Banks and building societies

smartly dressed older lady

There are differences in the way that banks and building societies are set up and run.

Building societies are mutual institutions; this means that they should be run in the best interests of their customers. If you have a savings account or mortgage with a building society you may have the right to vote on some issues‚ to receive information and to attend meetings.

Banks are companies that are either privately owned or listed on the stock market and owned by shareholders. Many former building societies are now banks.

Accessible services

If you have difficulty using banking services because of a disability‚ your bank or building society is required by law to take any reasonable steps to help you do so. For example‚ if you have impaired vision you can ask for statements and other information to be provided in an accessible format for you. The British Bankers’ Association and the Building Societies Association have further information on banks’ and building societies’ obligations under disability law.

Accessing your money

A convenient way of getting cash is an important factor in choosing a bank or building society and account. Depending on your needs‚ you should check the following:

  • Is there a branch near where you live and does your account include branch service?
  • Can you access your account at Post Office branches? All basic bank accounts and many current accounts allow this.
  • How many cash machines are there in your area and can you use them free of charge? You should be told at the start of a transaction if there will be a charge for using the cash machine.

Tracing lost bank and building society accounts

If you have mislaid details of savings or other bank or building society accounts‚ there are account-tracing schemes that can help you to locate your money. If you think you may have unclaimed assets in a bank‚ building society or National Savings and Investments‚ you can make a single online application to have your account traced at the British Bankers’ Association website. Alternatively contact the British Bankers’ Association and/or the Building Societies Association for details of how to make a postal application.

Case study

Frank‚ 66‚ changed his bank two years ago…

‘I had been with the same bank for most of my adult life. In the past I had never really thought about moving from one to another – I had always kept my savings in the same building society too.

‘A while back I started to look at whether I was getting a good deal. I wasn’t paying any charges for my current account but I wasn’t getting any interest to speak of on the balance either. I switched to another account that paid a better rate of interest. It wasn’t too difficult and the bank helped me change the account over. The rate is lower now than when I opened the account but it all helps.

‘I find I quite enjoy looking out for the best rates and moving my savings about. It’s become a bit of a hobby. Since the credit crunch started I’ve investigated what protection there is for savings. Not that I have more than £50‚000 in one bank – if only!’

Advice line:
08000 223 444

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