Don’t bank on keeping free cash

Credit cardsIt has emerged that customers in Northern Ireland who bank with the Nationwide building society, and who used cash machines belonging to Northern Bank, did not have the sums of money they withdrew debited from their accounts. The fault has existed since November, and 7,500 customers have been affected, withdrawing a total of £375,000 between them. However, it has only just been discovered, and Nationwide have written to all the affected customers to tell them that the amount owed will be deducted from their accounts on 10 March.

Nationwide have apologised for the error, and have, quite rightly, said that if anyone goes overdrawn as a result, they will not be charged. Yet some people still aren’t happy, and have complained that it’s too much money to take from their accounts at once. Yet if they don’t have the money still in their accounts, it’s money they’ve spent twice over, which rightly belongs to the bank.

Why didn’t people notice that the money hadn’t been taken from their accounts? If people are in real hardship because Nationwide are claiming their money, the amount in question must be a significant sum to them. So why weren’t they suspicious when they suddenly had that extra money to spend? If on the other hand, the cash withdrawn is only a small amount to a particular customer so that they didn’t notice, it’s also too small an amount to make a fuss over when it has to be repaid.

This had been going on for more than three months, yet it seems none of the customers affected reported it to Nationwide for a long time. Surely they will all have received at least two monthly statements during that time, so should have noticed the discrepancy? Some of them must have been hoping the bank wouldn’t find out, and they’d get to keep the extra money. As for the rest, they probably don’t even look at their statements. People should really get into the habit of checking their bank statements – after all, next time around, it could be that the bank has debited the withdrawals twice. It’s in the customer’s interest to check that all the transactions are correct.

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