James Walker: With finances in a flurry keep your head

You should never reveal your debit or credit card PIN
You should never reveal your debit or credit card PIN
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It’s really easy to lose control over your bank accounts in the run-up to Christmas. There are loads of transactions flying through your funds, delayed or unexpected payments might suddenly push you into the red, mistakes get made – and fraudsters go into overdrive.

We all worry about over-spending a little bit. But other things can catch you by surprise. Here are a few tips to avoid the main problems:

Debiting disasters

It’s never much fun reviewing your bank or credit card statements, but it’s vital over Christmas. Businesses make mistakes, we’re less rigorous about checking receipts and technical problems can occur too. Check your statement for “double-debits”, misapplied debits (mistakes by retailers debiting the wrong account details), refunds that haven’t been applied and anything that looks a bit weird. Tell your bank and contact the retailer asap.


There’s been an increase in “smishing” lately – where a fake text from your genuine bank telephone number asks you to reveal a code or password from your online account. I think the banks aren’t playing fair when it comes to victims of this fraud – something I’ll be tackling in the new year. But bear in mind the golden rule and you’ll stay safe: no bank will ever ask you to reveal passwords and passcodes. Ever. It also makes sense to be sceptical about businesses that want you to pay for goods by cheque, cash or money transfer. Remember you can’t get your cash back if there’s a dispute if you’ve paid by this method. And if you’ve never heard of the firm, do a bit of research before handing over your card details.

Card clash

There’s a big debate going on about whether “skimmers” using hidden machines are able to swipe cash from contactless cards. So if you keep checking your statements and you spot any payments under £30 you haven’t authorised, speak to your bank immediately.

Christmas calamities

Christmas and New Year bring three national holidays – and if you’re lucky you might get a few extra days. Great for the break, but every year, countless people get caught out by these extra days throwing out their direct debits and standing orders. The important thing to remember is if a payment falls on a holiday or weekend, make sure you have enough cash in your bank account in the working day before.

Dodging disaster

Worried you’re going to go over your overdraft limit? Concerned that bill is going to bounce? Take a deep breath, go over your finances, and if the sums don’t add up or it’s looking a bit tight, speak to your bank and the businesses you pay money to. Your bank should try to offer you some solutions to the problem so you can avoid charges. They may be able to extend your overdraft – or cancel regular payments so they don’t bounce. If you can’t afford to make your regular financial commitments, speak to the businesses and explain the situation. They may be able to change the payment date of a bill. They could also reduce the payment or recalculate your bill over your remaining yearly payments for things like energy, council tax or water.

Finally, if you hit a problem concerning any of the issues above then get in touch with www.resolver.co.uk.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk