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BANKING

Swedish banks rule out cash charges

The stoppage of security transits in Sweden's major cities last weekend led government ministers to call for a reduction in the cost of using cards for payment instead of cash.

But despite the fact that Swedes use cash more than people in the rest of the Nordics, the country’s banks have ruled out a withdrawal charge at cash machines or cutting the price of plastic.

According to an inquiry by the Riksbank, Sweden’s national bank, the use of cards in Norway increased dramatically when banks introduced charges at their ATMs. Danish and Finnish banks also charge for cash withdrawals and cards are now more popular there than in Sweden.

But the banks say that charging customers a fee for withdrawing cash is a sensitive issue.

“It wouldn’t be customer-friendly,” said Anna Sundblad, press officer at Föreningssparbanken, who said that the bank prefers other methods of increasing the use of plastic.

“For example, we offer free Mastercards for a year,” she said.

Nor does Nordea have any plans to stick a fee on top of every withdrawal.

“It is a service to customers. But obviously we’re all wondering what we can do about it,” said the press chief, Boo Ehlin.

“But we have clear statistics which show that the use of cards is rising and cash withdrawals are falling.”

In the last year, said Ehlin, the use of cards by Nordea’s customers has increased by up to 40%, while cash withdrawals are falling by 3-5% annually.

“What’s more, I believe that these kinds of incidents make people think about their own security, and that could quickly lead to a greater reduction.”

Customers with Nordea’s cards pay around 12 kronor a month for the privilege, according to Ehlin. The charge is justified by the ongoing technical development to make debit cards safer, he said.

Viveka Hirdman-Ryrberg at SEB also said that the idea of charging for cash is not something her bank is considering.

“On the other hand, for several years we’ve been encouraging an increased use of cards for security reasons,” she said.

She favours a more positive approach, with advertising campaigns to push the advantages of using cards, she said – a method also backed by Handelsbanken’s head of information, Johan Lagerström.

“We’re noticing now, even before these shocking robberies, a steady increase in the use of cards,” he said.

“Swedes have been a little sluggish in this area,” he added.

TT/The Local

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BREXIT

Brits in EU risk losing UK bank accounts ‘within weeks’

Some of Britain's biggest banks have begun contacting customers in European Union countries, warning them that their accounts will be closed down within weeks because the cost and complexity of operating without a continuation of pan-European banking rules is too much.

Brits in EU risk losing UK bank accounts 'within weeks'
Lloyds Bank expects to close at least 13,000 accounts. Photo: Lloyds Bank
According to a report in The Times, thousands of Britons who live in Europe face being stripped of their UK bank accounts and credit cards, because of the UK government's failure to agree rules for operating after Brexit. 
 
Each of the EU's 27 member states has different rules for cross-border bank accounts which will start to apply immediately the UK's transition period ends on 31st December 2020. 
 
“In some cases, continuing to serve customers would be incredibly complex, extremely expensive and very time-consuming, and simply would not make economic sense,” a source at one British bank told the newspaper. “This is passporting — this is the reality of Brexit.”
 
 
If a way is not found to continue pan-European banking rules, or passporting, UK banks will br breaking the law if they don't apply for new banking licenses in each European Union Country. 
 
 
Lloyds, Britain’s biggest banking group, began writing to customers in August, warning them that their bank accounts would  close down on December 31.
 
The bank estimates that 13,000 customers, including those based in Holland, Slovakia, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, would lose their accounts. 
 
“If customers have regular deposits into, or payments out of, their account, they will need to make other arrangements before their account is closed,” the bank said. 
 
Barclays and Coutts have also started contacting customers. 
 
“In light of the UK leaving the EU at the end of 2020, we continue to review the services we offer to customers within the European Economic Area (EEA), and any impacted customers will be contacted directly,” Barclays said in a statement. “The timings for account closure will depend on the type of product that a customer holds, but we will always give notice to customers.”
 
“In the event that no alternative to the European Economic Area passporting regime for financial services is agreed between the UK and EU, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from offering our services to clients who reside in the EEA,” Coutts said. 
 
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