A few weeks back I paid a cheque into the building society from my bank current account – Thinking that it takes a while for a cheque to go through I took a couple of days to get round to making an on-line transfer from one account to another (at the same branch) to cover the cheque. I went overdrawn and was charged £42! According to the subsequent paperwork the cheque was cashed on the same day and my transfer took 2 days (computers don’t work at the weekend it would seem) to go through. I complained at the bank and got some snotty attitude about it being ‘illegal’ to write a cheque when you haven’t got money in the account to cover it. Not that the sodding NatWest would ever commit itself to spending money it couldn’t cover eh?
The difference is that I did have the money – and at the same bank. To be fair to NatWest this is the first time they’ve really pissed me off in a very long time (and in the modern world where pissing customers off while banging on about ‘enhancing the customer experience’ and suchlike is a national pastime this is an achievement) so I didn’t immediately close my account with them. However, I’ve now moved all my money about and put it in building societies - and deprived NatWest of at least £42 in profit they would’ve made from me. I certainly hope so anyway. They enforced their rules and think they got away with it. But they didn’t. Better than burning the building down, if not quite as satisfying.
As an interesting (to me) aside, last week I got a leaflet from NatWest (‘Helpful Banking’ it says on it) explaining ‘The cheque clearing cycle’. Sounds like the cheque will sprout legs, pupate and become a butterfly cheque souring to the sun on wings of purest NatWest gossamer. What it actually says is that 6 days after ‘Transaction Day’ (when you pay the cheque in) ‘the customer can be sure that the money is theirs and it cannot be reclaimed’. That’s 6 days after the transaction day. Unless it a cheque to another financial institution it would seem, in which case they can do it in one. I heard a couple of years back that banks were going to speed up cheques. All that ‘3 days to clear’ would be a thing of the past. They obviously did change it – from 3 to 6 days. Capitalism is so efficient since the triumph of Thatcherism eh?