We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Put Americans in charge of the British banking system

Catoid Tim Lee grumbles about the American banking system:

When I was little, I’m pretty sure “bankers hours” meant something like Monday-Friday 9 to 5. So why do most banks in downtown DC close at 3 PM Monday-Thursday? Citibank is a brave exception, closing at 4. That still didn’t do me any good when I set out at 4:15 yesterday looking for a new bank.

The British banks – which used to close at 3:30pm – do at least stay open a bit longer these days, normally until 4:30pm. But that’s about all that’s going for the British system.

In the US system, you get a cheque, take it to the bank that issued it, and they will give you cash there and then. On the spot. Go to a British bank, and they won’t give you cash. It has to be paid into an account. Don’t have an account? It’s easy: all you have to do is to bring in your birth certificate and two utility bills. Don’t have any utility bills because you’re living with other people? Well, sorry, no bank account. It’s the law, you know. If you have an account, that’s great. No you can’t have the money. It’ll take four business days to process the cheque. We couldn’t let people have access to money instantly, after all. Instead, we’ve put cheque clearing in the hands of a lethargic monopoly, the Assocation of Payment Clearing Services.

The banking system in Britain seems to operate in many ways skewed in the interests of the banks rather than the interests of consumers. Maybe adopting American regulations – and replacing our banks with American ones – would make the system work better.

50 comments to Put Americans in charge of the British banking system

  • GCooper

    Without wishing the defend the UK’s banks, this absurd ‘two utilities bills’ nonsense is imposed on them by the government’s money laundering regulations.

    Heaven knows, our banks are bad enough, but the combination of their dinosaur attitudes and monopolistic practises with Blairite control-freakery is a marriage made in hell.

  • mike

    At least the British building societies aren’t that bad – I often cash Halifax cheques straight off with a quick pop to the counter.

  • Shaun Bourke

    Most banks in the US are open saturday for at least half a day and where there is demand some will even be open sunday.

    ” The business of the American people is business” …….Calvin Coolidge

  • I must admit that Canadian banks have come a long, long way from when I first opened my savings account for my paper route. In those days, the banks opened at 10, closed at 3 (6 on Fridays), and were not open at all on weekends. The big advantage they had over American banks was that we had nation-wide banks (every major bank had offices in every region of the country).

    Today, we have most banks open 9:30 or so until 6, many of them to 9, regular hours on Saturday, and ATM machines available at pretty much every bank branch for after-hours banking.

    And I do almost all my banking on the internet. ;-)

  • “At least the British building societies aren’t that bad – I often cash Halifax cheques straight off with a quick pop to the counter.”

    These are cheques that you have to go to Halifax and ask them to create for you?

  • I’m sorry but point blank I’d have to say that the us has one of the worst retail banking systems in the developed world. The reason they’re so ready to give you cash is that most of their customers prefer using cash to the useless cheques and other stuff they give.

    Oh yes and before you adopt us regualtions remember that the history of the US is essentialy the history of retail banking collapses – from the depression to the S&L crisis

  • Euan Gray

    I haven’t used my chequebook since 2001. It is easier and faster to work by direct debit, standing order, creidt card, debit card, internet or telephone banking, and so on. There is actually very little need to physically enter a bank these days.

    Having said that, some banks over here in Backward Blighty ™ do open on Saturdays if there is the demand. Judging by the prevalence of the alternative methods above, there would appear to be very little demand for this.

    You can cash cheques instantly (for a fee) without waiting for the clearing period or buggering about with APACS, provided the cheque is crossed and you can identify yourself. If you can’t identify yourself, can’t prove where you live and don’t have a bank account you’ll probably find it pretty hard to cope in contemporary society anyway, I’d have thought, & cashing a cheque is probably the least of your worries.

    EG

  • I have a safety deposit box in Florida (I live in France) in Sun Bank. I opened it in 1990. Every year I have to get the 30 or so dollars in a cheque and send it to the bank so that I can rent the box for another year.

    No, I cannot pay for several years in advance. No I cannot pay by credit card. To open an account and pay the rental from said account will cost me more money than its worth. If you think Britain is backwards, try Sun Bank in Florida.

    BTW : For several years whilst in London I never paid a utility or credit card bill, other than by using the phone.

  • Findlay Dunachie

    One of the most maddening things about subscribing to US periodicals, as I do – Commentary, National Review, American Spectator, Reason – is that none of them can operate a direct debit or standing order because, I assume, US banks don’t offer the service. Or do they in some fashion – perhaps someone can tell me. Year on year I get letters begging me to renew my subscription, whereas any UK publication goes on being sent forever until I cancel it. Which system keeps more subscribers?

    Like, I ams sure, many people in this country, I pay all my regularly occurring bills by direct debit. Charities also have discovered that they can approach you in the street and put you onto a direct debit straightaway – can that happen in the US?

  • Euan Gray

    To open an account and pay the rental from said account will cost me more money than its worth

    You have to pay a fee in order to pay a bill? Even here, you can open an account and pay bills from it and, provided you don’t overdraw, you needn’t pay a single penny in charges. You’ll even get interest on the deposit.

    If you think Britain is backwards, try Sun Bank in Florida.

    It’s odd, but speaking to Americans in my company who have lived & worked in Britain, they do tend to have praise for the much maligned British banking, telephone and postal systems, saying they are often more reliable, quicker and – in the case of the telephone system – a lot cheaper.

    Doubtless the British banking system isn’t perfect, but I am sceptical that the answer to any British problem always and inevitably lies in adopting American practice. Sometimes American is better, sometimes not.

    EG

  • ellie

    “..is that none of them can operate a direct debit or standing order because, I assume, US banks don’t offer the service. Or do they in some fashion – perhaps someone can tell me.”

    Direct debits are originated by the vendor, either internally or through some service provider like ADP. I’ve never heard of a bank that can’t process ACH debits. And, certainly, many (most?) banks offer direct debit for safe deposit box and other fees.

    I don’t go to the bank for anything anymore so it’s not really my problem, but Bank of America charges some customers when they make a deposit. That’s a ripoff for sure.

  • As a Wachovia Bank custorner in Florida, I only go to the bank to get free coin wrappers and deposit coins. My paycheck is automatically deposited, ATM usage at bank branches is free, I can deposit checks at ATMs and cash checks Saturday at the drive-up until noon. But I never cash checks any more. Wachovia branches extend well up the coast, to DC at least. My ATM network extends across the country. I’ve taken out money – for a fee – in California and New Hampshire. I pay most of my bills on the internet, for no extra fee. And I can check my balance every day if I want. Automatic monthly payments are always available, but I don’t use them because I’m paranoid, I guess. Also, my checking account is linked to my savings account and a credit card account, so I don’t have to worry about the astronomical overdraft charges. I’ve always envied the British privilege of running a negative balance at your bank until the bank manager sends you a formal letter demanding money. But maybe that doesn’t happen anymore?

  • Tim Haas

    Bank practices vary widely in the U.S. Many banks do not want small retail customers, and charge lots of fees to those who hold less than $500 or $1,000 in their accounts on a rolling basis (low balance charges, per check charges, ATM fees, etc.).

    However, the bank I use actively solicits small retail customers: Branches are open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Checking accounts are completely free of charges, with no minimum balance. They clear deposits of up to $5,000 the next business day (most other banks have a limit of $1,000 or below). Wire transfers, for which the charge is only $10, clear instantly. The company, which is expanding rapidly, is really shaking up the industry in the mid-Atlantic region.

  • Denise W

    I’m in the US, in Georgia, and the banks in my town are open 9 to 4 Monday through Thursday, 9 to 6 on Friday and half a day on Saturday. The drive through opens earlier at 8:30am all week. There was a time when the hours Monday through Thursday were extended to 5pm but they changed it back to 4pm.

  • Sandy P

    Come to Chicago – drive up open until 7 PM.

    and open Sat and Sun AM.

  • Telemachus

    Bah – deal with Drummonds and see if you still think that British banks are superior. It’s enough to make one pine for regulation.

  • ernest young

    English banks tend to bit slow in clearing transactions of any sort, even cash. The reason – everything goes through the BACS system, (it may be called something different these days), and at overnight money market rates, the two to three day delay to clear a transaction was worth some three billion pounds per day, in interest to the banking system as a whole. Remember, that every transaction that your clearing bank does, every day, uses this system…

    That was the figure some years ago, before the era of low interest rates, it is obviously different now that rates are much lower, but that could account for the even longer ‘clearance’ times now, or maybe the bigger turnover of cash has made up any shortfall!

    When you make a deposit the money goes into a ‘financial limbo’, this is used, in turn by the banks to provide liquidity for the overnight money market and daily transfers. They are, in fact using your money to finance one of their so-called ‘services’, and do not forget that banking is a 24/7, international operation.

    Nice work – if you can get it!

    I use banks in the UK, the US and in the EU, and if you think that the US banks are bad, just wait until you use one of the non-UK, EU banks for anything other than local banking – now that is a whole new definition of purgatory…

  • John R

    Just be thankful that you don’t live in Western Australia. 14 days to cash a cheque from the UK; seven days to cash an International Money Order. Everything has to go from Perth to Sydney and then come back. Thank the Lord for the internet otherwise we’d still be bartering beads.

  • Verity

    French banks are absolute garbage. Everything snails through and they treat you like a criminal if you enquire about your own account. Your enquiry is punctuated by vicious, purse-lipped little demands, accompanied by shrugs and raised eyebrows, and that’s just the girl at the front desk. They are the worst banks I have ever encountered, anywhere. An electronic transfer which takes around 14 to 24 hours anywhere else on the entire planet? In France, three weeks. You could send a swimmer with a cleft stick in his mouth more effectively than trying to put anything through the French banking system. (Just to remind, this is the system in which the felicitously named M Trichet – Mr Trick – and six of his pals embezzelled 32bn – yes, with a b. This was the beyond ghastly Credit Lyonnais. And cleared for lack of evidence. Oh, gosh, that was a surprise.

  • Julian Taylor

    Telemachus, if you bank with Drummonds you share your banking facilities with one of their more infamous customers … Usama Bin Laden.

    Doesn’t US law make it a very serious offence to use a forged instrument or indeed bounce a cheque (check) on someone? In the UK if someone bounces a cheque on you the police have to look up the definition of “fraud” in a dictionary and then tell the bank that its not their job to prosecute.

    Maybe that’s why the US system of cheque clearance works better than ours – its reinforced by proper laws.

  • Stehpinkeln

    I take it they don’t have Check Cashing businesses there. They provide no other service except the cashing of checks (NOT personal checks). IIRC, under some state laws, a check is a bearer insturment. If the bank doesn’t cash it, the bank is breaking the Law and can be hit with a pretty stiff fine. Laws of that nature are pretty much Local (State). While the FDIC has a bunch of rules and regulations regarding banks, they are not Laws. YOU can run a bank w/o FDIC oversite, you just don’t make as much money.
    If it’s not illegal, the check cashing business is a real little money maker. IIRC the fees are about 2% of the face. Open one up near a retirement community or a lower class apartment complex and you have yourself a gold mine.

  • Julian Taylor

    If you issued me with a check made out to ‘Cash’, you would need to also issue me with a letter bearing my countersignature (you attest that that is indeed my signature), you would also have to telephone the bank in advance that I am coming into the bank with a cash check, describe me to them and tell them the number of my passport or driving licence or some other form of legal ID.

    And the bank cashiers would probably still treat me as though I had just stolen the check from you …

  • Dale Amon

    Well, each has its up and downsides. I work in three currencies as a matter of course and bank on two continents on a daily basis. I hardly ever deal with check unless it is a local one into a local bank: otherwise I get my customers to wire it.

    For US banking, I am quite happy with Chase Manhattan. Not only can I do electronic banking, I can watch my Visa card and pay my Visa bill on line. All that is missing is the ability to easily wire back and forth online… and I must say that the Bank of Ireland is just streets behind Chase Manhattan. BoI have electronic banking but you can’t even see the difference between your balance and your cleared funds.

    They’ll just have to learn to compete though; 20 years ago banking was mostly local; in 20 years it will be mostly global.

  • The phrase “Banker’s hours” originally applied to the hours that banker actually worked not the times the bank lobby was open. Manual laborers at the time often worked from 7 or 8 in morning until 6 in the evening and sometimes longer (the phrase dates from the 19th century.) Small business men worked even longer. Keeping “banker’s hours” meant somebody worked a short day.

    Before computerization, banks would close at 2pm so all the days paperwork could be processed. Loan officers and tellers could head home at five. Auditors and those involved with shipping checks and the like could often work late into the night.

    In the U.S. banking laws can very significantly from state to state. I’ve seen this trip up international customers used to uniform national regulations.

  • Ernest Young said:

    They are, in fact using your money to finance one of their so-called ‘services’

    .
    True, but they are also providing you with services at no other cost. I pay no charges at all on my current account.

    I believe that the offence of bouncing a cheque in UK is (or was?) uttering a fraudulent instrument, which is rather nice.

  • I was going to mention the French system – but Verity got there first. The worst is the international transfer – about £35 and ten days. The account manager at my local branch recommended that I use MoneyBookers on the Internet – still about ten days from start to finish but down to a couple of quid in charges.

    Now here’s the rub – just why do electronic transfers disappear into a black hole for ten days or more? No one admits to having it, yet someone somewhere is earning interest on that money and it ain’t me.

  • Andy Mo

    Having lived in the UK and now here in South Africa:

    In SA we get charged for withdrawing from ATM’s (whether its your bank or anothers). Whereas in the UK you do not.

    I have been told that UK banks can afford to do this because of their ridiculously slow cheque cashing system – that this holding of the cheque money for 4 days allows them to earn interest on the money and thus reduce certain bank charges (like ATM costs).

    Sounds like a ridiculous statement. Is it??

  • llamas

    Some points to note which may explain the differences between the US and UK systems.

    In the US, the use of checks is regulated by the Uniform Commercial Code, which is state law in all 50 states. Clearing of checks is regulated by the Federal Reserve. While Fed regulations are not ‘laws’, they have the effect of law in that, if you want to clear checks through the Fed, you have to follow their rules.

    As noted, in the US, a check is a bearer instrument, endorseable to anyone, and payable in cash on demand, subject to suitable ID.

    Since there are relatively few truly ‘universal’ banks (branches everywhere), the amount of ‘on-us’ check clearing is relatively less than it is in the UK, and a lot more checks get cleared via private clearing houses or the Fed. The Fed has been making large strides in funds availability in the last few years, and when considering funds availability, it’s as well to bear in mind that their regulations apply across 6 time zones and about 6000 different corresponding banks. The Check21 law which went into effect in October ’04 sets new standards for image interchange which will be followed by even shorter timescales for funds availability.

    Instruments like standing orders, direct debit and automatic payment are generally less common in the US for simple reasons – the majority of customers don’t want them and don’t trust them. While ACH, online bill payment, credit/debit card payment and the like are currently in vogue, those in the know about transaction processing are predicting a significant backlash as security problems continue to grow. Especially in the remittance field, the advantages of Check21 now look like they will outweigh the advantages of automated bill payment methods. Tightened security laws, like Sarbanes-Oxley, also place additional burdens on automated payment methods which bear less heavily on more-traditional check processing.

    All that being said, UK customers would likely not benefit too much from US-style regulation, because the basic law of checks and check clearing is different. US customers are also, generally, much more conservative in their banking practice, and generally distrustful of new methods. For example, until the last couple of years, US customers routinely got their original checks back each month with their statements, and the phasing out of this archaic practice is still the cause of much dissent, especially in the MidWest.

    Writing a bad check in the US is (typically) the felony of ‘uttering and publishing’ or UandP. It may be the least-risky crime to commit in many US states in terms of the chance of going to jail.

    llamas makes his bread-and-butter in the check-processing industry, whose demise has been confidently predicted for many decades now. But it continues to thrive in the US because it’s still the most flexible, most-secure and most-convenient payment method for a large part of the population. Frank Abagnale often says that ‘we’ll see that paperless society – right after we we see a paperless toilet’, and he’s right.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Daveon

    I recall being in my local Wells Fargo in California while we were trying to negotiate getting my wife’s account into joint names and I was listening to the conversation next to us.

    The person was moving to Nevada and wanted to move their account to a Nevada Wells Fargo – the only option seemed to be to completely close the account and issue a bankers draft to move money to the new account by hand. This was 2001 but it did seem strange.

    I was also surprised, this also being 2001, that when we asked about setting up Direct Debits to pay bills that nobody was all that interested.

  • dearieme

    Experience in northern NJ in 1966. My chum presents travellers cheques from Barclays: “you’ll have to visit our Manhattan branch”. I present mine from National Commercial Bank of Scotland. “Gee, you Scattish?” I get the cash. Superior service, or what?

  • dearieme

    Experience in northern NJ in 1966. My chum presents travellers cheques from Barclays: “you’ll have to visit our Manhattan branch”. I present mine from National Commercial Bank of Scotland. “Gee, you Scattish?” I get the cash. Superior service, or what?

  • ernest young

    Weasel Bearder,

    True, but they are also providing you with services at no other cost. I pay no charges at all on my current account

    But do you not have to maintain a minimum balance in your current account?

    Just where do you think that money is kept? in a drawer under the counter? — get real, they are using that money to lend at an interest.

    That ‘free’ checking, (current), account is no more ‘free’, than any other ‘service’ your friendly neighbourhood bank may try to sucker you with.

    One of the rules of banking is; borrow long and lend short… and they have the practice down to an art form…

    Andy Mo,

    Sounds like a ridiculous statement. Is it??

    Why does it sound ridiculous? Just where do you think all that money (i.e cash and cheques), goes to?

    The minute you make a deposit at your local branch, that money, in whatever form, cheques, money orders, cash or whatever, is considered as ‘grist for the mill’, and is used to provide liquidity and security for the bank’s many other activities. Believe me, it is not left sitting around doing nothing, they make your money work hard – for them!

  • As a Brit who recently moved to New York, I was astonished at how difficult it was to open a bank account, and having done so how poor the service was. Take money from any other bank’s ATM and you are charged $1.50, cheques are expensive to get, ‘free’ banking is considered a novelty, and walk up to a window in a bank and be prepared for some serious surliness.

    Give me the British system any day…

  • Euan Gray

    But do you not have to maintain a minimum balance in your current account?

    Provided I keep my current account in credit (even by one penny), there are no charges for operating the account, paying bills, withdrawing cash, writing cheques, etc. I can go to pretty much any ATM at any bank and draw cash at no charge (free-standing machines charge, though, but then they charge everyone). Basically, unless I want to send money overseas, it’s free banking.

    That ‘free’ checking, (current), account is no more ‘free’, than any other ‘service’ your friendly neighbourhood bank may try to sucker you with.

    How so? If I could cash cheques instantly for free, I’d have to pay for all the other services. Since I rarely handle cheques, I win under the British system and essentially have free banking since those who still insist on dealing with cheques basically pay my charges for me. I even get interest on the money in the account.

    Oh yes, and it takes three days to clear a cheque, but you get credited with the interest from the second day. And chequebooks are free too.

    EG

  • Daveon

    As a Brit who recently moved to New York, I was astonished at how difficult it was to open a bank account, and having done so how poor the service was.

    There’s an element of this which is due to being an alien in a foreign country. I know a lot of Americans, South Africans and Australians who’ve struggled in the UK to open accounts.

  • ernest young

    Third Avenue,

    Well that’s New York for you! Usually all you have to do is to show your passport, or have a tax ID number.

    As for ‘surly’, well you should be well used to that, particularly if you came via London…

    Mind you, if you have any sort of superiority attitude, – unfortunately so common among Brits new to the US, -then you will get put smartly in your place.. :-)

    I do not mean that as a personal remark, just a reflection of the current attitude of so many Europeans towards America…

  • Dave F

    I second Andy Mo. I too have used both the UK and SA banking systems. Natwest is a shining model of customer service by comparison with my SA bank, which charges usurious amounts for every cheque, and most other transactions including ATM use. It manages a tidy sum in bank charges every quarter unless I keep a large balance in the a/c. My Natwest a/c pays interest on current account, albeit not a lot.

    One visiting British banker described the SA banking system, widely believed to be run by a cartel (which the banks deny) as “piracy”.

  • CMC

    I’d just like to say that this was most well timed. I’m an American living in London and have been trying for the past six months to get a banking account. Husband’s a grad student, I’m not and we’re both living in student housing. Student housing: no council tax, no ultility bills. Yeah, you should see the look on bankers’ faces with that one. Oh and I can’t have ANYTHING with my husband’s name on it to prove my address. Ie if it lists both our names, then it doesn’t count. Pay stubs don’t count, letters from my employer and the manager of the residency don’t count. Bank statements mailed to us from our American account don’t work either.

    Yes this means I’m getting paid and have nowhere to deposit it. It was a battle with my employer to get them to direct deposit into my husband’s account. People were falling all over themselves to give him one, because he’s a student and they waived the proof of address in lieu of his acceptance letter.

    The British banking system is for the birds!

  • Euan Gray

    Oh and I can’t have ANYTHING with my husband’s name on it to prove my address. Ie if it lists both our names, then it doesn’t count

    My wife, not a British citizen, managed to open an account perfectly easily on the strength of her passport and gas bill in joint names.

    It was a battle with my employer to get them to direct deposit into my husband’s account

    You have an odd employer, then, surely? Most will gladly pay your salary into any account you nominate. All the companies I’ve worked for over the past 20 years have done so, anyway.

    EG

  • Johnathan Pearce

    My experience, albeit limited, with American banks is that they are okay, if not all that much more efficient than Brit banks. I cannot vouch for what Verity said about French ones, but she is almost certainly correct.

    One thing that really amazes me is that no matter how long you have been a regular customer of a bank with a good credit history, some high street banks in Britain still charge for doing things like sending a bank reference.

    Ernest Young is right about how long it takes to clear a cheque in the UK. It is largely a consequence of our hidebound clearance systems back prior to the Big Bang financial deregulations of the 80s. It is an issue overdue for reform.

  • I wonder if the problem that people have with banks in foreign countries is somewhat akin to the problem people have in changing computer interfaces?

  • Tim Haas

    Third Avenue:

    Try Commerce Bank, which, oddly enough, has a branch at 64th and Third Avenue (and about 20 others throughout Manhattan).

  • Daveon

    CMC,

    Sorry that’s not just British banks, a US bank will treat a Brit the same way. My wife had this when she moved to the UK, she took a train ride into the sub-urbs and tried a regional sub-branch of a bank where the managers have a little more automony.

    Some US banks have partnerships with UK banks, i.e. Wells Fargo works with Lloyds, NatWest with Sun etc… would be worth openning a US account online and then getting them to open you a UK sterling account.

  • Julian Taylor

    CMC,

    Try going to Nationwide or, failing that, go to Citibank who will open an account based upon your US credentials rather than UK ones. Unless you work and can prove that you have an income over a minimum of £20,000 and can match that with a concise work permit, spousal permit or Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK then no bank will want to touch you, I’m afraid. Its nothing personal but you have been caught up in one of the methods the main banks use to categorise their risk – the famous “fruit” method.

  • Bill

    Regarding the globalisation of banks; I’ve yet to see a benefit in France. I bank with HSBC in the UK who own CCF in France. I moved countries with around £5k in cash nearly four years ago. It was easier to open an account with SocGen than with CCF. They didn’t even accept a letter from HSBC stating what sort of customer I had been, that I was trustworthy etc. And the letter had the same HSBC symbol on it that CCF have on all their documentation. In my then broken French I tried explaining this to blank expressions.

    Like all large entities I actually think that the globalisation of banks will increase inefficiency. Better that the banks follow the same standards in terms of accepting money transfers, cheques (Take note of the spelling American cousins) and other financial instruments than try to take over banks in foreign countries. Just ask yourself : who is the next BCCI ?

  • Julian Taylor

    Surely if you have a globalised banking network you would significantly reduce the risk of another BCCI? As for any proportionate inefficiency you would get from globalised banking then your own example proves the point: HSBC’s motto is “The world’s local bank” and you can indeed move your account from one HSBC branch to another country with very little inconvenience. Try doing that with Barclay’s, NatWest or the byword in gross financial mismanagement and incompetence – Lloyd’s Bank.

  • Bill

    According to the Federation of American Scientists, in 1977 BCCI had 146 branches in 43 different countries. In the 1980s it was 73 countries. That seems like a fairly global banking network to me.

    As I stated before I tried moving from HSBC in the UK to CCF (owned by HSBC) in France with no luck. It seemed strange to me that they wouldn’t accept around £5k and a letter from their owning company as to my trustworthyness. But then the French in general have no idea what ‘Customer Service’ is, so I may have just stumbled onto the large percentage of bad eggs that are in employment in France.

  • Charles Butler

    Many US banks now require your fingerprint on the check that you are attempting to cash. They may also charge you a fee to cash a check drawn on one of their accounts.

  • Effra

    Banking in Britain has sharpened up its act over the past 30 years. I remember writing a financial column mildly suggesting limited opening on Saturday morning. I got hate mail from staff who thought of themselves more as civil servants than shop assistants.

    Time was when the Big Four clearers had a virtual monopoly of the High Street retail biz. Then we got the National Giro, building societies mutated into banks, telephone banking arrived and latterly online banks. Competition is now keen.

    The worst remaining habit from the cartelised era is refusing to clear cheques for four working days, so that banks can use the money to earn interest for themselves. But the charging-for-ATM kerfuffle should not be taken too seriously. The machines that charge are mainly in garages, shops etc and are supplementary to the main (free) networks.

    On the whole, I’d say British banks compare favourably with the atomised US scene and the arrogant semi-State giants on the Continent.

  • Gary Gunnels

    In the US system, you get a cheque, take it to the bank that issued it, and they will give you cash there and then.

    That’s not really always true.

    Look at Article 3 & 4 of the U.C.C.; as well as the Expedited Funds Availability Act (and Regulation “CC” which was created to implement the EFAA).

    For example, by law, a non-local check deposited for cash withdrawal provides for a fairly long period of deferral of availability: Day 1 = $100; Day 5 = Another $400; & Day 6= Remainder (day = business days following the banking day on which the money was deposited). Reg. CC, secs 229.10(c)(1)(vii) & 229.12(c)(1),(d).

    Now, a bank may choose to ignore these rules and quicken availability, however, by law, a bank may and often does stretch out availability when they feel it is necessary. So the above italiacized claim may or may not be true depending on the circumstances.