Suffolk: New accounts could help struggling post offices

Help for struggling post offices

Help for struggling post offices - Credit: Archant

The Post Office is piloting three new current accounts in East Anglia which it hopes will rival mainstream banking services – and revive the fortunes of struggling rural branches.

The Post Office is piloting three new current accounts in East Anglia which it hopes will rival mainstream banking services – and revive the fortunes of struggling rural branches.

The accounts, in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK, were launched in 29 branches this week ahead of a planned national roll-out next year, as the business seeks to build on its high street presence as a financial services provider.

Customers will be given the choice of a Standard Account, billed as the “free in credit” everyday bank account, offering a debit card, nationwide ATM access, and the option of online or telephone banking.

The Packaged Account offers added benefits such as travel insurance, breakdown cover and identity theft protection for a fee of £8 a month.


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Meanwhile, the Control Account is designed to appeal to low-income customers who struggle to access mainstream banking.

Control Account holders will be asked to pay £5 a month to ensure that they do not face further banking charges when payments are returned unpaid for direct debits and standing orders.

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Many of those who do not have bank accounts are thought to be deterred by the risk of such penalties, but as a result can miss out on better deals for utility payments.

The Post Office said paying such bills by direct debit could save customers £125 to £215 a year on average.

Paula Vennells, the chief executive, said the current accounts made transactions more transparent and could make it easier for people to access their money in rural communities, where 99.7% of people are estimated to live within three miles of a Post Office branch. She also said the new products could generate increased income for sub-postmasters, supporting the financial future of 11,800 branches across the UK.

“The reason East Anglia has been chosen for the pilot is that it is one of the most representative regions of the UK,” she said.

“Post offices will get paid for people opening accounts and they will get paid for transactions going through. It will drive additional footfall through the branch which they will not have had before.

“And because there are three accounts we have got something that will appeal to all the customers.”

The investment in new products comes against a recent backdrop of uncertainty and industrial action as the Post Office undergoes a process to modernise a service which is losing £40m a year.

The branches taking part in the pilot include Market Place, Thetford; London Road, Lowestoft; Market Place, Diss; and The Thoroughfare, Harleston.

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