Why do we choose the banks we do?
I did a double take last week when I heard that Williams & Glyn’s Bank could make a comeback.
As a child growing up in Liverpool this was the bank that I had always thought I would bank with. My Mum and Dad banked with it, my uncles and aunties banked with it and just about every adult I knew banked with it.
Williams & Glyn’s was owned by The Royal Bank of Scotland and in the mid-1970s became the first clearing bank to introduce free banking for personal accounts in credit. It advertised itself as a friendly bank with a flexible approach to clients’ financial problems—a trend that would soon catch on.
Then in 1985 RBS decided to ditch the brand. I might have only been nine years old but my hopes of ever banking with Williams & Glyn’s were dashed.
But now it seems that RBS, of which we as taxpayers own 70 per cent, may yet bring the brand back to life in order to fend off European regulators. City pundits say breathing life back into the brand will give RBS a stronger hand as it seeks approval for taking part in the Government’s Asset Protection Scheme. The tactical move could see RBS ring-fencing or selling off some 300 branches under the reborn Williams & Glyn’s banner.
If this is true, not only could we all—as taxpayers—end up being better off, I will also get to fulfill a lifelong ambition of banking with Williams & Glyn’s!
This hankering for yesteryear got me thinking about why we bank with the banks that we do…
What do we look for in a bank?
There are numerous reasons why people choose the banks they do—recommendation by friends or family, location, marketing, reputation, low interest rates for borrowing, high interest rates for saving, good customer service and other non-banking services on offer.
If you’re a student there’s a whole host of enticements to take out a particular bank account—from a five-year railcard worth £130 to a free iPod and a generous overdraft.
All bank accounts are deposit-based, which means that for every £1 you put in your account you will usually get at least £1 back—unless the bank or building society goes bust.
Different bank accounts offer different features, but essentially there are three main types: a basic bank account, a current account and a savings account.
Basic bank account
A basic account will allow you to receive money, pay bills, use a cash card and set up direct debits. It acts as a stepping stone to a current account. However, this type of account won’t usually allow you to go overdrawn by more than £10, if at all. It might also offer a debit card and payment by standing order, and a linked savings account to help you budget. This means you can keep some of your money in your savings account until you need to transfer it over to pay a bill.
A current account will do all of the above and will also give you a cheque book and guarantee card—perhaps also an overdraft. It might offer interest on your money and other special services: for example, sending money abroad or cashing foreign cheques.
There are also premium current accounts: in return for a monthly banking fee you get a bundle of extra benefits, typically including travel insurance, breakdown recovery, card protection, enhanced credit interest or overdraft entitlement, and tie-in deals on other products such as mortgages and savings. This type of account is growing in popularity with banks and customers alike.
A savings account will give you interest on your money and it might also offer a passbook or access to your money via an ATM.
Why did you choose your bank?
Is it a family favourite, an ethical superstar, the best of a bad bunch, or simply the nearest branch on your High Street?
And if you’re of a certain age, would you go back to Williams & Glyn’s?
Let us know in the comments below!