nigel woollsey

Nigel Woollsey

Online Writer
Published: 07/05/2020

At a glance

  • Unfair credit card charges include charges made in error or unreasonably high fees for missed/late payment and/or exceeding your credit limit.
  • In the past, some credit card companies charged £30 to £35 for each instance – which the Office of Fair Trading ruled was unfair.
  • You may be able to claim back all or some of any of these unfair charges that have happened in the last six years.

What are credit card charges?

There are a number of fees and charges that you encounter with the use of a credit card. These should be documented either on your credit card statement and/or on any documentation you have received from your credit card provider.

Some of these charges are normal fees and some may be applied if you break the terms of your credit card, such as missing a payment or exceeding your credit limit.

These charges include:

  • Annual fees (sometimes charged as monthly fees instead)
  • Interest on any outstanding balance you have
  • Additional fees for normal card usage:
    • ATM charges (if you have withdrawn money using your credit card at a cashpoint)
    • Balance transfer fees
    • Foreign transaction fees (If you have used the credit card abroad)
  • Fees for making a late payment or missing a payment entirely
  • Fees for exceeding your credit card limit (even if you only exceeded it because of another charge being made on your account)

Reclaiming credit card fees

There are two types of charges and fees which you can reclaim:

  • Unfair credit card charges (See the section below on What are unfair credit card charges)
  • Fees and charges made in error

What are unfair credit card charges?

Back in 2006, the Office of Fair Trading ruled that some of the charges being levied by credit card companies for late payments and exceeding credit limits were unfairly high. At the time, it had been common for credit card providers to penalise consumers with a charge of around £30 to £35 for each instance.

In some instances, an unfair penalty for a missed payment could put you over your credit limit. The credit card provider would then charge you a further penalty amount for this too.

Following this decision, credit card companies were forced to reduce these unfair charges to around £12.

If you were one of the people who accumulated substantial extra debt because of these unfair charges, then you may be able to claim some of this back from your card provider of the time.

What credit card charges can’t you claim for?

Consumers are unable to claim refunds for any annual fees or bank charges. Unfair charges are limited to fees levied for missed or late payments or exceeding your credit limit on a credit card.

How far back can I make a claim on unfair credit card charges for?

Six years prior is normally the maximum length of time you can attempt to reclaim unfair credit card charges for.

How do I go about reclaiming unfair credit card charges?

Trying to recover any unfair credit card charges will mean you having to put in some work. However, where you could be out of pocket by hundreds this is worth the effort. Investigating and making a claim will not cost you a fortune in money but it will almost certainly take some time and a little determination.

Step 1 – What are you owed?

The first job is to go back over your old credit card statements to identify where you’ve been charged. Check whether this was for a late payment or being in breach of your agreed credit limit. Sometimes credit card companies might charge you in error, so it pays to look at each and every instance to make sure you know what a penalty charge is in respect of.

Whether you receive paper statements or log onto your online credit card account, you should check these each month to make sure they are accurate.

If you are not the organised sort, you can write to your credit card provider and request a list of all charges that they made against you. If they refuse then you can insist that they provide these under the Data Protection Act. If your credit card provider decides to charge for this, it should cost no more than £10.

A note of caution:

Don’t make the mistake of asking your credit card provider for copies of all your statements – they can and will charge much more for this.

Instead, ask specifically for a list of all the charges they have made against you.

Step 2 – Complain

Look at the fees you have been charged for late or missed payments and if you have exceeded your credit limit. Are any of these greater than the ‘reasonable’ figure of £12? What were your circumstances at the time? Did they propel you even further into debt? Did you incur an extra charge because you couldn’t pay the first penalty? Are there any charges that are clearly in error?

Make a list of any unfair charges you find and then write to your credit card provider at the time. Explain why you feel these were unfair and make sure to mention if you were in financial difficulties at the time. Be sure to include your credit card or account number so that the provider can locate their records.

Keep copies of any letters you write, as well as any documentation you send with your correspondence.

Step 3 – Consider their reply

You must give the credit card provider time to reply – if you haven’t heard anything after 40 days, consider writing again (and enclosing a copy of your previous letter) or give them a call to chase things up.

When you do receive a reply it’s likely to be one of the following:

Refusal – The credit card provider may refuse your claim. They might say this is because they feel their charges weren’t unfair or that they will dispute your claim. Credit card providers may also dress this up in very formal legal language, but don’t be intimidated.

Offer – If the credit card company makes an offer regarding your claim, it’s worth thinking very seriously about accepting. While it may be less than you are asking for, this might be better than pursuing your claim legally but with no guarantee of success.

Agree – The best result is that the credit card provider agrees to pay your claim in full. While this is the least likely outcome, it is possible and a great result.

A word of warning: Sometimes the credit card company may make an offer or agree to pay in full but will cancel your credit card, as they no longer want you as a customer. While you might consider this to be rather churlish, there are many other credit card providers out there. Shrug your shoulders, cash their cheque and move on.

Step 4 – Get serious

If the credit card company have refused to play ball or you are unhappy with their offer then it’s time to get serious.

You have two options: Complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or pursue them through the small claims court.

Frankly, complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service is the easiest (and cheapest) option. You won’t have to pay any fees and if the Ombudsman agrees with you then the credit card provider will still have to cough up. To start the ball rolling, you should call the FOS on 020 7964 0500 or contact them via their website.

On the other hand, filing a claim with the small claims court is pretty easy. You’ll have to fill out some paperwork and pay a small fee (this ranges from £25 to £210 depending on how much you are claiming but this is refunded for successful claims). The court will set a hearing date. If your credit card provider doesn’t make an acceptable offer or pay you in full then a judge will decide if you have been unfairly charged and how much you deserve to be paid.

How much can I claim back?

For charges that are in error, you will be able to claim back the whole amount you were mistakenly charged. However, where you have had to pay charges because your payment was late, missed or because you went over your credit limit then it’s not likely you’ll be able to claim the whole amount. Following the Office of Fair Trading’s ruling, credit card companies now charge around £12 every time you break your credit card agreement.

How much interest are you paying on your credit card?

Credit card interest can be a complex and confusing puzzle to many of us. However, understanding how the interest works is an important part of ensuring we are staying on top of our credit card debts. While it’s all too easy to simply pay the minimum amount required each month, this is a recipe for not only prolonging the debt, but also vastly increasing the amount of interest you’ll be paying on it too.

If you’d like to understand more go straight our guide: How does credit card interest work?

Pros and cons of reclaiming credit card charges

  • You could potentially get £100s back if you have been charged regularly over a long period and you make a successful claim.
  • It costs you nothing – even if you must take the credit card company to the Ombudsman.
  • Claiming won’t have a negative effect on your credit score.
  • If you are still with the credit card provider, they could pay up but then cancel your card.
  • It takes time and a little perseverance – especially if the credit card company refuses to consider your claim at first.
  • It is not guaranteed that you will get any money back.

Moneyfacts tip

Moneyfacts tip nigel woollsey

Steer clear of companies who offer to help you with any claim for unfair charges – it will likely cost you a big chunk of any award you manage to secure.

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

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At a glance

  • Unfair credit card charges include charges made in error or unreasonably high fees for missed/late payment and/or exceeding your credit limit.
  • In the past, some credit card companies charged £30 to £35 for each instance – which the Office of Fair Trading ruled was unfair.
  • You may be able to claim back all or some of any of these unfair charges that have happened in the last six years.

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