Sorry saga of a student bank account

The deal was appealing but the time it took to process was appalling, says Christine Stopp

An interest-free overdraft is an essential money-management tool for today's student. So, when Graeme Colverson, who lives near Cambridge, received confirmation in August of his place to read history at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, he looked around for a suitable current account. With a girlfriend in Yorkshire, Graeme was expecting to do quite a bit of train travel, so a free five-year Young Person's Railcard was an attractive perk.

An interest-free overdraft is an essential money-management tool for today's student. So, when Graeme Colverson, who lives near Cambridge, received confirmation in August of his place to read history at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, he looked around for a suitable current account. With a girlfriend in Yorkshire, Graeme was expecting to do quite a bit of train travel, so a free five-year Young Person's Railcard was an attractive perk.

The two banks offering interest-free overdrafts and the Railcard were HSBC and NatWest. Graeme chose the latter. He tried to visit a branch on a Saturday morning but found it closed, so he applied online on a Sunday, 29 August.

"We expected an almost instant e-mail acknowledgement, and follow-up by post within a day or two," says Graeme's father, Simon. The next Thursday, 2 September, the family phoned the bank and was told the matter was in hand, but had probably been delayed due to high volumes of new account holders.

On 7 September a letter arrived, asking Graeme to present his identification documents by post or at a bank branch. He went to a branch two days later and was told the account would be open on the following Tuesday, 14 September. Graeme was away in Yorkshire for a few days, but phoned the branch on 16 September to get his new account details. Branch staff had difficulty tracing it. They eventually told him that the Glasgow office dealing with internet applications was snowed under, could not trace his application, and could not tell whether his identification details had reached his file.

Bearing in mind the delay, branch staff said that if Graeme came into the branch they would open the account for him there and then. This Graeme did. He was told the account would be open by the end of that working day - which it was.

Graeme, in the throes of freshers' week, was told that his account was open and he should receive his welcome pack and cash card by 28 September - almost exactly a month from the date of his initial application. He could also apply to operate the account online, which would take a further week to set up.

Graeme's parents were not impressed by the delay: "We bank by phone and internet and are used to things being processed quickly. We were amazed at how slowly the application was dealt with. One call-centre operator actually told us it was our fault for applying so late."

The problems did seem to lie with the internet and call-centre operation, as the Colversons were happy with the service from branch staff, who offered a quick solution once they became aware of the problem.

However, Simon said: "When you phone a call centre for help, you are always in a queue. But when you phone the information line as a potential new customer, they pick up on the first ring. If we had known the difficulties we would have with the internet, we would have gone back to the branch. Their opening hours are limited, but at least you get someone's name and a direct-line number."

NatWest denied that the delay Graeme experienced was a general problem with new student accounts. "There are definitely no delays and no backlog on student applications," said a spokeswoman. "This seems to be a case where something has gone wrong with an individual application. We have had no other complaints of this nature. We shall be apologising to this customer since he has received unacceptable service and wrong information. As a gesture of goodwill, we will credit £50 to his new account."

NatWest, part of Royal Bank of Scotland, says that students going into a bank branch should be able to open an account on the spot. As with any bank account, verification of your address plus photo ID are needed. In addition students need confirmation of student status. The UCAS confirmation letter and a passport will do the trick. Setting up an account on the internet should take no more than about a week, says NatWest.

Other banks claimed it should take only days to set up a student account. HSBC said that a new customer who takes in the appropriate identification can open an account on the spot. A phone or internet application should take only three days. In all cases, the time taken will depend on how quickly you can get to the branch with your documents. You cannot apply over the internet with Barclays, but can open an account straight away at a branch with the right documentation. You should get a chequebook within five days.

The Co-op's internet bank, Smile, says that from the moment you apply online, it should take about two weeks for the account to be up and running. There is usually no need to provide documents or to sign anything before the account is opened, and there is no need to apply separately for internet access to the account. Smile offers students interest-free overdrafts. Details of student accounts are available on the internet at www.support4learning.co.uk.

Current estimates from the National Union of Students suggest that, after fees and rent are paid, typical student expenditure for a 39-week university year in 2003/04 was about £4,617 - almost £1,000 more than the full student loan of £3,698. Students are likely to need the interest-free overdraft while they work behind a bar or shop counter to plug the gap in their budget. The overdraft also lends itself to nifty financial planning: try putting your loan into your bank's tax-free ISA and living on the free overdraft, then paying off the overdraft in one go towards the end of term.

NUS information sheet 17, 'Managing Your Money', gives further help on budgeting. See www.nusonline.co.uk.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

    Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?