Newest Review: ... the response from the top!!!! Every time the FOS accepts a claim it costs the Bank £50 plus. I would not recommend this Company to anyo... more
Member Name: plipplop
Date: 21/06/06, updated on 22/06/06 (3930 review reads)
Advantages: Plenty of branches, good telephone / online banking, cheques clear immediately
Disadvantages: Poor interest rates on current accounts
My first Barclays account was a Barclays Plus account. This offered the basic cash point card and chequebook and was an ideal account for me whilst I was at school. Since then I have progressed onto a standard Barclays Bank Account, tried out the Barclays Addition account, and am considering migrating to a Barclays Gold Account. My experiences and views in this opinion relate to the normal Barclays Current Account.
In the more competitive world of modern banking, all the banks have had to review the way in which they administer accounts and Barclays is no different. Overdrafts have been given more leniency, with an agreed tolerance now if you exceed your limit, so that you donít have to pay a fee. Personally speaking, I think it is unfair to judge a bank on its penalty fees as they all start charging penalties if you mismanage your account after all. That aside, with Barclays there is no charge for standard products such as statements (at whatever regularity you specify), chequebooks or a debit card. As long as you stay within the rules, a Barclays Bank account should therefore cost you nothing.
Unfortunately, that isnít quite the case. One thing I have always objected to with Barclays is that they have some rather unnecessary fees associated with services that you may need every once in a while. To prepare and provide a bankerís draft will cost you £10 (itís nothing more than a guaranteed cheque) and written banking references are debited to your account at £15 a time. They also charge horrendous handling fees on foreign commission.
To be fair to them, however, their fee structure has worked both ways for me. I once had to challenge a debit card transaction that I didn't recognise. I completed the paperwork, sent it back and heard nothing for a fortnight, after which I contacted them once more. They acknowledged that the query had been unecessarily delayed and in recompense for this, my account was credited with £50. A second complaint resulted in a similar credit to my account. I don't mind if, when mistakes are mad, banks are prepared to admit and compensate and Barclays has been pretty good on this score.
The interest rate paid on the account isnít even worth mentioning and this is clearly not an account to store money in long term. Arguably, there are far better accounts on the high street in this aspect and I accept that I could make a few hundred pounds per year by simply switching to one of these other providers. There are other factors, however, that mean I choose to remain with Barclays.
Much to the delight of its competitors, Barclays has suffered from its own accommodation policy over recent years, with many city centre branches migrating into trendy wine bars, and rural branches closing down at a rate of about one a week. This is generally bad news for customers. Despite the onset of telephone and Internet banking, there is still only one place you can pay a cheque in, so a branch is never without its use. I tend to find that service in Barclaysí branches is slow, very slow. The counter service is often under staffed, with considerable queuing times, and no attempt is made to sort out different customer types. Iíve lost count of the number of times Iíve wasted a lunch hour, waiting in a queue behind four shop holders whoíve all decided to come and get their coinage for the day.
That aside, the counter staff are normally very helpful, very polite and very well informed. I have found that wherever I live and bank, the staff have quickly started to recognise and greet me personally and this has often speeded up security or authorisation processes. Most larger branches have Personal Bankers although queuing for these people can take even longer than the normal counter staff, and I tend to find that whatever I want them to do, they always have to go through about fifty screens on their computer before they can access my details. They are an invaluable source of information though Ė albeit rather a biased oneÖ
Unlike many competitors I also find that Barclays counter staff stick to the business in hand and refrain from trying to sell me one god damned financial service after another. I REALLY object to the time wasted in branches by trying to introduce customers to this, that and the other and this is one reason I would never bank with the Halifax or Abbey, who seem to do this constantly.
Barclays seem to have the widest range of Saturday opening branches. Although transactions are not processed until the next working day (Monday) this can be a godsend if you canít get to a bank all week. Saturday opening hours vary wildly from one branch to another but some late night openings would be very welcome as well.
The standard Barclays current account doesnít come equipped with anything more than a standard set of services. The Barclays Additions account contains a lot more (including life insurance, free legal advice etc). Statements are well designed. The transactions are well laid out and the whole sheet is easy to read, with a brief summary of Total Ins and Outs at the top of the page. Barclays are one of the few banks to offer same day clearance on cheques too. Normally you have to wait several days before you can draw on cleared funds, but with Barclays a cheque will be credited as cleared funds the same day. (If the cheque subsequently were to bounce, you would be stung with a range of fees though). I really like this service. I've know other banks where friends and colleagues have had to wait up to seven days for funds to clear.
Barclays' telephone banking is a pretty slick service. When the service was originally introduced, you were issued with a separate ďBarclaycallĒ account number. This has now been replaced with your debit card number (much more sensible) and using the service is generally very easy. There are a range of push button services (order statement, check balance etc) or you can speak to an advisor for actual account processing. Whilst the advisors are very helpful and courteous, these transactions can take a fair amount of time, especially if theyíve never been done before. For instance, the first time you pay a Gas Bill, make sure you take a cup of coffee because you could be in for a long wait. The second and all subsequent times, however will be light speed. The advisors quite literally spell out what they are doing, and confirm all the details to prevent errors. I used to use telephone banking a lot for paying most bills and was always very happy with the service (but now use online banking). The most useful part of the service now is that I can switch money between accounts or perform other transactioons whilst I'm on the move. The only slight disadvantage is that the call is not free Ė although it is fixed local rate. (Demanding arenít I?)
Barclays online is probably one of the better online banking services I have seen. The layout of the site is excellent, and offers varied customisation options of transactions (according to date, value etc) as well as a large menu of available services. The web site is a particularly useful way to check and amend your standing orders or personal details, but you can do it in your own time, without having to wait in a queue at the bank. I now conduct all my banking online and have never had any problems. Security is high. You are issued with an account number, PIN number and two security passwords. When I first applied for the site you had to phone up and get your details set up, but I now understand that you can register for this service on line.
The only occasional problem with the site is downtime, usually experienced on a Friday.
Other convenient factors about banking with Barclays? You can pay cheques in at the post office (they just take one extra day to reach your account.) If you use Barclaycard, you can make instantaneous payments to your account. You get preferential rates on loans, mortgages and insurance products.
Barclays Bank have offered me reliable banking for over fifteen years. In that time I have not had any major problems with my account. The telephone and Internet banking are free and easy to use. The criticisms I read of banks could really apply to any of the major high street banks Ė and if you read Barclays profile they are always the first to introduce something (Internet banking, debit cards, credit cards etc).
In an increasingly competitive market place for any product these days, customers are more likely to be enticed by service standards and reliability rather than discounts and freebies. Unless something changes significantly, my relationship with Barclays, therefore, looks set to continue for life.
Summary: Good, dependable bank account with appropriate facilities
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