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We deserve better banks

Better Banks campaign logo

Our surveys have once again found that the big banks aren’t getting customer service right. Standards aren’t being driven up across the industry due to a lack of competition, so today we’re launching a campaign calling for better banks.

Have you ever thought about your bank account and why you need it? Because you love banking? Life would be interesting if you didn’t have one. I suppose you could keep all your cash stuffed in the mattress and take a bit out to pay the gas man (except he doesn’t visit anymore).

So yes, everyone needs a bank account these days. And the banks know that. Maybe you don’t think about your bank too much – the money flowing in and out. But is that all we expect from our bank – somewhere to put our money and make payments? Surely there’s more that they can be doing?

Your bank can see when you’re about to go over your agreed limit, so why don’t they tell you? Some banks automatically text you the moment your payments exceed the limit on your account, and give you time to get your account back into balance before applying charges. But too often we see banks hitting customers with disproportionately large fees for unauthorised overdrafts.

And what about when you fail to pay a bill because your bank’s IT systems have gone down and you can’t get access to your money? Banks can do better and they know it.

Big banks struggling to keep up

So today we’re launching a campaign calling on the regulators, government and banking industry to get banks to listen to us – their customers. There’s a certain quality we can expect from any of our service providers and many of the UK’s biggest banks are struggling to keep up with their smaller rivals.

Some of the smaller banks are getting it right, like First Direct and Metro Bank. Their customers are the happiest, as we found in our latest survey of more than 20,000 customers. But a lack of competition means this isn’t driving up standards across the whole industry.

We want to put customer service in the spotlight for all banks. We want alerts, apps and other tools that would help us manage our money more easily. And we want unfair unauthorised overdrafts to be tackled too.

Sign our petition for better banks

The Competition and Markets Authority’s major inquiry into the current account market is due to conclude in the next few months, but we don’t think current proposals will reform the market. That’s why we’re calling for a collective effort from Government, regulators, and the banking industry to raise the standard of service we receive. And the competition inquiry needs to ensure that banks are held to account for the way they treat their customers.

We know that banks have started to change their culture in response to the mis-selling scandals of recent years, but now is not the time to congratulate them on a job well done. Sorting out the worst practices should be the bare minimum of changes we need to see to create better banking for customers. If you agree, please sign our petition and then tell us how your bank treats you.

[UPDATE 16 FEBRUARY 2016] – Two of the big banks have come out in support of our Better Banks campaign. Les Matheson, CEO of Personal and Business Banking at RBS and NatWest, said:

‘We agree that Britain needs better banks and that is why over the last few years we’ve been challenging the industry to help our customers out, not catch them out and we’re proud of how we’re making banking simpler and fairer for our customers.’

In response to our customer satisfaction survey, Les Matheson added:

‘Whilst we are disappointed in these results, we are determined to do more and we are working with Which? to support their campaign, including raising awareness and education of products – not just for our customers, but across the banking industry.’

Terry Kaye, Divisional Director for Customer Experience at Nationwide Building Society, said:

‘As a mutual, Nationwide is owned by and run for the benefit of its members meaning they are at the heart of what we do. The Society already has the highest customer satisfaction scores amongst its banking peers, but we aren’t complacent and are always striving to further improve the level of service offered to our customers.’


We remain responsible for our own spending and accounts. All means are available to regularly check accounts and be aware off eg overdraw issues.
But at the same time banks must be more flexible before slapping fines on us; a warning and a grace period of , say 1 week to rectify and settle the overdraft.
After all, wages pay-in could be delayed.
And a bit more service for longstanding customers with a good history.

the whole banking system is corrupt.end of.

How are we meant to be protected from the behaviour of the banking/finance industry?
They are now looking to curtail the right to PPI mis-selling money

Is it right that pensioners or any one for that matter should be putting their hard earned savings into a Bank and getting almost nil return in interest. Yet Bankers walk of with salaries and bonuses that their customers can only dream about. They would soon be knee jerking from them if all savers withdrew their savings and put it under the mattress. The same applies to Building Societies. There was a time years ago when Banks treated their customers with respect.

Andrew says:
19 February 2016

The Banks, as a whole, demonstrate greed taken to the nth degree. As they produce nothing except profit derived from buying and selling money they are parasitical on those who actually produce or have little choice but to stand still and be milked. It will all end in tears but not for the culpable.

Although I have occasionally (!) gone on about people having to take more responsibility for managing their bank accounts, I do think the banks have a lot to answer for in the way they have created the overdraft culture. They have encouraged this by bunging an overdraft facility onto every current account [and using that as a marketing feature] and promoting their authorised overdraft interest rates as being attractive. No wonder people think going into the red is a respectable act, and that overdrawing beyond the included limit without express approval is not only acceptable behaviour but should also be penalty-free. And they have been far from forthcoming in educating customers of the dangers of being overdrawn; as these tales tell, they seem perfectly comfortable with their customers learning the hard way and then suffering enduring consequences. Mutual building societies don’t do this and they don’t have “customers” – just members to whom they owe a duty of care, and who reap the rewards through lower charges where applicable and higher returns.

What bothers me is that Which? use unauthorised (unarranged) overdrafts as a seemingly acceptable criterion by which to judge banks. They should be treating them as what they are – abusing your contract with a bank and misusing their money.

However, promoting debt as an easy way to get now what we used to have to save up for is the real problem, and has been for a long time. Even more than easy overdrafts is the ease with which credit cards are given out, and their limits increased, often simply because you are seen to be using them more.

The only way to make some “long term” purchases – a house, and perhaps a car – is to get into debt through a mortgage or personal loan. But getting into debt just to get “luxuries” or things that are “nice to have”, rather than saving and waiting, seems to be what economies get built around these days. Perhaps it is the best way – we only live once. But when it gets you into trouble, please don’t come whinging to me to bail you out.

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The banks have a lot to answer for it seems. I give a two finger salute to nasty bank charges and a right royal hand shandy to the credit rating society they’ve created. Wloody Bankers.

For people that have an even more difficult life than others, being possibly of demoted human status being perhaps constantly yoyoed to mental wards & unable to get a consistent job prospect perhaps having qualification & certs . Then . Find the only money given to survive is benefits this being paid into bank account with no ” real time balance ” for what really are transactions that happen on the internet second . Then . being confronted with possible . Bank Admin Charges . this is nothing short of modern day life vague torture . That other’s in modern society don’t have to suffer from . It obviously is lowering the gradual distress that is very much obvious . What can be achieved technology to make these issues at lot more responsible & kind ?

Bill Baker says:
20 February 2016

My Bif with the banks, especially Santander, is the god-damn awful methods of delivering security related details. With HSBC, I get a completely separate little electronic security device that generates a passcode, It “knows who I am and is immediately valid”, a super little device. Santander, meanwhile responds with “we’ll send you a letter with half the security code, it will arrive in a minimum of 5 days!!!” The second half of the security code is also sent via the post again, a minimum of 5 days after the arrival of the first letter. B….y H… this is the Tinternet age not the age of post being delivered by “Wells Fargo!” Get a letter, open it, put if to one-side while you wait for the second half! Dumb, where’s the security in that? Where’s customer service? I could go on and on and on…. I wish Santander would sort it out. What’s wrong with one half via voice message to home phone (aka Google security) and second half via email or SMS message to mobile? TWO different delivery methods, at roughly TWO different times for security and immediacy to the recipient for good secure customer service. I hope Santander read this???

Yes banks need puling in as the charges are totals unfair, they do not match the amount as to what they are aimed at.I have five different charges on my card account for a payment that was put in my account in U S Dollars five why? its just a push of a button to change from dollars to sterling dont understand why I have five different charges and depending on the amount going in the more they charge. Also when I cashed in my bonds they took thousands in charges so I lost out again crooks the lot of them.

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I was a bank manager in the UK here having come from NZ. I really really struggled with the lack of customer service that is given, and desire to look after the customer.
An example — a client came in to the bank for £7,500 for house renos and a 2nd hand car. No issue — the loan was approved and provided at 4.9% interest. He came back 5 weeks later for a £2,500 top us as the house renos has cost a little extra. He was turned down, as he had not had the loan for more than 6 mths (or 7 payment statements) If he needed an extra loan it would be at 21% overdraft, new loan at 18% or credit card at 6.9%.
I was staggered at this reply.
I then became involved as I thought this ridiculous. Had he applied for £10,000 initially he would have received it — no issues. So if we as a bank are customer centric why would we try and charge him an exorbitant price for the second loan, just because he was outside the prescribed “written criteria”. This is where human intervention is important.
I kept going up the chain of command until someone with common sense saw the logic of what I was saying, and trying to achieve for the client. The client got the top-up on the same terms and conditions as the initial loan.
It took 3 weeks to get that decision — it should have been made within the hour — in the best interests of the customer. My staff were amazed that we got the decision over-turned in favour of the customer. We now have a very very happy customer.
We in our branch went out of our way to try and make these customer experiences the norm not the exception. Guess how happy are customers are, knowing we are trying to work in their best interests.

Ruth Nicholson says:
21 February 2016

We deserve Banks that are not run by Corporate fat 🐱,bankers are far too greedy.

Apart from some excessive charges, my biggest complaint is how difficult it is to make contact with anyone who knows what they are talking about, particularly by telephone. These days, banks seem to take a pride in making themselves as inaccessible as possible. I thought that modern technology was intended to make communication easier. With banks and other big corporations the opposite has occurred. Too many barriers have been erected to shield banks and their employees, particularly senior ones, from having to be in actual touch with their customers.

colin chandler says:
22 February 2016

I have in the past worked for 3 banks. They are even more evil than you could imagine. Nationalize RBS now – don’t sell it back to the fat cats who will take all the profit

The Banks are interested in one thing only…….making money for themselves!!!! They are no longer interested in helping the ” man on the street”. When I started banking over 40 years ago, the Bank Manager knew me personally as did all the staff (by name) and if I over spent on my account, he’d send a polite letter asking me to rectify the matter within a few days. No charges, no fuss, no bother…… And I’d pay up, a.s.a.p. with a verbal or written apology and wouldn’t do it again – well next time I’d ring and ask permission. I think they used to call it loyalty and trust and good customer relations. The kids that man the phones have more power than the Bank Manager do now!!!! I’m getting old because I certainly miss ” the good old days!!!!”

1) Stop closing local branches
2) Pay me interest on my current account balance

You can change to a bank (or building society) with branches. Recommendations given earlier.

Changing banks to retain a local branch is an option for some but not others.

On holiday last year I asked the Tourist Information Office in Llangollen where to find a branch of my bank and learned that it had closed the previous day. 🙁 A couple of days later, in another small town, I was invited to sign a petition to save the local branch of another bank. It certainly made me aware of the declining number of branches, no doubt as a result of the the move to online banking.

I understand that it is not economically viable to keep every branch open, so the way forward is shared services. If the banks don’t provide them, perhaps customers need to push for them. We take for granted the fact that we have for many years been able to use cash machines operated by other banks.

Post Office Ltd offer a range of limited facilities for people with bank accounts. A full list of banks involved is on their website, together with services offered. These generally cover payments in, cheque deposit, withdrawing money, checking account balance. Perhaps a model that could be built on either by the PO, or by bank branches that remain in an area .

That’s a good idea, Malcolm. Despite the fact that many Post Offices have closed there are plenty still around.

More attention needs to be paid to companies wrongfully taking money from our accounts. I have recently been a victim of this and was left without funds for my living expenses as the bank didn’t check with me that I had purchased from a company before paying out.

Eladram says:
23 February 2016

One of the things that really annoys me is that things they used to be able to do in the bad old days are now apparently not possible. For instance, I used to be able to go into a bank branch with a bunch of things etc to be paid, write one single cheque for the total owed, and pay the lot together. That was very handy but they won’t let me do it any longer.

The other day I had a cheque to pay into a supplier’s account, and a copy of the supplier’s letterhead with their bank details on it. I went to a branch of the bank where the account is held, but they told me they couldn’t make the payement because they ‘couldn’t verify the account number’. That in spite of having paid standing orders into the same account in the last couple of years. They were able to google the sort code and tell me which bank the payment was to go to, and I then had to get a bus to the other end of town to go and pay it in there.

Yet if I go into the same bank with an IBAN and BIC number jotted down on a scrap of paper, they can pay in to banks outside the UK. How come they can ‘verify’ an account in a bank not even in the EU, but they claim they can’t verify an account in a UK bank? And if not, why can’t the banks agree to allow other banks to verify one another’s accounts so that their customers can easily pay cheques into other banks?

Which? The Consumer company, recently requested my Bank details


Sort Code and Account Number in addition to the “Card Number” and the three (3) Digit Security Number on the reverse of the card.

This is not normal for a telephonic transaction.

I identified and confirmed my address and was informed by Which? that I should contact my Bank in respect of a Security Breach in that – more than one address was recorded – as using that Card Number.

Such occurred within 10 minutes of the ceasing of the call to Which? and my locating the codes and speaking to my Bank Security by means of a landline telephone.

At no point was an Internet or WIFI connection or any other means of Public Broadcasting used – the default position being that they are disabled unless and until they are physically enabled by means of a Master plug and socket connection.

My Bank then checked and reported that they have no unusual transactions recorded but they will note my report.

I must now check every week – with my Bank – that no unusual – that is not correct – but that I have had no unusual Bowel Movements in my account during the intervening period.

The next time I see Osbourne – I can assure you that I shall give him a Bowel Movement that he will forever be unable to forget.

Pleasant regards – Brian

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Oh Brain, I dont care what your leanings are but can you send me an invitation to the event you spell out so very well in your last paragraph so I may witness this great event because I will not forget this either…….
How good your imagination

Peter Morgan says:
24 February 2016