Questions Of Cash: 'Dormant account ran up £400 charges'

Q. I had an account with NatWest until a couple of years ago. I tried to close it, but NatWest advised me to keep it open in case I ever wanted to bank with it again. The account had a few pounds left in it and I stopped getting statements in December 2007. I assumed this was because I was not using the account.

Last month I received a letter from NatWest advising that I owe almost £400 in unarranged overdraft charges. I phoned and was told I had been charged £28 a month for the last year. I was unable to obtain more information from visits to the branch and phone calls because staff had access to my account records for only the previous year.

The collections department eventually advised that a "banking charge or interest charge" sent me overdrawn in the first place, but could not explain what it was. The bank then said that if I paid £80 it will drop the rest of the charges as a "goodwill gesture", but that otherwise it will start legal proceedings. I am now worried this will affect my credit rating. AG, Durham.

A. NatWest has investigated the history of your account and reports that it went overdrawn in November 2008 because of a cash withdrawal. When it sent you bank statements these were returned as "gone away". It is not offering to write-off all the bank charges – which is understandable given that it was apparently a cash withdrawal that took you overdrawn. However, it will cap the charges at £30 and write-off the other £370. Your credit rating will not be affected.

Q. Last December, I received a phone call from NatWest asking if I'd like to take out another ISA, which would earn me a higher rate of interest. I was about to go away so I asked NatWest to send me details in the post, saying I'd think about it. On my return to the UK in May I went to get some cash out and found that over £3,000 had gone from my account.

In a panic I rang the bank and was told that it had taken the money from my account and set up an ISA on my behalf. I was promised the bank would investigate and come back to me, but I have heard nothing since. I did later receive a questionnaire from the bank asking my opinion of its service and I repeated my complaint – but again I had no response. How can NatWest take money from my account without my permission? JS, London.

A. NatWest refers to "a bit of confusion", for which it apologises. But the bank does not accept your version of events. Specifically, it disputes the dates on which you state that the bank spoke to you. The account the bank opened for you was a Cash ISA Plus, which only became available in February this year and which was only opened in your name in April this year. NatWest believes you confused two separate conversations with NatWest: the call in December was to warn you that you had not taken advantage of your ISA allowance in that year. Some £3,600 was transferred out of your account in April this year. NatWest requires you to instruct it on whether to keep this account open. You must urgently address the fact that the confusion between NatWest and yourself has caused you to inadvertently exceed your permitted ISA allowance for this year.

Q. I have a fixed term ISA bond that has just matured. I have asked banks whether I can use the proceeds to invest in a new ISA and I have been given conflicting advice: one said yes, one said no and another told me that only the capital could be reinvested in an ISA. What are the rules? I have already used my ISA allowance to its maximum this year. AN, by email.

A. You are permitted to reinvest both the capital and interest from the ISA in another ISA product in the current tax year, providing it is transferred directly to that ISA. HM Revenue and Customs explains: "The ISA rules allow for only one cash ISA and one stocks and shares ISA to be opened in any tax year, or a combination of both up to the ISA limit of £7,200 – or £10,200 from 6 October 2009, if the investor is aged 50 or over during the 2009/10 tax year. Therefore, the [reader's] money could be used to open another cash/stocks and shares ISA, or to top up an existing cash/stocks and shares ISA, as long as the investor does not breach the ISA regulations."

'Security made me miss my flight'

Q. My partner bought me a ticket to fly from London Stansted to Denmark with Ryanair and I checked-in online. I left sufficient time to catch the flight, but I missed it because of security delays at the airport. I told the security staff that I needed to go through quickly, but they were unsympathetic and refused. Can I obtain a refund? I had to buy a replacement ticket for £138 from Ryanair at the airport. That could have been avoided if the security staff had let me go through. DB, Hitchin.

A. You state you arrived at the airport at 6.10 for a 7.25 flight. This puts you in a weak position to argue for a refund as the British Airports Authority, which owns and operates Stansted, recommends travellers arrive two hours before their flight. Worse still, BAA says that its IT system shows that you reported at the front desk of its security system at 6.47 – just eight minutes before your departure gate was scheduled to close. BAA rejects the suggestion that queues at its security point were the reason you missed your flight. You were not insured for the journey – but even if you were, it is very unlikely on the basis of these reported facts that any claim would be successful.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: