Britain's best bank account
A new survey has highlighted the three best banks and building societies for customer service.
We all love our banks more than we did a year ago.
No really, apparently we do. That’s the conclusion of the UK Retail Banking Satifaction Study from JD Power.
The study asked customers to rank their satisfaction in six different areas: account activities; fees; account information; product offerings; problem resolution; and branch quality. Over a 1,000 point scale, the average rating from UK banking customers crept up this year to 698, from 683 in 2010.
The importance of good customer service
It’s clear from the study just what a role good customer service plays in winning, and retaining, our custom.
Firstly, there’s the service you get when a problem arises. The study found that 25% of customers who have experienced a problem over the last 12 months either “definitely will” or “probably will” switch to a new bank next year, such was the poor service they received. More than half of those who have had a problem said they were disappointed with the resolution process.
And it’s not just dealing with problems, but customer service as a whole that dictates how likely we are to stay with our bank. 40% of respondents had left a bank because of poor service, while 43% cited it as the top reason for wanting to leave their bank.
The study polled respondents on the best banks for customer satisfaction, so without any further ado, here are top three.
In third place, Nationwide, the UK’s largest building society, with a score of 723.
The mutual only offers one current account, the FlexAccount, but it’s an excellent option for many. Not only do account holders get free European travel insurance, but you will also qualify for special offers on loans, savings, mortgages and home insurance.
In addition, your FlexAccount debit card will enable you to a number of discounts at big brands, courtesy of the Simply Rewards scheme. To find out more, check out Get rewarded for your debit card spending.
On the downside, you won’t earn any interest on your money. And you’ll have to pay in at least £750 a month.
#2 Co-operative Bank
In second place we have another mutual, the Co-operative Bank, with a score of 734.
For £9.50 a month you can snap up the Privilege current account, which has all of the above but worldwide family travel insurance, mobile phone insurance (for up to four handsets) and a 20% discount on home insurance on top. The overdraft is not only fee-free but interest-free too.
And for £13 a month you get RAC UK and European motor breakdown cover and an extra £100 on that interest and fee-free overdraft with the Privilege Premier.
As always with packaged accounts, be sure that you’ll make use of the additional features, justifying paying for the account. For more on packaged accounts, and the FSA’s clampdown on the way they are sold, read The new bank mis-selling scandal.
And again, you won’t earn any interest on your cash.
#1 First Direct
In this study it managed a score of a whopping 774, streets ahead of the rest, performing particularly well in four of the six categories: account activities; account information; product offerings; and fees.
As with the other top-performing accounts, you’ll earn nothing in interest with the bank’s 1st Account. However, you will get a £100 welcome bonus (and a further £100 if you don’t like the account and leave after six months) as well as an interest-free £250 overdraft.
However, you will need to pay £1,500 a month into the account, or else fork out a £10 monthly fee.
Sacrificing service for cash
All of the accounts above have a proven pedigree when it comes to making their customers happy, so if you just want a quiet life and a consistent service, then you’re unlikely to be disappointed with any of them.
Having said that, I do find it somewhat irritating that the accounts that offer the best service don’t offer you any return at all on your money.
If you do want to earn a great rate on your cash, then the Santander Preferred Account, paying 5% in interest, is worth a look. You’ll also get a free overdraft for 12 months and as much as £300 in cashback when joining Santander.
Obviously, Santander is not well known for decent service – indeed it came second bottom of the JD Power study. But having banked with Santander for a little over a year myself, I can honestly say I haven't had any problems.
So what’s most important to you when picking a current account? Service or a decent rate of interest?