From a young age, the parents drilled it into me that banks were out to rob you blind and that anyone who used them was an utter fool – a belief so solidly engrained in their minds, that even now they simply cannot believe that banks allow you to store your money in them for free. My father would sooner have stashed his life savings under his mattress then hand it over to the evil clutches of Barclays or Natwest.
No, for the parents the trusty building society, with its share options and friendly cashiers, was the only safe option to store your hard-earned readies.
This unwavering loyalty to building societies meant that while the rest of the world were embracing the electronic age of debit cards and Internet banking, the parents were quite happily driving several miles to the building society every Saturday morning, clutching their passbook and queuing patiently before drawing out a predetermined sum of money which they had calculated would see them through the week ahead.
Our annual summer holiday in Cornwall proved a little more tricky though. The weeks leading up to the departure would involve a careful calculation of how much money we were likely to need for the week’s activities. In the unlikely event that we should run out of cash, my Dad kept a map of the nearest Woolwich building society branches in the car and would think nothing of a two-hour round trip to St Austell to top up his cash supply.
For years, the parents lived in this comfortable bubble, blissfully oblivious of the need or desire to pay for anything electronically or venture near an ATM.
That was until they pitched up at Premier Inn about two years ago, brandishing a fistful of crisp £20 notes (fresh from The Chorley and District Building Society that morning, I believe) – only to be told that ‘for security reasons’ they were unable to pay for their room with cash. No cash? For security reasons?! Even now, my father recounts the story with an incredulous snort.
However, this proved the tipping point. My mother booked an appointment with the building society manager to explain this rather unnerving episode in detail, and emerged half an hour later suspiciously peering at the shiny new debit card that had landed in her palm.
To this day, the debit card lives in the glove compartment of their car. It has on it a balance of £10 and is to be used FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY (the parents don’t leave any more money on it than that for fear of an identity thief stealing their life savings – although, somewhat ironically, the pin number is permanently attached to it on a post-it note, should the four-digit date of their anniversary temporarily elude them).
I’ve tried to get them to use a cash machine. I’ve tried explained that Chip and Pin aren’t some 90s rap artists but are, in fact, a simple and convenient way to pay for your shopping. I’ve tried to explain that the monetary world has moved on.
But old habits die hard and the parents continue with their Saturday morning ritual.
Images of desperate savers queuing to withdraw their life savings from Northern Rock and horror stories of wide-spread fraud served only to reinforce the parents’ belief that BANKS ARE BAD.
And with the current banking crisis and news that soon there will be no such thing as a free current account, I’m beginning to think that perhaps, just perhaps, the parents may have been right all along.