James Walker: Season to make amends for all that extravagance

It may be too early to spring clean the home, but after the over-indulgence of the holiday season, there’s no better time to blow away the cobwebs from neglected personal finances and even discover some money you didn’t know belonged to you. Check out our top tips to fight the January blues and stop crashing into the red.
Check bank statements for any mystery payments. Picture: PACheck bank statements for any mystery payments. Picture: PA
Check bank statements for any mystery payments. Picture: PA

Mystery debits

The sound of a paper bank or credit statement popping through the letterbox is increasingly rare these days. Online banking is great, but it means we’ve become less vigilant about checking our spending. Yet there are countless errors that can occur on bank and credit card statements, from duplicated transactions, services that you cancelled that are still being billed and honest-to-goodness errors. If you spot anything you don’t recognise, ask your bank or card provider to “charge back” the money. You might have to sign a statement saying you didn’t authorise the payment but usually there’s no delay.

Flight delays and cancellations

If your flight is delayed over three hours (or cancelled) then you’re entitled to statutory compensation. The rules are a little complicated at first glance, but to paraphrase, if the airline is based in the EU or takes off from an EU country – even if it’s a connected flight – and the airline could have anticipated the problem (including when their staff strike) then you should be able to claim anything up to €600. Don’t use a claims company – it’s a total rip-off. In theory, you can go back six years too.

Double insurance

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Millions of us are paying for insurance policies that we don’t use or need. In your bank account you may be surprised to spot a mobile phone insurance policy for a phone you’ve upgraded years ago that you’re still being charge for. Or you might find an expensive gadget insurance policy is much cheaper if you update your home insurance – ditch it. You could be able to claim back hundreds if you’ve been overcharged if you asked for an insurance policy to be cancelled. And if you have a packaged bank account and you’re over 70, then your insurance is unlikely to cover you and you might get some cash back.

Packaged bank accounts

For many people, packaged bank account mis-selling will be a distant, if annoying, memory. In the early Noughties you couldn’t walk into a bank or speak to a call centre without staff desperately trying to flog you a packaged account – a bank account with a monthly fee for a few extra perks. But the accounts are still lurking around in their millions. If you didn’t want or need an account but they shoved you on it anyway, you might be able to reclaim the fees.

Premium phone charge

If you’ve entered a completion by texting an answer or signed up to receive text updates from a business, there’s a chance that you’re actually being charged for those annoying texts cluttering up your phone. Some firms charge over £2 (and often more) for each one of those texts. If you didn’t know about this, you can make a complaint and demand your cash back – and the Phone Paid Services Authority can help if you aren’t happy with the response.