Last week, a processing problem at the RBS group on Wednesday caused major problems for thousands of bank account customers across the UK.
Around 600,000 transactions were delayed, some until Friday, leaving many affected customers worried about how bills would be paid and how they would feed their families, as they’d been relying on their wages, tax credits and disability living allowance going in on time.
RBS apologised, saying it was “extremely sorry for the inconvenience and distress that this has caused our customers.” However, this wasn’t the first time the banking group had let customers down, as a software issue in 2012 had resulted millions of customers being unable to access their account and a hefty fine of £56 million from regulators.
Perhaps you were affected last week and are wondering how you can make sure you’re better prepared for next time a banking problem arises. Maybe you weren’t affected but can’t help but think that next time it could be your bank that has issues, whether it’s later on this year or in years to come. If you want to try to protect yourself there are a few things we can suggest:
Experts recommend that you should aim to have three months essential outgoings saved up for emergencies, which sounds great in theory but in reality can be hard to do. If you currently spend £1,500 a month on your mortgage or rent, utility bills, rent and travel costs then you’d need approximately £4,500 in your emergency fund.
If you don’t currently have any savings, or very little, now might be the time to start putting as much as you can away. To do this, you could set up a standing order so that a set amount is transferred into a savings account every week/fortnight or month as soon as your income comes in. This way you won’t have to think about transferring money yourself as it’ll be done automatically, which should help ensure that you’re adding to your emergency fund each month without fail.
Your emergency fund could become a lifeline not only if there is another banking crisis but if your washing machine suddenly breaks, if your pet needs an operation at the vets or any other type of crisis pops up. Having an emergency fund you can dip into if needed could save you a lot of stress and panic.
Consider a credit card
You may also wish to consider getting a credit card that you can use in emergencies. You probably wouldn’t spend on it regularly but it would be there for crisis situations. For instance, you could use it to buy essentials if, say, your debit card stopped working for a short period for whatever reason. You’d know you’d be able to pay it off in full as soon as the problem was fixed and, providing you do clear the balance in one go by the due date, you wouldn’t be charged any interest.
In other crisis situations you mightn’t be able to clear the balance in full, for instance if you needed to replace a broken washing machine, and didn’t have the savings, then you could fund a replacement via your credit card and repay over a few months. In this case you would be charged interest, however, you would benefit from being able to spread the cost. You would need to make sure you could pay at least the minimum payment amount each month, otherwise you will incur additional charges and damage your credit record.