First Direct - First to abolish free banking

The news that First Direct is to get rid of is free banking services is bound to be watched clsoely by ther banks who are keen to raise introduce charges for customers. It is also an opportunity for customers to hurt First Direct by closing account and to send a clear message tothe banking industry.

Let's face it, UK banks are hardly known for their small profits and it's not like they are in desperate financial straights. What First Direct are doing though is acting as a trail blazer for the rest of the HSBC group. If this succeeds, it is the population, nd particularly the poorer ones, who will pay more.

The fact that First Direct won't charge if you pay in more than £1500 a month means that anyone earning less than about £25,000 a year will be charged an extra £120 a year by the bank. Effectively a poll tax on the poor.

And what about those who are forced to open a bank account because this is the only way they can now receive government benefits ? Effectively, this means that the very poorest will be hit the very hardest. Disgraceful.

I don't have a First Direct account, but if I did, I'd send them a message straight away by closing my account and moving it to the Nat West, a bank that has local branch numbers and uses UK call centres !


Anonymous said...

It is a mistake to assume there has ever been "free banking". Banks have funded the cost of operating current accounts via excessive overdraft fees and paying paltry interest on credit balances. Arguably, lowering the cost of overdrafts helps poorer people more than "free banking".

At any level, it is likely that some form of charging will become commonplace. I'm not sure the monthly fee is the best model - other banks will charge for writing cheques and making paper deposits (as an incentive to use electronic instruments) as a means of covering their costs.

There are two main problems in UK banking. Firstly, as the Farepak case has shown, it's not the poorest who are affected by these charges as they (still) don't have bank accounts (whatever happened to the Universal Bank?).

Secondly, UK banks remain one of the few stand out sections of the UK economy. However, it is primarily internationally that their profits are made - the UK clearing system (paying in a cheque, getting money days later) remains highly inefficient (despite the industry's claims yesterday). The industry should be earning massive profits in absolute terms - they are massive businesses. The problem is they are hopelessly inefficient in the basic business of processing payments (one of the key costs of operating retail current accounts). Until this can be made much more efficient, the three smaller UK clearers (Barclays, RBS/Nat West and Lloyds TSB) will remain potential takeover targets of the big American banks.

Antony said...

I have to agree with you Nich - a lot of middle class people wouldn't be touched but the poor. The people who most need bank accounts will be put off having them.

I do have a First Direct account and, despite not being affected, tomorrow I'm closing it.

Anonymous said...

Antony, you seem to agree with Nich more than you disagree. Nice to see that there is some agreement between politicians of different parties.

It is a shame you didn't post any comments about the congestion charge that Nich wrote about last week. Your views, as a Norwich city councillor, would have been interesting.