Tired, weighed down with shopping and out of money you finally find a cash point machine, only to discover that it doesn't take your card and you face a long walk to the other end of the high street to get the money you need to get home. An all too familiar story, but one that is set to become a thing of the past. Huge demand from customers is forcing Britain's banks to allow account holders to use any cash machine they want.
Top executives at Barclays are due to meet shortly to discuss plans to do just that. Sources say Barclays is likely to go ahead with the move in the wake of Royal Bank of Scotland's initiative, which caught the industry on the hop.
Link, the building society cash point network, confirmed that it was in talks with Barclays and the other banks that do not currently use its network about a tie-up. It is unclear whether Barclays will charge customers for using Link machines. NatWest, which recently teamed up with Link, charges customers 60p for each withdrawal.
If Barclays does open up its network Midland Bank and Lloyds TSB, the other high street banking giants, will almost certainly have to fall into line.
The creation of a unified banking network is only a matter of time according to industry experts. Harry Hay, the man behind Royal Bank's new initiative, believes other banks are bound to follow. "This gives us a distinct competitive edge. I can't see the others standing back for long."
The changes will prompt a revolution in the services on offer, according to Ian Buxton, a consultant at NCR, which makes more four in every five UK cash points. He believes that customers could soon be able to order foreign currency, arrange a loan or even find out how much they would be allowed to borrow to buy a house simply by popping their card in a machine as banks desperately try to hold on to their customers by adding new facilities.
Intense competition among UK banks saw them develop their own cash point networks, a situation almost unique in Europe. Now pressure from customers and demand for more machines in places such as railway stations and petrol forecourts has forced the main banks to reconsider.
The creation of one network will prompt a huge industry shake-up. Mr Hay predicts that private companies could end up running machines for the banks. However, as in America, customers could well end up paying for the privilege.Reuse content