Money Grouse: Caught on the bounce by a cash machine

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The Independent Online
MAXINE STILLS thought that by paying cash into her Nationwide ATM on a Thursday afternoon she would cover a cheque due to be presented the following day.

Even though the cash was credited to her account at 9.30am on the Friday the building society still returned the cheque - and charged her pounds 20 for the privilege.

Nationwide says the literature on all ATM-related accounts explains that cash deposits through hole-in-the-wall machines take up to two days to clear. One reason for this is that the building society cannot guarantee the machines will be emptied each day.

Ironically, Mrs Stills deposited the cash at 3.15pm when her Gloucester branch was still doing business, but there were long queues. If she had queued the cash would have been credited in the early hours of next morning, when the computer tapes are run, and the cheque would not have bounced.

Nationwide has returned the pounds 20 as a gesture of goodwill. 'Technically we are within our rights, but we like to keep our customers,' a spokesman said.

'It may well be the literature talks about two working days, but that's a red herring as far as the public is concerned,' says Mrs Stills. 'I expect cash machines at busy central branches to be emptied either at night or first thing each morning, and once they're cleared out cash should be credited to accounts before the debiting starts. Doing it the other way round is a nonsense.'

The spokesman confirmed that accounts are debited first thing in the morning while credits have no fixed time - it depends when the machines are emptied. Even if staff realised that cash had become available to cover the debit, it was difficult to get a cheque back once it had been bounced.

'It may not be the most perfect system, but information is that we offer a better system of cash credit than our competitors,' he added.

That depends. Cash paid through Halifax ATMs needs two working days to clear, while Abbey National demands three - to allow cash to wing its way from remote outposts to central branches, it says.

The big four clearing banks will credit cash to accounts on the day it is dropped off - if it is at the customer's own branch. Otherwise, it takes three working days.

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