UK banks move to actually help their customers for once

Business banking news review: week ending 30 May 2013

Now here’s some news almost too good to believe: banking providers are actually helping their customers for a pleasant change!

I almost couldn’t believe the news when I read it this week: three major personal and business bank account providers in the UK are making it more simple for almost two million savings account holders to see exactly what kind of rates of return they’re getting on their deposits. And it’s not three little banking providers, either; when I say ‘major banking providers’ I’m talking about Newcastle Building Society, Santander, and Barclays.

The long and the short of it is that hundreds of thousands of savings account holders are to be moved from a myriad of different accounts with just as many interest rates into one simplified savings product that features easily accessible information. This will make it much more easy for a saver to, at a simple glance, understand exactly how hard his or her money is working – and the upside is that a large number of those being transitioned to the new account will actually see a slight increase on the rate of return they’re currently earning in their old account; however there are a few that might not be completely thrilled with the move as they might see a few percentage points shaved off their existing rate of return.

This could still end up being a boon to these savers, as they might be prompted to begin looking for a more competitive savings account as a result. Eventually these savers may find such an account and transfer their cash to a better deal – something they might not have ever done if they had simply let their money languish in their original account; to me this sounds like a win-win scenario.

But there’s more than just that bit of good news – another major bank has overhauled its ATM system to provide better access and more independence to those with vision-related disabilities. The Co-operative Bank has decided to introduce ‘talking’ cashpoints that feature a audio jack that a headset can can be plugged into and will be made available to any Visa or Link card holders, and while there may only be just 400 new talking Co-op cash machines available today there are plans to include an additional 2,000 or so by the end of 2014.

Voice-enabled ATMs are nothing new, as Barclays has already gone forward and placed 3,000 of them throughout the UK to help blind or partially-sighted Brits reclaim a measure of their independence by making something so commonplace as withdrawing money from a cashpoint once more within their reach. However, the Co-op ATMs use additional technology to help the partially-sighted as well, including using screens with a high contrast ratio to make things as easy to see as they possibly can.

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