/ Money

Time to ditch your bank and move on

Bank sign with a crack in it

Do you love your bank more than your partner? You might say no, but it’s likely that you’ll be together with your bank for longer than your loved-one. Maybe it’s time to switch…

According to a new survey by banking behemoth Santander, Britons stay with their bank longer than their partner. It says the average UK citizen has had their current account for around 16.5 years.

By contrast, the average Brit’s longest relationship has lasted 14.1 years. And while more than half of all adults in the UK have kept the same current account for more than a decade, amazingly one in five has stayed loyal for more than 30 years.

This research made me chuckle. Not because it’s depressingly true, but because Santander has the gall to publish the survey in the first place.

Low satisfaction with Santander

Its own appalling customer satisfaction rating of just 47% on its current account should indeed make people switch – away from Santander. Second only to Bank of Scotland’s poor 45% for customer satisfaction, Santander’s score is embarrassing compared with the impressive 88% scored by both First Direct and the One Account.

So why aren’t we switching in droves? All too often, we only ditch our bank when something goes disastrously wrong. I know from experience.

When NatWest royally messed up my change of address and failed to reply to my letters of complaint, I took the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service (and won). I then switched to another bank – my final letter to NatWest spelled out the reasons for my exit.

Good reasons to switch

But there are other good reasons for switching too: better day-to-day customer service, higher interest rates on credit balances, lower overdraft rates and penalty charges, easier accessibility, the list goes on…

Or maybe the question should be ‘Why do you stay with your bank?’. I’m sticking with my new current account provider, First Direct, because they offer fantastic customer service. In fact, I’ve even dropped them a line in the past to praise a member of staff who went beyond the call of duty. If First Direct goes downhill though, I’ll be off.

Banks and building societies want my cash. In return, I want excellent service and good-value products.

But it’s up to us to tell them where they’re falling down. And if they don’t improve, we should stick to our guns and vote with our feet by taking your custom elsewhere. It’s that or be stuck in a loveless banking relationship.


I love First Direct too – and like you if it goes down-hill I’m off .- I’ve been with them since it opened – I left Midland to join because of Midland poor service. The fact I have access 24 hour a day and can always talk to a human is the winner.

I have an account with Santander and have no complaints – yet.

I have to deal with Barclays for a number of years for a friend – I would never join them due to the poor customer service.

Joined Nat West when it combined and, before then, belonged to the National part of it. Nat. Prov. I think. For a very large part of this time- quite a few decades- I have never been overdrawn and have never incurred charges. For their part, Nat West has never sent me an incorrect statement, They have always responded accurately to my direct debits, standing orders and such, changing them when requested. They have handled my salary and, latterly, my pension and they have provided me with adequate means to get at it. Recently I foolishly grabbed the wrong paying in book and paid a large cheque into a defunct account. They found the cheque and put it where it should have gone, without fuss. Last month they sent me a fascinating breakdown of my financial affairs with lots of graphs and charts and sugggestions on how to save. Two years ago they had a very attractive ISA account, it’s gone now and so has my cash, but it was good for a year.
I know that they have my cash and are making money on it and that my current account isn’t really free banking. I also know that I could, perhaps, find a more lucrative home for it, but, while they work efficiently and provide me with a service, then I shall remain with them. I have no illusions about being a special customer any more, and that all correspondence goes to a central point and not to my bank branch. Inertia does play a part too, but, it’s worked this long, so why change?

Like Vynor I am with Nat West.
In general I am very happy with them.
I have had loans (now all cleared some time ago) and they handled these efficiently – which I am afraid was NOT true of the Co-Op when I was a Co-Op customer (they set up the payments on my behalf, got it wrong and then recorded a late payment on my credit reference every month for 2 years).
I have had a credit card with Nat West – which I no longer use – and apart from receiving conflicting information from two different members of staff about the speed of so called “faster payments” when they came in about a year ago, which resulted in 2 payments being shown as late, they have run this well.
Generally I have no problems with my current account.
Customer service is very variable: the branch which I use most, which is NOT the branch that my account is at, is staffed by superb ladies and gentlemen who are exceedingly helpful, including getting me non-PIN cards due to my sight difficulty. However, at the branch where my account is held a number of the staff are unhelpful and in the case of the lady who was manager a couple of years ago exceptionally rude and offensive. Staff at that branch refused to accept my optician’s letter and organise non-PIN cards. However, I don’t imagine for one moment that any bank will have 100% superb staff in 100% of it’s branches.
I use Internet Banking and I am satisfied with that from Nat West (so far!) – when I was with the Co-Op I didn’t feel that their security systems were very strong – having said that, my partner is with the co-op and it looks as though the systems are better now.
In fact really the only two things that I dislike about Nat West are
1) the fact that, as part of the RBS group which is now mainly owned by the taxpayer, they sent out the stupid and ridiculously wasteful mailing that Vynor describes above. That. to me, was like the bank sticking 2 fingers up at every taxpayer in the land.
2) Despite having on-line statements, and opting to stop paper ones, they still send multiple mailings, often dated the same day but in separate envelopes with separate stamps, each one containing unsolicited adverts that I have no interest in whatever. This represents a very great waste of paper (environmental issue) and of money (again, fingers up to the taxpayers).

I realise that I can probably gain some small financial advantage from moving accounts on a regular basis, but frankly I feel that the hassle involved counter-acts the benefits gained.

What WOULD make me change would be if I knew of a bank where they could genuinely boast 100% ethical investment (Co-Op?), LOTS of branches (NOT the Co-Op!), and 100% recycled paper used for only 100% legally essential mailings. Maybe Which? can look at these “features” in a future Banking report?

The bank you’re looking for would be perfect but there are a few issues and sadly they’re all going to cost you. A 100% ethical fund is, by its very nature, going to limit your returns. But many of our members have said they would be willing to sacrifice stronger returns to have a clear conscience when they are investing.
Lots of branches means lots of staff, lots of overheads, and lots of your money being spent, it also means lots of paper – which brings me onto the last point – assuming you’ve switched to paperless billing, there are a number of banks, who do use only 100% recycled paper and it is something we will take a look at in the future. If you are still looking for that perfect bank then our feature on ethical investing http://www.which.co.uk/ethicalinvesting is a great jumping off point and check the Yourethicalmoney website here http://www.yourethicalmoney.org/banking/ to see which banks are most ethical.

“A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.” Bob Hope.

I have been with Abbey for 25 years with no complaints – until a month ago. I suddenly found my debit card was ‘not authorised’ for £40 diesel when I had four figures in the account. The Belfast / Indian call centres said the card had been cancelled, but they did not know by whom or why. Santander then lied to me on four separate occasions about interest rates applicable to my esaver accounts. I’m off to the Co-op Bank or similar. You have been warned.

Thanks, Nick, for your reply to my earlier post.
I’ve had a look at the Co-Op but sadly the member of staff in my local branch was really quite offensive when I said that I’d need a non-PIN card due to sight issues and when I produced my optician’s letter (which Nat West and another Credit Card issuer have both been more than happy with) he first of all tried to tell me that non-PIN cards did not exist and then, after I had challenged him to use my Nat West card in their machine and allow me to withdraw some cash – which he did, and irritably agreed that yes, the card did not have a PIN and immediately caused his terminal to issue a receipt and prompt him to check my signature, he next said “if you don’t have a PIN card you won’t be allowed to use out on line banking, so really I can only offer you a savings account”.
I think what I should have done was ask for the manager and point out that what the assistant was saying suggested that the bank was contravening the Disability Discrimination Act, but given my experience some 15 years ago (see my earlier post) and the fact that the co-op only have the one branch in Sheffield, and that isn’t all that convenient for me, I just decided I could not be bothered and walked out.
I’d read the other Which? information and I might look at some other possible banks in the future: although I really do want to be ethical and environmentally friendly, I’m afraid that Customer Service is still my personal top priority. I may only be 40 but I still believe in that seemingly old fashioned idea that banks should provide a “service” and that customers are always right, or at the very least always the most important people in the organisation.

I have been with Alliance and Leicester since it was the late lamented National Giro. The latest metamorphosis has persuaded me that the time to go is now. I had a saver account with them which I decided to switch to an esaver, because the bonus interest rate had expired. What I thought would have been a simple transfer has turned into a complete nightmare. I am submerged by daily letters, three new numbers, some of which have to be changed to something else. I now have a new orange card which is apparently additional to the blue debit card I already have and whose purpose I have yet to figure out. There’s a letter with a new PIN. All this refers to Santander, as if Alliance and Leicester had never existed. I had to get on to the helpline (when all else fails ring the helpline) and managed to connect up this new account with the old A&L one. I also have to give them my mobile number so that I can be sent a one-time-only password every time I want to make a transaction. When I also say that this incredibly complicated procedure needs to be gone through again for my wife, perhaps you will appreciate why I’m looking elsewhere. And all I wanted was to open a new savings account!