Cash withdrawal furore. Has bank bashing gone too far?

There’s been a lot of anger today from some consumer groups over Alliance & Leicester’s decision to raise the minimum over-the-counter cash withdrawal limit from £250 to £300 from July for basic bank account customers (see the Best Bank Accounts guide). However, the level of anger directed at the bank appears unfair.

This is especially so when A&L will make exceptions if people really don’t want to use an ATM. Plus, the £50 difference is minimal once you get to that level of transaction.

Nationwide Building Society has also announced plans to apply higher over-the-counter minimum limits recently.

Importantly, banks and building societies need to do as much as they can to reduce queues in branch. And if some customers can be drawn away from queues for processes that are still possible at an ATM, surely that’s a good thing?

If that happens, people who need a service where face-to-face interaction is more important, such as when registering a complaint or opening an account in branch, won’t have to wait as long.

There is, of course, another side to this story. Some people, especially the elderly, would much prefer to withdraw cash at a counter. For them, this is clearly a negative move as not all will be aware of the exceptions that may be made as they may simply read the blanket policy.

This is where I must declare my age, well almost. I’m young (ish). I have grown up as an adult with internet banking, with online shopping and I have an iPhone and would love my bank to launch an app that allows me even quicker access.

Therefore, with the way I bank, I am not disadvantaged in any way by such moves so you may accuse me of not understanding the situation facing some customers, which would be fair.

But if you disagree with me, consider this: the queues at the Barclays, Natwest and Santander branches near MSE towers are horrendous on a good day.

I’ve waited over half an hour for a scheduled appointment at Santander, not because the staff are incompetent or tardy, but because they are understaffed and struggle with the volume of customers coming in (in their words).

This has mainly happened as banks prioritise their online channels, which has led to the decline of the branch. This is another debate altogether, but knowing this is happening makes it prudent for banks to move people away from queues, and a couple of metres away in some cases, to the nearby cash machine.

Even if customers don’t want to withdraw large sums on the street for fear of robbery, many banks have ATMs in branch.

It is therefore understandable that banks have prioritised the majority over the minority, especially when the minority can still complete their desired transaction, even if via a different method.

Further reading/Key links

Best accounts: Best Bank Accounts, Top Savings, Fixed Savings

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