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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Banks are Bastards When You're Poor.

Yesterday I got a letter from my bank, informing me that my account is changing. I have a Basic Bank Account, because I don't have enough income or good enough credit for a normal current account. It seems that, as of next month, my Basic account is going to become even more basic.

The main change, according to the letter, is that from October I will only be able to use RBS and Natwest cashpoints. Or Ulster Bank ones, to be fair, but there aren't (m)any of those in Sheffield. To me, this is pretty much a disaster. My local cashpoint is a supermarket one - to find an RBS or Natwest ATM I will need to go into the city centre. Every time I need cash.

Also, walking is often difficult for me. I just don't have the capacity to be going to the city centre every time I need to withdraw cash, or - if I'm already in the city centre - walking further than is absolutely necessary, to find the correct cash machine.

Having to use a Basic Bank Account is already a fairly humiliating experience at times, and they tend to be held by people who are unable to access better accounts, because of their income or financial history or age. I am limited to banks that offer basic accounts, and within that selection, to banks that I have not had debt with in the past. Since recent mergers of numerous banks, I am even more limited because banks which were not financially connected before, now are.

The bank assure me in the letter that they value my custom, and in the very same sentence tell me I am welcome to close my account if I am not happy with the changes. Cheers for that, it makes me feel really valued. I haven't yet worked out a way that I can open a different account elsewhere.

So I have no options. I can't close this account in disgust and go to a different bank. I have thought a lot about this overnight, and all I can do is grin and bear it. Cope with the fact that I will only have occasional access to my own money. Work out ways to withdraw lots of cash in one go without being mugged. Learn where RBS and Natwest cash points are and if there are buses that go nearby. Use the small amounts of energy I have to go to the appointed cash machines rather than being able to get out my money and spend it in my local area.

If I had the energy, I'd be even more furious than I am.

[The image is a photo of a hand holding up a piggy bank against a blue sky. It was taken by D. Sharon Pruitt]

Edited to add: I'm not the only person outraged by this. have said:
NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) have been lambasted for preventing holders of their basic bank accounts from using other banks' cash machines.

NatWest and RBS basic bank account holders can only withdraw cash from NatWest, RBS or Ulster Bank cash machines in the UK or at the Post Office. The move places RBS and NatWest alongside Lloyds TSB, which already restricts it 'Cash Account' holders to using Lloyds TSB cash machines and branches of the Post Office.

Previously, most basic bank account holders were able to use the Link network to withdraw cash.

Which? principal policy adviser Dominic Lindley commented: 'This change will increase financial exclusion as it leaves basic bank account holders at RBS unable to access around 80% of the free cash machines in the UK. These account holders will be inconvenienced and might incur extra costs when travelling to find a cash machine they can use.'
Thanks to @vinnivee for that link.


Claire said...

That's awful :( I have only very recently escaped my basic bank account, but they never treated me that badly. I'm automatically trying to think of possibilities but I wouldn't want in any way to imply that their actions are any less than terrible. As if things aren't hard enough! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help (I can't think of anything but hey, in case you do!)

this is exactly the sort of thing that privelaged people (i.e. those with any money, in this case) wouldn't think about in a million years. Except for those that run the banks, who are presumably always trying to think of new and innovative ways to make more money and make people with very little money miserable. I'm guessing there is some kind of small nominal charge they pay when you use someone else's cashpoint- I can't think of any other rationale for their behaviour.

incurable hippie said...

I think that you're right that there must be a charge to the bank when you use a different bank's machines. A different which article says, "It seems as though RBS is making the change to save money.".

You're right that this is the kind of thing that most people don't ever consider.

I don't even know where Natwest is in Shef - I know where RBS is, and it's handy for the trams at least. But seriously!

Anonymous said...

That really does suck!
What about a post office account? Do they exist anymore?
I guess banks are businesses and it may end up costing them more to carry your account than they make from the money contained within it.
Still, def sucks for you.

Poppy said...

I have a Lloyds TSB basic bank account (history of debt) same rule applies but I bet you can count on one finger of one hand the last Lloyds cashpoint you saw.....thankfully the 40 min walk(!) is not a problem for me (and cheaper than a gym)

It seems insane that there can be no exceptions for people with mobility problems

incurable hippie said...

Thanks Polly. I'm going to contact them to ask, but I suspect they'll just tell me to close my account if I have a problem with it. That's what the letter essentially said.

shanti said...

Hi Pippa. Rrrrr. Since the banks are saving money, I suppose they are offering you all a reduced monthly fee on your account... NOT. They might not even have to pay a nominal fee to other cash machine's banks, it just might be their own employees (or computers!) have to spend an extra minute processing it. xoxo