The UK's favourite bank account
We look at the most loved current account in the UK, and what makes it so special
One of the fun things about this job is that you get to help your friends and family with their financial issues.
I’ve helped my brother pick out a savings account, talked ISAs with my buddy Dave, talked my friend Alan out of cutting his pension contributions and even discussed the fixed rate versus tracker mortgage conundrum with my friends Ed and Stewart.
And on the whole they tend to follow my advice.
However, one person steadfastly refuses to listen to me should I ever suggest she consider changing her bank account – my mum.
She swears by her First Direct 1st Account, and she’s not the only one.
It doesn’t look that great
At first glance, there’s nothing particularly special about the 1st Account.
It doesn’t even pay any interest on your cash, which will put off plenty of people looking for a new current account. It’s also not an account that will be suited to everybody, as you have to pay in at least £1,500 a month. Otherwise you’ll need to stump up £10 a month to bank with First Direct.
And the £250 interest-free overdraft facility, while decent enough, is unlikely to take anyone’s breath away.
So what makes the 1st Account so good?
A personal service
The biggest reason that people opt for the 1st Account, and then don’t leave, is because of the service you receive. First Direct are generally recognised as being streets ahead when it comes to customer service, and that makes a big difference when choosing your bank.
If your bank has treated you unfairly, check out these five steps to help you complain successfully
It’s all very well getting a great rate of interest on your money, but if the service is so bad that you end up struggling to get hold of your own cash then it’s all a bit of a waste of time.
No such problems with First Direct. Just this weekend my mum was raving at the fact that minutes after she had made a purchase on her card, they called her to check that it really was her that had sanctioned that spending.
Should you need to get in contact with First Direct, you shouldn’t struggle – they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What’s more, the bank aims to answer your call within 20 seconds, and once you get through you’ll speak to someone in a UK call centre who has the responsibility to deal with your query, rather than pass you round from person to person.
Racking up awards
And that service is appreciated, with First Direct winning over 30 awards for customer service already this year, including a number of lovemoney.com Cheer awards, as voted for by you, the readers of this site!
Indeed, according to the Institute of Customer Service last year, First Direct is officially the UK’s number one bank when it comes to treating customers well.
Money where their mouth is
What’s more, First Direct actually back up their claims to be number one with cold hard cash. Should you sign up to the 1st Account and pay in your salary of £1,500 within the first three months, you’ll receive £100.
If you’ve switched over all your direct debits and standing orders using their Easyswitch service, but after 12 months are not happy with the service you’ve received, they will pay you an additional £100 should you want to leave.
So they give you £100 to take out the account, and an additional £100 if you want to leave within a year!
The best of the rest
While First Direct is undoubtedly the king of customer service, there are other banks that you should consider if that is the deciding factor when choosing a current account.
Smile came second in our survey, and again it’s easy to see why, with 24 hour service available, as well as a 12 month fee-free £500 overdraft. Again though you’ll have to put up with a paltry rate of interest, at 0.12% AER.
Alternatively, you might prefer to bank with the Co-operative Bank, which came third in our survey, and only requires you to pay in £800 a month if you want to go for its Current Account Plus. However you won’t earn any interest on your cash.
A better return
Recent question on this topic
- kevsmith asks:
Of course if you’re willing to sacrifice the standard of service you receive in order to get a decent return on your money you have a pretty wide choice of accounts to go for.
Santander boasts four separate accounts which pay 5% - the Preferred in Credit-Rate account, the Premium account, the Reward account and the Zero account – while you can also get 4% on your money from the Lloyds TSB Classic with Vantage, so long as you maintain a balance of between £5,000 and £7,000.
Finally, the Halifax Reward account is a great option if you don’t tend to have much left in your bank account each month – so long as you pay in £1,000 a month you’ll get £5, irrespective of how much you have in there. You’d even get the £5 if you were in your overdraft, though as you get charged £1 a day for being overdrawn it’s probably best to avoid this if possible.