Bank customers cut off from cash during Xmas period

8 December 2017, 13:10   By Samantha Smith

MORE than seven million people are set to experience personal banking difficulties over the Christmas period, according to a new survey from Metro Bank.

cash machine
Credit: HBRH/

They will have an issue related to being unable to deposit or withdraw money, while 2.5 million customers will either lose, misplace or have their banking cards stolen over the holidays.

Metro Bank's survey concludes that such card losses become an even greater problem for customers due to the opening hours of banks, with most major institutions being closed on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve.

Yet while the challenger bank has used these findings to remind the public that it's the only high street bank open on such days, cash isn't the only thing the public are at greater risk of being cut off from this Christmas.

'Tis the season to lose your card

Based on a "representative" sample of 2,000 UK adults, Metro Bank's survey discovered that three in 10 (or 29% of) people have lost their credit or debit card in the past five years.

Yet more specifically to December, they found that the following losses are likely to occur over this Christmas period:

  • 672,298 people (1.3% of the adult population) will lose their card during a Xmas party
  • 850,000 (1.6% of the adult pop.) will lose their card between Xmas and the New Year
  • 1.2 million (2.3%) will lose their card while out shopping for Xmas
  • Only 53% of people who lose their card get it back
  • 7.4 million people (14.1%) are unable to access banking over Xmas period

And to cap this off, the survey also found that 2.5 million are likely to lose their card or have it stolen over the entire Christmas period.


Commenting on the inconvenience such a loss can cause, Metro Bank's CEO, Craig Donaldson, said, "Losing a card at any time of the year is frustrating, but losing one at Christmas can be downright painful".

As Donaldson goes on to point out, the frequency of card losses is made worse by the inaccessibility of banks during the festive season, as well as by how 40% of Brits reportedly use their cards more during this period.

For example, bank customers have to wait 11 days on average for a replacement card, which is longer than the usual wait period due to Xmas closures.

Yet as the table below shows, the waits with certain banks can be even longer.

BankAverage no. of days waitingAvg. No. of days waiting during Xmas period
Co-op Bank512
Metro Bank00

Instant cards

Donaldson notes that, at Metro Bank, customers can have replacement cards printed out "instantly" in branch.

Added to this, "Customers can choose to temporarily block and unblock their cards using our app," he explains, "so they're not unnecessarily cancelling their card only to find it again".

That said, the ease with which banks such as Metro Bank let customers replace cards may partly account for the growth in losses.

As the bank's own survey explains, the percentage of people who've lost their cards in the past five years (29%) has increased by 7% compared to 2016.

Food banks

Regardless of whether the rapidity and convenience of modern-day banking is making customers take such things as cards more for granted, there are some financial problems made worse by Christmas that accessible branches can't help.

There is, for example, the prediction from the Trussell Trust that "that food banks will run out this Christmas", with last December having seen a 47% rise in the number of parcels provided by the Trust compared to the monthly average for 2016/17.

Given that general food bank use has already increased by 13% for the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period a year previously, the continued outpacing of wages (and benefits) by inflation makes it likelier that some people may not be able to obtain the food they need over Christmas.


There's also Shelter's recent announcement that 128,000 children in the UK will be homeless over Christmas - the biggest number since the 2007-8 financial crisis.

The number of homeless people has increased by 13,000 over the past year to 307,000 with the current modest rate of house price growth doing nothing to reverse the massive 10% gains that were seen in 2016.

Many of these people are waiting to be moved to social housing, yet the shutdown during the holiday period often means they have to spend Christmas in hostels and other temporary accommodation.

Grander scheme

Of course, large waiting lists for social housing means the brief break over Christmas doesn't make a massive difference when people are already waiting months or even years for accommodation.

Yet it at least shows that, when people lack food, housing and are also more likely to be victims of fraud, others should be thankful if the only thing they don't have access to during the Christmas period is a replacement debit card.

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