Basic Bank Accounts
Many of our clients have problems with their banking so we were pleased that Citizens Advice is asking all local offices to get involved in surveying how many banks are offering basic bank accounts and how easy it is to actually open one. These accounts were brought in by the Treasury from 1st January this year for ‘consumers in financial difficulty’. They are there for those with poor credit scores, those in debt, previous bankrupts and those ineligible for current accounts.
Here at Citizens Advice Westminster, we saw that these accounts had the potential to really help many of our clients, who are struggling financially on low incomes, or with debt and other money issues, to manage their money more effectively. However, the willingness of banks to promote the basic bank accounts they offer was questionable. So we geared up as soon as we heard about the national campaign and went out to pound the streets and check in person how easy (or not) it was to open an account.
We went into 8 of the major high street banks in Westminster, approaching the counter as a client would and asked a set series of questions to check: how easy it was to open an account; the staff’s understanding of basic accounts; the procedure for opening one; and, what the staff would recommend to clients. We found the full range of approaches from knowledgeable and helpful to an ignorance of the issues and pressure on the customer to open an inappropriate current account instead. This is valuable intelligence to back up our research of their online offer.
We reported these outcomes to Citizens Advice for their project and we will be creating a local leaflet for clients to use to help them overcome any problems they might encounter when looking to open a basic bank account, especially for those who have never opened a bank account before or feel they must be deferential to the bank’s representatives.
Have a look at our guide to Basic Bank Accounts.