Why is it so hard to open a current account with M&S Bank?

Updated on 17 September 2018 | 7 Comments

Banks always seem so keen to get our cash, so why is M&S Bank being so slow in opening my new current account?

I’ve been trying to open a current account with M&S Bank for over a month now.

My aim was to open the account so I could switch over a current account with another bank.

And with M&S offering the incentive of up to £185 in vouchers (provided you switch and pay in £1,000 a month for year) I decided to give it a go.

But unfortunately, the whole experience has proved rather painful and time-consuming.

What’s taking so long?

I applied online in mid-August.

To be honest, I nearly gave up at the first hurdle as the application alone was one of the longest, most detailed, and time-consuming I’ve ever done.

But I finally completed it, got a message back confirming my application was being ‘processed’ and was told I’d hear back within five working days.

Great stuff, but wait, what was this at the bottom of the email?

A warning that due to “unprecedented demand for our current accounts, there may be a delay in your application being processed”.

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Was this a dodgy text?

Over a week later, (when I thought they’d forgotten me), I got a text message asking me to call an ‘0800’ number and quote a special code as M&S wanted more information.

To be honest, I thought this sounded a bit dodgy at first.

After all, it’s not uncommon to get random texts or emails from fraudsters posing as banks, who are hoping to latch on to someone who follows through with the instructions.

So I went online, found a number for M&S Bank through its own website and gave them a call.

I was reassured that the text was genuine and apparently more details were needed regarding my income, outgoings and so on, which I promptly gave during the call.

Another week goes by…

As you might expect being a money journalist, I regularly open and switch accounts to bag new deals and better rates, and have always found opening new accounts to be a quick and simple process.

But with M&S Bank, I now had to wait another eight days after the phone call wanting ‘more details’, before I finally got an email saying my application was ‘successful’.

Great news! So within ‘the next few days’ I should now receive a pack with both agreement and signature forms.

These both needed signing and returning before the account could be ‘opened’ and, according to M&S, I could then enjoy ‘new-fashioned banking’.  

Not too sure about the ‘new-fashioned’ approach, as this feels like we’ve gone back in time, especially after I’d initially applied online several weeks ago.

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I rang up again, just to double check when I could make the ‘switch’ from my old account.

I was told I needed to return both the agreement and signature forms before I could get a debit card, and once I had the debit card in my hand I could go online or ring up to activate the ‘switch’ process.

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What does M&S Bank have to say?

As I’m publicly complaining about its poor service, it seemed only fair to ask M&S Bank’s press office about my issues.

It responded with a statement saying, “our £185 gift card switch and stay offer remains extremely popular and it’s taking around a week to process applications, athough this can vary on a case-by-case basis, depending on how soon we receive all the customer’s information”.

Once your application is successful, M&S says it takes around a week to get your account up and running as it has to send out agreement forms, which need to be signed and returned before your account is open.

In my case, it has apologised saying that, “on this occasion, the process has taken longer than usual”.

Apparently, my account agreement pack has been posted, (10 days and counting on that part), and it’s sending me a £75 cheque, (yes a real live cheque!), for the inconvenience.   

So if anyone else suffers delays, don’t sit in silence, I’d definitely suggest getting in touch with M&S Bank – or any bank that’s failing you, for that matter – and asking about financial compensation for the inconvenience.

What's the latest with my switch?

As of 17 September, I still don't have an open account or my £75 compensation cheque. The application has been something of a nightmare.

I have finally received the signature forms (which I signed and returned on the same day) a full four weeks after my initial application.

I'm now waiting for a debit card which the banks say I need before I can activate the ‘switch’.

As for my compensation, I have an email from the 7th saying it has been sent but it's looking increasingly like I'll need to chase that again...

Best bank switching bonuses: earn up to £200

Should banks carry a ‘financial health’ warning?

I’m serious. If the bank you want to switch to drags its feet setting up your account, you can be stuck in financial limbo, as you can’t switch till your new account’s up and running.

And if you ‘give up’ and go elsewhere halfway through the opening process, there’s the risk that this could impact on your credit record.

According to James Jones, from credit reference agency Experian, “any credit search will leave a ‘footprint’ on your file which could impact on your credit score”.

So should banks be made to warn you up front how it can take to open one of their accounts? Or at least flag up any backlog with applications before you apply?

The Financial Conduct Authority says there aren’t any rules over how long banks can take to open new accounts.  

From next February, the process should hopefully become much more transparent.

The FCA says current account providers will need to provide information on how long it takes to open an account and each stage of the process.

Am I the only one to have these issues? Share your experience of switching bank accounts in the comments section below.


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