Big banks are fighting a fresh war to attract current account customers. They're handing over cash bribes – and not just a couple of quid: Halifax will hand you £125, while First Direct's offer could net you £150. Or there's TSB's new deal of 5 per cent interest on credit balances plus cashback.
But anyone who switches because of the gimmicks could end up making a costly mistake. It makes much more financial sense to find an account that is good value for you, whether you run an overdraft regularly or actually have cash in your account on which you want to earn interest. The key is to understand how you use a bank account and then choose one that best reflects your needs.
But it's also worth taking account of a new customer satisfaction research published this week by the comparison site uSwitch.com. Frankly, there's little point joining a bank that messes up your banking (customers of Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest probably know what I mean after the IT debacles in recent weeks).
In fact none of the big four banks – Lloyds, HSBC, RBS or Barclays – have made the top three for satisfaction. Number one is the online bank First Direct, owned by HSBC. It won nine of 12 awards, including best current account, most trusted, and best customer service. Interestingly, new entrant Clydesdale bank won the remaining three awards.
Yorkshire bank and TSB also performed well in the annual uSwitch poll, in which 10,000 customers were asked to judge banks on their merits in categories including satisfaction, trust and value for money.
The worst bank – for the second year in a row – was judged to be RBS, which was voted worst provider overall and came bottom in a further five categories including trust, value for money and online service.
But it wasn't the only one feeling customers' dissatisfaction: Co-operative Bank got worse scores in eight categories, while Lloyds and Barclays both fell in seven categories. Barclays actually slumped from fourth best last year to 10th in the rankings.
What can we learn from these results? First Direct has consistently topped such polls, which tells its own tale. For the rest? I reckon they all still need to improve.
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