We tend to think of banks and building societies as somewhere where we store our money – and something that we often owe money to.

But there are a number of occasions where your bank might actually owe you money instead. Sometimes it might be a mis-sold product you don’t want or need. Other times it could be things that aren’t the bank’s fault that they can claim back on your behalf, like unauthorised payments or subscription traps.

Here’s my guide to a few ways you can get cash back from your bank.

Unsuitable sales

You may have heard of the packaged account mis-selling scandal. Back at the turn of the new century, high street banks got greedy and visiting a branch was a bit like being mugged by a sales team. Top of the sales targets were packaged accounts – accounts that charged a monthly fee and offered you benefits like free travel insurance or an extended overdraft.

I happened to work at the head office of a major bank back then and the sales targets were so ridiculously high that senior managers would often be in tears on the phone about them. As a result, millions of high street bank customers ended up with accounts they didn’t want.

Now that scandal has subsided and a huge industry of claiming back packaged account charges has died off. However, these accounts had a makeover and came back as premium accounts. The fees are higher but you tend to get more for your money.

However, if you did not agree to sign up to a premium/packaged account in recent years, you could claim the money back you have been charged if there’s no proof of your agreement or it’s misleading. And get interest on top. You could also get a partial refund of the fees if you can prove that the benefits you get aren’t suitable. So if you are 71 but the free travel insurance doesn’t cover you when you hit 70 then you can ask for a refund and compensation. The same goes for ‘duplicates’ where the bank has sold you a packaged account with mobile phone insurance, but then also sold you mobile phone insurance separately.  Not sure what you’ve got? MoneySavingExpert has a guide here.

Leaving aside packaged accounts, mis-selling is one of the most common financial complaints. If something was sold to you that didn’t meet your needs or wasn’t suitable, then you can ask for refunds.

Unauthorised transactions

How often do you go through your bank statements? Go on, be honest?!

Confession is good for the soul. So I will admit that I HATE going through my bank statements. I hate it so much I force myself to do it while I’ve got the tele on and a large glass of wine to hand. I also do it in chunks, checking a few months at a time.

But you really, really should do this. Because lots of businesses may be debiting your account without your permission or authorisation.

A disputed transaction is anything that you don’t recognise on your account or can’t confirm what it is. These can sometimes be mistakes. A business might debit your account in error, or duplicate debit you if there is a technical glitch. Sometimes a waiter or bar staff member might ‘accidentally’ put the wrong sum in to the merchant terminal (the bit you tap or put your pin in to) and have overcharged you.

If these things have occurred, you can ask your bank to claim the money back. Merchant errors are usually rather obvious. So if that £9.50 you paid at the pub has gone through at £950 then that’ll be easy to confirm as an error. If you don’t recognise a transaction, do take a while to cast your mind back, just in case you have forgotten. I cross reference with my diary in case it jogs my memory. However, if a business cannot prove you authorised a transaction when your bank asks them to, then they should refund you.

But by far the biggest source of money back comes from subscriptions or regular payments that you haven’t authorised or told the business to cancel. If they’ve carried on debiting you (more common than you think) then you can ask for the money back.

Bank charges

Clambering back in to my financial time machine again and we’re back in the early 2000’s! Back then the banks were hitting people with megabucks charges. In fact a single missed payment could land you with a £35 fee plus interest. Martin Lewis made his name with a court case that forced the banks to reduce these fees dramatically. Up until that point, many banks started panicking and issuing large refunds, largely to people struggling financially.

Things are a bit better now and most banks will only charge you a couple of pounds for every transaction that takes you overdrawn. In addition, the number of fees they can charge you can be capped too.

One thing that you might not have noticed though is the huge rise in overdraft interest for your agreed overdraft. Shockingly, you’ll pay the same high interest for just using an overdraft as you will for going over it, making this one of the most expensive forms of borrowing there is.

You can reclaim cash though. You may not feel that you’ve been notified properly of the changes. Your bank will have sent you a notification, but if you didn’t get it or have a good reason for not seeing it, then you could argue that the higher charges aren’t fair. In addition, if you are stuck in your overdraft, it should be obvious to the bank you are in financial difficulties and need help. This is a regulatory obligation – they should not make a bad situation worse with more interest or fees. This is grounds for a complaint about unfair charges.

In addition, if a transaction occurs on your account in error and you get charged or have interest added, the bank can recall the money then sort out any damage to your credit and refund charges and interest.

Promotions and interest

Lots of banks have some great promotions at the moment for transferring your accounts over to them, with payments of up to £200 in some instances, or chargeback on purchases you make.

I’ve heard from some readers who have realised that they aren’t getting the promotional payments, rates or cashback so check to see if you are getting what you signed up for.

Finally, we tend to stick with accounts for years and a lot can happen over time. Many specialist accounts with good rates have been retired over the years. If you feel your bank should have shifted you to a better account then by all means, ask for compensation. Don’t forget that interest rates for savings are pretty good now, so check your bank is actually applying the better rates too.

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James

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