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Best and worst banks

Discover the best and the worst banks for customer service, rated by thousands of current account customers.

In this article
How do I find the best bank? Best and worst banks revealed A closer look at the Which? Recommended Providers  First Direct  Starling Bank 
Nationwide Building Society M&S Bank The worst banks for customer satisfaction About Which?'s bank account research

How do I find the best bank?

Everybody's banking needs are different. Some with a healthy balance may want to find an account that pays them interest, others are looking for one that doesn't charge through the nose to use an overdraft.

At Which?, we think the way your bank treats you should be an essential part of finding the best account.

So, we've done the hard work for you. Every year, we survey thousands of current account customers and ask them to rate the service they receive. This gives us the Which? Customer Score. 

We then calculate the 'product score' of almost 40 current accounts to find our Which? Recommended Providers - the banks and building societies that offer great products and top-notch customer service. 

 

Best and worst banks revealed

Scroll through the table to see how real customers have rated dozens of banks and building societies.

The table also includes star ratings for ten elements of the banks' service: overall customer service; the application process;  regularity and clarity of communication; transparency of charges; dealing with complaints and resolving problems; service in branch; telephone, online and mobile banking; and benefits such as cashback and credit interest.

Not all banks appear in our table. That's because we need a minimum of 30 people to respond to our survey to generate meaningful ratings. We're always trying to increase our coverage. 

Provider  undefined Product Score Customer service Application process Communication Transparency of charges Handling complaints Service in branch Telephone banking Online banking Mobile banking Benefits

Recommended provider

First Direct

84% 76%

5 out of 5

4 out of 5

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

4 out of 5

-

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

Recommended provider

Starling Bank

83% 58%

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

- - - -

5 out of 5

4 out of 5

Monzo Bank

82% 62%

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

4 out of 5

-

4 out of 5

-

5 out of 5

4 out of 5

Recommended provider

Nationwide BS

78% 60%

5 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

Recommended provider

M&S Bank

76% 64%

5 out of 5

-

5 out of 5

5 out of 5

-

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

5 out of 5

-

4 out of 5

Metro Bank 75% 47%

5 out of 5

-

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

The Co-operative Bank 73% 51%

4 out of 5

-

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

Barclays Bank 70% 62%

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

Halifax 70% 56%

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

Santander 70% 60%

4 out of 5

-

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

Lloyds Bank 69% 69%

4 out of 5

-

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

NatWest 69% 64%

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

2 out of 5

Yorkshire Bank 69% 67%

4 out of 5

-

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

Danske Bank 66% 53%

3 out of 5

-

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

2 out of 5

 

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

1 out of 5

HSBC 66% 51%

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

TSB 65% 53%

3 out of 5

-

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

Bank of Scotland 64% 60%

3 out of 5

-

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

2 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

Clydesdale Bank 63% 67%

3 out of 5

-

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

2 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

1 out of 5

Royal Bank of Scotland 62% 64%

3 out of 5

-

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

2 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

2 out of 5

Tesco Bank 60% 55%

3 out of 5

-

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

2 out of 5

Ulster Bank 55% 60%

3 out of 5

-

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

2 out of 5

 

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

1 out of 5

 

Table notes: We surveyed 4,216 members of the general public in September 2019. Sample sizes for our survey as follows: First Direct - 150, Starling Bank - 42, Monzo Bank - 128, Nationwide Building Society - 433, M&S Bank - 53,Metro Bank - 47,Co-operative Bank - 90, Halifax - 470, Barclays - 626, Santander - 493, Lloyds Bank - 552, NatWest - 493, Yorkshire Bank - 48, HSBC - 391, Danske Bank - 46, TSB - 175, Bank of Scotland - 100, Clydesdale Bank - 56, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) - 142, Tesco Bank - 60, Ulster Bank - 41

Product scores: where banks have multiple accounts, we have shown the highest score it achieved from our analysis. Where N/A appears, we were unable to rate the bank's product. Star ratings: a - indicates that we did not get enough responses on a particular aspect of a provider's service to generate a star rating, or the provider does not offer this service.                              

 

A closer look at the Which? Recommended Providers 

Our unique customer score combines customers’ overall satisfaction with a financial brand, and their likelihood to recommend that company, if asked. 

Although it’s not a prerequisite, the four chosen Recommended Providers each earned five-star ratings for their customer service.

First Direct 

A Recommended Provider for every one of our past eleven surveys, First Direct has reclaimed the number one slot with a customer score of 84%, after being usurped by Monzo last year. 

It also has the highest product score - 76% - which we calculate by analysing the features of each provider’s standard current accounts. 

First Direct has five-star ratings across six of the ten banking services we asked customers to rate, covering overall customer service, telephone, online and mobile banking, communication and transparency of charges. 

It doesn’t have a branch network - so it doesn’t have a rating for this - but customers can use the branches of parent bank HSBC to pay in cash and cheques and withdraw cash at the counter. 

For a cheap arranged overdraft, we rate the 1st Account which is interest-free up to £250 then 15.9% EAR. If you were to borrow £500 for one week, First Direct would charge you 71p, while other banks slap on fees amounting to as much as £7.74. 

First Direct shares deposit protection with HSBC so try to limit deposits to £85,000 across the two brands.

Starling Bank 

Coming in a close second - with a score of 83% - is Starling Bank, appearing for the first time thanks to a steadily increasing customer base. 

It meets all of our Recommended Provider criteria with ease, offering a cheap overdraft, in-credit interest and an above-average product score. 

The  five-star rated Starling app offers a wide range of features including instant notifications to help you spot fraud immediately and a range of controls that let you instantly freeze your card for use online, in shops and for gambling transactions. 

The debit card is fee-free for purchases and foreign ATM withdrawals anywhere in the world, making it the ideal debit card to take on holiday

You can also earn 0.5% AER on balances up to £2,000, and 0.25% thereafter, on a maximum balance of £85,000.

As with rival digital challenger bank Monzo, you must operate your account entirely via its smartphone banking app, though Starling customers can use a Post Office to deposit and withdraw money. 

Starling and Monzo were the only two banks to receive five stars for their application processes (both let you apply via the app in minutes, taking a short 'selfie' video to confirm your identity). 

Nationwide Building Society

Britain’s largest building society, Nationwide, has been a current account Recommended Provider for five surveys on the trot.

This year, nearly every aspect of its service was rated four or five stars by customers (they gave its mobile banking app and overall customer service the highest rating). 

It is one of only two providers given a four-star rating for in-branch banking services, alongside Metro Bank. No banks received five stars for in-branch banking services. 

It’s also publicly committed to keeping its branches open, unlike many of the biggest high-street names.

Customers gave it an average three stars for benefits, although its popular FlexDirect account does pay credit interest on balances up to £2,500 - at a rate of 5% in year one, then 1%.

It also offers a top-scoring packaged account called FlexPlus. 

M&S Bank

For the fourth time in a row, M&S Bank is a Recommended Provider with a customer score of 76%. 

The supermarket bank earned five stars for many other aspects of its service: online banking; transparency of charges; communication and overall customer service. 

Its worst-rating is three stars for branch service. Most M&S Bank branches are open whenever the stores are open, including evenings and weekends but there are only 29 stores with branches across the UK. 

Last year, it achieved a disappointing two-star rating for its mobile banking app. This time we didn’t have enough responses to generate a rating, suggesting that customers aren’t using the app very widely. 

If a decent app is important to you, the top four providers in our table all received five stars for theirs. 

Although M&S Bank is owned by HSBC, it operates under its own banking licence which means customers are entitled to full deposit protection up to £85,000.

The worst banks for customer satisfaction

Several of the biggest high street names find themselves at the wrong end of our table year after year, namely Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and its subsidiary Ulster Bank.

HSBC has had a below average customer score since 2013 while Tesco Bank appears to have lost the confidence of its customers, having dropped from top six to  second from bottom in our table. 

Conversely, TSB has bounced back, after being named the worst bank for customer satisfaction last year, when its botched IT migration left nearly two million people locked out of their accounts. However, customers are still unimpressed with the way it handles complaints (two stars) and it only achieved an average three stars for every other aspect of its service. 

Don't settle for mediocrity - thanks to the Current Account Switch Service, you can vote with your feet and move to a new provider in just seven working days.

Ulster Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) consistently poor

Ulster Bank, which operates in Ireland and Northern Ireland, has found itself at the very bottom of our table with a customer score of just 55%.

Along with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), part of the same banking group, customers gave it two stars for complaints-handling and branch banking service.

RBS customers have been hit hardest by branch closures, with 74% of branches wiped off the network between January 2015 and August 2019.

With no interest, cashback or other rewards, Ulster Bank also received a lowly one star for benefits. 

Tesco Bank score plummets

Tesco Bank’s customer score has nosedived since 2018 and it finds itself second from bottom in our table, having featured in the top six previously. 

A two star rating for account benefits suggests that customers are particularly disappointed that the supermarket giant no longer pays 3% on balances up to £3,000 - existing customers saw the rate drop to 1% in June 2019. 

But it also earned an average three stars for: overall customer service; telephone banking; and branch banking (in this case, Tesco Stores that offer a customer service desk). 

About Which?'s bank account research

Which? Customer Score

Which?'s rating for customer satisfaction, based on feedback from real customers. The score is made up of a customer's overall satisfaction with the brand, and how likely they are to recommend that brand to a friend.

We surveyed 4,815 members of the general public in September 2019. 

Product score

We analyse dozens of different elements, including rewards and benefits, fees and charges, and how you can operate the account, to calculate a product rating score. 

Which? Recommended Provider status

A Customer Score over 70% makes a brand eligible for Which? Recommended Provider status, but we’ll only award this if its main current account achieves an above average product score.

It must also offer an account sitting in the top ten for at least two of the following: credit interest; cashback, rewards or other account benefits; an arranged overdraft.

As of 2019, we also expect banks to sign up to a new voluntary code known as the Authorised Push Payment Scam Code, launched on 28 May 2019. 

Several major banking brands are yet to sign up to the voluntary code, including Monzo, which would otherwise be a Recommended Provider thanks to a customer score of 82%.

Monzo will be reinstated as a Recommended Provider once it has signed up to better protect its customers from bank transfer fraud. 

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