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Top tips to protect yourself from a bank IT outage

After online outages left many customers in the lurch last week, we look at what you can do to protect yourself in case your bank's systems fail


A spate of technical glitches hit Barclays, Natwest, RBS and Ulster Bank last week, leaving some customers unable to access their online banking services or use their associated apps to manage payments.

It comes just months after TSB’s major IT outage that caused chaos for several weeks starting in April and again in July.

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While all the issues are resolved for now, it’s unlikely to be the last time a bank’s IT system causes havoc.

So, while your bank will ultimately be held liable if they leave you in the lurch it’s worth having a few options to protect yourself in case your bank has a major technical problem.

What can you do ahead of a scheduled outage

Your bank should give you plenty of notice about any planned outage or major updates to their system that could pose a risk to their customers’ banking. If you know this is coming there are a few things you can do to prepare.

1. Prepare your payments

Take note of when the update will take place and plan ahead. Think about what standing orders and direct debits you have scheduled during that time. If you have payments that must be made during the update, reschedule them to be paid in advance.

2. Check your balance

You may not be able to access your account during an update, so check your account balance beforehand to keep track of the funds you have available.

3. Have cash ready

Make sure you have enough money available for the duration of the outage, in case you’re unable to access your account during this time. You can take out cash in advance or use a prepaid card to make any necessary purchases.

4. Spread your money over a few accounts

Consider having an account with a different bank in case of emergencies. Having all your eggs in one basket will make it harder to access your money during an outage and makes your finances more vulnerable.

If you have an account with a different bank, you can transfer some funds from your primary account while the update is taking place so you’re not left stranded.

5. Update your banking apps

Once the scheduled maintenance is complete it is important to update your banking app so you can benefit from the latest features included in the upgrade.

What you can do if your bank has an unscheduled outage

Unfortunately, even routine system updates can go wrong and you could stop being able to access your money or find your payments failing at short notice.

In most cases your bank will fix the issue as soon as possible and compensate you for any losses their failure has incurred, but there are still a few things you should do.

1. Make sure your bank’s customer service knows about your problems

Contact your provider or check their social media channels to find out what the issue is and when they expect your online banking to be restored.

2. Inform your bank and payees of missed payments

If you think some of your payments might be missed during an outage, make sure you let your bank know. There might be something they can do to assist or advise of other payment methods available.

Then inform the companies that you have standing orders and direct debits with that your usual payment may be late.

Don’t forget about payments that aren’t standing orders or direct debits. If you have invoices and payments that need to be settled during an unexpected outage, contact the supplier and explain the situation.

3. Check your credit file

Check your credit file – when payments are missed all it can take is a payment being made one week late to put a dent in your credit rating.

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4. Lodge an official complaint

If you think you’re facing a loss due to an unexpected online banking failure you can lodge a complaint with your bank for any financial damages incurred as a result of the disruption.

If you don’t believe your complaint has been dealt with appropriately by your bank you can take your case to the Financial Ombudsman for review.