Free banking slowly disappearing from our lives
As widely predicted, UK banks are gradually converting their customers from free banking to paid-for accounts. A combination of falling profits and the impending carnage from the banks’ inevitable defeat in the excessive charges case.
There are now 3.7 million more fee-charging accounts than there were three years ago according to research in the Daily Telegraph, with 44 per cent of all accounts now paid-for, compared to 37 per cent in 2006 – and the figures are sure to rise.
Richard Kibble of PricewaterhouseCoopers said: “We appear to be at a tipping point where it is likely that some sort of charge for a current account is seen as normal. The number of people who are paying fees of some form has risen quite significantly over the past decade. The UK is quite unusual by not having explicit charges, unlike Europe and the US.”
So, do you get anything for your money? Not a lot – most customers don’t use the ‘benefits’ that come packaged with paid-for accounts, such as free travel insurance, roadside cover or a square foot of free velvet on Valentines’ Day.
Lesley McLeod, an executive director of the British Bankers Association, said there are more added-value accounts on offer. “As long as there is choice out there and people are quite clear about what they are signing up to then we don’t see a problem with them,” she said.
Heed our words – the day isn’t far away when those of us who opt for free accounts are stripped of luxuries such as plastic debits cards (we’ll have to make do with cardboard ones) and in-branch counter service. We’ll only be allowed in the branch for an hour a week and the till we get served at won’t have the little microphone and speaker system, so we’ll have to shout and it’ll be awful.
It’s going to be like apartheid all over again… you heard it here first.