Managing bills and bank accounts

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1 Managing bills and bank accounts This information is an extract from the booklet Managing your money day to day, which is part of our Financial guidance series. You may find the full booklet helpful. We can send you a free copy see page 7. Contents Direct debit Online payments Prioritising your bills Bank and building society accounts Post office card account Many of us find it hard to keep track of our bills and bank accounts. Remember that: You can pay most bills and check your bank accounts online. This is often easier and quicker. It also helps you check your accounts more often. If you have a smartphone or tablet, some banks, water and energy companies have their own apps, which can help you manage your accounts. Avoid paying bills late, as you may be charged extra. Credit card providers will charge you a penalty each time you miss the payment date and it may affect your credit rating. Direct debit The simplest way to ensure that your bills are automatically paid on time is to pay by direct debit. You can do this for most bills, including council tax, water rates, fuel (gas and electricity), phone and your TV licence. Fuel and phone providers often give a discount if you arrange to pay this way. Questions about cancer? Ask Macmillan Page 1 of 7

2 If you re paying by direct debit, make sure you have the money in your account on the payment date. If you find it harder to know when you ll have money, paying bills individually may work better for you. You can even arrange to pay your credit card balance by direct debit. You choose whether to pay off the full amount each month, a set amount or the minimum repayment. However, be careful paying for insurance by direct debit. Some policies including many car or home insurance policies treat it as a loan when you arrange to pay monthly rather than in one payment, and will charge you interest. To arrange to pay a regular bill by direct debit, contact the company providing the goods or service. You can also pay by standing order. Unlike direct debits, you specify how much is paid each month and this cannot be changed without your agreement. Standing orders can be useful for fixed monthly bills that do not change. Online payments If you re confident that you ll get around to paying bills, but find it hard to get to a post box, post office or bank, consider paying the bills online. This is now possible for most fuel, phone and credit card bills. Some companies give you a discount if you pay this way. If you have an online bank account, you can make all your bill payments online. To arrange to pay a regular bill online, contact the company providing the goods or service. To sign up for online or telephone banking, contact your bank. Or, if you prefer, you could make all your payments using telephone banking. Prioritising your bills If you re finding it hard to pay your bills, don t ignore the problem. Debts quickly get worse if they re ignored. It s especially important to deal with any priority debts. We have more information about these in this section. Page 2 of 7 Questions about cancer? Ask Macmillan

3 Mortgage/secured loan If mortgage payments aren t made for a few months, your property or home may be repossessed. However, there are schemes designed to help people struggling with mortgage payments. Visit gov.uk (England, Scotland and Wales) and nidirect.gov.uk (Northern Ireland) and search for mortgages for more information. Rent arrears (unpaid rent) You could be evicted after eight weeks if you don t pay your rent. If you ve made an application for Housing Benefit (or Universal Credit a benefit for people of working age who are looking for work or who don t earn very much money) to cover your rent, it s important to make sure your landlord is aware of this. Council tax or rates DIFFERENCES ACROSS THE UK In England, Scotland and Wales, you could face a magistrate s court fine or eventually more serious action if you miss council tax payments. In Northern Ireland, you could be taken to court for not paying your rates. Unpaid gas or electricity bills Your gas and/or electricity may be disconnected if you don t pay these debts, but explaining your circumstances to your energy supplier may stop this from happening. If you re vulnerable and are unable to pay your bills, most of the major energy suppliers will not disconnect your supply. But you have to let them know that you re classed as vulnerable. You might be vulnerable for reasons of age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity. Fines, maintenance and compensation orders You may face a magistrate s court (sheriff s court in Scotland) fine for failing to pay these. Questions about cancer? Ask Macmillan Page 3 of 7

4 TV licence You may face a magistrate s/sheriff s court fine for failing to pay your TV license. A bailiff (a person legally authorised to recover a debt) may be given the right to take your possessions. Tax and VAT Failing to pay these means you will be charged interest and penalties, may be taken to court and your possessions up to the value of what you owe may be seized. You may face a magistrate s/sheriff s court fine for failing to pay. Hire purchase and conditional sale agreements Items you have purchased using these may be repossessed. Parking penalties Civil action could be taken and your vehicle could be seized if you do not pay these penalties. They should be treated as priority debts because of the level of action that can be taken. JARGON BUSTER Priority debt A very important debt. If you do not pay it, there will be a serious effect. For example, if you don t pay your mortgage, you could lose your home. Hire purchase A scheme that lets you own a product while paying for it in small instalments. Page 4 of 7 Questions about cancer? Ask Macmillan

5 Bank and building society accounts For information about different types of bank accounts, visit the Money Advice Service website at moneyadviceservice. org.uk When you re coping with cancer and its effects, having someone else help you with banking tasks may take some of the pressure off you. There are two main ways someone else can help you run your account: A third-party mandate is where you arrange for your bank to accept instructions made on your behalf by someone else, such as your partner or carer. The account remains yours, but that person will be able to make withdrawals, write cheques and carry out other transactions in your name. A bank doesn t have to agree to allow a third-party mandate. A joint account is owned by two people. You can alter an existing account so that it s held jointly with someone else (your partner, for example) or open a new joint account with them. They become the joint owner of the money in the account with you. They would be able to write cheques and make other decisions and, if you died, they would automatically inherit the whole account. In either case, it s essential that you can completely trust the person helping you run the account. As an extra safety measure, consider opening a separate bank account for this purpose and just keeping a limited amount of money in it. To set up a third party mandate or open a joint account, contact your bank. A further option would be to give someone power of attorney to run your financial affairs on your behalf. For more information about this, see our booklet Sorting out your affairs. You can order a free copy at be.macmillan.org.uk or by calling Protect your PIN PIN stands for personal identification number. This is a code that you use to authorise a transaction when you use a debit, credit or cash card at a cash machine or a keypad in a shop. Questions about cancer? Ask Macmillan Page 5 of 7

6 Even if you want someone else to make payments or cash withdrawals for you, don t give them your debit, credit or cash card and PIN. By giving away your PIN, you re breaking your bank s rules, and if money goes missing from your account, the bank could refuse to refund it. When you set up a third-party mandate or joint account, the person helping you can have their own card and PIN. Post office card account A post office card account accepts state benefit and pension payments and lets you draw them out in cash at post offices using a card and PIN. If you find it hard to get to a post office, you could choose to have your benefits paid into a bank or building society account. You can ask to be paid by cheque instead. You can then sign the cheque on the back to authorise someone else to cash it for you. This could be convenient if several different people will be helping you. Getting help You can apply for one person (called your permanent agent ) to be given permanent access to your Post Office card account. They will be issued with their own card and PIN so they can take out cash and check your balance for you. Make sure anyone you choose as your agent is a person you trust. To appoint someone as a permanent agent for your Post Office card account, get an application form from a Post Office. To ask for payment of benefits by cheque, contact the office responsible for making the payment. Details should be on the paperwork showing your benefit entitlement. Page 6 of 7 Questions about cancer? Ask Macmillan

7 NEXT STEPS Keep track of any debts you have not paid. Organisations such as the Money Advice Service (moneyadviceservice.org.uk) and Unbaised (unbiased. co.uk) can help you with this. Think about setting up direct debits or online payments to make paying your bills easier. We have a booklet called Managing your debt, which we can send you for free. More information and support More than one in three of us will get cancer. For most of us it will be the toughest fight we ever face. And the feelings of isolation and loneliness that so many people experience make it even harder. But you don t have to go through it alone. The Macmillan team is with you every step of the way. To order a copy of Managing your money day to day or any other information from our financial guidance series, visit be.macmillan.org.uk or call We make every effort to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and up to date but it should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialist professional advice tailored to your situation. So far as is permitted by law, Macmillan does not accept liability in relation to the use of any information contained in this publication, or thirdparty information or websites included or referred to in it. Macmillan Cancer Support Registered charity in England and Wales (261017), Scotland (SC039907) and the Isle of Man (604). Registered office 89 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7UQ REVISED IN APRIL 2015 Planned review in 2016 Questions about cancer? Ask Macmillan Page 7 of 7

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