Money Grouse: Weekends add to card costs

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GAVIN GIBB has a problem with his National Westminster Access card. He wants to know why it is that nearly every time he receives a statement, part of the settlement period falls on a weekend.

This increases the chances that his money will not be transferred to Access on time, thus making him liable for interest on the sum owed.

Mr Gibb, a London solicitor, has examined all his statements between January 1990 and June 1994. On four of them no settlement date was given because he owed nothing that month.

As for the remaining 49 statements, he discovered the settlement date fell 17 times on a Saturday, 13 on Sundays, eight on Mondays, seven on Tuesdays and four on Fridays. There was not a single Wednesday or Thursday among the settlement dates.

This means that in 45 out of 49 cases, the four working days, now changed to three, that Access customers needed to pay bills through their bank, included the weekend.

Assuming a cheque is paid in on a Tuesday, the bill will only be paid by close of business on Friday. On all other days when settlement is due, the weekend is in the way.

At the very least, this reduces the interest-free period people have before they settle their bills. At worst, it increases the likelihood of charges on their accounts.

Mr Gibb said: 'This may well mean that cardholders with the largest debts will pay heavier interest charges.

'Access may be assuming that the people with the biggest debts are the least likely to be careful about meeting the settlement dates, an excellent way to charge them even more interest.

'One may be forgiven for asking whether the rule itself has not been invented to make things difficult for the customer.'

A National Westminster spokesman denied any conspiracy was afoot in determining settlement dates. He said: 'It is a matter of pure coincidence and depends on the date on which the account was first opened with Access.

'If Mr Gibb is unhappy with the settlement date in question all he has to do is contact us and we will be more than pleased to change it for him.'

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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