30 million people in the dark on bank charges

  • High profile of bank charges does little to increase consumer awareness
  • Large proportion of successful claimants still display bank charge ignorance
  • Overdraft rates wrongly seen as being more competitive than personal loans – say five million Brits

Two thirds of the nation is currently unaware of how much they have to pay when going into the red on their current accounts, according to new research* from MoneyExpert.com.

The independent financial comparison website says around 66 per cent of the population – or around 30 million people – admit to being completely in the dark when it comes to how much they are charged by their bank for being overdrawn.

And despite the current controversy surrounding bank charges, the MoneyExpert.com survey shows that even those who have successfully claimed back a bank charge were unable to confirm how much these were.

Sean Gardner, Chief Executive of MoneyExpert.com, said: "Bank charges may be a hot topic in the media but many people’s idea of how much they are being charged for their overdrafts is horribly wide of the mark.

"Going overdrawn can be costly. Average unauthorised overdraft interest rates are around 25 per cent and fees for going in the red without permission can be as much as £30. It’s critical that people check with their bank to ensure they are borrowing money at a competitive rate."

Authorised overdraft interest rates

Over a third (35%) of those who said that they did know their authorised overdraft rate think they pay only 5% interest on their overdraft – cheaper than the most competitive personal loan rate on the market. A further 32% think they pay between 5-10%.

In reality MoneyExpert.com analysis shows banks charge on average 12.35% for an authorised overdraft plus – but this was only cited by 12% of respondents – 1.7 million people – as the rate they think they are being charged.

Unauthorised overdraft interest rates

The study also revealed that many people are ill informed about the cost of going overdrawn without permission. MoneyExpert.com says that while the average unauthorised overdraft rate is a hefty 25.62%, some 11% (or 5.2 million people) believe that they are charged at 10% or less.

Unauthorised overdraft fees

Some 18 million people (41%) also admitted to being completely unaware of the charge their bank levies if they exceed their overdraft limit. One in seven of these (14%) had made a successful claim for a refund of charges against their bank yet still didn’t know. A further 5.5 million people (13%) think they are being charged less than £20, but with the typical charge around £28 they are probably mistaken.

Sean Gardner added: "It’s obviously important for people to understand the consequences of going overdrawn. While it’s ultimately the customer’s responsibility to avoid going beyond their overdraft limit, banks should make their charging structures more transparent. They could also provide a clearer indication of when customers are close to going in the red.

"With recent changes in the Banking Code it’s now easier than ever to switch current accounts so if you’re unhappy with your bank you should consider jumping ship. It’s also important to realise that other forms of borrowing can be considerably cheaper than going overdrawn – for example zero per cent credit cards and personal loans."

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*ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1016 adults aged 18+ online 17th – 19th August 2007. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at www.icmresearch.co.uk

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