Now we’re in the throes of a third lockdown, once-simple tasks have become near-impossible challenges. So here, AMELIA MURRAY offers a guide to navigating the various twists and turns of the money errands that should be straightforward…
ARE BANK BRANCHES REMAINING OPEN?
While there are some temporary closures, most branches are open for reduced hours, shutting between 2pm and 3pm. At HSBC, the majority of sites are open from 10am to 4pm, with some closing at 2pm.
Banks are urging customers to visit only if essential, for example to deposit cash. Otherwise you may be directed online or to telephone banking.
Now we’re in the throes of a third lockdown, once-simple tasks have become near-impossible challenges
HOW DO I GET MY HANDS ON CASH?
If you can’t leave the house, some banks allow other people to make cash withdrawals on your behalf. This may involve filling in a form or requesting a code via telephone or online banking. Santander, Bank of Ireland, Virgin Money (Clydesdale/Yorkshire), Furness Building Society and Newcastle Building Society have all signed up to the Post Office Payout Now service.
This allows a trusted person to withdraw money on a customer’s behalf from a Post Office. Barclays and NatWest offer free cash delivery services for vulnerable customers, and NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Santander also provide cards that allow a trusted individual restricted access to a person’s money.
WHERE SHOULD I DEPOSIT A CHEQUE?
Some banks, such as HSBC, Lloyds and Barclays, allow you to pay in a cheque via mobile banking by submitting pictures of the front and back. Santander customers can pay in cheques at almost 2,000 cash machines, or you can post them to your branch with a deposit slip. If you don’t have a slip, write your account number and sort code on the reverse of the cheque.
You can also post cheques to branches of NatWest, with a paying- in slip, and Nationwide, but you must print out and fill in its paying- in form. If you don’t have a printer, write your account details and phone number on the back of the cheque, to the right. You can ask your bank for paying- in slips if you need them. Customers of the biggest banks can also deposit cheques at the Post Office.
CAN I STILL RETURN UNWANTED ITEMS?
You will need to check with each retailer, but many offer free postal returns and have extended their returns windows. For example, New Look purchases made after October 15 may be returned until March 31 with a valid receipt, order number or dispatch note. If you bought something from John Lewis, you have 35 days to return it from when its shops reopen. And Argos returns can be taken to its stores within Sainsbury’s supermarkets.
Why is it so hard to pay in a blasted cheque!
Frustrated: Amelia Murray
Every Christmas my siblings and I receive generous sums of money from our mum, dad and grandparents. We like being able to put it towards what we want.
This year I received one cheque from my mum and dad, and one from my grandparents. But then I started wondering how to actually pay them in. I am a customer of the Royal Bank of Scotland, but the two branches near the Mail offices have closed.
Neither my mum nor granny uses online banking, and their branch in Eastbourne was axed years ago. We are told to avoid public transport, but walking five miles to my nearest branch in Croydon, South London, wasn’t really an option — especially as I couldn’t find out if it was open. The website said it was shut, but RBS assured me it was not.
When I called the bank, I was told I could deposit cheques at the Post Office with a payingin slip. But I can’t recall my chequebook’s whereabouts. I asked to order a new one and was told it would probably take up to five working days but might be longer.
My closest Post Office is in a WHSmith store and in the window it says customers can deposit or withdraw cash or pay bills, but doesn’t mention cheques. Yet my brother, a Lloyds customer, used his banking app to scan his Christmas cheques last week and the money appeared in his account within days. RBS doesn’t offer this service. Maybe I need to find a bank that is moving with the times.
AM I ALLOWED TO MOVE HOUSE?
Yes, but people outside your household or support bubble should not help you unless it’s absolutely necessary. Estate agents and removals firms can continue to work and you are allowed to go to property viewings. Many firms are offering virtual viewings at first, which may be preferable. If you are arranging for your own property to be viewed, you should open all internal doors and allow visitors to wash their hands.
WILL I BE ABLE TO GET FOOD DELIVERIES?
Those on the shielding list have priority for online delivery slots. Morrisons says where availability is limited it offers a Doorstep Delivery service for those who are elderly or vulnerable. The minimum spend is £40 and delivery is free but customers can pay £1.50 as a voluntary contribution. Call 0345 611 6111 to make an order for next-day delivery. Payment is taken by card on your doorstep. Elsewhere, Waitrose customers who are disabled, elderly or vulnerable can view slots 15 days in advance.
WHAT IF i WANT TO MAKE A WILL?
If need be, you can go to a solicitor’s office or be visited at home. Alistair Spencer, associate at Lime Solicitors, says that most firms are prepared to take instructions for a will over the phone or by video call, provided they can ensure the identity of the person. To be valid, the will has to be signed by whoever is making it in the presence of two independent witnesses, who also sign it. They can be two metres away but must have a clear view of the signing. Alternatively, new legislation introduced last year means wills made up to January 31, 2022, can be witnessed over a video call. All three individuals must sign the same document, however, so the will must be posted or taken to the witnesses to sign ideally within 24 hours.
If your will is simple, you could opt for an online service such as Farewill, but these are not regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and do not. carry the same safeguards. Instructions for Lasting Power of Attorney can be taken virtually, but the witnessing must still be done in person, even if that means it’s done through a window or over a fence.
IS BUILDING & REPAIR WORK PERMITTED?
Under current rules in England, builders and repairmen are allowed to work inside homes, whether fixing a leaking pipe, installing a new kitchen or replacing windows. This includes cleaners, too. In Scotland, work carried out in people’s homes can continue, but is limited to essential or permitted services.
This includes utility engineers and telecoms workers, urgent repairs or maintenance and furniture deliveries. Workmen in Wales can visit customers’ homes as long as they are well and follow the social- distancing guidelines.
But suppliers may decide to stop providing certain services after conducting risk assessments. British Gas says it is suspending all non-essential services until at least mid-February to minimise the time spent in customer’s homes, following feedback.
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