Banks must ensure that no-one’s penalised for not having an account

 

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The Independent Online

Can you imagine what life would be like if you didn’t have a bank account? OK, it may mean you wouldn’t ever face excessive charges for unexpectedly going into the red. And it would also mean you’d never again have to cope with the bank’s computer cock-ups which have left millions without access to their cash.

On the other hand you would not have access to the wonderful convenience that a bank account brings. It would mean no more easy bill-paying through direct debits. It would also mean no more online shopping or the convenience of paying by plastic on the high street, in restaurants, or when travelling.

Imagine how much more difficult modern life would be if you had to pay for everything in cash? You’d lose out on discounts offered for direct debits, or online shopping. In short, many things would become more expensive and end up harder to pay for.

If that sounds a ridiculous notion, then bear in mind that there is an estimated two million people in Britain who don’t have bank accounts. Why? Maybe because they don’t have regular work or a good credit history, they’ve been turned down for mainstream banking.

So it’s good news that a new style of basic bank account is to be launched through the high street banks next year after a deal was agreed with the Treasury. Basic accounts were launched around a decade ago to help those who normally don’t qualify for an account. They don’t offer overdrafts or cheque books and are free to the users.

But some hard-up people have been hit by unexpected charges for bounced payments which, at £30 or more, have then put them into financial difficulty. Under the agreement fees will be scrapped.

They will also be offered access to the whole cash machine network. Up till now, they’ve only been able to use their own bank’s machines. Helping the unbanked is important and banks must also advertise the accounts more widely, rather than hiding notices about them in hard-to-see places.

s.read@independent.co.uk

Twitter: @simonnread

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