NATWEST will open branches this Sunday as the bank deals with the ongoing chaos caused to customers who have been hit by technical problems.
Angry customers have vented their frustration about the hitches, which are also affecting Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Ulster Bank users, with some finding that they had supermarket deliveries stopped and others having disappearing wages or holidays and home purchases disrupted.
All three banks are part of RBS Group, which said it is clearing a backlog of problems caused by a three-day technical issue which it believes is now fixed.
It has apologised and said it is “working round the clock” to correct the problems, including extending its opening hours.
A group spokesman said: “Over 1,000 of our branches will be open until 7pm tonight to help customers with inquiries or who need access to their cash.
“In addition, our branches open on Saturday will extend working hours to 6pm, and these branches will also be open this Sunday from 9am to 12pm.”
Account balances have not been updated properly overnight, meaning that credit and debit payments are not showing up as quickly as they should, although RBS Group said the money is “in the system”.
People going into their branch today could not necessarily see the most up-to-date information on their balances, although staff were said to be “geared up” to help.
Fears have been raised that thousands of customers could be hit with penalty charges if their regular household bill payments such as mortgage payments are affected.
The banking group has promised that no one will be out of pocket and anyone who incurs such a penalty as a result of the problems should contact their branch.
Susan Allen, customer services director for RBS-Natwest retail, told ITV News it was difficult to say exactly when all the problems will be resolved.
She said they were due to “an error in our system which we believe we have now fixed but we are clearing the backlog”.
NatWest has more than 7.5 million personal banking customers, but the group said it could not tell how many have been affected as it was not possible to know when they were expecting payments into their accounts.
However, Ulster Bank said that around 100,000 of its customers have been affected by the same issues.
The problem reportedly arose after staff tried to install a software update on RBS’s payment processing system, but ended up corrupting it.
With the bank’s advertising slogan Helpful Banking attracting the attention of many tweeters, there were numerous messages on Twitter about wages not appearing in accounts or the prospect of being hit with late payment charges.
One user wrote: “#natwest what are u doing! I’m off on holiday today meant to get paid today so where’s my money? helpful banking ay!”
Another said: “Due to complete on flat purchase today. All the money missing in cyberspace. Stressful enough without this, thanks #natwest.”
First-time buyer Raul Poddy, 30, said that he, his pregnant wife and their one-year-old chid came close to spending a night in an empty home because of the problems.
He said that his family were due to complete the purchase of their first home but, because solicitors could not check that funds had been transferred, the keys were not immediately released.
They faced “throwing down a mattress” to spend the night in their empty, rented home in Durham until the problem was resolved, but the keys were later released, allowing them to move in.
NatWest branches in major towns and cities were also kept open until 7pm last night and opened early at 8am today.
A spokeswoman for UK Payments Administration, which oversees payments generally, said the problem was not a central one and therefore it did not appear to have affected other banks.
But anyone expecting payments from people or businesses which bank with NatWest and RBS could encounter delays due to the technical issues at their end, she said.
Vip Measuria, a shop owner from Borrowash, Derbyshire, told the BBC he had been trying to pay his staff but the funds had not shown up in his account.
Mr Measuria said: “The bank manager has phoned me back and has offered me a bank withdrawal so that I am able to pay my staff via cash should I wish to use that service.”
He added: “It’s unfortunate that it’s an error that has happened on their part and we’re having to chase around to try and fix it. Would I change bank? I think it’s still early days yet.
“They have said that any charges... will be rectified and put straight, although that doesn’t help in the short-term when we need to pay people.”