Cheques go automatic at NatWest

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NATIONAL Westminster Bank has just joined the rank of banks offering customers automatic cheque-book ordering.

No longer will NatWest current-account holders have to send in an order slip, or punch a button on the cash machine when they get low on cheques. Cheque books will be ordered automatically, based on an individual's rate of cheque use, updated monthly by the bank's computers.

Barclays Bank has been offering the same service to its customers for nine years, Lloyds started it a year ago, and Save & Prosper first offered it last summer. So why the delay at NatWest?

A NatWest spokesman said that it was all down to the bank's computer systems. 'Automatic cheque-book ordering has simply had to fit in with the other systems developments that have been undertaken over the past few years,' he said.

NatWest may be a latecomer on cheque ordering, but its systems developments will enable it, in March, to be one of the first banks to provide advance notice of charges, including interest charges, for all customers. TSB was the first.

When Lloyds launched its system, a quirk in the way it determined customers' rate of cheque- writing caused some people to receive a flood of cheque books, leading to complaints to the bank. To minimise fraud, banks want customers to have only one book at a time.

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