Seeking banking advice from Britons


in Rants

After another afternoon of trying to deal with NatWest, both online and in the branch, I am seriously considering switching to another bank. Every time I say this, people advocate the bank they use as “much better.” I wonder if I was complaining about another bank, people would start vocally endorsing NatWest.

What I care most about:

  1. Easy, low cost international transfers.
  2. Easy transfer of payments to my college, by bank draft or any other means (ideally, an online electronic transfer).
  3. Good online banking.
  4. Decent interest on savings accounts.
  5. Good customer service.

At present, I am doing as much as possible through my Canadian banks, since they just seem to be better at these things.

The major irritant in doing so is the difficulty of paying the college (it charges an extra 2.5% for credit card payments and my Bank of Montreal MasterCard only gives 1% cash back). Also, it’s annoying to have to keep updating financial records for so many institutions and in light of ever-shifting exchange rates.

Therefore, I ask you, kind British readers, which bank do you recommend and why? If I am going to go through all the bother of opening an international account again, there needs to be a marked improvement. I appreciate your advice.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 10, 2006 at 5:42 pm

I know what you mean about interest:

NatWest Savings: 1.45%
UK Inflation: 2.1%
Real rate of interest: -0.65%

BMO Savings: 2.4%
ING Savings: 2.75%
Canadian Inflation: 2.0%
Real rates of interest: BMO 0.4% ING 0.75%

Jo January 10, 2006 at 7:45 pm

No idea what their rates are like, but you could always try the Co-operative? I bank with HSBC but I wouldn’t recommend them…

An MCR Member January 10, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Wadham banks at Lloyds, so it might be easiest to transfer money to them if you have an account with them.

Anonymous January 11, 2006 at 8:03 pm

I had a Natwest account previously and currently have one at Barclays. Based on those experiences, I would recommend either HSBC or Barclay’s as a better choice than Natwest. HSBC can take a while to set up, but Barclay’s student account requires a 2000 gbp minimum or they charge you 5 quid a month. Not sure about the fees for international transfers, though, so you’d have to check into that.
Hope this helps,

Ben January 12, 2006 at 9:45 am

I couldn’t really tell you enough to recommend any particular bank, but it sounds like you’re still doing an awful lot via Canada. I’d have thought it easier to transfer a big lump of money over here, then just deal in pounds using only your English account.

And at least you can use a credit card to pay your battels. We’re not given that option, has to be cheque (or cash). How I’d like 1% cashback on that amount…

Milan January 12, 2006 at 12:15 pm

That’s what I tried initially, but it took more than six weeks for NatWest to actually allow me access to the money I transferred and, even then, they charged me more than C$30 for a bank draft – six times what either of my Canadian banks would charge.

Anonymous January 19, 2006 at 10:06 pm

Oh, and the ING Direct interest rate on Investment Savings Accounts is up to 3% now: 1% above the rate of consumer price inflation.

Milan April 19, 2006 at 2:30 pm

Some kind of public relations agency seems to have accessed this page several times.

Perhaps they are from NatWest, and will improve some of the worse things about their bank. Perhaps they are from a competitor, and will be able to capitalize off of how bad a bank NatWest is.

Milan April 19, 2006 at 2:31 pm

I don’t know the name of the firm, but their domain ( is registered as:

c/o Net Rank
Suite 1c, Western Way,

T.E. February 16, 2007 at 3:38 am

Two truly inspired pieces of advice:

1) Never throw out the other person’s head.

2) Keep away from fire.

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