Millions of people may see changes to their available bank balances today as new overdraft rules from the financial watchdog covering how overdrafts are displayed come into effect.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has ordered UK banks to stop including overdrafts in funds marked as “available” to customers, in a move designed to make it clear that overdrafts are a form of debt, rather than the customer’s own money.
“Unfortunately too many people fall into the trap of believing that’s their money rather than a debt,” FCA director Christopher Woolard told Radio 4’s Today Programme.
The regulator is hoping today’s change will stop customers accidentally dipping into their overdraft, or becoming confused about their actual bank balance.
The rule change is of a wide-ranging shakeup of overdrafts announced by the FCA in June to “fix a dysfunctional overdraft market”.
Under measures that will come into force in April next year, banks will be prevented from charging more for unarranged overdrafts than for arranged ones.
Fixed fees for borrowing through an overdraft will also be banned, and banks will be required to advertise arranged overdraft prices with an annual percentage rate to make it easier for customers to compare different accounts.
“These important changes will give consumers more clarity about their finances and should help them make informed spending decisions and avoid going into the red,” said Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?
“We hope to see more banks now coming forward with competitive overdraft pricing and for the regulator to ensure that its transformation of current account overdrafts delivers for customers,” he added.
Over half of the UK’s 52m current account holders use overdrafts, which generated £2.4bn revenue for banks in 2017, according to the FCA.
Under the new rules, the watchdog expects to see the typical cost of borrowing £100 via an unarranged overdraft to fall from £5 per day to less than 20p per day.
Salman Haqqi, a personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said the “radical overhaul of the overdraft market” would make it “fairer and more transparent” and was “long overdue”.
“The FCA correctly pointed out that a disproportionately high number of vulnerable customers are going into unarranged overdraft and being hit by excessively high fees,” he added.
Read more: HSBC to bring in 40 per cent overdraft rate
Some banks have already raised fees in anticipation of the new rules coming into force, and Haqqi warned that others could follow suit.
“It’s not clear how banks are going to cover the recurring lost revenue from unarranged overdrafts in the longer-term, and if they can’t touch overdraft fees they could decide to increase charges on other products,” Haqqi said.
City A.M. has put together a guide to which banks have already changed their fees, so you can check if your account will be affected.
Which banks have raised fees?
Nationwide was the first lender to announce a shakeup of its overdraft pricing in response to the new FCA rules.
The building society announced in July that it would set its effective annual rate (EAR) for overdrafts at 39.9 per cent for all customers from October.
The new flat rate is over double the 18.9 per cent Nationwide used to charge standard current account customers for its overdraft.
Earlier this month, HSBC announced it would raise overdraft fees currently set between 9.9 and 19.9 per cent APR to 39.9 per cent for all customers with arranged and unarranged overdrafts.
The rules will come into effect from March, and HSBC said it expects them to adversely affect three out of 10 customers who use an overdraft.
Monzo announced last week that it was scrapping its daily fixed overdraft fee of 50p, replacing it with a risk-based system charging customers up to 39 per cent from April.
The challenger bank’s new overdraft pricing will change customers an EAR of 19, 29 or 39 per cent depending on their credit score.
Monzo is also scrapping its free £20 overdraft buffer. The bank said that 87 per cent of its customers would either be better off or receive monthly charges of less than £1 under the new system.
Starling Bank is also introducing a sliding EAR rate dependent on customers’ credit scores, charging them either 15, 25 or 35 per cent.
The fintech had previously charged customers a single flat overdraft rate of 15 per cent.
From next year, First Direct customers are set to be charged 39.9 per cent EAR on any overdraft over £250.
The bank is also scrapping its £5 daily usage fee for unarranged overdrafts, and reducing the maximum monthly cost of using the facility to £20.
M&S Bank is also introducing a 39.9 per cent EAR charge for all overdrafts over £250.
It is also removing its current £50 buffer on unarranged overdrafts, which means customers will no longer be able to go over their overdraft limit by any significant amount without facing charges.