How I reclaimed £300 in bank fees (and you can too)

overdraft fees

One day I logged into my online banking and noticed something weird: a £130 overdraft fee. I called my bank.

"Yes," the operator said, speaking very slowly, "you were overdrawn a couple of months ago. Just like the few months before."

Looking back at my statements with rising panic I realised that in total I had been charged about £300 in total. The money had been going straight out on payday, like a tax on idiocy, and, like an idiot, I hadn't noticed.

It shouldn't happen to a personal finance writer.

In fact, it's so embarrassing that I don't think I'd be telling anyone if it weren't for the fact that I managed to get the whole lot back a few days later.

Here's what I learnt along the way, plus some tips from experts I've spoken to since.

Before you read on

Before that, though, I think it's important to note that I was really very lucky to get back my overdraft fees in full.

Frankly, I didn't think it would be possible.

Since court action in 2008-9 ruled that overdraft fees were fair, banks are free to decide whether they should offer a refund in most cases.

For obvious reasons, their judgement usually points them towards the outcome in which they get to keep their money.

Many claims are rejected or only refunded in part. There are no guarantees and no sure fire way to get your money back.

On that basis, I thought that trying to reclaim might be a waste of time. Happily, I was dead wrong: it is possible and that means it's worth trying.

Taming reclaiming

Get the facts straight

Finding proof
Can't see fees online?
Call or write to ask for
a list of transactions,
you're entitled to them.

First, it helps to get the facts of your claim straight.

As you might have gathered, in my first conversation with the bank I didn't even know basics like how much they'd taken off me.

When I'd had a chance to sit down, go through my online banking and write down what I'd been charged, when and for what I had a much better handle on the important part of the claim: why I should get it back.

Excuse yourself

You need to give the bank some reasons why they should refund you. Here are a few examples.

Bank at fault

Did the bank act improperly, effectively causing the fees they're charging you?

For example, a standing order that you asked to be cancelled might take you into an overdraft.

Or the bank could have simply made a mistake: charging an unauthorised overdraft fee even though they previously gave an agreed overdraft.

Refunds are still at the discretion of the bank since current account terms and conditions state that they are perfectly entitled to, for example, allow the account to go into overdraft when a cheque is returned unpaid but the bank being somewhat in the wrong helps to strengthen a claim.

It can be especially useful if the claim is rejected and needs to be taken to the Ombudsman.

However, in most cases the bank isn't at fault.

That doesn't mean they can't be sympathetic but, again, you need to give them a reason to be.

Struggling with money

no money
In financial difficulty? Say so.

If you're struggling with money, say so.

Under banking regulations, financial providers must take this into account when assessing your claim.

The Lending Code, for example, states that they should "act sympathetically and positively when considering a customer's financial difficulties."

Any evidence you can supply - proof of essential rent, bills or debt repayments, for example - will help your claim. If your bank can see them leaving the account, all the better.

Be upfront if you're having a hard time, it's worth telling the bank about any distress your current financial situation, and particularly the charges themselves, has caused.

Unreasonable fees

Although banks went to court to argue that a fee of, say, £35 for a £15 direct debit is reasonable and won, they are still amenable to arguments that the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

If you were hit with fees far in excess of the amount you were overdrawn, point that discrepancy out.

If you were charged an unpaid item fee even though the account was only in overdraft for a couple of days, mention it.

Unexpected fees

This is another reasonableness argument that works for any amount of fees.

If you're a long term customer and have always managed the account well in the past, you cannot have reasonably expected to be hit by charges.

It's also worth noting any reason for not correcting a problem that recurred several times in the first instance.

In my case, for example, the bank had sent warnings that I was accruing fees but I'd moved house without informing them and I never got them.

Now that is a pretty lame excuse - it's not the bank's fault I didn't change my address - but they did take it into account.

Be persistent

Finally, when it comes to bank charges persistence pays.

For one thing, ordinary customer service representatives generally have limited power to offer refunds other than token goodwill payments.

For a claim to be assessed in full it needs to go the bank's complaints department.

be persistent, stay calm
Be persistent, but keep calm.

You can ask to file a complaint on the phone and this can be a good option because the representatives know the system and can enter the complaint using terms easily understood by other employees.

If it's a second complaint or the claim is particularly complex, it's often worth putting everything in writing using secure email, if that's a service your bank offers, or by post.

Keep complaints in writing clear and to the point. It often helps to go through what happened step by step.


As I noted above, many reclaim cases end in partial refunds.

That means that many cases require an element of negotiation and compromise.

If you feel their offer of redress is really too low politely but firmly restate why you think a larger settlement is fairer but remember that, in the end, it's a decision in their hands.

If you're asking for a refund on the basis that you're in financial hardship it's likely that your bank will put you in touch with a specialist money management team that can help you juggle commitments.

Banks will sometimes offer this help rather than a refund in order to fulfil their commitment to helping customers in financial hardship.

However, there's nothing stopping you from pursuing your complaint even after seeking this extra help.

Going to the Ombudsman

Persistence can even endure rejection from your bank.

If a claim is rejected or you find it inadequate or you have gone eight weeks from the complaint without reaching a resolution you have the right to take it to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Find out more on the FOS site.

Won't be doing that again...

Of course, the ideal is never to pay these fees in the first place.

No, I do need an arranged overdraft

Unarranged overdraft fees are now so ridiculously high, and reclaiming them so perilous, that it really is worth making an extra effort to arrange an overdraft, even if you don't think you'll need it.

To use my own case as an example yet again, my bank had twice refused to give me an arranged overdraft. If they had, I would have been charged about £60 in fees, not £300.

There was no good reason for them not to do it, I tutted after my rejections. But I should have moaned to my bank or moved my main account instead of tutting to myself.

Find more information on reducing overdraft costs here.

Read this news story to see what banks are doing to help prevent customers going overdrawn.


30 May 2016

Can anyone help the bank each month are getting me overdrawn and then charging me for it I don't go over my limit then they take charges then because they've taken me over my limit there then charging me for it can they do that when they are the ones that are causibg me to get overdrawn in the first place?

4 November 2015

I had this problem, luckily Santander agreed to refund me straight away with no issues at all. Reading these comments I guess I'm incredibly lucky.

26 November 2014

The bank took four working days to withdraw a direct debit from my account. Before I made any withdrawal or payment I asked my bank if there where any pending payments and they told me NO the next day my account became overdrawn. The bank are able to see any pending payment a day before it is due to leave your account I was told so I would become overdrawn. I did the right thing I asked but I was lied too!!

14 November 2014

Hi, I had/have a Lloyds account that I didn't close (stupidly) when I left the UK to move to New Zealand. Well, I've just found out that over the last year it was open accrued account fees that put it into overdraft to the amount of £200. Lloyds have now turned it over to a debt collector. Do you think they would be more apt to cancel the debt because of it being only fees and not money I've spent, I'm overseas, and it's not a huge amount?? I'd like to get it taken care of rather than just not paying.

29 March 2015

Hey! I am in the exact same situation! It's so unfair! Did it settle on it's own? Did you end up paying or finally didn't bother? thanks.

29 October 2014

My bank originally charged me £22 each week I was overdrawn, so I found myself getting charged £88 per month. Now my bank is charging me £5.00 for being overdrawn. They never sent me a letter advising they were doing this. Will I be able to reclaim money back when they were charging me £22?

7 October 2014
Jeremy Williams

I was £0.30 overdrawn with Santander. It's a regular current account for which I don't pay anything as long as I deposit £1000 per month. While abroad I used my debit card and went 30p over my balance. The bank then charged me £5.00 per day. I only realised what was happening after returning a week later. I was charged £125 in total for interest and the unarranged overdraft. I thought that was the end of it. I stopped using the account because I had felt it was an unjust fee to be paying but then had a letter months later threatening court action if I didn't settle up the remaining £485 in outstanding interest charges. Is this fair?

17 September 2014

My bank has charged me £55 for an overdraft, but I'm not sure why? Usually they send me a letter with all my recent transactions on the 25th of every month and charge me the fees then, but it is the 17th today and I have had no notice that I was going to be charged. I have only been overdrawn this month by £0.64, but last month (on the 15th) I was overdrawn by £37 due to an unexpected trip to the vets, surely my charges for that would have gone out on the 25th, not now.. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

26 August 2014

Hi. I am with Santander and when I use my card to pay for things it doesn't always come out straight away, so I forget I've used my card previously and go out and use it again. My account doesn't show that any money has gone out until two days later, but by then I have already paid more money into my account anyway. But when I check online a few weeks later I've been charged £25 for each of the time I have used my card! Are they allowed to do this? And can I claim it back?

4 August 2014

We have a very large overdraft and have been in it for several years. We were charged £60 a month for this overdraft. We are now in a DMP, could I claim back for all the charges?

2 August 2014

I have a planned overdraft which I can't get out of as much as I try. My charges are £40 a month. Could I claim? I am on CTC.

19 June 2014
I Launchbury

I've just discovered that Nationwide have been charging me £35 a month for an unarranged overdraft. I have only ever been put in my overdraft by the bank's fees and so it is widely unfair for them to be charging me for something they are causing. I have several bonds with Nationwide and have been a loyal customer and as such I am appalled that they would take advantage of my custom. Is there anyway I will be able to get back my money?

1 May 2014

£425 has been going out of my account for the past few months from an old direct debit I cancelled months ago. How can I claim this back as it has taken my new rent money away from me.

4 February 2014

In 2012 I was charged over £400 just in bank charges from jan 2010 - feb 2014. I have given Lloyds Bank nearly £1000 and rising as I go through the years!! By law they are not allowed to take bank charges if you are on benefits!!

21 December 2013

My nephew was transferring funds into savings and pension plans but was told by the bank that as these were set up as DD's they could not be cancelled, even though there were insufficient funds to meet payments!

The bank continued to make these transfers causing the account to be overdrawn and incur charges, but then declined to make essential payments to council tax, mortgage etc, but continued to move funds into its own unaccessible product plans!

They then sold him an initial loan of £2700 at a cost of £4600, and when unable to make repayments sold him a series of ever increasing "fake" loans where the capital was taken to repay previous (five loans in less than three years), then had to take out a second mortgage of over £20,000 over fifteen years, alongside his existing mortgage, to repay the loan credit charges, which he and his family are still paying now, but the Ombudsman states a direct debit is an entitlement to make even this vulnerable customer overdrawn (£1700) but this is Fair and Reasonable?

14 April 2016

Checked my account at a cash point other then Santander and it was telling me I had £5 something left in my account then I checked my Santander account the same day and it was talking me I was £185 overdrawn don't get it lol

11 December 2013

I had £250 overdraft with Halifax, I have paid nearly 20 time £250 to Halifax. I was struggling with money and Halifax was charging me every week or every two weeks finally I closed the bank card. I will never get any overdraft or credit cards. Because credit cards or overdrafts are not good for people who have a low income, but it's good for banks, they will target the poorer people.

29 June 2013

I've been buying a few things for the summer and for some reason got an overdraft, even though I have more than enough money in my account? I had £213 in my account and spent about £80-£100 while I was shopping, I still have money left in my account but £20 was taken out for "an unarranged overdraft" even though I wasn't overdrawn, because of my age I can't overdraw anything if I wanted to. Can I get my money back?

29 June 2013

I've had charges every month for the last year roughly £84 per month. It's my fault for not managing my money properly but is there anything that can be done?

28 January 2015


15 May 2014

Most people are entitled to a refund once a year I think it's from April to April. The bank refunded me £550.00 last March as I went overdrawn big style and took all my problems into account. I'm with Lloyds but I know RBS also do it, hope this helps. Just give them a call, the worst they can say is no and you will be where you are now. You could also try calling creditors and asking for a reasonable sum if you have large direct debits coming out plus also try your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

27 May 2013

I went into an unarranged overdraft of £24 when Ulster bank paid out a Direct Debit when I did not have enough funds in the account. I realised 2 days later when I logged into my account and transferred funds from my savings account to cover the overdraft. The bank charged me £75 altogether because when I called they told me that the account went into the overdraft on the 5th & the new period started on the same day so although I had paid in money to cover the overdraft I was charged for both the old and the new period. An absolute joke.

3 February 2013
Philip Lynch

I went into a shop and bought some food for about £4.90 and I used my maestro card, but I thought the bank transaction would happen there and then. Two days later I went into the bank and after lifting £300.00 to pay towards the rent I went in and asked for the scant amount I thought I had left as far as I was aware I had £27.00 in the account, so I asked for that and the teller gave it to me with no warning that I was going into unplanned borrowing or I'd have not emptied the account.

So I got a letter this morning saying I'm to be charged £25.00 per day and come Monday I will owe the bank £125.00 for a measly £4.90 I thought I had taken care off. I read somewhere that the bank has to justify the charge as being reasonable to what the inconvenience of my being overdrawn cost them or the charge effectively becomes a penalty.

Surely charging me £125.00 for just under a fiver is a fine and not a charge, do you think I can get my money back as I am in finanicial hardship it really is a case of heating or eating for me ?

15 May 2014

As far as I am aware banks only charge for going over by £10.00 so that's unfair.

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