Your Rights And Responsibilities

Society. The biggest network of all is that of Girobank which operates through 20,000 post office branches.

If you can't usually get to a branch during opening hours, you may be more concerned about a large cash machine network. Banks and building societies have been joining forces to increase these networks, so you can use most Debit cards in a number of different banks' and societies' machines.

If there's no branch or cash machine to hand, you can cash a bank cheque at any other bank, but you may have to pay up to £6 or so for this service. You'll have to pay the cost of a phone call too, if the cheque is for more than the amount covered by your cheque guarantee card. You can't cash a building society cheque at a bank unless there's a special arrangement.

The basic contract

You might not sign a formal agreement when you open a current account, but nonetheless a contract between you and the bank or building society exists, and there are a whole host of 'implied terms' that you might not be aware of until things go wrong. Your relationship with a bank is also affected by various Acts of Parliament as well as a vast body of case law which has grown up over the years. Building societies' banking services are much more recent - they are covered by the Building Societies Act 1986. Most of this section is concerned with the rights and obligations relating to bank accounts but many of the points discussed are relevant to building society accounts as well.

A bank's main duties to you are to receive your money and to hold it for you until you give the bank instructions to pay it back to you or to someone else. The bank should use reasonable care and skill in carrying out these duties. On your part, you should take reasonable care in making your instructions so that you neither mislead the bank nor encourage fraud.

Many banks and building societies produce leaflets giving details of the terms and conditions of their current accounts. These are sometimes weighted in favour of the bank and make assumptions about your agreeing to various terms, such as disclosure of your affairs ). And the terms and conditions are sometimes changed overnight. A recent review of the services provided by banks (by the Review Committee on Banking Services Law - known as the 'Jack Committee') has suggested that banks should make a much better effort to communicate to you their terms and conditions, and that you should be given a fair and balanced view of the rights and obligations of both you, as customer, and the bank. The Committee also recommended that banks should give you notice of any change to the terms and conditions applying to an account.

For more information about Holiday Insurance

Getting At Your Cash

If you usually need to get at your money soon after paying cheques in, you might be frustrated by most building society accounts - commonly it takes seven working days for cheques paid in to clear. This delay happens because most building societies don't belong to the 'clearing system' and have themselves to pay into a bank which is a member of the system. If your account is with a bank (all the big banks and several others) or one of the few building societies (Abbey National and Nationwide Anglia) which belong to the clearing system, cheques that you pay in should normally take only about three... see: Getting At Your Cash

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