Newest Review: ... the laptop rang up to clarify the offer before performing the transaction, whichever it was. I was informed that it was interest free... more
Member Name: collingwood21
Advantages: A good rate of interest was offered
Disadvantages: Poor call centre, Poor customer service, Staff misled me, Failed to open my account correctly
1) I needed to get back into the good habit of putting money into savings regularly, so a monthly savings product that automatically took money from my current account each month would ensure that I didn’t overlook it or opt out any month
2) I wanted a decent rate of interest, especially now I’ve got to pay tax on my returns
3) I didn’t want my money locked into a product that would make access difficult over the short or medium term in case of any unexpected bills arising or a delay in finding a new job after my current contract ends
After much internet research and scouring of the Times money supplement, I spotted something that seemed to fit my needs very well indeed: Abbey’s (nee Abbey National) Fixed Rate Monthly Saver. The account was described thus: “Fixed Rate Monthly Saver (Issue 6) offers you a really high 7% AER for a minimum of 12 months as long as you pay in between £20 and £250 a month by standing order and don't make any withdrawals”. So I got my automatic monthly payments, I got a competitive interest rate (considering the Bank of England rate at that point was just 4.5%), and my money would be tied up for just a year. At the end of the year, the interest would be paid on the money I’d saved and my account would become a Monthly Saver offering (at the time of writing) 5.2% interest. If I paid in less that the minimum £20 or withdrew money from my account, then I would only get 0.1% interest paid for that month, but at least I got the option of withdrawing money if I needed to, something I wouldn’t have got with some other similar products. Abbey also state that paying in more than the maximum £250 per month results in you getting 0.1% paid on the whole balance for the remainder of the term, although I didn’t think that it was likely to happen to me!
Having made my decision, I investigated ways to apply for this new account. Unfortunately, applying online isn’t an option, as Abbey need to see proof of your identity before they will open the account for you - this leaves you with the choice of going into a branch or making a postal application. You can, however, download and print off the relevant application forms from their website (www.abbey.com) as I did, as I found it difficult to get into a branch. The form started off easily enough, covering personal details and the amount you wanted to save each month, and finishing with a standing order mandate to be completed and sent on to the bank you wanted your monthly payment to come from. This did throw me slightly, as for a standing order to be set up then you need the bank details of both the source account and the account the money is to be transferred to – and of course I didn’t have the latter as the new Abbey account had not been set up yet. A note on the mandate form stated that Abbey would populate this part of the form once my account had been opened, so I duly followed instructions and sent the mandate off to the bank holding my current account. As a new customer, I was also required to send in two forms of ID to Abbey from their list of approved documents: a photocopy of my passport (I wouldn’t trust the real one to the post!) and an official letter from the Inland Revenue.
Two weeks passed and I heard nothing from Abbey. A further week went by with no response, and then a curious thing happened – the standing order appeared in the online banking for my current account, and my first payment was taken on the 16th of that month, the day I had nominated my payments to be made on. I thought it was a little strange that the money had been taken without any communication from Abbey, but I took the appearance of the standing order as a good sign, and settled back to wait for my account details to arrive.
Three working days after the money had been taken from my current account and still with no communication, I phoned Abbey to find out what was happening. After an interminable wait on hold, I eventually spoke to someone who assured me (in a very bored voice) that everything was fine with my account and the paperwork “was in the post”. This statement proved to be a porky pie. Ten days after my standing order had been taken, the money was returned to my current account…and I still had not heard anything from Abbey. A second phone call followed. This time I spoke to a man who was more helpful that the first call centre advisor – he checked his computer and reported that the standing order had been set up incorrectly because Abbey had failed to populate the form with my new account number (he seemed mystified that I should be asked to send a standing order mandate to my bank without knowing the number of the account the money was to go to as well). My account had been opened, he said, but this clearly caused problems as my first payment had failed, which, under the terms of the account, meant that I would not get the 7% interest for that month. Having done all he could, he passed my details onto the woman who had supposedly been in charge of setting up my new account and promised she would phone me the following day.
Naturally, she didn’t phone the next day.
Or the day after that.
By this point, I had wasted a month trying to set up my Fixed Rate Monthly Saver and was getting a little weary of Abbey’s incompetence. I phoned the call centre again and requested that my account be closed down, then cancelled the standing order mandate with my bank. Further days passed, and I received a letter in the post from Abbey. After recovering from my shock, I opened it to find…the return of my ID and a letter welcoming me to my new account. Hmmmmmm. Back to that call centre again. And guess what? This advisor informs me that accounts cannot be closed over the phone and I have to go into a branch to do it – so that would be another Abbey employee whose nose has grown a little bit bigger then.
The following week, I spent one of my lunch breaks queuing at the counters at Abbey, clutching my welcome letter and determined to close down the account. The counter assistant tells me I need to speak to the staff on the enquiry desk, who (after queuing for a second time) then inform me that I need to queue at the counters. At this point, I think the bright red colour of my face might just have convinced them that it would be a good idea to open up another counter and take me straight over to it to deal with me straight away. And finally, six weeks after sending off my application, I close down my Fixed Rate Monthly Saver and defect to Halifax (who have an identical account but with staff who know what they are doing).
As a postscript to this sorry affair, I did write a scathing complaints letter to Abbey listing everything that had gone wrong from the grammatically incorrect letter they sent me upwards (you would kind of expect that from me, wouldn’t you?). The result of this was an apology and a £20 payout by way of compensation (for which you can read: please don’t report us to the Financial Ombudsman).
So this is my experience of Abbey in general. Some of the products may seem competitive on paper and the website is well laid out and attractive, but most of the service I received was very poor, the call centre was awful and two members of staff actually lied to me, which is unacceptable. Upon retelling this tale to friends and family, I have found many other people who have had bad experiences with Abbey – more poor customer service, mortgages improperly set up, and rude staff to name a few. I have even heard from someone who works in banking that the running joke in his office was “at least I don’t work for Abbey”! I couldn’t bring myself to trust Abbey with my money again, however high a savings rate they offer.
Summary: At least I don't work for Abbey!