First Right of Appropriation 

Information on what the first right of appropriation means and how you can exercise this right to stay in control of your money.

Example - Your wages from your part-time job or a benefit/hardship/support payment from the council are due to be paid into your bank account and you need the money to cover your electricity and food bills. However, you have exceeded your agreed overdraft limit by a couple of hundred pounds and the bank wants to use any money coming in to reduce this. 

What does First Right of Appropriation mean?

Put simply it means that when you pay money into your account, you have the right to tell the bank how you want that money to be used. Therefore you must inform them how you want the money to be used at the time of payment. If you don’t give your bank instructions at the time of payment then they may decide how the money should be used. 

How can you exercise your right?

It is preferable to send written instructions to your bank in case of any later dispute. An example of such a letter can be found later on. It is also a good idea to request that the bank acknowledge your letter or you could send it via recorded delivery.

When is it not useful?

  • Although appropriation can be a useful tool in the short term, the bank is only likely to accept instructions for a short time before withdrawing banking facilities, so at some point you may need to open another bank account elsewhere. 
  • Where you have a current account and a personal loan with the same bank, appropriation cannot be used to stop an internal transfer to the loan account.

What can I do if the bank won’t accept instructions?

Pay the money into another account if you can.

If the money has been paid in and the bank won’t return it, immediately commence the bank’s complaints procedure.

Example wording for a letter giving instructions to your bank

Dear Sir / Madam,
Re: [Insert name, address and account number]
A BACS payment of £500 for credit to my account number xxxxxxx / my wages will be paid into my account on  (Insert Date). I am exercising my first right of appropriation over these funds and wish you to pay the following items from them:
£200   ‘Cash’ withdrawal to cover my living expenses. 
£160 Cheque to Mr Landlord to cover my rent. 
£40 Direct Debit to Phone Co on 5th August
£20 Direct Debit to NPOWER on 6th August.
Yours sincerely 

[Insert Name] 

This should ensure payment of the items listed. Where there is anything left over the bank will use it as it sees fit.
Where the same instructions are to be repeated every month, a sentence could be added to the letter stating ‘these instructions are to be effected every month until further notice’.
N.B. Remember to keep copies of all correspondence with the bank.