/ Money

Why wasn’t I told I was in arrears?

Figure leaning on credit card

When I noticed three consecutive late payment fees on my NatWest credit card recently, despite having made my payments on time, I phoned up to find out more…

The explanation? My online, telephone, app and text alerts were all failing to give me the full picture of my credit card account.

Truth be told, I hadn’t noticed that I had incurred a £12 late payment fee on my credit card account in May and June – it’s not a card I use very much.

However, this month I knew I had paid enough to cover the minimum payment on the day it was due, as I responded to a monthly text reminder I have set up. So I was surprised to see another £12 charge added on to my account a few days later.

When I looked back at my statements I had, in fact, received late payment fees for the past three months, despite having made my payments on time. I checked my text alerts and in each instance the amount I had paid was enough to cover the minimum payment.

Credit card fees

I phoned NatWest to ask them for an explanation and they told me that following a payment I’d missed in April, I was about £15 in arrears and this had been added on to my due amount each month – so my minimum payments hadn’t been enough to cover it – hence the late payment fees.

But why wasn’t this showing up on my text reminders? NatWest explained that unfortunately its text alert system only links up to the ‘general’ online banking system – which only gives a snapshot of your credit card details and therefore it wasn’t including my outstanding arrears.

They suggested I should sign in to the specific credit card section of the website to see the full amount I owed, and sure enough, the full amount I owe for next month is showing up there – £15 more than my ‘minimum payment’ according to the texts they sent me.

Credit card confusion

NatWest agreed to refund me the last three payments, but I think it’s wrong that I didn’t get the right information, and I’m yet to find out if the ‘missed’ payments will affect my credit score.

It’s clear that NatWest uses different systems for its credit card services and its other online and telephone banking services, but should you have to be aware of that distinction? My online banking app, the online banking section of their website and their automated phone service all gave me an ‘owed’ amount which did not include the arrears.

Have you had a similar experience to me?


I always try to pay off credit cards in full every month but I had 2 occasions some years ago where the payment was not made as I was out of the country and they got missed.

I remember it was almost impossible to clear the debt as you get more interest added on each month.

The only way to clear it is by paying well over the balance on your statement and put yourself in credit. This is wrong and they should be able to tell you the amount you need to pay to clear it.


This is why a lot of people opt for automatic direct debit payment of full credit card bills every month even though that can be a nuisance if you have a large expenditure one month that you might prefer to spread over two or three months. In these days of minimal interest on savings I don’t mind keeping a couple of credit card accounts, which are not on direct debit repayment, permanently in credit.

It is not satisfactory that systems offered to customers by banks are not giving all the information they require for proper management of their accounts, and that banks are not explaining the best way to use these systems to avoid arrears accruing and compounding.

I am glad NatWest reimbursed you, Amy, but would other customers realise what was happening and why?


Hi John,

That is precisley my concern – if I hadn’t called them at the point I did, who knows how many late payment fees I might have accrued? I can’t believe I’m the only one who’s been affected and I’m interested to know if anyone else has had a similar experience…

Naomi says:
7 October 2015

Yes I have exactly the same issue , I was late with a payment in June , I have now incurred 4 late payment fees £12 each and I just can’t get my head round why? I use my online banking to make a payment but I don’t have the credit card service one set up , I’m really not happy now I think this is out of order they should notify you in some other way my credit file is now affected by this , it’s wrong !! I’ll be on the phone first thing


Hi John,

I have a Tesco credit card that a couple of years ago advised, in small print, that it would no longer permit “overpayments” i.e. putting the card into credit. I always used to overpay before going on holiday just to be on the “safe side”. I have had to set up a D/D to take full payment each month but I object to their practice of drawing the D/D 4/5 days earlier than the latest payment date.


Coming from Tesco, that’s not helpful.

On the direct debits, there’s no need for them to take the money more than one day early except to earn more interest on it since there is no clearing required.

This proves once again that we need to be constantly reviewing our financial arrangements since things that start off looking favourable progressively decline in utility and value and eventually become annoying.


Credit cards have always been an expensive way of borrowing money, but they are extremely useful and do give protection if you have a problem with larger purchases. Mine are payed off monthly by direct debit, so I just need to focus on making sure that the balance of my current account is sufficient. I did this after being charged interest for not paying a credit card bill that was lost in the post.


The NatWest system is manifestly wrong and unfair. If I were Which? I would launch a test case of behalf of a subscriber on the basis that the amount they advised to you as owed was:

a] a system that was deliberately designed to to mislead customers as to the amount required
b] a system incompetently designed with the same result.

I look forward to reading here of a successful challenge and refunds all-round from Nat West for such a cockamaimy and one-sided system.


I don’t understand why:

1. You were making only the minimum payment each month, as you incur interest by doing so.
2. Why you didn’t log in soon after each billing date to check that the transactions on the bill were correct.

The only rational scenario for the above would be that you were using this card only for a balance transfer with no purchases. Using a credit card for purchases and making only the minimum payment each month is madness. If you can’t afford to pay it, then transfer the balance to another card on an interest-free deal, or get a money transfer from another credit card into your bank account.



You are correct and admittedly only paying only the minimum off the card every month is not a cost-effective way of doing things.

I’m afraid it was more down to laziness on my part than anything, as the card only has a very small balance on it – which following this incident I have cleared.

Regardless, I feel that the system which is designed to help me stay on top of my payments misled me and though I am in a fortunate enough position to enable me to clear the balance, what about those customers who are not able to do so, and could be accruing more debt each month without realising it?


I agree with NatWest that you should be signing into your account every month and reading your statement. Online statements are a substitute for paper statements, but just like paper statements you still need to read them every month. Every month there might be incorrect purchase charges, or in this case incorrect charges by the card issuer. I often find errors on my credit card statements, but fortunately they are more often purchases that never appeared on my statement.

This does not excuse NatWest misleading you in its text messages.


Are you going to take the case to the FCA? It would seem fitting for Which? to be involved at a grass-roots level and pave the way.

[ please feel free to fill in the details and initials of any regulatory authority that has taken over the oversight or had a change of name in the last week : )]

Darren says:
10 August 2015

You are aware that they are moving to online statements as a default arent you? Bit of an old fashioned comment. If a bank is giving you a figure, they should be giving you an accurate figure I dont care what you say about paper!