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Nationwide Building Society
Member Name: benfipa
Nationwide Building Society
Date: 30/01/12, updated on 08/02/12 (217 review reads)
Advantages: Long established, well-run Building Society which seems to cause less hassle and cost than banks.
Disadvantages: Large choice of savings accounts, most of which earn abysmal low rates of interest, like the banks
If there is one major financial institution in this country that has managed to avoid the scourge of the credit crunch in 2007/8 and remain financially intact, it is our biggest independent Building Society, Nationwide. Although they weren't entirely unaffected by that situation they didn't need a bail-out unlike their rivals Northern Rock and Halifax (now part of HBOS). There is a Nationwide branch in nearly every high street and several in a city, so you are never too far from a branch or any ATM machine, which operates on the Link system, eg all major supermarket ATMs, Santander, Halifax and Nationwide outlets use Link and do not charge.
Nationwide have all the facilities of a modern bank, offering a current account, savings accounts, credit card (no annual charge), personal loans, mortgages, and various insurances (home, car, life). Travel insurance cover is free in Europe if you open a FlexAccount, although there are one or two attached conditions (must be under 73 years). And it is their current account (FlexAccount) that I will focus on as people use this on a daily basis.
Nationwide FlexAccount like any other current account has every facility the average person would need. You can request a cheque book if you still want to pay that way. A cheque book can still be useful for paying people like dentists, plumbers etc. With the FlexAccount you receive a Visa debit card, which as well as a cheque guarantee card is also used for ATM withdrawals/pay-ins, and a pocket device that resembles a calculator. You will need this when you login online, which is strongly recommended, and you can register for the online service by the usual completion of a simple questionnaire form after your FlexAccount has been officially set up. Once online you can set up standing orders, payee accounts, arrange CHAPS and SWIFT payments (£25 fee). Having payee accounts is the way to pay all your regular household bills that aren't direct debits (DD). You can also view/print your statements 24 hours online and internally transfer funds between your Flexaccount and other Nationwide savings accounts.
Transferring an account over from your old bank account is a simple process provided you have been granted a Visa debit card. If so, Nationwide take care of all your transferable DD arrangements and standing orders within 10 working days from the working day after your account has started. This is under their 'Account Transfer Promise' terms. You can arrange this online or at a branch. Failure to transfer such payments correctly and they will refund you £100. So presumably they are fairly confident about getting this right. I would still provide Nationwide with a list of all DDs if you have several of them running, just in case. An unpaid DD can cause a lot of misunderstanding.
Since many customers end up in overdraft at some time or other, Nationwide are no less benign than other banks when it comes to charges. If you do not have an authorised overdraft and you go into the red, you will incur a £15 fee on your account and your payment will bounce. But if Nationwide charge you for something which puts you in unauthorised overdraft, there is no bounce and you pay £20. Furthermore you pay interest of 18.9% EAR on any overdraft balance but you forgo any fee if you stay within authorised limits. You could be caught even if you make a payment before funds paid into your account to cover the payment have had time to clear, even though the paid-in amounts show on your statement, although with the recent '1 day clearance automated transfer' policy amongst banks, that's less likely to happen now. But a paid-in cheque still takes 4 working days to clear. If you think you'll end up in overdraft it's best to get a sufficient authorised limit from the start and avoid those fees.
So why choose Nationwide? Well, I've been with them for 20 years and I've never had any real problem with them. I haven't had an official bank account over this period and remember only too well racking up numerous absurd charges when I did have one, and that's when having no overdraft. When the occasional serious query arises, I've rung Nationwide's HO in Swindon, and they've always sorted it out efficiently and to my satisfaction. For simple queries you can also log online and use their message service where they usually respond within 24 hours. They will email you back. Or you can see your local branch manager and sort things out there if it's relevant to the situation. Glad to say I'm a pretty satisfied customer, but then I rarely go into overdraft or pay any fees or charges.
Summary: One of the better current accounts around, with good, easy to use online features
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