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Your Rights As a Banking Customer

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 17 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Consumer Rights Banking Customer Basic

We use our bank accounts every day for paying bills and getting cash. Some people spend time worrying about the amount in our account, but for most of us they're a fact of life and we have a range of direct debits that go out every month and our salaries paid in directly.

Bank Accounts

When you go to open a bank account, you might have no idea what kind of account you need. Ask a staff member - they're there to guide you. There are three main types of bank accounts.

A basic bank account is exactly what it says. It's stripped down. You can have your money, whether wages, pension or benefits, paid into it directly and you can pay in cash and cheques. You can also set up direct debit payments with this type of account. You'll get a cash card to use at ATMs and some will also let you have a debit card you can use in shops. One thing you won't be able to have with a basic account is an overdraft.

A current account is the next step up. It does everything a basic account does, but you'll also get a cheque book, a debit card and you can pay by standing order as well as direct debit. Perhaps the biggest change is that you can have an overdraft, if you arrange it with the bank. Additionally, some current accounts will even pay interest, but it's not going to make you rich - in most cases just pennies a month.

There are also many different kinds of savings account. These all pay interest (which is their real attraction), but different rates and conditions apply. Some require you to keep your money in for a specific term to be able to take advantage of the best rates. With both banks and building societies, you'll only receive your interest after the income tax has been deducted (if you don't make enough to pay tax, fill out a form so you can have it paid without the deduction).

Banks are big business and they exist to make a profit. But they also have to safeguard your money. That's why they're governed by the Banking and Business Banking Codes. These are voluntary, but all banks follow them - after all, they want your business and good practice is one of the ways to get it.

Problems with Banks

If you have a problem with the bank, sit down with the branch manager - they're no longer the scary figures they were a few years ago. If that doesn't help, try writing to the bank and explaining the problem. Your final resort is the Financial Ombudsman Service; they'll tell you if your complaint falls under their remit.

You don't have to be British, or even live in the U.K., to use the service. Initially they'll try and mediate between you and the bank, but if that doesn't resolve the issue, they'll begin an investigation with the ombudsman making the final decision, which is enforceable in court. In most cases any investigation will go on paperwork rather than a hearing.The ombudsman's decision is binding on the bank, but not on you. If you're still unhappy, you can take your complaint to court.

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