Money: So you think you can get at your cash?

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The Independent Online
Thank God there are some eagle-eyed readers out there. These are the people who read the small print on their savings accounts. And rather than hiss "get a life", you should thank them. They sometimes discover something truly chilling.

Last week a reader alerted me to this gem from Abbey National: "In exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to suspend your right to make withdrawals from an account. In such cases it may not be possible to give prior notice."

Or what about this one, from the Halifax: "We may limit the amount you can take out of your account in any month if we think this is necessary to run our business lawfully and in a way which our regulator approves of."

Some other savings accounts have similar caveats. I am told Egg is one of them but when I tried to check, the internet site was jammed (presumably with would-be credit card holders). I couldn't get any further than the home page. Which is another good way to put off those who might want to withdraw their savings.

Banks and building societies calmly suggest the "get out" clauses are standard issue on savings and bank accounts. Fine, but those of us with suspicious natures still suspect the worst: we could be forcibly prevented from removing our cash from banks if there is, say, a massive run on banks' cash reserves.

And when might be the next time that banks have a big run on cash? The Big M is just three months away. If you are really worried about Y2K, get some money out soon (don't go mad and remove the lot) and put it in a sock. Please, just don't all do it at once.

Giving it away

IF you haven't got round to it yet, you should fill in your tax return this weekend. It is due back by Thursday if you want the Inland Revenue to work out your tax bill. While you've got the paperwork out, you should check your bank statements. Boring - but it could save you cash, even if you only make a check on your standing orders and direct debits.

Last week a friend got hold of a list of his regular payments and discovered he's been paying someone else's car insurance (total: pounds 600) and for a gym membership he thought he cancelled two years ago (total: pounds 600). Obviously, this is an extreme example (he's fairly useless with money).

But you can be sure the sad small-print brigade don't find they've accidentally given pounds 1,200 away to other people.

n i.berwick@independent.co.uk

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