How could I have missed a payment?

Laura Whitcombe's picture

I’m a sucker for 0% purchase credit cards. Ever since I arrived in London as a fresh graduate in 2006, I’ve always had a flexible friend. It’s helped me pay for the odd holiday, my beloved iMac and more recently a bed of my very own (I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know that no one else has slept in it – something, unfortunately, many renters have to deal with). 

I only ever have one card at a time. I use the comparison sites to find out which card offers 0% on purchases for the longest period before filling out an online application. To date, I’ve had six credit cards from lenders including Santander and Barclaycard. I currently have the M&S card, which gives me 0% on purchases for 15 months as well as points and vouchers to spend in-store. 

I’m a very responsible credit card user. As I’ve already said, I only use them to buy big-ticket items – usually spreading the cost over a few months and rarely incurring interest on my bills. And I’ve never missed a payment. 

Imagine my surprise then to receive a letter from Tesco Bank informing me I was behind with my credit card payments on an account I’d closed in 2010. I’ve been at the same address ever since but this was the first letter I’d received. 

My immediate concern was that there might have been some kind of fraudulent activity. Then I started to worry that my credit score might have been affected, which could cause me problems as I hope to buy my first home soon. 

I called customer services and was informed that I owed £5 because apparently the account hadn’t been properly closed – at no fault of my own – and my account had been accruing tiny amounts of interest ever since. I was advised to pay the balance. As I was so concerned about my credit score, I did so there and then. But now I’m not sure that was a good idea. Why should I have to pay anything for an account I closed, having paid the balance in full?  

When I put this to Tesco Bank’s press office, a spokesperson told me: “In this instance, the account was closed in 2010 but interest remained payable on the balance as a full and final settlement did not take place. As this was the case, interest continued to accrue and when the balance reached £5 a letter was sent requesting payment.”

While I was relieved to also learn my credit score was unharmed, it was frustrating to be told: “Where residual interest is payable, our process is to notify all customers of this when they close their account. This should happen in all instances and we apologise if this was not the case on this occasion.” A refund would have been nice.