Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) says rural communities are being ignored as Kiwibank moves to close five banks in regional areas.
RWNZ conducted a survey in late-2020, which saw the majority of respondents oppose the withdrawal of cheques.
“The response was the highest we’ve ever had for a survey in three years,” RWNZ policy manager Angela McLeod to Rural News.
McLeod says while the organisation accepts that cheques will be phased out, it can only happen for rural communities “if every rural household has access to consistent quality internet connection and/or cellular coverage.”
She says about 10% of RWNZ members do not even have an email address.
However, banks claim there is a need to phase out cheques and they have worked to ensure the needs of all their customers are dealt with.
When the decision was announced in October 2020, Westpac NZ general manager of consumer banking Gina Dellabarca said cheques represent less than 1% of payments.
“We’ve reached the point where it makes sense to focus our payments on the future,” she said.
Westpac claims there are “numerous options” for those who cannot go into a branch and for those who don’t have internet access.
“Customers who don’t have internet access and are unable to come into branch can use phone banking to check their balance, pay bills or transfer money any time,” a Westpac NZ spokesperson told Rural News.
The spokesperson added that the bank’s contact centre staff are available and can help with a range of banking services, such as setting up regular payments.
“Customers who want to talk to a branch staff member can book phone appointments. We encourage them to contact us to discuss the different ways they can do their banking.”
Meanwhile, ASB says they are yet to finalise the timing on the phasing out of cheques.
Executive general manager for retail banking Craig Sims told Rural News this is because the bank wants “to make sure our customers have plenty of time to prepare for this change.”
“Over the transition period we will work closely with those who still use cheques, including our rural customers, to help them work through our payment options, including online and phone banking, and ensure they are comfortable with this change,” Sims says.
He says ASB will also host free Better Banking workshops across New Zealand to ensure customers feel confident using the digital banking options.