The bank that doesn't want your money

YourLifeChoices recently had a bit to say about disappearing bank branches and ATMs. The upshot is that fewer services are making life difficult for customers – especially older customers – who still want personal services via a teller and (heaven forbid) cash from an ATM. Well, we have more news on that front.

The National Australia Bank has ordered branch staff to refuse to accept payments from customers who wish to settle credit card bills over the counter.

You heard it right – they don’t want your money.

Instead of paying card bills at NAB branches, from the start of this week, customers wanting to complete an over-the-counter transaction are being directed to a post office. Alternately, NAB says customers will be ‘educated’ to pay their credit card bills online.

The Finance Sector Union has come out swinging. National union secretary Julia Angrisano says banning over-the-counter credit card payments is designed to reduce foot traffic to NAB branches, reduce jobs and, ultimately, close more branches.

“This is an outrageous bid by NAB to block its customers from using branches for a common transaction many older people make,” she said.

“There is no other reason for the NAB to specifically target credit card payments, except to force customers onto digital banking.”

She says the move represents a new low for consumers and will particularly disadvantage older people who don’t have the same level of digital literacy as younger customers.

Digital banking is preferred by many people, but the concept of customer choice could still be respected.

The directive comes as NAB’s financial update smashed market expectations.

For the December quarter, NAB delivered an “8 per cent increase in revenue over FY 2021’s second half quarterly average and a 12 per cent increase in cash earnings to $1.8 billion”, according to reports.

Bell Potter, an Australian stockbroking, investment and financial advisory firm, explained that NAB outperformed its estimates by over 13 per cent.

But financial ‘wellbeing’ aside, and back to customer service.

For the past 12 months, NAB staff have been diligently encouraging customers to sign up for digital banking. Staff have even been put through specific training programs to help them influence customers to make the transition.

Training documents tell NAB customer advisers: “You are responsible for educating and engaging customers on smarter ways to bank, helping our customers save time, take control of their banking and making banking with NAB an exceptional experience.”

Ms Angrisano adds: “All that is fine but imagine the backlash our [union] members will receive from customers when they are told bills for the credit cards NAB issues can no longer be paid at the branch.

“This is a very poor decision by the NAB’s management that will generate anger among customers and will clearly cost jobs and lead to the closure of more branches.”

She says NAB’s standard reason for branch closures is “the changing habits of customers” but argues that NAB’s campaign clearly shows they are forcing the change and that it is not driven by consumer choice.

The federal government has launched an inquiry into the closure of bank branches in regional areas but it might be overly optimistic to think this could be broadened to an inquiry into disappearing bank services.

Are you a confident digital banker? Do you still darken the doors of bank branches on occasion? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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