Despite rock-bottom Bank of England interest rates, many banks are charging overdraft fees that now come close to 20%. New stats from the Bank of England shows how bank overdraft rates have been pushing up - and are now at their highest level since 1995.
Meanwhile many easy access savings rates are paying just 0.10% on a £1,000 balance.
Plunging into the red
The Mail claims that when the Bank of England slashed the base rate to 0.5 per cent, the average authorised overdraft rate was 18.62 per cent. "It has been climbing steadily, reaching a high in February and going up again in March – the latest available figure – to 19.52 per cent."
To put this rate in perspective, a £2,000 overdraft would cost you £390 in fees. Or if you were to compound those fees, they would rise to almost £1,400 during a three-year time span. Bear in mind that these are charges just for authorised overdrafts. It gets even worse if you breach your limit.
However last year the Government did push a voluntary package of measures through with major banks to help curtail overdraft charges if you do exceed your overdraft limit. Barclays, HSBC (including First Direct), Lloyds Banking Group (including Lloyds TSB, Halifax and Bank of Scotland) plus RBS (including Natwest) and Santander all signed up.
10 things we hate about our banks
Overdraft interest rates to top 20%?
More than 46,000 of 106,000 the complaints received by the FOS in the second half of last year related to payment protection insurance (PPI). And the organisation is expecting to receive a record 165,000 PPI complaints in 2012/2013.
The huge numbers are due to the PPI mis-selling scandal that should now be a thing of the past, but there is no doubt that the insurance, which can add thousands to the cost of a loan, is highly unpopular!
(Pictured: Martin Lewis after the PPI payout ruling)
Complaints about mortgages jumped by 38% in the last six months of last year, the FOS figures show, compared to an increase of just 5% in investment-related complaints.
Common gripes about mortgages include the exit penalties imposed should you want to sell up or change you mortgage before a fixed or discounted deal comes to an end, and the high arrangement fees charged by many lenders.
While there is nothing in the data released by the FOS about the number of complaints relating to savings accounts, hard-pressed savers have been struggling with low interest rates for several years now.
You can get up to 3.10% with Santander's easy-access eSaver account, but many older accounts are paying 1.00% or less and even this market-leading offer includes a 12-month bonus of 2.60% - meaning that the rate will plummet to just 0.50% after the first year.
Banks are imposing the highest authorised overdraft interest rates since records began, with today's borrowers paying an average of 19.47%, according to the Bank of England.
A typical Briton with an overdraft of £1,000 is therefore forking out around £200 in interest charges alone. Coupled with meagre returns on savings, it's enough to make your blood boil!
While authorised overdrafts may seem expensive, going into the red without permission will cost you even more due to huge penalty fees.
Barclays, for example, charges £8 (up to a maximum of £40 a day) each time that there is not enough money in your account to cover a payment.
If you need to send money abroad, the likelihood is that your bank will impose transfer charges - and offer you a poor rate of exchange. Someone transferring a five-figure sum could easily lose out by £500 or more as a result.
The good news, however, is that you can often get a better deal by using a currency specialist such as Moneycorp.
Automated telephone banking systems, not to mention call centres in far-flung parts of the world, are one of our top gripes - especially as we often encounter them when we are already calling to report a problem.
In the words of one disgruntled customer: "What is it about telephone banking that turns me into Victor Meldrew? Well, maybe it's the fourteen security questions, maybe it's the range of products that they try to push or maybe it's because I'm forced to listen to jazz funk at full volume while my phone bill soars.
"Actually though, I think it's because the people I eventually speak to rarely seem able to solve the issue I'm calling about."
The days of a personal relationship with your bank manager are long gone - for the huge majority of us at least.
When ethical Triodos Bank investigated recently why around 9 million Britons would not recommend their banks to a friend or relative, it found that almost a third felt they were not treated as individuals. Another 40%, meanwhile, were simply disappointed with the customer service they received.
When you're in a rush, the last thing you want to do is wait in a long queue at your local branch.
Researchers at consumer champion Which? recently found that most people get seen within 12 minutes, but you could have a much longer wait if you go in at a busy time. Frustrating stuff!
The Triodos Bank research also indicated that the bonus culture that ensured the bank's high-flying employees received large salaries, even when it was making a loss at the taxpayer's expense, was hugely unpopular with consumers.
About a quarter of those who would not recommend their current banks said this was the main reason why. And with RBS executives sharing a £785 million bonus pool despite the bank, which is 82% publicly owned, making a loss of £2 billion last year, it's not hard to see why.
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With this is a so-called 'buffer zone' where banks cannot inflict charges for exceeding an overdraft. But there's no limit on the number or amount in charges a bank can charge.
Amongst the recent rash of Bank of England figures there was evidence too of credit being staunched to UK SMEs - lending slipped by £3.2bn in March. The Guardian says it now stands at a level "3.5% lower than a year ago."
Meanwhile Defaqto estimates that the average interest rate paid on a £1,000 balance by UK instant/easy access accounts available this year has varied from 1.21% up to its current 1.25%.
Even worse, according to Defaqto, 22% of easy access accounts pay interest of 0.10% or less on a £1,000 balance.
Beware the small print
Overdraft interest rates to top 20%?
It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.
Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.
Financial service providers always refer to 'typical APR' in advertising to attract customers with favourable rates of interest.
Yet the typical APR on loans and credit cards is only available for those applicants who have a squeaky clean credit record, everyone else could end up with a much higher rate. For example, under EU rules, credit card providers only have to provide the typical APR advertised to 51% of applicants.
So always consider this when applying for accounts and products, and if approved – look out the actual APR that you will be charged.
The highest paying savings accounts on the market tend to come with a string of strict terms, which if you fall foul of, result in a drop in interest. Common requirements include paying in a set sum each month and not making withdrawals during a set period.
Make sure to fully understand these terms before opening a savings account and if you choose an account with a six or 12 month bonus, remember that this will plummet when the bonus period ends.
Cashback credit cards that pay you a small percentage each time you spend on the card are full of loopholes in the small print. All have a maximum spend, but many have a minimum spend too.
For example, the Sainsbury's Cashback Low Rate card advertises that it offers users 5% cashback for the first three months. However the 5% cashback is capped at £50 a month. A further 5% cashback is subject to you spending £500 a month on the card (£250 of that at Sainsbury's).
Attempt to repay your mortgage early and you may be greeted with a hefty fee in the form of an early repayment charge. These penalties vary from lender to lender and even deal to deal, but are typically be around 10% of the outstanding balance.
Details of any early repayment charges should be clearly outlined in your mortgage contract but it is worth double-checking with your lender before you try to make a payment.
Insurance is an incredibly complex area of personal finance and different forms of cover are riddled with different hitches that make it crucial to read the small print. Failure to do so could lead you to pay for a product you would be never be able to claim upon, or unknowingly do something that invalidates your claim.
Always buy the right level of cover for your needs and pay close attention to any exclusions in the policy wording. For example, many travel insurance policies for winter sports won't pay out for treatment of injuries incurred while under the influence of alcohol.
Think a credit card can't do any damage at home in your drawer? Think again. Some credit and store cards charge a dormancy fee if you don't use them regularly.
For example, all Santander-issued store cards, including Topshop and Laura Ashley cards among others, charge a fee of £10 if you remain in debit for three consecutive months.
Exceed the monthly usage allowance in your broadband deal and you could be hit with a huge fee. Common with the cheapest broadband deals on the market, penalty charges for going over your contracted limit can push your bills up even higher than if you paid for a deal with unlimited usage.
According to Talk Talk, some households are being forced to pay an additional £40 per month for exceeding their usage allowance. BT for example, charges £5 per every 5GB extra used.
Familiarise yourself with the download limit in your package and the penalties for exceeding it, decide whether you are better off with an unlimited deal.