Pounds and Sense (MSN)

Why do banks drive us mad?

Bizarre opening hours, failure to return calls, confusing jargon… what irks you most about your bank?

By Money team 11/08/2011 15:06

Image © Bruce Ayres/Getty ImagesBanks. They’re not exactly our favourite institutions in the world, are they? But what is it about them that evokes such strong feelings in us?


On the surface, they hold our money in a safe place and allow us to (generally) access it for free whenever we want. If anything, we should be fans of our banks.


Yet many banks consistently score poorly in customer satisfaction polls and the Financial Ombudsman has to deal with a million of complaints from upset customers each year.


So what’s the problem?


“We have an important message for you”

In order to get to the bottom of this once and for all, I thought I’d share my personal banking bugbears and invite you to share your own in the comments section below.


So allow me to get the ball rolling. I was heading from one meeting to another when I received a call from a certain bank. They said they needed to talk to me about an important issue, but only, of course, after I’d answered half a dozen security questions.


Naturally I was keen to help, worrying that my account had been hacked and my limited funds drained. Inquisition over, it turns out they had an amazing new credit card that they just couldn’t wait to tell me about.


Five minutes of my life I couldn’t get back, just to listen to an unsolicited sales pitch.


When I told them I wasn’t interested, they quickly interrupted by saying they would call back at a later time and then hung up. If I didn’t want their card on Tuesday, why on earth would I want it a week later (when they phoned and offered it again)?


So cold calling to sell products is a big problem.


Hello, anybody there?

Ah, the banking call centre. Guaranteed to leave even the most mild-mannered Brits tearing their hair out within 30 minutes.


First, you have to navigate a seemingly endless maze of numbers to find the correct department ("For credit card queries, press one...") only to end up in the wrong department anyway.


Cue getting transferred from one department to another before finally meeting someone who can handle your query, but it’ll require a manager to authorise it. Sadly, all managers are unavailable at this time, so would you like one to call you back at a convenient time? Yes please.


On the off chance you actually do hear back from them, it’s usually two hours after you went to sleep.


So, yes, telephone banking services are definitely a sore point.


The lunch time free-for-all

You have some banking to do, but when will you find time? It’s not like the bank will be open after work, so that means we’ll have to do the mad lunch hour dash –along with half the adult population.


And the onslaught begins. Endless queues that hardly seem to move (and that gnawing concern you aren’t in the right one anyway) as people trying to carry out the simplest of tasks. And what is the deal with those pens on chains?


It’s not so much the insinuation that we’re going to steal them, it’s the fact it’s so short that you have to contort your body into some unnatural shape just so that the pen can reach all sides of the documents.


While writing this I heard a wonderful anecdote from my colleague, who wanted to process a cheque in branch - the clerk told him that personnel could not do this for him. Rather, it had to be done by machine. She then walked him over to said contraption and then carried out the entire transaction for him. So apparently they can process cheques – why the additional hassle?


Yes, in-branch banking is definitely worthy of the list.


Mystifying actions?

An associate on Twitter shared another bizarre customer service blip that I’m sure many of us can relate to. He recently advised his bank of a change of address. Simple enough, you’d think. Except that they sent confirmation letter of records amended to old address.


That goes on the list.


So much more

In truth, this is only the starting point, and I’ve rattled on for long enough now, so why not share your own bugbears?


Is it the mystifying small print? Best deals being reserved for new customers? Miserly interest rates? Thoughts and comments go below, or you can just tweet me.


A mini disclaimer

I want to stress that, of course, not all banks are bad. Not all of them cold call, or reserve their best rates for newcomers.


Indeed, I switched to a new provider a year ago and have not looked back. Sure, the rates could be a little better, but the service has been exemplary and I have no complaints. (Still wouldn't go as far as to say I love them, though…)

12/08/2011 01:15

Have we got all day?

O.K. to name just a few....

Banking charges (when we lend them our money to invest!)

Irresponsible investing (in things such as toxic debt.)

Expecting us to bail them out when they loose all their/our money through such lending and still infest us with banking fees!!

On top of the above they then pay themselves vast bonuses allegedly to keep the staff who made these crazy investments to begin with.


A culture of putting themselves rather than their customers first.

I would go on but I'll probably run out of space.

12/08/2011 10:36
Recently I had a £50 note which  had been issued to me by the bank in amongst some others. Shops would not accept because it was damaged with a big chunk missing from a corner., so I went to the bank to exchange it.  Finally reaching the counter I was asked if I had an account with them.  having confirmed that I was told I would have to deposit the offending note into my account then make a £50 withdrawal to get a new note.  I told them this is ridiculous, just open the til and do the exchange.  "Can't do that"  came the reply.  Sorry for the people in the queue behind me but I refused to give account details, in the end the cashier wandered off to see the manager/ess came back took the note and gave me a new one.  Probably I wasted more time this way that but it was such a ridiculous rule I felt I had to be silly myself.
12/08/2011 01:52

The costs of running a bank are high, not "ludicrously low".  How much do you think the branch buildings, etc, cost?  An absence of tellers is, unfortunately, a sign of the wrong costs being cut...


Agree with the comments re phone calls and emails - people should have the ability to say IF they want to be called / emailed and/or about what (I do NOT, for example, want to be told about new overpriced loans).


Bring back the humans in the call centre!

12/08/2011 07:50
It bugs me when I hear my bank on the radio producing expensive advertisements with well known actors promoting their 'do-gooding' at the upcoming Olympics. Couldn't they put their money into making the banking experience better or training their staff so they don't feel worthless?
12/08/2011 09:10
What about their annoying adverts. Banks are saying they are now going to try and be helpfull!!! Should they not have been trying to be helpfull anyway? So what were they doing before? Trying to be arrogant and unhelpfull.
12/08/2011 11:07
 Like others I signed up to Lloyds Bank many many years ago and was in credit. I opened a Budget Account (after filling in a form stating my bills to pay over a 12 month period) which was great and allowed me to have a set amount to be deducted from my Current account (having salary paid into it) each month to my Budget Account . This relieved me of the highs and lows of managing my money, so if my account was over one month there was no charge. I managed my financial matters wonderfully and was able to have control. BUT you see the Bank did not make from that so they stopped doing it. INSTEAD they introduced charges for this or that. OK I would have to manage things better myself. HOWEVER later due to having a family, recession etc I was in debt to them with a business loan and an overdraft. THEN and on SO many occasions since then they have upped their fees to outrageous levels and not with my agreement.  I could not change bank as the others were no better. So in the most difficult times if you were over by say 26 quid and could not correct it within days and possible a cheque or direct debit not paid I like many of you were into hundreds of pounds of bank chargesand this could go on each month, as you found it impossible to find the money to pay the charges you borrow from your credit card and the nightmare goes on and on. You talk to them and they say you should manage your account better.....AND THEY DON'T manage their Bank better, HA! they WENT BUST! AND they are still there paying themselves massive and obscene monies and will all end up poss richer for going bust. Barst**ds!
12/08/2011 07:56
The fact that they open late!!  and close early!! 

To Andrew Peacock.


Owing money at the start of a financial cycle is the very WORST way to manage it.

If you cannot talk to your bank and get them to adjust your charges to fit into payment times beyond your control (are these times beyond your control ?), you just HAVE to go short for one month the get back to balance.

Its tough love, but it works. (I have NO debt and have have none for thirty years since I learned this lesson.



12/08/2011 13:27
One bank springs to mind, no names mentioned of course but you need them 'for the journey'. I happily paid my mortgage with them on the 24 th of each month, did so for years, then they decided without telling me to also ask for another mortgage payment seven days later. Oh dear, not enough funds so 'fined' me 35 pounds. That set all other Direct Debits into freefall as not enough funds to cover them, ergo 35 pounds for every missed payment. Result was every month I had charges of over 200 pounds through their incompetence, did they care? No, not one bit. Would they listen when I called them (in India of course) no of course they didn't as they didn't understand as it wasn't written on their list of answers to certain questions. 

Piggy bank, run by greedy pigs.


What bugs me most is the ludicrously low cost of running a bank, the VERY few tellers available (my HSBC has just TWO teller counters, and both of these are often unattended).

And for using OUR money to gamble and give their directors ludicrously LARGE undeserved bonuses, we get that fine service.


They are the safest place to keep your spare cash, but they are NOT the best way to use your money. Almost ANY other investment will give a a better return.



12/08/2011 13:41
Just another viewpoint (not an excuse)

Maybe if the banks didn't get us into this mess and then have the audacity to not lend us the money that we, the taxpayers, lent them in order to bail them out and rubbed salt into our wounds by giving the already overpaid numties billions in bonuses...just maybe our country wouldn't have to descend into anarchy  and rioting.
To a certain extent I think that there is some truth in the feeling that less fortunate (and immature) individuals see the retailers as an extension to all that is corrupt with capitalism. They are also easier targets with displays of all the objects that they may never own without resorting to robbery. Their short term gain by rioting and looting should send a clear message to all the supermarkets and superstores that maybe your profit margins are way too high and is having a negative impact on society. The less fortunate look on with envy of those who are better off and take what they can. This is no excuse but corporate Britain needs to do its part and it must start with the banks who led us here in the first place.
To put it another way, do not tease the dog unless you want to get bitten....banks and businesses alike. Don't expect to become billionaires overnight or you are no better than all the looters out there.

12/08/2011 11:14

Why focus on the day to day minor frustrations of your local branch? - the whole global financial system is acting in an antisocial, antidemocratic manner. For Standard and Poor (Corporate financial fat cats) to put the message out to traders to rubbish the world economy - is surely a global equivalent of sending a local blackberry message saying ' come on guys lets get together, lets trash and rob the town centre'  It needs a similar response - disbanding and holding to account of those taking part. No trader bonus's until the global economy stabilises and interest rates return to 50% of 2007 rates - that should give them some incentive. These guys are robbing savers and investors of their due returns for their own gain - they know how to trade profitably for themselves in a declining market. This government is sponsored by these people. The only way we people have of getting them to take any effective action is for people speak out loud and clear en masse, not to riot, which only give more excuses for them to profit at the expense of everyone else's standard of living.

12/08/2011 08:39
when you go for the lunchtime dash only one or two cashiers are available because the rest are on lunch break ? could not they go for lunch before or after the time when they know we are in a hurry
how the banks always put their charges on at the start of every month causing me to go overdrawn again so they can charge me again the following month. been doing this for years now . im disabled and so have to live on disability allowance and incapacity benefits which get paid every 4 weeks for DLA and fortnightly for incap so falls different every month they know when my money is due in so why cant they wait a day or two so as to stop these petty charges .about six pounds every month
12/08/2011 10:28
I do not see why we now murmur behind the untouchable bankers. They paid themselves bonuses for their "genius" in speculating cycles of profit on speculated profit, repeatedly pocketing un-earned real money (bonuses) on virtual money. The result was the financial crash which the robbed public was forced by politicians to remedy through bailouts. If bankers were prosecuted and duly punished for their crimes against humanity we probably will not be talking about scandalous bonuses now being paid by loss-making banks. Even the disgraced ones who wiped out life savings and sped many pensioners to their early graves were rewarded with obscene pensions. Why do we expect them to sit up when we meekly bear the brunt of their greed?
12/08/2011 10:47
Response to CHUKA, I do agree with your comment. I just want to add that the Banks such as Lloyds were limited companies I believe. And their Directors paid themselves salaries, expenses and bonuses when fully aware the "Companies" ie their Banks were losing and not profitable i.e bankrupt. WHY THEREFORE HAS NO ONE INCL the department of trade or whoever deals with such matters not taken them to court? Fined them and banned them from taking a directorship in UK for 5 to 10 years?? OK I am not saying they were fraudulent but maybe they were?  I don't know but it just stinks!!!!! 
12/08/2011 10:46
have you noticed that the banks now take one day longer to process a credit but are only too quick to debit as normal, who holds the money for the extra day // so who is in awin win situation not the client fpor sure
12/08/2011 18:35
Not bothered any more with the UK  banks, I'm selling my house and transferring the money to my Australian bank account as I'm buying a hobby farm (500 acres) in Oz. Going to live there, had enough of the UK.
12/08/2011 09:16
why when i speak to the bank i always seem to speak to a person who speaks only pigeon english  i will not ever speak to them the will know too much .....phone down
12/08/2011 09:37



you know the gut wrenching feeling.

the bank has mugged you.....

its your money and the bank has accidentally on purpose paid the wrong direct debit on time and then hits you with three consecutive charges of £35. Even one charge is bad enough, but the way they do it feels like mugging. would I go up to some mugger on the street open my wallet and say help yourself?

unlike prisons I hear that there is space for every criminal or banker in hell

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