Basic bank accounts boost confidence

Monday, 13 March 2006 12:00

Almost four people in five (77 per cent) say they have become more confident about money after taking out a basic bank account.

New research from Millward Brown on behalf of the British Bankers’ Association shows that customers generally opened accounts due to their simplicity, with just one person in a hundred prepared to close their account and not open another.

The government introduced basic bank accounts in 2003 which are designed to allow more people to benefit from the advantages of bank accounts, there are now more than 5.9 million basic bank accounts in operation.

They let people who would often not qualify for a standard bank account benefit from facilities such as paying bills by direct debit, having pensions and benefits paid directly into accounts, and accessing their money with a cash card.

One of the features of the account is that it cannot go overdrawn, and generally does not include a cheque book.

However, earlier this year Citizens Advice pointed to examples of banks putting “unreasonable obstacles” in the path of those trying to open accounts – such as insisting on certain forms of identification, or not providing any information about basic accounts.

Other problems include heavy fees for missed direct debits, which can be triggered by late payment of benefits or tax credits, and the fact it can take as long as ten days for a cheque to clear using a basic bank account, rather than the three it takes normally.

But today’s research for the British Bankers’ Association paints a far more positive picture of the product.

Data released shows that nine customers in ten (90 per cent) are confident that the basic bank account meets their needs, some 92 per cent feel opening an account is simple and straightforward, 91 per cent are satisfied with the way the account is handled, and 87 per cent of active users are happy with the functions provided by the account.

“Access to banking services is the lynch pin to financial inclusion and this research clearly shows that the features of the basic bank account closely match peoples’ needs,” said Ian Mullen, chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association.

“As customers become more confident with their finances, a change to an account with fuller features may be appropriate.”

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