NatWest: a very poor bank, indeed

2006-03-14

in Rants

Britain’s position as a global financial services hub is certainly not well reflected in the conduct of the particular bank I chose when I arrived in Oxford. Despite my dissatisfaction, however, the sheer level of hassle involved in switching banks as an international student will probably keep me where I am. I post this as a warning to those who will come after.

I continue to be astonished by how bad the online banking offered by NatWest is. The password system is frustrating and insecure. It’s impossible to pay your NatWest credit card bill online, even when you applied for it at the same time as you created your account. The site doesn’t even let you transfer funds between your chequing and savings accounts, unless you go set it up to do so in person. They also managed to forget to pay interest on my savings account for February. Those considering opening a bank account in the United Kingdom should absolutely avoid this bank.

Part of the problem is how NatWest has two separate divisions: one that runs the branches and knows nothing about the credit cards and web banking, and another that plays the opposite role. Despite the apparently clear delineation of duties, there seem to be serious communication problems between the two. They also have some truly bizarre rules about documents they can only send to your permanent address, even when it’s outside the U.K. and they know that you will not be there. Add to that high service charges (ie. $25 for a bank draft) and low interest (less than the rate of inflation) and you can understand the reasons for my dissatisfaction.

[Update: 20 May 2006] Another really awful thing about NatWest is the way their credit card payments work. At the start of the month, I am automatically billed some random amount between five and twelve Pounds. If I cancel the automatic payment, I get fined – even if I don’t owe any money. Since I almost never use the card now, that means I am building up more and more of a positive balance. Even so, they will ocassionally charge me a Pound or so of interest… seemingly at random and despite the fact that I don’t owe them any money. I’ve tried calling their telephone support line for an explanation, but I was kept on hold for ages and finally turned over to someone who didn’t seem to know anything she wasn’t reading straight off her screen. Completely unacceptable, all in all.

[Update: 12 February 2007] The NatWest Online Banking site now allows me to pay my credit card online. Previously, I couldn’t do anything but move money from my savings account to my chequing account, and not the converse. This is a distinct step forward.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 14, 2006 at 10:30 pm

You don’t earn £17B a year in pure profit by treating small scale customers well.

Mike Kushnir March 15, 2006 at 1:20 am

Two words of advice: credit union.

Granted, this may not exist in the same way that it does back home, but it’s an idea.

Three cheers for collective ownership.

&c.

m.

Anonymous March 15, 2006 at 6:15 am

“It’s impossible to pay your NatWest credit card bill online”

NatWest are a bunch of shitbags, but this is, remarkably, untrue.

Robert Jubb March 15, 2006 at 11:12 am

The Co-op, although it was an arse actually setting up the account, have basically been very good to me since: decent online banking, ethical investment policy, etc…

Milan March 15, 2006 at 11:12 am

I should say that it’s impossible for me to pay my credit card bill online, because it wasn’t set up automatically and they can’t seem to figure out how to do so after the fact.

Tony March 15, 2006 at 9:47 pm

Their high-profile TV commercials, which claim they have a “better way” than other banks – which they then list the defects of – has always put me off, because I always associate the defects with the banks that’s named in the commercial, viz. NatWest.

I’m not very good target material for TV commerc ials, apparently.

Milan March 16, 2006 at 12:40 am

Tony,

If I can convince ten people to start banking elsewhere, I will consider myself revenged against them.

Anonymous March 21, 2006 at 5:08 pm

I’m surprised you’re having so much trouble with NatWest’s online banking – I’ve found it to be easier to use than Barclays and Nationwide’s services.

I don’t know why you’re having such trouble with paying your credit card bill. NatWest doesn’t have to do anything to set it up. Just go to Payments->Make Payment->Add a new payee and select the appropriate card from the drop down list. Works fine for me.

Forgetting to pay interest is very bad. I would recommend you shop around for a savings account – what you get from a high street bank like NatWest is always going to be a bad deal. Try some of the accounts listed here.

Milan March 21, 2006 at 6:23 pm

I’ve been literally astounded from time to time by how ineffective and unhelpful NatWest can be. They are worse than Toronto Dominion Bank in Canada, where I closed my account in disgust before moving to the Bank of Montreal.

I’ve tried the “Payments->Make Payment->Add a new payee” approach, and it doesn’t list anything at all in the dropdown menu that appears.

In a similar vein, my savings account will not come up as a potential account to transfer into, in that drop down menu. The website therefore allows me to move money from savings to chequing, but not the other way around.

Thanks for the information on other savings accounts.

milan April 29, 2006 at 1:30 am

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.

I don’t know the name of the firm, but their domain (vroomfondel.co.uk) is registered as:

c/o Net Rank
Suite 1c, Western Way,
Exeter,
Devon
EX1 2DE
GB

Milan February 25, 2007 at 1:34 pm

I have a cheque from Canada for about $300. Much as I hate to pay Natwest $23.91 to process it (at a poor exchange rate), it seems a better option than mailing it to Vancouver, having one my parents deposit it in a Canadian bank, and then send it over the next time I wire money across for fees of $60 from the Bank of Montreal and about $20 from Natwest.

Anonymous March 22, 2007 at 6:31 pm

BBC hidden-camera investigation discovers that big banks are open and honest, run purely in the customer’s interest. Just kidding — they’re screwing you like a whore at happy hour

Milan May 18, 2007 at 5:22 pm

A new lot of reputation cleansers seem to be at work.

‘Discovery One’

Their web portal can be seen here

. October 25, 2009 at 11:42 am

Barclay’s terrible bank-security
By Cory Doctorow

Security expert Ben “OpenSSL” Laurie went into a Barclay’s bank to transfer a large sum of money (“enough money to fund a small country”) and discovered an incredibly lax, brittle security system that focused on meeting compliance requirements instead of keeping deposits safe. I’m in the process of switching from Barclay’s to the Co-Op, after years of frustration, insane fees, and terrible service. The Co-Op has its own security issues (they won’t let you use random passwords, instead forcing you to use much-more-easily hacked passwords that contain no repeated characters) but they’re nowhere near as bad as Barclay’s.

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