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Why I think M&S’s bank account is a let down

Despite high hopes for Marks & Spencer’s entry to the banking arena, I can’t help but feel that the terms of its current account are seriously underwhelming. Are you tempted by the extras offered by M&S’s account?

M&S launched itself into the bank account market with great enthusiasm in July. Although I was away on holiday on the day of the big announcement, I returned to find they’d couriered the press release along with three packs of M&S ‘phizzy pig’ sweets and a porcelain pig money box. Clearly they were very excited.

Here at Which? we’ve been eagerly anticipating the entrance of some fresh brands in the banking market for several years, hoping that these challengers can help shake up the existing stale competition.

But while M&S’s zeal can’t be faulted, its new bank accounts don’t leave much for customers to get excited about – and seem unlikely to tempt any but the most loyal M&S shoppers to switch from their existing providers.

M&S charges for accounts upfront

The interesting move that M&S has made is to only offer accounts which charge an explicit fee. It’s launching two fee-charging accounts – one that will set you back a not-insubstantial £15 a month, and one that, at £20 a month, will be the third most expensive current account on the market.

The largest single benefit of the cheaper account is a pack of 48 hot drink vouchers for use at the M&S café, reportedly worth up to £127 a year. Meanwhile, the other £210 of claimed value is made up mostly of other M&S vouchers and loyalty points – as well as access to a 6% regular savings account.

Although this package of benefits may hold some allure for the minority of people who have an obsession with M&S – and who do all their coffee drinking, food shopping and clothes shopping there – the vast majority of people who venture into M&S are unlikely to be attracted by such a weak cocktail of rewards.

Are M&S account extras worth it?

We’ve written before that people are more likely to change their partner than their bank account, and given that top-class banks will pay you a cold hard £100 to switch and won’t charge a monthly fee when you arrive, M&S looks a long way off the money.

Though M&S are offering 12 additional shopping vouchers for new customers, these can’t be used on food shopping, and most people are unlikely to be able to extract the maximum £600 of value out of them.

M&S’ more expensive £20-a-month account does at least come with comprehensive family travel insurance, which M&S claims is worth up to £245 a year. But given you can buy a Which? Best Buy worldwide annual family policy for under £60 I struggle to see how M&S believes its policy to be worth anything like its claim. It’s true that its cover limits are higher than the average policy, but it’s possible to buy a policy with equivalent levels of cover for much less than £245.

As far as bank charges, interest rates and all the small print goes, we simply don’t know whether M&S will be competitive. These details are not yet included on its site, even though customers are being encouraged to pre-register for their new packages now.

For a brand with such heritage and respect, M&S’s launch into the current account market is thoroughly disappointing. Tesco has said that it finally plans to launch its own account in 2013. Let’s hope it comes up with something more impressive.

Comments
Member

Every silver lining has a cloud in front of it. It now also has a coupon.

Member

Oh dear. Keeping up the the pig comments .. what a load of greedy little pigs they are coming across as. I wonder how long before they disappear from this market.

I would suspect they’ll be aiming to cross sell financial products from “partners” in order to try and make a go of this. Watch your details and who ends up with them.

Member
Bob Bill says:
5 September 2012

It’s a major high street bank expanding again, this time HSBC with another trading name, they already run M&S credit cards so just expect more of the same, greed, mistakes, corruption, PPI scandals, over charging!! I mean, give them £20 a month to use my money to make more money, and don’t pay me interest. No thanks

Member

So the travel insurance isnt worth £245 and you admit it has better cover than the budget £60 Best Buy policy – so what is the cost of a comparable policy ?

Member

Hi Rarrar, we’ve compared the M&S levels of cover against other providers I have had back for the latest round of surveys and cheaptravelinsurance.com’s Super policy offers roughly the same levels of cover for £143 – still over £100 cheaper than the M&S claimed value of their policy. You can definately save by shopping around.

It’s also important to add that most people don’t necessarily need the extra high levels of cover that M&S provide. So you can get a decent level of cover for almost £200 less – and a similar level of cover for at least £100 less.

Member
Jaygee says:
6 February 2013

I too was disappointed with the new M & S current a’cs. However to day i am incensed from their latest customer leaflet – all the ‘benefits’ of their packaged a/c’s are listed -IF YOU ARE UNDER 70 years old. Why I ask ? Not all old people (myself included) are frail, incompetent or poor. I can think of no other reasons for refusing to accept our money. So many oldies are fit, active, still contributing/ volunteering to help their communities and families, AND they are solvent – why the discrimination? Some are even quite well off !

Member
Em B says:
20 March 2013

Hi Jaygee,

Just to let you know that it is just the current account WITH travel insurance that is not available to over 70s, and this is down to the fact that Aviva will no longer agree to cover over 70s on the travel insurance policy attached to the current account. I queried it as my mother is an M&S cardholder and member of their premium club, so wanted to switch to M&S for all her banking, but being over 70 she wasn’t sure if she could have the account.

The people in branch explained that the cheaper account (£15 per month, the same fee she is currently paying for the premium club) would be the one they would open for her if she wanted an account.

Member
Jaygee says:
20 March 2013

Thank you for your information. I still won’t be switching to M & S as I do prefer not to have to pay for my current account, when the bank have the use of my money to increase the income of its shareholders. I used to work for Lloyds bank and so speak from experience of banking .

Member
Em B says:
20 March 2013

I understand what you mean, I have worked in banking too. I won’t be switching either because I won’t use the benefits. I don’t think it’s for everyone but I do think it could be pretty good for those who do love M&S and will therefore make good use of the benefits

Member
Jaygee says:
20 March 2013

Agree absolutely !