Money Grouse: The bad bounce

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The Independent Online
Angela Tomlins has just been charged pounds 27 for the privilege of having a pounds 25 direct debit bounced by the National Westminster bank. She has had two current accounts at a branch in west London for 10 years, one for family spending and the other for business. She also has two savings accounts there.

'I'm self employed, and normally keep a pounds 50 buffer in the business account as well as extra cash in savings there,' Mrs Tomlins said. 'This time the business account had dipped into the red, but only by pounds 35. Staff did not look at my record, or bother to telephone me.'

NatWest says that if people do not make arrangements in advance, getting their cheques or direct debits returned unpaid remains a risk. 'We cannot switch money between accounts without getting a customer's permission,' a spokesman said. 'If customers let us know there is going to be a temporary problem in advance, we can help them. But we can't take the initiative each time.'

At least one bank takes a different line. Barclays will not impose charges for stopping cheques, if it happens once or twice, though there will be a pounds 25 levy on 'troublesome accounts'. The bank usually allows a 'buffer zone' so that people with a good record for bills will not find transactions bounced if they go into the red by less than pounds 50 or so.

A bit of softening has appeared at Midland. It will charge for bouncing, but no longer makes a second levy for the letter telling people it has done so.

Write to Money Grouse, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Please do not send SAEs or original documents as we cannot guarantee to deal with every letter personally.

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