Bank staff unclear on Isa rulesEven best performers only got two-thirds of questions correct

21 March 2015

Cash Isa

Tax-free Isas are one of the best ways of saving cash, so you would expect bank and building society staff to be clued up about how they work.

Yet when we tested their knowledge of cash Isas, we found it was shockingly poor, which meant they could be leaving customers out of pocket.

Customers could lose out 

In this week’s Budget, the Chancellor announced new Isa savings limits, greater flexibility over withdrawing funds and ‘Help to Buy’ accounts.

Our undercover investigation found that even before the Budget reforms, bank staff were struggling to explain existing rules.

Isas are supposed to be simple savings products, but when we posed as new customers to ask straightforward questions about savings limits and transfers we found 85% of the bank staff we spoke could not state the subscription limit for 2015/16 (It is £15, 240).

Many couldn't answer simple questions about the amounts you can transfer between accounts.

We also found knowledge of stocks and shares Isas was severely lacking. When we mentioned a recent announcement that will allow surviving spouses or civil partners to inherit a deceased partner's Isa savings the vast majority of bank staff we spoke to were left scratching their heads.

Find out more: Looking for a cash Isa? Here's how to find the best one for you

How did they do?

Isa knowledge: how the banks score
PositionBankCorrect answers (%)

The table above shows the proportion of questions answered correctly by advisors for each of the 13 providers we called. To score full marks for each question, the adviser had to give us the information we were expecting without inaccurate or unclear advice. We made 12 calls to each provider.

Know the Isa rules

Luckily we have provided all the Isa information you could need on our website - so you can check up on your Isa details there rather than having to rely on banks to answer your questions.

We found that very few of the bank staff we spoke to could answer questions about the rules on transferring a cash Isa. You can find out what they don't know in our guide.

And if you're looking into getting a stocks and shares Isa - we have all the information to get you started.

Finally if you're hoping to pass on your Isa savings to a spouse or civil partner after you pass away - our guide explains everything you need to know about the latest reform.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: ‘It is inexcusable for so many bank staff to have such a worrying lack of knowledge about the basics of Isas, especially when it could be costing customers dear.

'Banks should have systems in place to ensure customers can rely on them to give up to date and accurate information.  

'With new reforms announced by the Chancellor this week, the banks must do better, starting by properly equipping their staff so customers can be confident they’re getting the right advice about how to make the most of their hard-earned savings.”

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