Find out more about claiming a refund, why a refund might be refused, and what to do if you’ve been tricked into making a payment to a scam account.First published: 18/04/2016 Last updated: 20/03/2023 See all updates
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In most cases, money can only be taken from your bank account if you’ve authorised the transaction. But if you notice a payment from your account that you didn’t authorise, contact your bank or provider immediately.
Once you’ve told your bank, you won’t be responsible for any other unauthorised payments that might be made. Unless you’ve acted fraudulently.
If you accidentally paid the wrong person, or were charged more than expected for a service, find out how your bank can help.
Claiming a refund
If you didn’t authorise a payment, you should ask your bank for a refund. This refund should be in your account by the end of the next business day, along with any charges and interest you paid because of the transaction.
When you make your claim, your bank may ask you some questions and get you to fill out a form stating what happened. But it can’t delay your refund while it waits for you to return the form.
Deliberately making a false claim for a refund is fraud, and your bank could report it to the police.
Why a refund can be refused
Your bank can only refuse to refund an unauthorised payment if:
- it can prove you authorised the payment
- it can prove you acted fraudulently
- it can prove you deliberately, or with 'gross negligence', failed to protect the details of your card, PIN or password in a way that allowed the payment
- you only told your bank about the unauthorised payment 13 months (or more) after the date it left your account
If the unauthorised payment was from an overdrawn current account or a credit card payment, your bank can only refuse a refund if:
- it can prove you, or someone acting on your behalf, authorised the payment
- the loss was due to the use of a payment card (including a virtual card) by someone who had it with your consent
In all cases, banks can’t simply say that the use of your password, card or PIN proves you authorised a payment.
If your card was lost, stolen or copied, you may have to pay the first £35 of an unauthorised transaction. But this won’t be the case if you weren’t aware of the loss, or if your bank was at fault.
When banks can claim your money
Your bank may be able to claim money from one of your accounts to pay your debt in another account. This is known as the right to set-off.
This could happen if you miss a loan or credit card payment and you also have a current or savings account with the bank.
If a bank wants to claim money from your account to pay a debt, it should:
- tell you about its right to set-off at least 14 days before it's used on your account and, when appropriate, on any other occasions
- estimate how much money needs to be left in your account to meet your priority debts and essential living expenses like your mortgage, rent and food bills
- refund you, in most cases, if the bank later realises that money taken in set-off was intended for those priority debts or essential living expenses
- not use set-off on money it knows is intended for certain purposes, such as where the NHS provided it for healthcare, or a third party is entitled to the money
- tell you quickly when set-off has been used on your account
The right to claim money from your account to pay a debt should also be clearly explained in your account’s terms and conditions.