BEWARE OF THE NATIONWIDE [MUTUAL, JUST KIDDING] BUILDING SOCIETY. MY SON HAD A DEBT ABOUT 1250 OUTSTANDING FROM A 10K LOAN AND BECAUSE HE HAD CHANGED JOBS WITH A GAP IN BETWEEN IT WENT A MONTH IN ARREARS IE 160. SO THEY FREEZE HIS ACCOUNT; HE AGREES A NEW DD FOR 250 PER MONTH TO CLEAR BECAUSE HIS NEW MONTHLY TAKE HOME IS 4KPLUS. NOW YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THIS WAS OK, HOWEVER IN BETWEEN TIMES THEY WRITE TO ME HIS FATHER NOT TAKING ANY NOTICE OF THE FACT THAT MY SON HAD MOVED. SO I OFFER THEM 1K IN FULL AND FINAL SETTLEMENT JUST TO MAKE THINGS EASIER FOR MY SON. I HEAR NOTHING FOR THREE WEEKS. I SEND FAXES, E-MAIL AND GET THE USUAL AUTOMATED RESPONSE CANNOT SPEAK TO YOU OR DISCUSS YOUR SONS ACCOUNT BECAUSE OF THE DPA. OK I SAY TALK TO HIM GET HIS PERMISSION TO ACCEPT THE 1K. THEY ASK HIM AND HIS PRIDE TAKES OVER AND HE SAYS THAT SINCE HE LEFT HOME HE HAD NOT SPOKEN TO ME AND SO SAID NO DO NOT ACCEPT THE OFFER. HIS NEXT WAGE PACKET WAS DUE AND THE BANK CONTINUED TO FREEZE HIS ACCOUNT. HOWEVER WITHOUT TELLING ME OR MY SON THE BANK DID IN FACT EXTRACT THE 1K FROM MY ACCOUNT 2 WEEKS AGO SO THAT WITH HIS 250 FUNDS IN HIS ACCOUNT AND MY 1000 THEY HAD THEIR MONEY, BUT THEY DID NOT UNFREEZE HIS ACCOUNT. IN WENT HIS 4000 BUT THEY STILL HAVE HIS ACCOUNT FROZEN. THEY CANCELLED ALL HIS dd AND STANDING ORDERS AND THEY ARE TAKING EVEN MORE FROM HIM TO COVER EXPENSE OF COLLECTING THE MONEY. STILL THEY HAVE NOT CONFIRMED TO ME THAT THEY TOOK MY MONEY AND IT WAS EXPRESSLY OFFER AS A FULL AND FINAL SETTLEMENT AND I DID TELL THEM THAT THIS WAS THE ONLY OFFER AND THAT THEY SHOULD NOT EXPECT ANY MORE. THEY ARE THE MOST DISIGENUOUS BUNCH FULL OF DECIET AND SUBTERFUGE, THEY HATE PUTTING ANYTHING RESEMBLING A ANSWER TO A QUESTION IN WRITING, I HAVE SENT TEN VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO THEM AND HAVE HAD NO ANSWERS, NONE AT ALL, THE FSO IS PARTLY FINANCED BY THESE BANKS / BUILDING SOCIETIES AND THEY WILL ALWAYS FIND A REASON TO BACK THE BANKS POSITION. IF YOU MAKE AN AGREEMENT WITH THE NATIONWIDE THEY PIN YOU DOWN AND THERE IS NO ESCAPE EVEN WHEN YOU ACT REASONABLY. HOW DO WE GET OUR OWN BACK ON THIS SELF GOVERNING MONEY GRABBING INSTITUTION.
I have decided to write a review about Banking In Spain for a few reasons.
Firstly, so many people are now moving over here, either to retire or simply just for a different way of life.
Secondly, many people have holiday homes in Spain and visit several times a year...often using their UK banks or credit cards and paying additional fees on exchange.
Thirdly, to highlight the difference between Uk and most Spanish banks.
Until fairly recently there were not many banks in Spain. There were a few main clearing banks and quite a lot of cashing banks (those ones couldn't organise loans, mortgages etc..in fact they weren't much use unless you wanted to operate a cashing account or a cheque book or exchange foreign currency). However, since becoming part of the EC and more recently, inclusion into the Euromarket, Spanish banking has changed beyond all recognition. I live in a large holiday resort and the number of banks is quite astonishing, every empty building seems to be turned into a bank. I cannot comment on all Spanish banks but I use Cajamar for my personal and business banking and have ocassion to use another two banks, Solbank and Banesto when needs must. Of all three banks, I prefer Cajamar but the basic principals of banking are the same in all banks.
The first thing that you notice upon entering a bank in Spain is that they are very well air-conditioned (in fact you often want there to be a long queue), then you notice the layout....no grills, windows or any other obtrusion between yourself and the cashier...usually a desk with a comfortable seat where you can rest and take your time with the transaction. Due to the large number of banks, there is never a big queue so that means that you receive a very personal service. When I opened the account in Cajamar, I was introduced to all of the staff including the manager, who invited me into his office for a coffee. We had a chat about our reasons for being in Spain and he gave me so much helpful information, things like where to register for schools, census etc. I was not opening the account with vast sums of money either...I was opening an account with the basic requirement of 300Euros.
Anyone can open a bank account in Spain as long as you have a passport and enough money to meet the banks account opening amount (usually 250-300 Euros) apart from children who can usually open an account with 1Euro.
I was issued with the forms and within 10 minutes of completing them, I had the new bank account, debit card (which is incidentally VISA and therefore can be used where other debit cards cannot), my pin number and had the cash machine set up for me so that no matter where in the world I used my card, the cash machine would default to English language. I was also issued with my secret login to their online bank and a statement wallet, card wallet, pens, keyrings and security codes. All very efficient and impressive.
Although you do need to have residential status to open a bank account (proof of accepted application is fine) you do need residential status if you wish to take out a loan, overdraft facility, mortgage or credit card..... it just means that when your money has gone, it has gone....kinda makes you think differently and certainly forces you to budget when there is no financial cushion of a bank loan or overdraft facility.
All the bank documents are offered in Spanish, English, French, Arabic, German, Italian and a host of other languages. Each branch has at least one very fluent English speaker who is familiar with British banking terminology. Most branches have a small number of staff but due to their being so many banks around, and with the vast usage of cash machines, branches are very rarely busy.
Paying in or withdrawing cash is very straightforward as with most banks.
Ordering new cheque books, cards etc., likewise. However there are two main differences between my bank and my old UK bank.
1. If I need to send money to the UK (family birthdays, christmas etc.) I am charged a flat rate of 3Euros..regardless of the amount. When the relative in the UK collects the money, they DO have to pay their bank commission. However, if I have money sent here, Cajamar just charge me 3 euros, regardless of the amount. I think this is an excellent way to encourage people to use the service.
2. If I forget to pay money in to cover a direct debit or a standing order and the order arrives, the bank just don't pay it..they return it, but, they don't charge me....I have no bank charges on a refused DD...(compare that to the UK when I used to get charged £33 per transaction if my salary went in late and some DD's were due.) The company that requested the failed payment then contacts you within 48 hours and you go to the bank and pay in person with no additional charges. I find the whole operation of handling cash very efficient. Online banking is very simple to operate and I can order all the usual services such as house/car insurance/life assurance etc. either online or in person. My account costs me 15 per annum per person in service fees and I don't get charged for withdrawals, DD's or SO's. we pay 30 per year between us and that covers everything including our cards.
All very positive, however, there are a few little niggles.....this is Spain and if you go into the bank expecting to be out in two minutes then you are in for a surprise. The cashiers want to speak to you, ask you about business, the family, your trips home etc. and if the phone rings, they answer it, yes, even the cashier does that..if one of their friends comes into the bank, they have a short break, quick cuddle with the friend, few minutes chat and then they get back to you....has never bothered me, but then I don't have the same need for speed that I had in the UK...actually I find the whole thing quite pleasant but I do see people (mostly UK'ers) getting quite frustrated with the whole thing.
Another little niggle is the opening hours...banks are open between 8.30 -2pm...very few open later than that and none are open on a Saturday. There is a strange system in a lot of the banks (although not mine) that you can only pay bills on a Tuesday and Thurday between 8-10am...after that, it is just tough, nothing will allow you to pay outwith those times. Another strange system in some banks is that they will only change coins on Mondays and Fridays 10-12noon. I think it is just to keep queues to a minimum. There are several "Saints" days in Spain and banks close on every one of them, so well worth checking in advance that they are open.
I would certainly recommend my bank, Cajamar, if you live in Spain, there are branches all over the country. If you intend coming here on a regular basis then I would open an account and transfer holiday money whenever you can...thereby building up a little holiday fund or, if you intend moving here...open an account and start building up the fund before you make the final move. You will find the bank very helpful and full of useful advice. I was very surprised and delighted when I found that I could operate a foreign bank account so much easier than my old UK one. Now I can speak Spanish and will prob have everything changed back to Spanish language but when you are new to a country, having an English speaking bank is a must and Cajamar more than fits the bill.
Thanks for reading
Staffordshire/Portman Building Society - Advantages: several branches local to my area, always used to be thought of as a good place forn saving money and obtaining mortgages, was an independent Society - Disadvantages: now merged with Portman Building Society, miserable, condescending staff
Well, I wrote a review of Abbey National's Current Account, but I also have an account with Barnsley Building Society. It is a savings account, with instant access available to my funds. Barnsley Building Society offer various Affinity accounts, and mine is affiliated to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. 1% of the total balance of all WTW accounts is donated to the club every April. Its a good way to support the club, and the interest rates are generally competative. However this op isn't about the aqccount, its about the society. The main disadvantage with Barnsley Building Society is its lack of branches, with it only having 9 Branches and the Head Office, all except 1 in West and South Yorkshire - the exception being the Chesterfield Branch. However I have found customer service to be second to none. The staff are always warm and friendly, and are more than happy to chat with you if thats what you want. The account I have is actually our tea fund account at work (yes it has a bank account!!!). I visit the branch at Chesterfield maybe once a month on average, and all the staff there know me by name (before I hand my passbook over) and are very friendly and efficient. They are professional and curteous at all times. I don't have any other accounts with them, but when I have enquired about other accounts that they offer, I have never had to wait in the branch for more than a few minutes to be seen, and the first question they ask me is whether I would like a cup of tea or coffee. Little things like that actually count. Barnsley Building Society is committed to staying a society, if you believe their literature. They offer a wide range of services for its members such as: Savings and Investments, Buying a home, Borrowing Money, Insurance, Travellers Cheques and Foreign Currency and Credit Cards. If you want to invest there is a wide choice of accounts available to you - instant access, ISAs
, regular savings and notice accounts for example. They also offer postal accounts for people who live too far away from branches. The Society also operates out of agency offices, which aren't full branches and generally only offer a counter service, but there are more of those and can be found in North Yorkshire, Humberside, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. I haven't had any experience of using agency offices because my branch is more convienient to me. Barnsley Building Society is heavily involved in local community prjects. As a member you receive newsletters every few months which details news about the society as a whole. You can often read about projects that they are supporting. For the sport minded of you, they do offer Affinity accounts (as mentioned above) for supporters of 2 Rugby League teams and 3 Football teams. The Society has its own webpage: http://www.barnsley-bs.co.uk which contains more details about the accounts offered, current interest rates, charges for mortgages etc. You are not able to apply online for any account though, which is one shortcoming in their website. If ever I need any further financial services, then I would seriously contemplate Barnsley Building Society to supply any of my fiscal needs. The staff are polite, friendly, knowledgeable and don't hassle you. They are happy to et you make up your own mind about whats best for you. After all only you know that. Its good to find a financial institution that actually thinks that way too.
Furness Building Society The Furness Building Society is a strong society in the North West. Based in Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, the society has recently came under attack from local papers over it's number of branch closures. Over the last 3 years the Furness has closed Blackpool, Morcombe, Manchester and a number of the Flyde Coast. The main points from the papers are that only a bank or plc does this kind of stuff, and that a mutual society run for it's members should be more caring. But that is just it, the Furness is more than caring. It has realised that the competition has reached cut-throat levels, and without cutting out a few of it's most under-used and expensive branches, it will loose member's money. Bu closing a fraction of what say Barclays closed, it has been able to protect members by building up reserves (the money set aside to protect member's money and the buisness), refurbished and invest more in the remaing branches, employ a new state-of-the-art computer system, train staff to a higher level and improve rates of it's products. A bank acts in the interest of shareholders (which explains why all the banks together are making £70million a day, whilst closing tiny branches in rural areas), whilst a building society acts for it's members (which it has done). Other building societies are keeping open branches that are actually loosing the buisness money, just so the papers wouldn't attack them as a poor excuse for a mutual society. This is unfair on members. I predict that in 5 years time or so there shall be mass mergers by the societies who haven't acted sensibly and economically, when a big bad bank will come along, snap them up and close branches anyway. But the Furness has made an investment to ensure that it remains mutual and independant for a long time. And even with the branches closed, the service at my branch is second to none. There is always a
smile, hello and general but professional chit chat. I once seen a cashier chatting to an elderly member for over 15 minutes simply because she was proberly lonely and wanted to have a chat whilst paying into her savings account. And with the savings made with the branch closures, some of the society's improved and more competitive rates have even made the national best buy tables, ensuring more customers are joining the society in today's harsh world. Isn't this what a building society is?