Consumers were warned today that cheques could currently take up to two weeks to clear because of the high number of bank holidays this week.

As there are only five working days between 20 April and 2 May, a cheque paid in on Wednesday 20 April may not have fully cleared until Wednesday 4 May, according to the Payments Council.

Cheques sometimes show up in people's current accounts immediately after they are paid in, but the money cannot usually be withdrawn until after four working days, while there is no guarantee that a cheque will not bounce until six working days later.

The group also urges people to check the time scales for paying important bills over the coming days to ensure they were not stung with penalty charges as a result of delays caused by the bank holidays.

It advises people who usually pay bills by sending a cheque to consider using the faster payments system instead.

Under the faster payments system, payments generally clear on the same day they are made, regardless of whether it is a Sunday, bank holiday or if the payment is made outside of working hours.

The Payments Council stresses that bills paid by direct debit will not be impacted by the low number of working days.

Gary Hocking, acting chief executive of the Payments Council, says: "It is unusual to get so many bank holidays in such a short space of time so it makes sense to think about what bills and invoices you might be due to pay in the next two weeks and to consider if you have to make alternative arrangements for any of them.

"With a wider range of payment options available to us than ever before, taking five minutes to check up on your ways to pay can help you make sure that you aren't affected."