“ Brand: Halifax Bank „
The Halifax bank current account that is supposed to be the most rewarding experience on the market, from the people who 'give you extra'! Most current accounts these days tend to be very similar especially those that have no monthly charge. It is no secret that Halifax have been widely criticised for customer service in the past and a recent customer satisfaction survey by MoneySavingExpert.com suggested that only 36% of customers rated the service of Halifax as 'great' while a considerable 14% rated the service as 'poor'. Without a doubt Halifax has had to up its game in recent time and become a much more efficient and inviting bank.
Access To The Account
This is another area where it is difficult to fault Halifax as every avenue is open in order to control your money. Nationwide have recently attempted to limit customers use of branches by not permitting branch access on their FlexAccount but there is nothing like this at Halifax. Every Halifax branch is now open on a Saturday which gives working people more opportunity to bank. As is normal these days there is also access to the account through 24 hour internet banking and telephone banking. Mobile banking is ideal for people who would like a quick overview of their account or would like to make a payment and want to use a smartphone or tablet to do this. The service is convenient and is very rarely out of action due to maintenance, a problem that seems to hinder the mobile services of a number of other banks. However customers of Lloyds TSB will note that the mobile and internet banking pages of Halifax are exactly the same as those of Lloyds TSB, the reason being that Lloyds TSB actually owns HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland) meaning that for cost efficiency the services are almost identical except with different logos.
Customer Service - The Facts And Figures
As I mentioned in my introduction Halifax has scored badly in some banking surveys with regard to customer service and when compared to Britain's best bank, First Direct (according to MoneySavingExpert.com) there seems to be a real gulf in class. The results below demonstrate just how great the contrast is:
Halifax First Direct
Customer service rated as 'great' 36% 82%
Customer service rated as 'ok' 39% 5%
Customer service rated as 'poor' 14% 1%
Fortunately for Halifax that is not the end of the matter, surveys have been done where only people who hold the Reward current account have been questioned. The results of these surveys are slightly more promising for the bank although they still lag well behind other major banking services providers. Santander is another bank who beat Halifax in the customer service surveys for their comparative 123 current account:
Halifax Reward Santander 123
Customer service rated as 'great' 59% 76%
Customer service rated as 'ok' 34% 19%
Customer service rated as 'poor' 7% 5%
This suggests that whilst the Halifax Reward current account does not have staggering customer service ratings it does create a better impression amongst customers than some of the other Halifax banking products. It seems that the bank is using this flagship account to attract attention away from its poor performance in customer service.
My personal opinions regarding the customer service at Halifax have been largely positive, on the couple of occasions when I have used the call centres they have always seemed efficient and have been informative and knowledgeable about financial issues as they should be. Branch waiting times seem always less than in Lloyds TSB but naturally there is no general rule with regard to this.
Switching To Halifax Could Make You £100
Sounds fantastic to me but be prepared to jump through hoops in order to comply with all of the terms and conditions. The concept of offering a tempting bribe is nothing new to the financial services industry, indeed First Direct have now gone one step further by offering £125 to new customers and a further £100 if they are not satisfied with the service. The offer has a very specific target audience, in particular new customers who hold current accounts with banks outside of the HBOS group. Below I have produced a mini checklist to see if it is possible to get the £100 reward.
- You must be prepared to use the Halifax switching service to close your current account with another bank and transfer direct debits ect.
- You must not be a Bank of Scotland current account customer.
- You must not have received a Halifax switching offer since January 2012.
- You must not work for any part of the Lloyds Banking group.
- If you already hold a Halifax current account you must be prepared to make it your main current account and close down your previous main current account held with a different bank.
Use of the switching service is free but this is really not as much of a selling point as Halifax make out, most banks offer a switching service that is free and it is rare to hear of problems with these services so the Halifax service really is not anything special.
£5 A Month - Every Little Helps
A further selling point to the current account is that unlike many basic current accounts Halifax actually give you a reward for keeping the account open and using it. At face value five pounds a month is not especially great but when you add the initial bonus for opening the account it begins to look like a much more appealing prospect. If you qualify for the opening reward of £100 that means that in the first year it is possible to earn a maximum of £160, which is market leading and worth going through the hassle of changing bank for. However as with all things in life it comes with a number of terms and conditions:
- Remain in credit throughout the month.
- Pay in a minimum of £750 in every month. This does not have to be cash paid in over the counter, it can be a transfer from another bank.
- Have at least two direct debits going out of the account, not a problem for most home owners.
One important thing that I discovered is that although you have to pay in £750 a month this can be done in one lump some and only needs to stay in the account overnight. This means that you can keep a very low balance in the account and as long as you transfer £750 into the account and then take it out again the next day you will still get the reward. When I asked a Halifax employee if this works he simply smiled at me and nodded, most probably thinking I had way too much time on my hands to think of that! It does work by the way.
The Personalised Debit Cards
I must admit that I am not really all that fond of having pictures on the front of debit cards but I appreciate that some people may like it. Halifax offer the service for free initially but if you want to then change the image again it costs five pounds. Stick with images of pets rather than partners or family because at least with pets it is difficult to fall out with them and thus cause any awkward moments. There are a series of image guidelines which unfortunately mean that you cannot turn you debit card into the front cover of a lads magazine, although it would be hilarious to see peoples faces when you go to pay for anything if you were allowed to do it.
Most people shiver at the thought of them but I guess that I have to cover the rate that the Reward current account offers. As with almost all bank accounts overdrafts are very expensive to use regardless of whether they are planned or unplanned. With the Reward current account and planned overdrafts a tier system is employed in order to charge different amounts depending on how overdrawn you go:
Amount charged by Halifax per day overdrawn
Up to £1999 £1
£2000 - £2999 £2
Above £3000 £3
These charges are bad enough but it is when you look at the rates for unplanned overdrafts that you realize just how costly it can be because regardless of the amount overdrawn there is a standard charge of £5 per day. That means that having an unplanned overdraft of just £1 for 20 days will cost a staggering £100. There are numerous better options in terms of current accounts if you suspect you may go overdrawn.
How Easy Is It To Live With Halifax On A Day To Day Level?
I must say that when I first set up the account I was sceptical about what my experience would be like with Halifax. The ease of locating branches means that it is very easy to find cash machines and pay money in over the counter. I was delighted to discover that Halifax had not sacrificed any of the typical current account features such as a cheque book, even nowadays I still use one regularly. The times it takes to get through to a real person at a call centre is not as good as Santander who are excellent in that field, but Halifax do have very competent people on the end of the telephone who speak clear English and explain things very well. Internet banking is efficient without being spectacular and direct debits appear on the account quickly which is always reassuring.
The Reward current account successfully attracted my attention and there are many positives to what Halifax offers, the £5 per month is an added bonus and the £100 when you join can mean substantial first year returns. However the account will only remain an attractive proposition as long as Halifax continue to dish out the five pound notes. In terms of customer service Halifax has in my experience been just as good as any other bank that I have used although the statistics suggest that many people would have a different opinion to me, but if anything can tempt previously unsatisfied customers back it is the Reward current account.
- Money Saving Expert: best and worst bank survey.
http://www.moneysavingexpert.com /news/banking/2013/08/ revealed-the-best-and-worst-banks-for-customer-service
- Halifax Bank: Reward current account.
- Halifax Bank: Getting started with the Reward current account guide. http://www.halifax.co.uk/bankaccounts /pdf/reward-current-account-guide.pdf
- Telly Ads: Advert for the Reward current account.
NB. I do not work in financial services and am therefore not a financial advisor. Any opinions that I have used in this review are based on my own experiences and what I believe to be the best and worst features of the Halifax Reward current account.
This review may also be published on Ciao under the username chrisbriers567. Thanks for reading!