Cash on every street corner

Shared cashpoint machines are expanding but watch out for the charges, writes Steve Lodge
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The Independent Online
Millions of current account holders with banks and building societies in the Link network can now also use NatWest Bank cashpoints without charge, following the latest move towards a system of universal access to any cashpoint with any card. NatWest, however, will charge its account holders 60p each time they use a Link machine.

The cashpoint sharing agreement between Link and the NatWest has just "gone live". Account holders with the Halifax and Alliance & Leicester building societies and the Co-operative Bank and Bank of Scotland, all big members of the Link network, are among those set to benefit. But some Link members will follow the NatWest's lead and charge their own customers. Abbey National will charge pounds 1 each time its customers use a NatWest machine, Woolwich 50p and Nationwide 60p.

The table below, compiled exclusively by the Independent on Sunday, highlights the amount of free access now available thanks to tie-ups over recent years. Banks are not good at telling customers that other machines will take their cards and it is not always clear on the machines.

The table shows it is the relatively small Bank of Scotland that now gives its customers free access to the greatest number of cashpoints, more than 18,000 out of the 21,000 run by all institutions up and down the country. Account holders with Barclays have the least free access, about 7,000 cashpoints.

Some cards will incur fees in some machines but charging is unusual. As well as the charges spelt out in the table, some cards carrying, for example, Visa or Cirrus symbols may also work in other machines but involve fees.

Again, any costs for using machines of another bank or building society are unlikely to be spelt out on the cashpoints themselves and the first you may be aware of them is when you receive your statement.

The fees are set by whoever issues your card, not whose cashpoint it is. So if you do not like the the charges, scream at your own bank. Many may waive them if you make enough fuss, particularly the first time they appear on a statement.

NatWest says its 60p charge reflects the cost of processing transactions through Link machines and the added convenience it is offering customers. Each time a NatWest customer uses a Link machine the Link institution will charge NatWest a fee but in the same way NatWest will also earn fees from Link members when their customers use NatWest machines.

"It's swings and roundabouts," as another institution puts it, and most banks and building societies are happy to pass on the increased access to their customers without charge.

Cashpoint sharing deals are set to continue. Royal Bank of Scotland is due to become the first bank to offer its customers free access to all 21,000 cashpoints in Britain when a sharing arrangement with the Link network goes live in September. Moves to give Lloyds and TSB customers more access are also expected. Furthermore, Link says most cards will be useable in most machines by late 1998 or early 1999.

WHICH CASH MACHINES CAN YOU USE?

Bank Free machines (other than own)

any cost in brackets

Abbey National Midland, Link network, NatWest (pounds 1)

Alliance & Leicester Link, NatWest

Bank of Scotland RBS, Barclays, Lloyds, Link, NatWest

Barclays Lloyds, RBS, Bank of Scotland,

Co-op Link, NatWest

First Direct Midland, TSB, NatWest, RBS, Halifax, Abbey National, Clydesdale, Bank of Ireland

Halifax Midland, NatWest, Link

Lloyds TSB, Barclays, RBS, Bank of Scotland

Midland As First Direct

Nationwide Link, TSB (60p), NatWest(60p)

NatWest Midland, TSB, Clydesdale, Link (60p)

Royal Bank of Scotland Barclays, Lloyds, Midland, Bank of Scotland, (RBS) Link (from September)

TSB Lloyds, NatWest, Midland, Link, Clydesdale

Woolwich Link(50p), NatWest (50p)

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