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Post Office Challenge
Many major high street banks and building societies are failing to recognise how important accessing cash through the Post Office can be for older customers. The charity is calling on all banks and building societies to make accounts accessible through the Post Office.
Post offices play a crucial role in providing free access to cash for both Post Office Card Account (POCA) and bank account holders. There are more than 1 million free cash withdrawals at the Post Office everyday and there are currently around 3,000 more post offices nationwide than the total number of all banks and building societies.
Yet some banks and building societies still do not allow customers to access their current accounts through the Post Office. This is particularly a problem in rural and deprived urban areas, where there are far fewer bank branches and withdrawing cash at many ATMs incurs a fee. Age Concern is calling on all banks and building societies to offer this service and for Government pressure on this issue, to ensure financial services are accessible for older people in these areas.
New statistics from Age Concern show that almost half (46%) of older people are unaware that some bank accounts can be accessed through the Post Office. Age Concern also wants to see the banks and building societies that do offer this service making their customers more aware that it is available.
Many older people who are concerned about banks introducing charges for services and existing overdraft charges find a POCA easier to manage. Yet it can be a complicated process to access pensions and benefits through a POCA. A simple application process should be put in place for the proposed improved POCA, with clear information in the State Pension application form outlining this option.
Comments from participants in Age Concern's 2006 Stamped Out? consultation: ‘A visit to my bank involves a 12-mile round trip, so being able to access my account through the post office is invaluable'. ‘Being a rural area, banks and cash machines are in very short supply. Although most of the villages in our area have a post office where people can pick up their pensions and benefits, very few of them have either banks or cash machines. Where village shops have a cash machine they are of the type that charge £2.50 a withdrawal'.
Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, said: "Millions of pensioners access their cash and benefits through post offices and want to continue doing so. But many more are missing out. Post offices allow essential free access to cash in rural and deprived urban areas where there are fewer banks. This is particularly important for those living on a low income. All banks and building societies should rise to the challenge and allow their customers to access their cash in this way, and the Government should pressure these organisations to make this happen.
REHACARE.de; Source: Age Concern
- More about Age Concern at: www.ageconcern.org.uk