Banks charging by stealth

February 03, 2005 ,

THERE are few things more irritating than bank charges. Nobody wants to pay for the privilege of accessing their own money.

After all when you are depositing money in a bank you are lending them your cash which they lend out to others to make a profit.
Sometimes banks act as if they are doing you a favour, instead of the other way round.

This week the Treasury Select Committee has been looking at the growing practice of charging for withdrawals from cash point machines.

The number of machines charging for withdrawals has grown from none in 1999 to 20,000 today. That’s 40% of the total.

We withdraw £140m from cash point machines every year, but only 3.6% is taken out of machines that charge.

Clearly customers only use them when they really have to.
The typical charge is about £2 but some outrageously charge as much as £10.
Customers often complain that the fact the machine charges is not clear at the outset.

The banks defend themselves by saying that their own machines are free.
Independent companies which operate these charging machines open them in pubs, shops and other locations.

But the banks cannot get away with this.
HBOS financed the sale of 800 of its machines to Cardpoint, and RBS has a subsidiary called Hanco which charges.
This is the banks charging by stealth.

Banks sometimes do good things, and provide important services.
I met recently with the local representative from Barclays bank who have an excellent grants programme to encourage their workers to help out with community projects.

But with their massive profit levels the banks should cover the cost of providing a network of convenient free cash points in all areas, not just the affluent ones.