Head of the association representing seniors in Barbados, Marilyn Rice-Bowen, is expressing outrage at what she describes as “a major inconvenience” for seniors based on a move by at least one commercial bank to stop cashing cheques for non-members.
The Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) President complained that the bank in question was requiring individuals, including seniors, to open a bank account in order for them to have a cheque cashed regardless of the amount.
Furthermore, Rice-Bowen has pledged to meet with policymakers to get a further reduction in bank fees for BARP members.
Speaking on a call-in programme on Monday the BARP president said being denied cheque-cashing services because one did not have an account even if the cheque was drawn on that bank, was simply not acceptable.
“BARP is very concerned about this because what it is pushing our seniors to do is to have cash at home to pay handymen or any person working with them,
which would of course then open our seniors to robberies,” she complained.
“Something like refusing to cash cheques, we would want them to reconsider such an action because we don’t know what is the thinking behind the rule. If anything put a limit to say over a certain amount, but if someone is paying $100 or $150, really to suffer the inconvenience to go and open an account to cash a cheque for $150?
“If you are there on the site, you have gone to present this cheque where the person has written the cheque from his bank for XYZ and you have your two pieces of ID, what more could they want?” said a concerned Rice-Bowen.
Effective May 18, Scotiabank stopped facilitating transactions for individuals who are not account holders at that financial institution.
In a notice several weeks before the measure took effect, the bank had announced that the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the way business was being conducted and that keeping customers and employees safe remained a top priority.
The bank said to that end, the number of people in the bank would be limited at any given time, resulting in some new measures. Among the measures was a stop to the cashing of cheques for non-Scotiabank customers.
Rice-Bowen said she met with the Barbados Bankers’ Association in July, where the issues related to cheques were discussed.
She said other matters were raised including the bank fees and their impact on the BARP members, as well as the advancement in digital banking.
“We shared with them that our view then was that the banks are not senior friendly,” said Rice-Bowen, who said a measure was being put in place for seniors to learn more about online banking.
She said while seniors have been familiarising themselves with the technology especially during the COVId-19, “everything has gone fast-paced” and so they were still lagging behind.
“Since the dialogue we have recognized that quite a few of the banks they are now placing emphasis on catering to the needs of seniors. So they tell you to come and they have ambassadors dealing directly with seniors,” said Rice-Bowen.
She said she was also pleased that banks now had systems in place for automatic changes to be made to accounts for individuals once they reach the age of retirement, and so their account would no longer attract some of the high fees.
However, she promised that BARP would be seeking a meeting with policymakers to get a “further reduction” in fees for seniors.
“Yes, there is a reduction, but we still need to talk about a further reduction because you are talking about pensioners who are already on a reduced income. So BARP will continue to the dialogue,” said Rice-Bowen.
She complained that bank policies often “weigh heavily” against seniors.
“We need to ensure that seniors feel comfortable enough because these are the banks that they would save their hard-earned monies when they were younger and now they are reaching their senior years they are being made to feel less than human, less than important as if you are a bother when you come into the banking hall,” she said. ([email protected])