/ Money

Basic bank accounts shouldn’t equal basic service

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Why are banks introducing minimum withdrawals on basic bank accounts at the counter? It’s yet another move that hurts customers, coming as Which? launches its manifesto for banking reform.

My complaint isn’t an attempt to cut queues at the till –  to me, banks are treating some of their poorest customers like second class citizens.

Basic bank accounts were set up under a government scheme to help those who had problems opening a normal bank account.

They don’t offer ‘extras’ like a debit card, so taking out money over the counter at a local bank branch is crucial for these customers.

Minimum withdrawals are madness

I’m sad to hear that the otherwise admirable Nationwide has decided that the minimum anyone with a basic account can withdraw at its counters will be £100. People with little cash rarely, if ever, want to take that much out at a time, so effectively they’re being told: ‘Use the ATM or go away.’

I’m less surprised, however, that the invariably hopeless Santander has set a £300 minimum rule for its counter service on these accounts – and that it’s planning to extend the miniman level to Alliance & Leicester branches soon.

Such rules may save better-off people like me time, but they lower my opinion of the institutions that apply them.

Change banks for good

News of such poor service isn’t new to Which?, and we’ve been pushing for change since the banking crisis of 2008 – and have campaigned for better financial services for years.

We helped set up the Future of Banking Commission in 2009, alongside leading politicians including Vince Cable and David Davis – and it has just delivered a report for change. It helps form the Which? banking manifesto – a 10-point plan that we want each bank to implement – from making fees fair to resolving complaints quickly.

Hopefully a day will come when banks take all customers seriously. And soon.


The sad thing is that many people still aren’t able to open a basic bank account. There’s a shocking number of people in this country who the banks simply ignore. Fighting for their rights has to be a top priority too.

D Tyler says:
30 July 2010

Another example of the arrogance with which Banks treat their "customers". They provide banking services to the multitude only because they cannot withdraw from this segment so they milk it for all it’s worth. They had no intention of learning from the crisis as they do not see that they had any responsibility and they have had it confirmed that Goverments are impotent when it comes to reigning them in.