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
Helpful banking? Slightly annoying maybe.
Member Name: Mildew82
Advantages: Professional and good investment advice
Disadvantages: Overzealous fraud protection with no notification
With the economic downturn and banking crisis, NatWest are still a well established and reputable bank with whom you can feel mostly safe and secure saving your money with. They offer a wide range of different accounts and investment solutions that to suit your needs - as they claim themselves they are dedicated to "Helpful Banking".
*Current Plus Account - includes no monthly subscription charges, a debit card for day-to-day withdrawals, a chequebook and an overdraft.
*Step Account - the same as the Current Plus Account but with no borrowing facilities such as an overdraft or chequebook.
There are also three types of extra Current Accounts with a subscription fee which offer annual savings:
*Advantage Blue - at £6.95 a month on top of the normal current account benefits you can get travel insurance, leisure discounts, mobile phone insurance and car breakdown protection.
*Advantage Gold - at £12.95 a month you will also get better travel insurance, discounts on car and home insurance, leisure discounts and identity theft protection.
*Advantage Private - at £19.95 a month this account is designed for those that earn over £75,000 or have £50,000 to invest with insurance discounts and personalised rates for overdrafts, mortgages and savings.
There are also accounts designed for students, graduates and young people:
*Student current account - includes an interest-free overdraft of up to £1,250 for the first year which are flexible to help with budgets, a free 16-25 Railcard (£130) which doubles as a student discount card plus many other offers such as laptop and broadband connection discounts.
*Graduate account - includes an interest free overdraft for three years after graduation and the chance to borrow up to £15,000 with a graduate loan.
*Adapt account - for 11-18 year olds an account which offers a great interest rate, mobile phone savings with free texts and music downloads, plus the chance to design their own card.
There is a great range of 7 or so Instant Access accounts to choose from with interest rates from between 0.10% to 2.75% if you are able to match certain conditions like not withdrawing from the account or limiting your withdrawals, or maintaining a balance of a specified figure. NatWest also offers a range of ISAs , loans and investment plans to help as much with your savings and managing your money.
The NatWest website is very comprehensive and breaks down each type of account, savings and investment plans and types of loans available with a clear layout and detailed explanations to give you the best chance of picking the perfect solution for you. The website is divided into Current Accounts, Savings, Investments, Loans, Credit Cards, Mortgages, Insurance, Travel and Moneysense for Personal Banking and other sections for Private, Business and Commercial Banking.
They have extra guides for each main section to make their expert advice available on hand, plus the Moneysense section which has a great selection of tips, quick guides on mortgages, credit card and savings and tools such as budget and debt calculators which make money management all that bit easier for those that might need a little help.
Online banking can also accessed from this site, and with excellent security to gain access including a unique customer number based upon a DOB, a required PIN and a password this is a safe way to manage your accounts. The only danger with this is trying to remember all the different code and passwords (which you are not allowed to write down) - if you get it wrong 3 times you will be barred. They also offer their own free security software, Rapport, which monitors access to your online banking and reports suspicious activity to prevent fraud as much as possible.
Their online banking site is very easy to use as you can monitor each account and get real-time access to all transactions, you can transfer money effortlessly between accounts and set up direct debits and standing orders with minimal effort. The only annoying thing about certain facilities on this site, such as setting up a new direct debit, is that as an extra security measure they require a uniquely generated number from a special calculator which if you don't have it on you means you can't do it spontaneously!
I've always found the staff to be very friendly and fairly helpful - in any job you will always come across someone who can't stand their job and simply has to make everyone else around them just as miserable as they are, but every time I've been into my branch I've always experienced good levels of customer service.
Their investment team is also extremely helpful. In a one-on-one appointment I received some very useful advice as to what to do with all my lovely money just sitting idly in my current account receiving a pittance in interest, and I felt confident at the end that I was making the right investment choices for my future (as long as I live for at least another 5 years of course).
Despite being a fairly professional outfit, in the last year I have endured and heard about a few incidents which have put me off them a little.
My own experience has been with having to contend with their overzealous fraud protection policies. I am a train commuter and as a result I have to purchase an annual train season ticket and an annual car parking ticket to try to save myself as much money as possible. My first major purchase for this year was to buy my ticket on-line for £2,380 (yes - ouch is right) using my debit card, which I have done in the past with no problems. The transaction seemed to go through okay, but then a couple of days later I went shopping and tried to use my debit card for the first time since. My card was embarrassingly rejected whilst trying to purchase pyjamas when I knew I had ample funds.
So off I went to a cash point to see if I could access my account and it said that my card had not been activated. A little concerned I went off to the nearest NatWest branch and explained my predicament and that it said my card was not activated.
"Has your card expired?"
"Is it a new card?"
"No, I've been using it for 2 years."
Shrug of the shoulders. "Hmmm...that's weird."
Helpful banking indeed.
Finally they were able to get to the bottom of it and find out a block had been put on my account for suspicious activity. Wow - nice of them to let me know so I could enjoy the fun of a mini-public humiliation. It was pretty easy to sort it out with a simple phone call, but I could have done without the hassle.
Thinking that was the end of it, I had the fun of it happening again when trying to purchase my car parking ticket for £880. It seemingly went through but then was instantly rejected. Trying again it said my card was not authorised even though I knew again I had more than sufficient funds. Sigh. Fortunately I had a friend with me who paid so I wouldn't have to return another day, but it was certainly getting to be annoying that I couldn't seem to spend my own hard earned cash freely.
Another block to sort out yay - it looks like I'll have to give them advance warning every time I want to spend over £50! Obviously I'm happy they are clearly cracking down on fraud but I'd prefer it if it were done in a more convenient way for myself!
So, we have ascertained that NatWest are amazingly helpful when taking our life savings for investment purposes, but they don't seem to be quite so good at giving it back. This next story happened to a friend of mine, but shows a darker side to NatWest:
To pay off a bill for a NatWest credit card my friend sent her usual monthly cheque off from HSBC. The cheque was cashed and the money removed from her HSBC account, but upon receiving her next credit card statement she was hit with late payment fees and interest changes of about £60. Upon ringing up NatWest she was informed that no payment was received and that she would have to get proof from HSBC.
Phoning up HSBC they were apparently extremely helpful and sent off proof as soon as possible. But NatWest deemed this proof to be unclear and refused to accept that payment had already been received. Only a threat of going to trading standards caused them to check and discover that due to an admin error "a box had not been ticked" and immediately removed the extra charges and sent a whopping great big £25 in compensation. Not much for 3 months of stress.
One other thing that annoys me about them is that even though I have already invested a large sum of money with them they are often harassing me with phone calls and every time I pop into my local branch and they spot my current account total they always try to talk me in to having a meeting with their in-house investment advisor even though I already just done it.
Just because they heavily contributed to the banking crisis and economic downturn doesn't mean they can try to cajole me out of my (as Theo Paphitis would say) children's inheritance every 5 minutes.
Despite for the most part being happy with NatWest there have been a few niggly incidents that are starting to make me lose a little confidence in them. They are still a good bank with a good range of accounts and investment opportunities, but if I have a few more annoying incidents then my eye might start to wander....
Summary: A reputable bank but with a few customer service let downs