Bank customer satisfaction poll

First DirectBank of Ireland and Ulster Bank have been named as the worst performers in a satisfaction survey of current account customers.

Meanwhile, First Direct came out top for the eighth time in a row in the twice-yearly study by consumer group Which?, with 94% of its customers saying they would recommend the internet and telephone-based bank owned by HSBC to a friend.
Those which were found to have the happiest customers included names such as Norwich and Peterborough Building Society and internet bank Smile, a brand of the Co-operative Bank, while many high street giants languished further down the list.

The survey looked at current accounts specifically, although Bank of Ireland has also faced a furore in recent months for pushing up costs for some holders of tracker mortgages at a time when the bank rate has remained at a historic low.
It was not clear to what extent, if any, the mortgage controversy had impacted on the sentiments of current account holders. But overall, Bank of Ireland came bottom with a score of just 41%, receiving just two out of five stars for customer service, regular communication, clarity of statements and branch availability.

Ulster Bank, which along with sister banks Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest was hit by a massive IT meltdown last summer, came second from last, with a score of 45%.

First Direct, which achieved an overall score of 85%, marks itself out with a service guarantee which offers customers £100 to switch accounts to it - plus another £100 if they end up being disappointed. Mark Mullen, chief executive of First Direct, said the bank hopes to welcome more new customers when industry changes to take the hassle out of account switching come into force in September.

Norwich and Peterborough Building Society achieved the distinction of being awarded Which? "recommended provider" status for the first time, coming in fifth place with a score of 71%. Ewan Edwards, N&P's head of current accounts, said the mutual is "delighted" and added: "We saw a sharp increase in the number of new customers switching to us following the scandals surrounding the big banks in summer last year."

Which? said big players Barclays, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, RBS and Santander should try harder as all achieved below-average scores of less than 62%.

The survey of 1,631 people carried out in May comes ahead of new rules which mean that from September, people switching current accounts will see incoming payments automatically redirected to the new account. The time it takes to fully change accounts will be cut from around 18 days to seven working days.

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Bank customer satisfaction poll

More than 46,000 of 106,000 the complaints received by the FOS in the second half of last year related to payment protection insurance (PPI). And the organisation is expecting to receive a record 165,000 PPI complaints in 2012/2013.

The huge numbers are due to the PPI mis-selling scandal that should now be a thing of the past, but there is no doubt that the insurance, which can add thousands to the cost of a loan, is highly unpopular!

(Pictured: Martin Lewis after the PPI payout ruling)

Complaints about mortgages jumped by 38% in the last six months of last year, the FOS figures show, compared to an increase of just 5% in investment-related complaints.

Common gripes about mortgages include the exit penalties imposed should you want to sell up or change you mortgage before a fixed or discounted deal comes to an end, and the high arrangement fees charged by many lenders.

While there is nothing in the data released by the FOS about the number of complaints relating to savings accounts, hard-pressed savers have been struggling with low interest rates for several years now.

You can get up to 3.10% with Santander's easy-access eSaver account, but many older accounts are paying 1.00% or less and even this market-leading offer includes a 12-month bonus of 2.60% - meaning that the rate will plummet to just 0.50% after the first year.

Banks are imposing the highest authorised overdraft interest rates since records began, with today's borrowers paying an average of 19.47%, according to the Bank of England.

A typical Briton with an overdraft of £1,000 is therefore forking out around £200 in interest charges alone. Coupled with meagre returns on savings, it's enough to make your blood boil!

While authorised overdrafts may seem expensive, going into the red without permission will cost you even more due to huge penalty fees.

Barclays, for example, charges £8 (up to a maximum of £40 a day) each time that there is not enough money in your account to cover a payment.

If you need to send money abroad, the likelihood is that your bank will impose transfer charges - and offer you a poor rate of exchange. Someone transferring a five-figure sum could easily lose out by £500 or more as a result.

The good news, however, is that you can often get a better deal by using a currency specialist such as Moneycorp.

Automated telephone banking systems, not to mention call centres in far-flung parts of the world, are one of our top gripes - especially as we often encounter them when we are already calling to report a problem.

In the words of one disgruntled customer: "What is it about telephone banking that turns me into Victor Meldrew? Well, maybe it's the fourteen security questions, maybe it's the range of products that they try to push or maybe it's because I'm forced to listen to jazz funk at full volume while my phone bill soars.

"Actually though, I think it's because the people I eventually speak to rarely seem able to solve the issue I'm calling about."

The days of a personal relationship with your bank manager are long gone - for the huge majority of us at least.

When ethical Triodos Bank investigated recently why around 9 million Britons would not recommend their banks to a friend or relative, it found that almost a third felt they were not treated as individuals. Another 40%, meanwhile, were simply disappointed with the customer service they received.

When you're in a rush, the last thing you want to do is wait in a long queue at your local branch.

Researchers at consumer champion Which? recently found that most people get seen within 12 minutes, but you could have a much longer wait if you go in at a busy time. Frustrating stuff!

The Triodos Bank research also indicated that the bonus culture that ensured the bank's high-flying employees received large salaries, even when it was making a loss at the taxpayer's expense, was hugely unpopular with consumers.

About a quarter of those who would not recommend their current banks said this was the main reason why. And with RBS executives sharing a £785 million bonus pool despite the bank, which is 82% publicly owned, making a loss of £2 billion last year, it's not hard to see why.

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