/ Money

Have you been able to get through to your bank?

How’s your bank been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic? Do you have the support you need? The Which? Money Helpline wants to hear your experiences.

28/09/20: Queues outside banks

The Which? Money Helpline has been made aware of queues outside banks as a result of shorter opening hours, with some people being turned away as their visits are deemed ‘non-essential’.

If your local branch has been closed, or you are unable to get to one, it’s no easier to contact some of the banks by phone. Some are keeping people on hold for well over an hour.

Which? News: the changes to banking during lockdown

Of course, we have all had to adjust to the changing world as a result of the pandemic, but it’s frustrating to still see people struggling nearly six months after the start of lockdown.

Many people find online banking difficult or impossible to operate, especially if they don’t have the support they need.

As one of the experts on the Which? Money Helpline, I speak with many Which? members that are at their wits end dealing with banks and credit card companies. It would be interesting to hear your experiences, good or bad.

Are you concerned at the possibility of more branch closures in the future?

15/05/20: Contacting your bank

The UK was put into lockdown on the 23 March in an unprecedented step to attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus.

This led to a very significant increase in call volumes to banks with many customers needing to arrange payment holidays on lending, overdraft extensions and make urgent transfers to cover important bills.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

Whilst this was very frustrating, most people could understand why call centres were suddenly so busy. 

Six weeks later, as one of the Money Experts on the Which? Money Helpline, some banks are still keeping their customers on hold for well over an hour.

I recently spoke with a caller who had been trying to get hold of their bank for an hour and a half – she eventually hung up in despair.

As she had tried many times before, she went to make a complaint using the bank’s online tool and found that she couldn’t even do that as the email kept bouncing back.

She was only able to resolve her issues by visiting her local branch and potentially putting herself at risk of being exposed to the virus.

How is it for you?

How do you think your bank has dealt with the pandemic? Is it giving you the support you need and good customer service?

A guide to banking during lockdown

We’re keen to hear your experiences of trying to speak to someone, or visiting your local branch.

Maybe this is the first time that you have stepped inside a branch – was it well-managed? Was social distancing being observed?

Have you waited on hold on the phone for ages or struggled to contact your bank by email or online?

Helping our members

Did you know about Which? Money Helpline? It’s staffed by financial experts with more than 100 years’ experience in the financial services industry between them.

Members can ask us questions about a range of personal finance subjects, and there are no limits to the number of calls you and your family can make, or the length of time you can spend talking to us.

What the Which? Money Helpline can help you with
  • Banking
  • Borrowing – credit cards and loans
  • Car, home and travel insurance
  • Equity release
  • Investments
  • Long-term care
  • Mortgages
  • Pensions
  • Protection insurance
  • Savings and Isas
  • Tax
  • Wills/probate/trusts

(We do not offer regulated financial advice).

Which? members can call the helpline on 029 2267 0001.

david hoyle says:
20 May 2020

Attempted to call barclays bank, gave up after 1 hour 29 minutes. tried several times over a three day period. finally got through at 4 th attempt………after two months to rectify these problems,there really is no excuse. i fear this will now become the norm.

R hacker says:
20 May 2020

Fryer to get money out my Halifax account said they were open when I went up they said you would have to transfer money to my current account and use the cash machine I do not use cash machine s were of time they might as well be shut will be closing my account

Deborah Kay says:
21 May 2020

Needed to contact Yorkshire Building Society – phoned the number – thinking I would not be able to speak to an individual at all – or be in a very long queue…. Got straight through – Josh at the Halesowen branch completely understood my needs and emailed me relevant forms to undergo an account change, which were received within minutes….
Excellent customer service in a time where nothing is straightforward. 10/10

Eric Youd says:
21 May 2020

The cooperative bank have been brilliant patient and helpful and not too long to wait.

Richard says:
21 May 2020

Coventry, Tandem both excellent with both short wait times and effective response. Santander messenger system worked fine for me and gave me the answer I needed. The following internal account switch was quick and simple so big plus to them.

Still trying after a fortnight to get access to online banking sorted at HSBC. Telephone banking works but can’t get beyond that. Can online chat ok but agents have very limited account access so have to use phone and wait forever. They say make an appointment for local branch BUT their system won’t allow it at this time for non-critical issues!!
HSBC were the most unhelpful brand even before Coronavirus now night on impossible.

If you have a modern phone (one still receiving security updates) you could look at mobile banking as an alternative, Graham, at least until the problem is resolved. Being a novice user of online banking I am wary about using it but years ago I was equally concerned about using online banking.

I use my pc for online banking and other financial transactions. I’ve never yet found the need to use a mobile phone for this.

I was trying to help Graham, who cannot access online banking at present. You said recently that you had a Galaxy S4 and I don’t think Samsung provides security updates for a phone of that age.

I will a use PC – especially my ChromeBook – for online banking but I now mostly use my Android mobile instead.

This means I now trust the security built in to the mobile app and I prefer the convenience of using an “always on” device that I’ll usually have close at hand, as opposed to a laptop or PC that I may have to start up specially.

I have a separated dedicated Linux PC for accessing FaceBook and, if so required, other internet services of ill repute. I don’t want any such servces getting anywhere near any of my main devices.

I also have an S7 that I rarely use for particular reasons. The point I was making was I have not found any reason (so far) to use a mobile for banking.

But then, I used a road atlas before I was bought a TomTom.

Paul says:
22 May 2020

Getting through to Barclays by phone has been all but impossible in the last few weeks. I have waited on the phone for over 1 hour on a number of occasions, with no idea of where I am in the queue or how much longer the wait will be. So disappointed in their service.

Paul – Barclays Bank’s ‘disappointing service’ might genuinely be because (a) there is a much higher level of traffic on their customer services telephone operation at present, and (b) because a large number of staff are, rightly, absent. The two combined probably reduce efficiency to 30% of the normal standard. I agree it is very frustrating, but for once I feel that we have to bear with them.

Valerie Kitchen says:
23 May 2020

I think the banks, predictably, have behaved appallingly. They have cut their opening hours, and cut down on counter services, whilst all taking TV adverts to tell us how much they are helping! My bank refused to do a bank transfer for me to pay a bill. They told me to do it by phone. I don’t do online banking. This pandemic must be like manna from heaven for the banks as under the guise of ‘helping’ their customers they can advance their policy of getting rid of cash, forcing us all to go online, and shutting as many branches as they can. I think the government should insist that not only do people have a payment holiday on loans and mortgages, but interest is dropped to the same rate as savers are getting. I think the business loans the government has offered to struggling businesses should also be low interest. Why on earth shouldn’t banks take a hit to their profit like so many hard working businesses? As I write this I can hear the howls of protest from the money establishment!

Sharon says:
14 October 2020

Had the same problem trying to effect a bank transfer. They said I would have to go into my local Barclays Bank branch and inform them of my mobile phone number so that they could send me a one time password to do a transfer. Most unhelpful. Did the bank transfer via my Tesco current account without any problem.

Roy Roach says:
25 May 2020

Had a holiday cancelled as the company entered administration. Contacted the customer services of my credit card (Marks and Spencer). Absolutely no use. I think at the very least they should be trained and advised to inform customers of the procedure to make a claim under S75 of consumer credit act rather than just give you another number (which by the way is not shown anywhere on their website). Now got to get in to another telephone queue. This is so frustrating. Might even look at other credit card providers.

Mark Ingram says:
8 June 2020

Couldn’t get refund of holiday initially after many attempts with travel agent. So went s75 with bank. Told it would take 45 days and no way to follow up. Eventually travel company refunded me after 6 weeks. Then to my astonishment the bank refunded me as well. Still no way to get hold of bank to advise them claim was settled.
What to do?

Mark – You could post a cheque to your bank with a brief explanation.

My dad has tried 3 times in the last 3 days to get through to Barclays bank and been kept on hold for between 1 and 1½ hours until he gave up. I do their grocery shopping online for them and he phones Barclays to do a bank transfer to me once a month.

As someone is nominated for an award for helping people like him I asked him if he had been contacted. The answer was no.

It is not good enough that old people are kept waiting on the phone for this length of time and banks should have done a lot more to identify them and maybe give them a phone number that will likely get answered much quicker. He has been a Barclays Bank customer at the same branch for around 70 years, so shouldn’t be too hard to identify.

I was not pleased when I discovered he had been going to the cashpoint on his mobility scooter as they still need cash to pay various people who get odds and ends for them. A cash delivery service would have been of great benefit to him.

He has very bad eyesight so I would not encourage him to do online banking as he is liable to make mistakes.

He does not have a mobile phone so Pingit is not an option.

How does he get easy access to his bank account?

Thanks for the link Simon. I will give them a call on his behalf.

Hi Simon,
My dad is already using the number you gave plus he tries an 0800 number sometimes. Phone numbers might start off with good intentions, but they tend to get misused over time.

Linda Hunt says:
3 October 2020

Tried phoning Barclays, no response whatsoever. Eventually managed to get the phone number of a local branch as needed to make an appointment. Left several messages over a couple of weeks asking for someone to call me, no response. Am not particularly tech savvy but found somewhere on Barclays site to send a complaint and great, was finally contacted by the bank and made the appointment. The teller was very friendly and apologetic but a few days later I needed some important (to me) information. After phoning and leaving messages with no response I phoned head office again, ( I assumed head office) ,and a kind gentleman said he would email the local branch. Lo and behold I finally received a phone call . The non response to second messages caused me a lot of stress. Now at last all sorted. And finally, gentleman at local branch told me to pop in anytime and he will show the app. to get information I might need. I don’t want to do internet banking , prefer face to face.

I was the victim of a fraud recently from my account at the Nationwide. The emptied my bank account (which didn’t amount to much) my business has been badly affected by COVID, they also took my overdraft facility. The callers number showed as the Nationwides number and was the same helpline number on the back of my bank card. It took me hours to get through to the bank and no they weren’t very helpful, made me feel it was my fault and that I may not get my money back. Every time I tried to phone to speak to someone I waited for a very long time in a cue and then was cut off. In frustration I reported the incident to the Police who have taken a statement. Since then I’ve had 1 scam text and 3 letters all to attempt to scam my Credit Card. The Nationwide did refund my money but the experience was horrendous.

Helen – I am sorry to hear of this, because I have always considered the Nationwide Building Society to be more supportive of their Members than the average bank. As a matter of interest, and as a warning to other people, could you please outline how the fraudsters obtained access to your personal account while on the telephone? Were they already aware of your account details?

There is no doubt that, with the dislocation of personnel through furlough and self-isolation or shielding, quick communication has become much more difficult with all sorts of commercial organisations and people are discouraged from visiting high street outlets to deal with their affairs. Certainly the building society should not have made you feel that this incident was your fault without considering a number of relevant factors which can affect customers’ susceptibility or vulnerability. The financial services sector is taking some time to learn these skills.

I am glad that the Nationwide has refunded the money that was removed from your account, but I trust you understand that they have to be very careful in considering any claim to ensure that it is not itself an attempt at fraud against the Society [which is not unknown unfortunately]. They tend to be more diligent than other institutions in protecting their Members’ money but this comes at the risk of appearing unhelpful in circumstances like yours.