If you prefer to manage your money face-to-face, the Post Office can help you with some of the things the banks used to do. It has been offering limited services since the Nineties, but in the face of public outcry at mass branch closures, ministers pushed more banks to sign up to the scheme.
Since then, Britain’s biggest banks have all joined the initiative, meaning almost everyone with a UK account can now do basic banking in Post Office branches.
At the end of last year, it was carrying out a record one million banking transactions each day. Here’s all you need to know about what it can — and can’t — offer…
WHAT EXACTLY CAN YOU DO THERE?
Quite a lot, but not everything. Post Office banking boss Martin Kearsley says the service is ‘like a cash machine with a smile’. In other words, anything that you can do using your bank card at a hole in the wall, you can do face-to-face in a Post Office branch.
‘You slot your card into the chip-and-PIN machine at the counter, just as you would in a shop,’ he says. ‘Then, once you’ve entered your PIN and told the cashier how much you would like, your bank confirms the transaction almost immediately and you receive your cash and a receipt.’
The maximum amount you can take out each day is determined by your bank — typically between £500 and £750.
You can also get a print-out of your balance, as well as pay cash and cheques into your account
Again, you put your card and PIN into the machine, the cashier will ask you how much you want to deposit and then you hand over the payment.
You can also pay bills for gas, electricity and council tax — so long as your supplier sends you bills that contain a barcode the cashier can scan.
… AND WHAT CAN’T YOU DO?
Post Office cashiers can’t print out your statements or a list of your recent transactions, and you won’t be able to transfer money into a friend or relative’s account.
Most people won’t be able to take money out or pay it into any savings accounts they hold.
A small number of banks, including Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank, issue plastic cards that work in cash machines for some of their savings accounts. These should work in Post Office branches.
You can’t open any new products with your bank at the Post Office and counter staff won’t be able to help you with questions about your mortgage, insurance or investments with your bank.
‘We can’t see any of the payments that go in and out of your account, either, so staff won’t be able to manage these for you.’
WHAT IF I STILL NEED HELP?
If you are comfortable banking online or over the phone, using your local Post Office to pay in money means you should rarely need to go into a bank branch.
But for those who don’t own a computer or choose not to bank on the internet, managing your money is getting harder.
You can call your bank and ask to set up telephone banking.
You’ll be given security codes, so the bank can identify you more easily in the future. Then you’ll be able to find out how much is in your account, get a list of your recent transactions and make payments over the phone.
Some banks offer a mobile service, where vans travel to small towns and villages that have lost branches. Others, such as NatWest, have community bankers who carry out home visits to the most vulnerable customers.
Moneyfacts, says: ‘Banking at the Post Office is a great option if your branch has closed, but if you don’t like using the internet and phone for banking and need advice on a product or have fallen victim to fraud, you won’t get any help.