Although the use of cheques has declined over time, many people still use them to make payments, particularly when they're buying goods from another person rather than from a shop.
Unlike a cheque, a banker's draft is prepaid and issued by a bank. In other words, you give your bank an amount of money and they issue you with a draft for that amount, which you can then give to the person you're paying.
The following information relates to cheques and bankers' drafts drawn on UK banks.
Types of complaint we see
Cheque you've paid into your account
Consumers sometimes complain to us about a cheque they've paid into their account, because their bank returned it unpaid (ie it "bounced"). In some cases, the bank may have credited the consumer's account with the money and then later taken it back (for example, because the person who wrote the cheque didn't have enough money in their account).
This can be a problem if the consumer who paid in the cheque thought the payment had cleared and had therefore:
- withdrawn money they thought they had
- provided an item or service to a buyer
Occasionally, a consumer will complain they paid in a cheque, that their bank then lost in processing.
Cheque you've written to pay someone else
Consumers sometimes complain about a cheque they wrote for someone else, because their bank:
- won't pay it (it bounced)
- made the payment even though they'd cancelled the cheque
Stolen or forged cheques
Consumers occasionally complain that:
- someone has stolen and cashed a cheque they wrote for someone else
- their bank paid a cheque from their account that they didn't sign or authorise
- they paid a cheque into their account, but their bank returned it unpaid because it was stolen or forged
If you have a complaint about a stolen or forged cheque you can find more information on our disputed transactions page.
Bankers' drafts are sometimes stolen or counterfeited. Consumers sometimes complain to us that they paid a draft into their account and their bank later returned it unpaid because it was fraudulent.
Sometimes consumers complain they lost a draft their bank issued for them and then the bank refused to pay them a refund or imposed difficult conditions on the refund.
What we look at
A cheque you've paid into your account
If you're complaining about your bank because they returned a cheque unpaid, we'll usually look at things like:
- the circumstances around the paying in of the cheque
- your account's terms and conditions
- the cheque-clearing process (when a cheque has 'cleared' the money is yours)
- any discussions your bank had with you before returning the cheque unpaid
- any steps you took before discovering your bank had returned the cheque unpaid
If you're complaining that your bank lost a cheque during processing, we'll ask to look at the bank's records so that we can see whether they caused or contributed to the loss.
A cheque you've written to pay someone else
If you're complaining that your bank wouldn't pay out on a cheque you've given someone else, or paid out on a cheque you've cancelled, we'll usually look at:
- the terms and conditions of your account
- the position of your account (including any overdraft facility) at the time the cheque was paid in by the person you gave it to
- any discussions your bank had with you about whether or not they'd pay the cheque
- any history of similar situations on your account
- the effect of your bank not paying the cheque or wrongly paying it
If you're complaining that your bank wouldn't pay out a bankers' draft because it was fraudulent, we'll usually look at:
- any discussions you had with your bank when you paid in the draft
- what options you would have had if your bank had identified the problem earlier
If you've lost your draft and you're complaining about the difficulty in getting a refund from your bank, we'll usually look at the:
- terms and conditions covering the issue of the draft
- circumstances in which you lost the draft - so we can decide how likely it is that someone else will make a valid use of it
How to complain
Talk to your bank first so that they have the chance to put things right. They need to give you their final response within eight weeks for most types of complaint. If you're unhappy with their response, or if they don't respond, let us know.
We'll check your complaint is something we can deal with, and if it is, we'll investigate to understand what happened and what went wrong.
Find out more about making a complaint.
Putting things right
If we think your bank has done something wrong or treated you unfairly, we'll ask them to put things right. This will depend on the individual circumstances and how you've been affected - it could include:
- putting you back in the position you would have been in had the problem you've complained about not happened
- refunding overdraft charges and interest the bank has applied to your account as a result of you spending money you thought you had
- honouring your unpaid cheque
- refunding you with the money the bank has wrongly paid to someone else
- compensating you for:
- a non-financial loss, such as embarrassment or loss of trust
- consequential loss, such as the loss of a supplier or loss of profit (if you're a small business)
Detailed advice for businesses
Businesses can read more detailed advice on handling complaints about cheques and bankers' drafts.