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New overdraft rules in force but lenders adjust plans due to coronavirus

The changes by the Financial Conduct Authority aim to make overdraft charging structures clearer.

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New overdraft rules from the Financial Conduct Authority come into force from Monday (PA)

New overdraft rules from the Financial Conduct Authority come into force from Monday (PA)

New overdraft rules from the Financial Conduct Authority come into force from Monday (PA)

New overdraft rules come into force from Monday, which mean firms can only charge one single annual interest rate for both arranged and unarranged borrowing.

The changes were announced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) long before the coronavirus outbreak put many households’ finances under pressure.

Many overdraft providers had pegged their new single overdraft rates at around 40% – which is around double the rate some borrowers had previously been paying to use their arranged overdraft.

However, as part stop-gap measures to help cushion the financial impact of coronavirus, some providers are temporarily freezing rates at lower levels or rolling them back down to what they had been before they were increased.

Many providers are also ramping up their zero-interest overdraft buffers, so borrowers may not pay anything in the short-term.

For example, HSBC UK is temporarily halving its new 39.9% overdraft rate, taking it back down to 19.9%.

From April 9 for a three-month period, HSBC UK will also automatically increase its temporary interest-free buffer for millions of Bank Account and Advance Account overdraft customers to £500.

NatWest has frozen overdraft interest at current rates for personal customers for at least three months.

The temporary relief available for overdraft customers affected by the coronavirus outbreak varies between providers.

But the FCA proposed last week that a blanket zero-interest buffer of £500 should be introduced across providers, for up to three months, on people’s main accounts.

The proposal is being consulted on – but if agreed it could be in place by Thursday April 9.

In the meantime, the new industry rules coming into force from Monday aim to make overdraft pricing simpler and fairer, reducing the burden on some people who have previously been paying high charges.

Firms will need to charge a simple annual interest rate – without additional fees and charges for using an overdraft.

The new rules will particularly help people who have paid high charges in the past for going into an unarranged overdraft.

The FCA previously found that unarranged overdraft fees are often 10 times as high as charges for payday loans and fall disproportionately on vulnerable consumers.

The regulator’s calculations suggested the cost of borrowing £100 through an unarranged overdraft would fall from a typical £5 per day to under 10p per day.

It also said in January that it expects firms to help people who borrow large amounts within their arranged overdraft, which could include reducing or waiving interest or agreeing a repayment programme.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “These important changes will give consumers more clarity about their finances and should help them make informed spending decisions.

“It is right that banks are now working with the regulator to provide further help for customers who may need to use an overdraft facility to help manage their finances during the coronavirus outbreak.

“The FCA must keep a close eye on developments in this area, including competitive pricing, to ensure that its transformation of current account overdrafts delivers for customers.”

Here is a round-up of what major providers have already announced about their new overdraft rates and the measures put in place for giving temporary relief to borrowers affected by coronavirus:

– Nationwide Building Society

New rate: Nationwide introduced a 39.9% rate in November 2019.

Overdraft relief: The Society will not charge overdraft interest from April 20 until July 1 for those financially impacted by coronavirus. Customers can request a fee-free overdraft interest holiday by completing an online form. Nationwide will email or text to acknowledge requests.

– Lloyds Banking Group

New rate: The majority of customers will pay 39.9% (29.9% for Club Lloyds). As the group takes a “risk-based” approach to overdrafts, some customers will pay 49.9%.

Overdraft relief: All customers will be able to have a £300 interest-free buffer from April 6 to July 6. As a result of this, Lloyds said all its overdraft customers would pay less from April 6. It said 90% of customers would have paid less for their overdraft even if the £300 buffer across its accounts was not introduced.

– Barclays

New rate: A rate of 35% took effect on March 22.

Overdraft relief: Barclays is waiving all overdraft interest from March 27 until the end of April 2020, meaning no charges for customers to use their agreed overdraft. Interest will automatically be removed.

Barclays is reviewing measures after this date and will be communicating with customers shortly.

– HSBC UK

New rate: HSBC imposed a new rate of 39.9% on March 14. But it is now temporarily reducing the rate charged above its interest-free buffer to 19.9%.

Overdraft relief: Alongside the rate reduction, HSBC said from April 9, for a three-month period, it will increase the temporary interest-free buffer for millions of Bank Account and Advance Account overdraft customers from £300 to £500.

– NatWest Group

New rate: A rate of 39.49% would have been introduced on April 1 for NatWest customers, and on March 30 for RBS and Ulster Bank customers. But customers will continue to pay their current rate of interest for at least three months, meaning a maximum of 19.89% across arranged and unarranged borrowing.

Overdraft relief: As well as the rate freeze, the bank has also removed all other overdraft fees and charges, so all customers who use their overdraft for the three months from March 30 will pay less.

– Santander 

New rate: Santander previously announced it will be 39.9%. From April 6 until July 9 Santander said it has a temporary discount on standard overdraft interest rates, set at 19.9%.

Overdraft relief: Santander will automatically waive the interest on the first £500 of any arranged overdraft used between April 6 and July 9.

– Co-operative Bank

New rate: A rate of 35.9% was due to come into force on April 4 – but this has been delayed until July 3.

Overdraft relief: Customers with an existing arranged overdraft will have the interest waived on up to £500 of arranged overdraft use until July 3.

– TSB

New rate: TSB previously announced a rate of 39.9%.

Overdraft relief: TSB has introduced measures including fees waivers or implementing an interest freeze on their overdraft.

It is looking to make changes to align with FCA’s guidance, effective by April 9.

PA