Further steps towards fairer bank fees

Fairer bank charges were among the coalition government's post-election pledges, so it's no surprise to see banks continuing to tweak their tariffs for both authorised and unauthorised borrowing.

RBS and NatWest are the latest providers to announce a bank charges revamp that includes the introduction of text and e-mail balance alerts. They will take effect on 1 February 2011.

The new structure will see the number of fees for non-agreed borrowing being reduced, with the 20 monthly maintenance charge, the 15 paid referral fee and interest charges on unauthorised borrowing all being scrapped.

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They will be replaced with a daily fee of 6, payable every day for which you are more than 6 overdrawn or more than 6 over your agreed overdraft limit. Also the 5 fee for a rejected transaction (maximum 50 per month) rises to 6 (60 per month).

While the fees are easier to understand and more transparent, I still feel that customers deserve to be given greater leeway than a mere 6 buffer before charges are incurred.

However, on a brighter note, most RBS/NatWest customers will now pay less for unauthorised borrowing apart from those overdrawn for at least 20 days per month, but if that's the case it's probably time to review your finances anyway.

The tariff is similar to Bank of Scotland's 5 daily charge for exceeding your limit, although RBS doesn't charge daily fees for authorised borrowing, unlike Bank of Scotland at 1 a day. There will be no change to RBS or NatWest fees for arranged overdrafts, with interest still charged at up to 19.89 per cent.

The recent Bacs Family Finance Tracker research revealed that 30 per cent of consumers don't check their bank statements or know when payments are due to be taken from their accounts, so the introduction of a new text and e-mail alerts service, letting you know when you're getting close to your limit, should help some customers avoid unauthorised fees.

• Andrew Hagger is head of communications at www.moneynet.co.uk