Newest Review: ... in Central London. I was happy to be able to withdraw money with my debit card whenever I chose to, pay for goods and etc. However, ... more
Banking with the Natwest
Member Name: Deru
Date: 03/09/07, updated on 28/05/11 (6196 review reads)
Advantages: Good customer service, branch facilities, Internet Banking, Lots of branches, opening hours
Disadvantages: High charges and fines, Some bad press, Tries to sell you stuff all the time
BRANCHES AND FACILITIES
There are plenty of NatWest branches dotted around the country, some of them (unnecessarily close together for some reason) so they are convenient for most whom need to regularly visit a branch to pay in money. Most the branches I've visited have a cheerful atmosphere with fairly bright lighting. They all have tables or shelves(?) for you to organise your money and fill out forms on. Pens are chained to pen holders in those areas. 'Quick Deposit' boxes area also found in branches for people who don't have time to queue. Queues can be long and sometimes, not all cashier windows are staffed, which I'd prefer to not be the case but I'm guessing they want to keep costs down by not having too many staff during non-peak hours. There are also ATM machines in many branches as well as outside, with the indoor ones letting you deposit as well as withdraw money.
My branch (in Centrale), doesn't have any cashier windows. It has ATM machines inside and it has a Quick Deposit Box. This branch is more for customer service and I don't find it a problem as I'm happy to use the deposit box. Speaking of depositing money, you can deposit money without using a Giro credit slip if you have your debit card at most branches. All you need is your PIN and it's done as if you were buying something but rather than taking money out of your account, you're putting money in!
OPENING AN ACCOUNT
Opening an account only took about 30 minutes, after making an appointment and taking two statements (or utility bills if you like) from two separate organisations and some ID. Additionally, they did ask for some pay slips, which I did not have with me at the time. However, after providing them with personal details such as name, address, work details, earnings, etc and agreeing to bring in some pay slips, I was pretty much all set. However, they phoned me an hour after I had left saying I didn't need to bring in the pay slips because they trusted me, which I thought was nice of them.
What I wasn't too keen on however was that they started me off on an 'Advantage Gold' account as a 3 month free trial. This so-called Gold Account is their 'Premier' account, which they try to sell like mad and it costs £12 a month. With the Advantage Gold current account,, it gives benefits like free mobile phone insurance, free holiday insurance, 10% off car insurance, discounts, special rates, etc, supposedly saving me up to £600 a year, but as far as I was concerned, I was spending £120 and not saving. They charged me the £12 each month but after the 3 month trial, I simply told them it was not for me and they refunded me.
To accompany my new account, I was sent a cheque book, a Giro credit book and a Maestro debit card, which are all pretty standard, and like any other bank, you are given the option to sign up for Internet Banking to manage your accounts online. No complaints here but different accounts come with different facilities.
Even after downgrading from the Advantage Gold, I was still being charged the £12 the following month. However, once I brought this to my branch's attention, they refunded me straight away and the problem went away so that was easily resolved.
On another occasion, there was an unrecognised transaction of £10 on my card purchasing £10 prepay O2 mobile phone credit, which I saw in my Internet Banking account. As I do not use O2 as a mobile network provider, I immediately rang NatWest's fraud hotline, which is open 24 hours a day (I phoned at around 10pm). I was given some advice and to call back next day during the day as the department that could help was not available at that time, and so I did. I was asked a few questions and was asked to destroy my debit card. A day or two later, another £10 transaction for O2 credit was on my statement so I duly reported that.
So they sent me some forms to fill in detailing the fraudulent transactions. I got letters in the post updating me of the progress and when I was refunded £20 after about two weeks, they sent me a letter to confirm that. It was quite pain free. As for how it happened in the first place, I don't know as I rarely used that card. However, I did use my debit card to check my balance outside a NatWest branch in Langley two days before the first suspicious transaction and the O2 transactions were labelled Slough (Langley is in or right near Slough), which I think is a bit too much of a coincidence, so I suspect it was a dodgy ATM machine that let someone 'skim' (copy) my card. Don't know how they got my PIN or whether a PIN was required at all (there are some shops which I find still ask me to sign for credit card purchases!).
Overall, customer service isn't half bad. Staff seemed to know what they were doing most of the time and they're all very friendly. Only thing I dislike is the queues during busy hours, and they seem to be short staffed in terms of cashiers, but this can be avoided by using the in-branch facilities (i.e. Quick Deposit box, ATMs) or if you need to talk to someone, go in early or during less busy hours if possible. However, staff don't know everything. For example, I tried to buy a Gift Card from them but the staff at one branch didn't know how to do it so recommended that I went to a different branch. On going to the other branch, the staff there didn't know how to do them either! Even though they have the leaflets advertising the Gift Cards, hardly any staff are trained for this, which isn't very good.
I did manage to go overdrawn once when a Direct Debit came out sooner than expected. I was told that I could be charged a £28 unauthorised borrowing fine and a possible £38 transaction bounce fine IF the Direct Debit bounced. The Direct Debit did not bounce, and NatWest only charged me £5.57 for the unauthorised borrowing. This may be because that was my first and only offence. Many people who bank with NatWest have had bad experiences with high charges but it's also the case with other banks. As they didn't charge me the full works, I'm quite pleased with NatWest but I do think that these charges are on the high side if I really did get hit with them. They have lowered some charges because of the recent changes in the law but hearing the amounts of the charges at first was quite shocking, even though I was more worried about ruining my credit score. Overall, I think the charges are quite high but I do advise people to be more careful and not go overdrawn. Ask for an overdraft facility, which is free but don't use it unless you have to.
The charge for paying in a USD cheque for example would cost me £15 for a value of under £100. This is three times the amount that HSBC charge me so clearly, Natwest don't have the best rates.
Rates are slightly better than some banks but not at the very top as there are better deals around if that's what you're after. I didn't join NatWest because of their rates but I did notice that their Mini Cash ISA rates are better than my other bank so I transferred over to them.
I'm very happy NatWest customer because of my experiences with them. Customer service is good, branches are plentiful and the facilities are outstanding. The ATMs that let you deposit money aren't as advanced as those at HSBC (they let you slot in cheques and they print you a photocopy of one) but they work and they're there if you need them. I know some people have had bad experiences with NatWest but I believe that most people won't have a problem so long as they manage their money properly.
Thanks for reading.
Summary: Good customer service, greate facilities but high fees and charges if you go over limits, etc.