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Bank staff lack basic Isa knowledge

80% of staff unable to indentify 2016-17 allowance

New research from Which? has revealed a worrying lack of knowledge among bank staff about Isas.

Our undercover researchers asked a number of straightforward questions about saving limits, transfers and inheritance rules to staff of 12 banks and building societies, both in-branch and over the phone.

Over half of the providers we asked got fewer than half the questions correct. 

We also found:

  • Eight in ten (80%) of staff couldn’t tell us what the 2016/17 Isa limit is.
  • Some 40% couldn’t explain how a spouse or civil partner could inherit Isa savings.
  • Three in ten (28%) were unable to outline the rules on how much of an existing Isa customers can transfer to a new provider.
  • All providers performed better over the phone than in branch.

See the table below to see how all 12 providers performed.

Find out more: How to find the best cash Isa – see our step-by-step guide 

Personal Savings Allowance

Our research also found little awareness about the new personal savings allowance which will come into effect next month. From 6 April, basic-rate taxpayers will be able to earn £1,000 in interest a year on their savings tax-free, while higher-rate taxpayers can earn £500.

This question was answered disappointingly. First Direct did best overall but still only scored six out of 12, while HSBC, Halifax and the Co-operative Bank failed to score anything.

Which? recently launched its ‘We Deserve Better Banks’ campaign, calling for the government, banks and regulators to deliver better banking for all. 

Find out more: We Deserve Better Banks – support our campaign by signing our petition 

‘Shockingly poor knowledge’

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: ‘Bank staff are letting customers down with shockingly poor knowledge about how Isas work. There’s really no excuse for this, especially when it could be leaving people out of pocket.

‘Disappointingly, we’ve seen very little improvement on last year’s scores, which shows banks still need to do much more to up their game to ensure they have the right information and systems in place that consumers can rely on.’

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