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Co-operative Bank current account - Decent start so far
Member Name: benfipa
Date: 15/11/12, updated on 18/11/12 (248 review reads)
Advantages: 24 hour fast telephone customer service. Can use Britannia or Co-op branches. Co-op on Link ATMs
Disadvantages: May not be branch in your town Variable customer service at branches. Online site very basic looking
I've read some mixed reviews about the Co-op Bank, some good, some bad because of one unfortunate experience at a branch, and one absurd and misleading review designed purely to denigrate the bank with barely any genuine justification, eg complaining about having to use a card reader which most banks now employ for security measures, amongst other spurious criticisms.
I decided I wanted a second bank account for supplementary purposes together with my Nationwide Flexaccount for primary banking. I chose the Co-op for this purpose for 2 reasons. a) they operate with an ethical purpose, eg they are involved in projects such as sustaining the Indonesian Rainforest, and b) the Co-op was not embroiled in the banking credit crunch of 2008 and so did not have to be rescued, nor have they been involved in criminal practices unlike two of their better known rivals.
The Co-op operate 4 different current acoounts. There is the basic current account, current account Plus, the Privilege account, and the Privilege Premier. The last two are subscription accounts which give you a range of 'free' benefits such as the Co-op legal services, car breakdown and mobile phone insurances etc. I opted for the no-frills, basic current account. It includes a debit card, which enables you to withdraw cash from any Link ATM, as well as pay for goods in shops or buying online; all I required really. You get a cheque book as well. There is no interest paid on the current account so it's not a good idea to leave a large sum on deposit for too long.
With overdrafts you need to be careful. Like other banks the Co-op are not shy of slapping on charges if you give them a reason. There are 2 types of overdraft, the 'formal' and 'informal o/d. With the formal o/d the bank agrees an o/d limit with you, ie you have to apply for one, say £500. Once agreed the arrangement runs for 12 months. As long as you do not exceed that o/d limit you pay a one-off fee for the year of £20. You still have to pay it even if you don't use that overdraft. An informal o/d implies no prior application. However if you go into overdraft you'll be charged £20, plus an additional £20 for each day the overdraft increases. There's a maximum charge of £150 per quarter The same rule applies if you breach a formal o/d. There's also interest payable at 18.9% pa on any o'd balance regardless of arrangement. The good news is that on informal overdrafts you pay no charges if you go into overdraft just once in a year and you pay it off within 6 consecutive working days. If you overdraw again in a year then the usual rules apply.
Online Banking is a feature with the Co-op as you would expect. You can register at a branch or by ringing up their head office, and you'll be given a 4 digit security code, which is separate from your debit card pin code. You'll also need to prepare a number of personal security questions, one of which you will be asked for at login. Once you're logged in you are taken to your account summary page what could be described as a minimalist looking website. However all the necessary menu options are there, eg paying bills, standing orders etc. All direct debits are transferred over by the Co-op from your previous bank if switching from them. The one thing that's missing while online is a customer message service to report problems or queries about your account or other issues, which is a feature with other online banking services. Apart from that omission the site is good enough Tou can always telephone Customer Service who operate 24/7, one of the big plus points about the Co-op Bank. No endless menu levels or hanging on for ages for someone to answer either. It's very quick to get through to them..
Co-op branches are not available in every town, but every city should have one. There's one within 7 miles of where I live. Failing that there are also Britannia branches which are part of the Co-operative bank. I have one of those within a 10 minute walk from me, although I've yet to find a branch of theirs that has an ATM machine. The Co-op banks seem to have them though, but you can use any Link ATM to withdraw cash. You would probably need a Co-op ATM to pay in, or simply queue at the teller at a Co-op or Britannia branch to pay in or withdraw funds. The good news is you won't be queuing for long especially at Britannia branches as they seem to be sparsely used. One thing I've noticed at Co-op branches is that the quality of customer service varies. When I've dealt with a branch manager (recommended) the service is quick and efficient. However with customer service staff you never know what you are getting and experience with them has ranged from good to plain useless. So I wouldn't judge this bank if your first experience with them has been a bad one because you dealt with some inexperienced underling. Just make sure you get to speak to a branch manager or deputy manager if you decide to open an account. Make an appointment to do that if necessary.
Happy so far to recommend the Co-op, and your money is probably a lot safer with them than with the big 4 if the last few years are anything to go by.
Summary: Generally well run and safe ethical bank. Less queuing than at the busy big 4 banks