutory interest at 8% as well, but NOT if you manage to agree refund prior to court.

How can so many people claim, and what are the implications? basically, banks have been using unfair & excessive charging as a revenue stream; when you do the maths, it’s frankly quite scary. There’s been such a groundswell of customers claiming back, it’s clearly going to impact on the bank’s financial planning in the near future, as common sense decrees if they pay out they will attempt to recoup their losses in the future. In all likelihood, they will gradually increase higher standard charges & possibly sound the death knell for free banking, but there remains one certainty


The banks aren’t going to give your money back without you asking for it, and the longer you wait, the more people will get in front of you. I bank with Nationwide primarily, not one of the the big four’, and they had 16,000+ initial contacts in their in tray this week alone.

Should I use one of these bank charges reclaim’ companies?
By all means, if you don’t want the hassle, feel free to contact one of the many companies’ you may have seen advertising. However, these may offer no win, no fee’ services, but charge between 10-25% of the reclaimed sum. If you do it yourself, it will only cost you a small sum (10 initially, then any court fees (on average around 80), all of which you can reclaim if successful.

What are my chances of success?
Given that there has only been one case of a bank successfully defending a claim, it’s virtually certain that if you have been charged unfairly, you are entitled to a full refund.

This post is only to cover the background for now, later posts will go into further detail, as well as providing external resources to help you should you wish to claim (and you should!)