Two big changes that could affect personal finances have come into force.

Open banking has started and there is also now a ban on rip-off surcharges when people pay with debit or credit cards.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is open banking?

The initiative aims to give people better tools to help them make financial decisions, with apps or websites making recommendations based on someone's actual financial habits.

Organisations - with the customer's permission - will be able to read the transaction history of their account.

How does it work?

Open banking uses technology to share information securely, without you needing to reveal your passwords. It works in a similar way to the technology that allows people to sign into other online accounts using Facebook.

What sort of services could there be which could help people manage their money better?

Over time, these could include current account comparison websites, money management apps which give tips based on how you use your account, apps that monitor your account balance and give warnings or websites where all your finances are in one place.

Loan and mortgage applications could also go through more quickly because the customer has given the lender permission to see their banking information directly.

Why is the initiative being introduced?

Open banking is part of moves to shake up competition between financial firms.

In 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found older and larger banks do not have to compete hard enough for customers' business - and many people are paying more than they should.

The CMA said people switching bank could save £92 on average per year by moving to a provider which better suits their needs. Those who regularly go overdrawn by one or two weeks every month could save £180 per year on average, it calculated.

Do I have to take part?

No, you can use it as much or as little as you want, or not at all. People actively need to give their consent for this to happen and their details should only be used by firms for a specific purpose and time period.

What about the potential for fraud?

Firms taking part in open banking must be regulated and also appear on a directory. Firms taking part in open banking will have to meet certain security standards. As with any firm, it is wise to check who you are dealing with so that you are sure. Data should only be used for specified purposes and if someone is not happy they could decide to revoke their consent. In general, suspected scams can be reported to Action Fraud and if people are concerned they might have been scammed they should alert their bank.

What is the surcharging ban?

Surcharges have been commonly added by businesses, particularly online, ranging from takeaway apps to global airlines, on customers who pay by card or use other services such as PayPal.

It is estimated that surcharging cost Brits £166m in 2015, with some companies charging customers up to 20 per cent more for purchases just for paying with a credit card.

A ban on these surcharges has come into effect and it is now against the law for retailers to charge additional fees when someone uses a particular credit or debit card, or other payment systems like PayPal, to make a purchase.

Sounds good?

It could be good news but there are fears that businesses, which usually say the surcharge is to cover the cost of processing a card payment, will find other sneaky ways to tack on extra charges.

There are concerns consumers may see the cost of goods and services creep up, or additional ‘booking’ or ‘transaction’ fees added by retailers

Takeaway firm Just East has already drawn criticism for introducing a 50p 'service charge' on all orders after previously levying a 50p surcharge on debit and credit card payments.

Have consumer groups welcomed the changes?

Yes – but with caution.

Gareth Shaw, from Which? Money, said: "This ban should finally stop consumers being penalised simply for using their card. However, people will be wary if it results in price increases, minimum spend limits or even cards being refused by retailers.

"The hovernment and regulator need to closely monitor the effectiveness of the ban - and the fees banks charge retailers for card payments - to ensure that it has the positive impact for consumers originally intended."

Helen Saxon, chief money analyst at, said: "Scrapping card surcharges may be good news - hopefully it will mean an end to surprise charges at the end of a purchase, making it easier for people to compare prices of hotels, concert tickets and more.

"However, it may be that we see the amount that used to be charged in credit card fees popping up elsewhere, for example in booking or transaction fees, or even in the price of goods or services."

Consumer groups are urging shoppers to report any retailers they believe are flouting the new rules which will be enforced by trading standards, who will have the power to take civil enforcement action against traders who breach the regulations. Customers will be entitled to refunds on any unlawful surcharge they have paid.

Consumers can obviously shop around to avoid retailers that make additional service charges and refuse to accept cards or charge additional fees.