NatWest customers are encouraged to review bank statements after a major payment disruption

NatWest customers have complained that they were being pressured into their overdrafts after the bank confirmed a payment error had caused some accounts to be accidentally charged twice

n Exterior view of NatWest Bank in central London
With so much money now being managed digitally, it is perhaps inevitable that mistakes will be made

NatWest customers got a nasty surprise this week when 112,000 customers found they had been charged twice due to a default at the bank.

Although technical issues with a large number of errors like this one are not that common, being charged twice or more for a single transaction does happen more often than you might think.

Here’s what’s happening and a guide to your rights.

In the last decade or two, the way we pay for things has changed dramatically. Hard to believe these days, but not so long ago card payments could take 3-5 days to hit your account.

This caused a lot of confusion as money withdrawn from your balance was not registered as spent, making it very difficult to find out how much money you actually had.

NatWest Bank


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All of that changed with the “faster payments” system, meaning money leaves your account and arrives in the other account around the same time (or at least that day).

Millions of such transactions take place every day – in fact, according to UK Finance, there were transactions worth £1.7 billion in January alone.

With all that digital money flying around, it’s perhaps inevitable that mistakes will be made.

Your account may be double charged due to a glitch in the bank’s payment system, as seems to be the case with NatWest. But technical glitches can also duplicate payments for individuals.

Additionally, if you pay through a ‘merchant terminal’ – the machine where you tap or enter your PIN number – payments can also be mistakenly duplicated.

Finally, there are some people who “accidentally” enter the wrong amount or duplicate a payment to get some cash out of you.

It’s foolish as there will be a clear audit trail – but it happens, especially with contactless payments where we might not be careful.

How do I deal with a double payment?

If you find that you’ve been charged twice or more for a single payment, contact your bank or card provider and explain the situation.

Getting a refund shouldn’t be a problem – in fact, they can usually resolve the issue right away.

Because the card provider should be aware that the debit was an error.

Payments come with codes and information that allow the company to see when and where the payment was made.

From this information it should be clear that the double payment is an error.

There may be times when the bank will ask you to sign a document to confirm that you have not authorized more than one payment.

This usually occurs with large amounts.

For example, when a merchant terminal comes up, a store could split a payment in two for it to go through.

However, this is quite unusual – and it should provide clear evidence that you authorized the payment either by entering your PIN or by tapping the card.

If the amount you were charged doesn’t match what you authorized, the error is likely unique.

So if you’ve authorized £9.99 for two pints in a pub but were walked into the bar with £99.99 then it’s easy to tell you bought a few drinks and not a round for everyone!

There are some shady establishments where staff will watch you enter your PIN and make a few extra transactions.

That’s why you should never leave your card behind the bar (or out of sight).

The same applies to paying at the checkout. When typing, make sure you see what the employee typed into the machine (not what’s showing on the till) before authorizing.

How do I avoid double charges?

It may seem a faff, but we all need to get better at double-checking our statements.

You can pay for this directly with your debit or credit card these days.

But you can also use third-party payment systems like PayPal or Open Banking Apps to pay through your phone. You can even pay for some things via our phone bill.

It’s only when banks discover their own technical glitches or there’s a major bug that they usually notice a duplicate payment issue.

So make it a habit to go through your bank statements every month for all the payment systems you have. If you spot something you don’t recognize, go through the transaction dispute process.

Keep in mind that some payments may not seem familiar to you, but could make sense once you learn more about them. Therefore, if you are not sure whether you made the payment, ask the payment system provider for as much information as possible.

Still not happy? You can contact the Financial Ombudsman for disputes related to financial products such as plastic cards and third-party payment systems. The ombudsman can also examine your complaint free of charge.

Visit for free duplicate payment help.

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Fry Electronics Team

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