Banks put more free cash machines in poor areas

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The Independent Online

Royal Bank of Scotland and HBoS joined the battle to persuade customers that they are Britain's most altruistic bank yesterday, following HSBC by launching initiatives to provide free cash machines in the country's poorest neighbourhoods.

RBS said it would install 300 free machines in poor areas where residents only have access to fee-charging ATMs. Hours later, HBoS said it would install 100.

The moves follow a Citizens' Advice report released last week, which claimed it had discovered more than 100 cash machine "deserts" in the UK, many of which were in the country's poorest areas. HSBC immediately issued a statement saying it was investing £50m on installing 500 free ATMs across the country.

"We are pleased that the banks have announced that they are looking into putting more free cash machines in poorer communities," a spokesperson for Citizens' Advice said. "We hope the banks will commit to keeping machines in place for at least three years and that this signals the start of a commitment to providing free cash machines in communities that have none."

Nationwide, which has been at the forefront of the movement to keep ATMs free, challenged RBS to convert 7,000 fee-charging machines to free ones.

"While this is a great first step, we know RBS has also been increasing its network of charging cash machines - owned through its subsidiary, Hanco," Stuart Bernau, an executive director of Nationwide, said. "It would be a real boon to consumers if RBS would consider converting the 7,000 charging machines it owns."

In a statement, RBS, which owns Natwest, trumpeted its altruism, hailing itself as "the UK's leading community bank". HBOS proclaimed itself the "leader in social banking".

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