Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Changing bank accounts

Dear wonderful hive mind of the internet: I’d like some advice.
My girlfriend Christine currently has a bank account with the Royal Bank of Scotland, but has been notified that RBS has sold its branch network to the Spanish bank Santander and that Santander will be taking over her account in the near future. This is despite RBS owning another high street bank, NatWest.
Santander have grown quickly – they took over Abbey National a few years ago and have since gobbled up the ‘good’ half of Bradford & Bingley and Alliance & Leicester. But this has been at a price – a recent poll on Money Saving Expert rated them by far the worst bank for customer service, and that former Alliance & Leicester customers have had the worst problems. These have included having their accounts essentially frozen for days at a time during the switchover.
Obviously, Christine would like to avoid this, so we’re on the look out for something new.
Santander, for all its faults, does have a good deal at present – new customers get £100 and a high interest rate on the first £2,500 in their current account for 12 months, but to qualify she would have to move to them now to be classed as a new customer. Similarly Halifax’s reward current account, which I have, pays you £5 for every month where you pay in at least £1000, though again Halifax does not score highly for customer service.
The best of the larger banks seems to be The Co-operative Bank but there isn’t a branch in her home town of Blackpool – the nearest one being 12 miles away in Preston.
So, internet people, what are your suggestions? Ideally she needs an account she can access online as well as in branch, and one with a bank that isn’t likely to cause her problems. How do you each feel about your current bank, and would you recommend it? Please let me know in the comments.

5 Comments

  1. Martin Lewis is always the go-to man when it comes to financial info… Take a look at http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/banking/ for bank account suggestions

  2. We’re with the Halifax now, and I can’t recommend it. They recently made sweeping changes to their account range, and there was no option to stay how things were. Customer service is average at best, and the online access is clunky and outdated compared to others.
    Also looking to switch out, was considering Santander, but will have to research further given what you’ve said.

  3. Do NOT risk moving to HBOS/Halifax they have ridiculous interest rates on overdrafts; £1 a day or arranged £5 a day for un-arranged. So you drop into it by one pound a week before pay day and you pay £7 (yes that is 700% interest).
    There are also plenty of horror stories about bouncing direct debits as they’d take you over your limit, then charging you for bouncing it, taking you over the limit and charging you for going over….
    I’m in the process of moving away to Co-op, for online I’ve used HSBC and it seems clean and simple to use (and unlike Halifax you don’t have to type in the date then be told it’s not available…)

  4. I have used first direct for about 2 years now and have nothing but good things to say about them A leeds number for all telephone enquiries that is answered with 3 rings. An excellent online service and you can use any hsbc branch. Not had any bother with them always helpful.

  5. Definitely go with Halifax, if she stays in credit and never goes overdrawn.
    I reckon that the golden rule of surveys is to never believe them – well, in many cases, anyway. This Halifax survey is a case in point. It scored badly, not because of poor customer service, but because they recently upset lots of overdrawn customers by increasing the overdraft fees.
    But stay in credit, and you’ll find that they offer much better customer service and much better online banking than RBS/Natwest do.
    Halifax is definitely a great bank to be with, and the £5 per month just tops it off.
    HSBC/First Direct are good if she goes overdrawn much.