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Why do we choose the banks we do?

Sep 23, 2009

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.

Current account

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.

Savings account

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!

8 Responses to “Why do we choose the banks we do?”

  1. Sarah Says:
    Sep 24, 2009 at 8:48 am

    My first ever child bank account was with Halifax – I remember being given a little money box in the shape of a house. When I was older I moved my account to Natwest, but I found them quite unhelpful. So when I became a student, I opened my account with HSBC – mainly to get the free railcard! Then I met my boyfriend, who always banked religiously with Halifax. He loved them because he had a lot of share options and they treated him really well. When we got a mortgage of course we went with Halifax because they were prepared to treat him well. Same went for opening a joint account together. Final step was when I moved my savings and current account to Halifax too, both to make life easier (instant transfer online between all our accounts), bt the £100 they gave me for switching was also good. I also have a credit card with them and they keep upping the limit, whereas Capital One never seemed to raise my limit. I think they have improved my credit score!

  2. Sarah L Says:
    Sep 24, 2009 at 9:54 am

    I had children’s savings accounts, first wth the Post Office and then with Abbey National, but my first job was with Williams and Glynns Bank. I worked at the Access credit card centre in Southend from 1983 until 1985, just after the name disappeared under the RBS brand. Having set up my first current bank account with them at the time, and despite moving houses and branches several times, I am still banking with RBS to this day! I would love to see the old name reappear, but I’m not sure if I’d change my bank after all this time.

  3. tmbc Says:
    Sep 24, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I opened my first bank account when I started work at the age of 16 with NatWest purely because they were the nearest bank. I am now 56 and still have the same account with them, although over the years I have opened and closed various ISA’s, E-savings accounts, savings accounts etc. I bank online, easier for transferring money between accounts instantly, as and when needed.

    They have been absolutely marvellous to me, always giving me money when I need it for home improvement loans, consolidation loans etc. I worked there for 14 years at one time and when I split with my ex-husband they were fantastic for me financially.

    Even though I no longer work with them they are still always there for me. I do now of course have a big house with a small mortgage, and a second holiday home with a small mortgage but even when I was ‘down on my luck’ they had faith in me and gave me what I needed.

    I cannot see me ever changing banks for my main account but I have a savings account with the Halifax as being of a certain age I cannot ‘put all my eggs in one basket’ just in case…….

  4. Garry Says:
    Sep 24, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I have very little respect or trust for any bank. It comes from the need to have an account in the first place in other words like all of the country my wages are transferred into a bank account so my money is allway’s in the hands of someone else, because that’s the way it now is. because of this all bank’s have continually tried to make us all pay them for having an account that I never wanted in the first place & allowing poor unfortunate people from overdrawing then adding extortionate penalties on them. I wish I could recieve my pay as I used to so many years ago, then I allway’s new how much money I had & if I spent it it was gone with no chance of owing a bank money.

  5. Dave Says:
    Sep 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    I opened a bank account when I went to work and chose Nat West. I have been with them ever since (29 years).
    Whilst I don’t consider that I am anything other than an ordinary customer with the usual requirements (the odd overdraft etc.) they always have given me anything I have needed from loans to credit cards savings accounts and ISA’s.
    I have had few complaints over the years and those that I have had have been dealt with sympathetically and promptly.
    I now benefit from their on-line banking which is excellent with access 24/7 the ability to set up transfers, bill payments, one off payments DD and SO transactions. Most important to me is the security surrounding the Nat West on line banking with additional security in the form of Rapport Software supplied FREE.
    I always feel that they generally have interests at heart and charge me fairly for the services and advice they offer, after all there’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch’ more’s the pity ;-)

    My first savings account was with the Woolwich where I saved all the money I got from jobs I had whilst I was at school when they refused me a mortgage I went with the Halifax who have again always serviced my needs (currently a tracker at 0.5% above base for the reminder of the term!)

  6. Jamerican Princess Says:
    Sep 24, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I used to bank with Barclays until they introduced a ridiculous penalty system for unauthorised overdrafts. I switched to Halifax to build up a relationship for when I wanted a mortgage. They have been far better thus far. Nationwide for a small savings acct and Abbey for child trust fund. A bit all over the place, but I have no real trust in any one institution.

  7. 2 jobs Says:
    Sep 27, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Remortgaging with Woolwich gave me no choice but to bank with Barclays. My friend helped me buy shares through HSBC. My previous bank, Lloyds showed interest in me as a property owner, only after another bank had given me my first mortgage.

  8. Pauline Says:
    Sep 28, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Modern banks all seem to be the same. Everything is based on a fixed scoring system and has no relevance to your past history of excellent paying on time etc. The staff in the branches are usually charming and try to be as helpful as they can but no one has any authority to do anything, even the managers, its all down to the computer system. The Abbey Manger of my local branch said these days he was just a staff manager and had no banking authority at all. He was completely unable to handle a gross cock up by the bank even though he was the manager because he had no banking authority! I had to take matter to Banking Ombudsman where in the past a simple conversation would have sorted it out.

    I much prefered the old banking ways where the branch manager would know you personally and your payment history and would give you what you needed based on your past good payment history rather than some computer scoring system.

    If you dont fit in with the ‘normal’ there is no chance for you these days and this is very sad.

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