/ 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.


Trying to make a claim on a Sainsbury’s credit card and have been asked to provide a copy of the terms and conditions from the merchants website at the time of purchase. No idea what this is and when I phoned Sainsbury’s them they couldn’t tell me. Has anyone else been asked for such terms?

K Griffiths – I can only guess that their admin dealing with Section 75 claims needs to see the terms and conditions that apply to the goods or service you were using the credit card to procure in order to assess the validity of your claim. “Merchant” is the term that credit card issuers use to describe the seller of goods or the provider of services for which you are using a credit card. You might have a hard copy of the relevant T&C’s document received at the time, but whether you can find a copy on the website dated to when your transaction took place will depend on their version history.

I’ve tried so many times because I can’t afford my monthly payment I struggled to find the money by robbing Peter to pay Paul but now because I am unable to get through I have not been able to pay this month so now I’m even more worried about late charges and what will happen next

Tried to pay in a cheque today at Lloyds. Had great difficulty being allowed in. They said hang on to the cheque until the crisis is over, i is not urgent !

Robert says:
18 May 2020

Yes I had the same problem to0day. The Lloyds Bank made me wait 50 minutes before allowing me in – and guess what? The paying in machine had broken down. I could say a lot about Lloyds but for sure once this Covid 19 is over I will change my bank

Hi Simon – Do you know why the Post Office refuses to accept payments unless accompanied by a printed paying-in slip? I have asked in writing but received no reply other than an acknowledgement of my enquiry.

I have paid cheques in by posting them to my bank branch. I have either sent them with a letter or just a paying-in slip. It works satisfactorily.

I admit that living close to a post box makes it easier and quicker than going to the branch.

I used to post my cheques and paying-in slips into the letterbox of my branch on the way home from work. Nowadays I post them into a different branch of my bank.

In a bank you don’t need to use a pre-printed paying-in slip and writing in the account number and sort code on a blank slip is acceptable. Yet the Post Office will not let us use blank slips. I have tried more than once.

Thanks Simon. My problem is paying cheques into accounts other than mine, for example ones belonging to small societies that I am a member of. I know the name of the bank, sort code and account number but don’t have a printed slip. Thankfully all the major banks have branches in town, and there I can write the details on a paying-in slip.

Though cheques still have their uses I loathe having to deal with one that’s payable to a society rather than me.

Gerald Carter says:
16 May 2020

I have been able to contact my bank (HSBC). I recently paid my credit card bill by telephone with out unnecessary delay

Linda says:
16 May 2020

I have been in touch with First Direct during the lockdown and they have managed to set up a payee for me so that I can pay a bill. This is the point of having a telephone bank and not having to go into HSBC another in their group. Everything was done online, the person was actually working from their home, as usual service was amazing and fast. Been with them since they started and have fed many one off transactions through them that were not the everyday thing and each time they exceeded my wishes.

M Maguire says:
17 May 2020

I have been able to visit Barclays in esher to deal with items, all pleased to see me and v helpful

Kathy Kinder says:
18 May 2020

I have had great service from Marks and Spencer Bank when I was looking for a refund of a credit card balance due to me. This came about because of a holiday refund from Trailfinders when my holiday was cancelled. The money from M&S arrived back in my bank account (with another UK bank) within 2 days. It was quite easy and only took about 5 mins to get through to the right department. Thank you M&S Bank (and to Trailfinders but I will write separately on this

Hello Kathy, It is good to hear that you have been refunded by Trailfinders (a Which? Recommend Provider) after a holiday cancellation and that it was straightforward to get the money transferred back from your M&S credit card into your bank account. We have been inundated with calls from people who are struggling to get refunds for holidays, and people who haven’t been able to contact their credit card company at all, or have struggled to have credit balances refunded to their bank account.

Tried to close a Santander savings account. Private messaging service told me to use the chat line. Lady on chat line told me to phone a certain number. Phone line not taking other than emergency calls but said go to branch. Went to branch but they would not close it instead giving me a form to post. Got home found it was the wrong form. Gave up, transferred balance and closed direct debits. Account still open but with no balance.
Opened an account with Nationwide, no problems at all. Phone answered quickly each time by very helpful staff.

I received a travel refund into my credit card account at Santander and was able to transfer it to my current account with no difficulty. I got through to the right person for the task in a few minutes and the money was transferred within 24 hours.

Beccy F says:
18 May 2020

My current mortgage deal comes to an end on 1 June. I want to reduce the payment term and sign up for a new fixed rate deal which I can’t do on online as apparently I have to talk to a mortgage advisor. Two weeks after as directed I requested a call back from Lloyds, I’m still waiting to be contacted. I realise that due to mortgage payment holiday requests they will have been busy but two weeks on and only an automated email response is pretty poor.

Claude Juillet says:
18 May 2020

Unable to contact HSBC. Voice say ” Due to the Coventry 19″ waiting time up to 1 hour. Please go on line Etc.

Amanda says:
19 May 2020

What is Coventry 19?

Em says:
19 May 2020

It’s like covfefe.

J Hutton says:
18 May 2020

Bank of Scotland, nationwide and others all very helpful and quick. Nationwide had to call me back, but kept appointment. Also informed me in advance of covid.19 -induced branch closure and alternative. Cannot fault any of them in telephone dealings.

Jas says:
18 May 2020

Trying to transfer an Isa from Charter Savings to Barclays. Still not sure if they have done it after 2 months of complete frustration. When we did manage to get through after hours and days on the phone and on-line found that the information we were given proved to be completely wrong.
They must be employing contract staff who have no knowledge, whatsover, of any of their procedures.

I phoned First Direct on Friday May 15 to request a balance transfer. My call lasted approx: 4 minutes and the transaction was completed to my complete satisfaction by a very polite young lady.

Liz G. says:
18 May 2020

Trying to correct an over payment on my TSB a/c. Online chat not available, cannot get through on phone, so i have given up for now and hope it will be alright if i ring at a later date.

Kala Shah says:
18 May 2020

I had to withdraw all my money from Lloyds club account due to the pandemic and was charged £3 monthly fee. I tried to contact them soon after withdrawing the money to close the account in March but was not able to get through and I was unable to go to the local branch for obvious reasons. They have now sent me 2 letters asking me to pay in £6 (2 months fees). Finally I had to write a letter to them and ask them to close my account. I am now waiting for their reply.

CB says:
18 May 2020

Have a direct debit issue and sent usual secure message to Santander. Response not replying to secure messaging any longer. Referred to chat bot. Useless circuitous response. Called help number. Response not answering calls unless I am a vulnerable person etc. Ended up writing a letter with a stamp! To complaints at Santander head office. Will I get a reply?

John Paxton says:
19 May 2020

Tried to close a redundant account with zero balance but Santander will not allow it: still charging £5 per month, and still sending regular emails telling me – each month – but all on ‘no reply’ emails. After thirty minutes my phone automatically shuts down, therefore impossible to contact bank unless I visit and risk death (I am 80 + and self isolating). Stalemate.

I’ve used the Starling chat function the other week. Took about 3-4 minutes to wait for an adviser but had no issues.

jeanette says:
19 May 2020

have been trying to contact Halifax for a good week about changing their rewards new accounts for me and husband but no luck phone just goes dead after answering many questions