Barclays customers told they're too poor for Premier accounts

Emma Woollacott
Banks - stock
Banks - stock

Barclays is being accused of keeping customers in the dark over the axing of its Premier Life accounts.

For a fee of either £17.50 or £25 a month, depending on the customer's financial status, Premier Life customers enjoy a range of extra benefits, including priority access at branches, breakdown cover and travel insurance up to the age of 80.

Barclays changed the eligibility criteria in 2013, but allowed existing accounts to continue - until now. But it's now telling many customers they no longer qualify for the bank's Premier status because they aren't rich enough.

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It's not clear how many customers will be affected. There are currently about 270,000 people with Premier Life accounts, but many will reach the new financial criteria.

And according to a spokeswoman, those that don't will still be able to get the extra services through the company's Features Store - at a price. However, she says, many people will actually find they're better off. "If people are paying £25 a month and they're not using all the features, they could end up paying less," she says.

However, one particular point of concern for customers has been the age limit on the travel insurance. While the company's normal package covers customers up to the age of 70, the Premier Life version gave them an extra ten years' coverage - the maain attraction of the account for many.

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The spokeswoman says that the new insurance package, which will be available through the Feature Store when the Premier Life accounts close this autumn, will also offer coverage up to the age of 80. However, she says there won't be any word on the cost of this until much nearer the time.

"Customers are concerned about age, not costs," she claimed.

But she denied that the bank was leaving customers uninformed about the changes.

"We are writing to our Premier Life customers about the changes, and will be making further contact again before any changes take place to ensure that they understand what is happening and when," she says. "We are providing dedicated support should anyone have any questions or need help with any decisions they need to make."

Over the last month, Barclays has been writing to Premier Life customers telling them that unless they earn £75,000 a year or have £100,000 in savings or assets with the bank, then they'll have to switch to a standard account. While this should be hassle-free - account numbers etc will stay the same and direct debits will continue - these accounts come without any of the free perks.

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