Sunday, February 13, 2011

Banks - why are they so much harder to use?

Many, many years ago I opened my first "instant access" bank account (the terminology for children's accounts is too confusing) at the age of twelve. There were various reasons for choosing the bank I did but a key one was out of hours access. Yes I could both withdraw and pay in money outside of those ultra-restrictive banking hours, even outside of branch opening hours.

(Well okay not completely. I could only withdraw at the counter during banking hours, i.e. weekdays until 15:30 when I could rarely access the bank. This made no sense when I could access the cash machines 24/7. More bizarrely, I could only get a statement machine printout during opening hours despite the machine being located in the 24-hour lobby section.)

As a child, one of the biggest benefits was that I could pay in cash - not just notes but also coins - whenever I needed to. The bank was one of the first to provide machines for paying in, and again these were available out of hours. If the machines broke down there was a back-up method of depositing via the branch letterbox.

I've been with that bank for nearly two decades now (although I do use others as well) and the situation at branches is definitely worse. The lobbies have generally been phased out without actually telling customers why. (The nearest lobby to where I now live is still there but always locked without any sign to say it's no longer in use.) The external machines don't handle deposits at all, unlike several rival banks that at least allow cheques and notes to be paid in. The letterboxes are mixed, with some sealed up. Even when one is accessible the bank takes a dim view of money being paid in - the last time I deposited that way I received an unhelpful phone call just saying that the box wasn't for that.

Depositing outside opening hours is pretty much impossible, short of using another bank altogether and transferring the funds electronically - not exactly banking made easy. But what about during opening hours? Well the branches now have machines for paying in cheques and "cash" (sic - actually just notes) which do work. However paying in coins is another matter altogether - there is a machine that takes coin deposits and even counts them but only a few, mainly large city centre branches have the machines. It is surprisingly easy to accumulate large amounts of coins when the opportunities for either using or depositing them are limited. And this in turn can lead to the machines that are around filling up and going out of service - very annoying when you've made a special trip just to use them.

The result is that it often feels like paying into the bank is increasingly a special mission, rather than the simple task it used to be. Banks are becoming ever more inaccessible for the ordinary customer. Could I just switch banks, some ask. Yeah but no but yeah but... It's a bit of a hassle to change the accounts many things are drawn on but the substantial problem is that other banks seem to be going the same way if they weren't worse to begin with. Many are stealthily restricting deposits at cashpoints by making it pot luck as to whether the deposit function works, and some never offered it at all. In the march towards an all electronic monetary system, many people are being abandoned en route.

So much for progress...


Manfarang said...

Putting money in a bank?
How quaint.
Banks are only interested in ripping off their customers these days.

sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Darryl Ley said...

Banks and their ilk are increasingly just there for their own benefit. For instance my building society now so highly values their tellers’ time that you can’t go in a bother them for a trifling withdrawal for less than £40.

I share your annoyance about the difficulties of paying in money my building society only allows paying in at the teller (I am guessing) and a deposit machine in branch that offers you the chance to pay in money by note or by cheque.

I agree with your point on opening hours luckily enough for me I work PT so I can head down on a Monday or Tuesday to use a faceless machine because my business is not good enough for humans.

That brings me to another peeve of banking systems, cheque clearing times. At present with my bargain basement account I obtained when I was a student and got screwed over by Natwest (a story for another time) a cheque will take 4 days to clear (exact wording I think requires it to be paid in by 3 or so) but as shown on the back of paying in receipts if I was with their improved account I could cut that down to 3 days.

Really I thought the whole good side of cowboy bankers was a free banking system but here it seems we have a preferential treatment based on ability to pay in.
Now I am working I might indeed take my business elsewhere, only have two direct debits as I hate the things, especially with the £30 charge I receive on the account per item if they bounce which when I was unemployed pretty much destroyed my month.
So Tim I say fight on I for one wish to be able to pay in my pennies because god knows there is no use for them.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...