The British Post Office Monday announced it will trial three new checking accounts in 29 branches ahead of a nationwide rollout in 2014. The accounts, similar to their counterparts at traditional financial institutions, are tiered based on monthly fees.
The most basic free account only will come with a debit card. Additional features will cost £8 ($12.30) monthly. For consumers looking to avoid costly bank charges like overdraft fees, a third account will be available for a monthly fee of £5 ($7.68).
At the announcement, a Post Office spokesman highlighted the benefits customers would receive by switching to a Post Office checking account by stating the Post Office was offering, “choice, good value, fair and transparent products with no hidden charges, and access to the largest branch network in the UK.” While the number of branches is beneficial to customers, value and trust appear to be the major factors in any potential switch. Consumer Minister Jo Swinson reiterated this idea while visiting one of the trial branches.
“Customers have real trust and confidence in the Post Office, and with more branches than the high street banks combined, I welcome the increasing role it is playing in meeting the financial needs of its customers. That is why I am delighted to be applying to open a Post Office current account.”
With nearly 12,000 branches and the ability to charge less than traditional financial institutions, the Post Office has a credible opportunity to capture a significant percentage of the population that is unbanked or underbanked. These population demographics, however, are not the only groups that may be interested in the Post Office’s checking account services. Mainstream banking consumers are increasingly disenfranchised with the major banks following a series of scandals and technology break downs and they may wish to switch to a service that offers them unparalleled access to their accounts with very few fees attached. While getting customers to uproot and switch is always difficult, the new checking accounts and expanded financial services available at the Post Office will provide the major banks a credible competitor.
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