The best and worst savings account providers for customer service
The low interest rate environment isn't good news for savers with some providers still paying as little as 0.01% on their savings accounts. Rates aside though, from our survey it's instantly apparent which providers are looking after their customers.
MOST TRUSTED: FIRST DIRECT
Standing out from the crowd, for the second year running, is First Direct, which combines a range of competitive savings products with excellent customer service.
The products include an everyday online savings account, a fixed-rate account and a regular saver account, which pays 8% (only available to existing current account holders) for a year.
Given all the choice in the savings arena, one thing customers say they really appreciate is the knowledge of First Direct's customer service staff.
One customer described the savings provider's staff as "empowered advisers who get on with the job". Another said: "Its call centres are brilliant, fast and their staff are courteous and well-educated in terms of all their products."
BEST SAVINGS ACCOUNT FOR ONLINE SERVICE: FIRST DIRECT
Managing your savings online makes good financial sense because without the expense of branches, providers can afford to pay you a higher rate of interest. But, while a higher rate is welcomed, service also has to be of a high standard. Online savers want easy but secure access to their account plus functionality to allow them to transfer their money whenever they want.
First Direct improves from its second place finish last year to claim the title of best savings account for online services. It has a range of savings accounts that can be run online including an e-saver account. The accounts offer flexibility as well as instant internal transfers.
Customers had high praise for First Direct's "slick" online offering and its "ease of access". As one accountholder put it: "First Direct offers a good range of accounts with access 24/7 through its call centres and online."
BEST SAVINGS ACCOUNT FOR CONSISTENCY OF RATES: POST OFFICE
Bonuses have become common on savings accounts, allowing a provider to rocket to the top of the best buy tables then drop into oblivion 12 months later. While some savers are happy to chase these top rates, others prefer to settle for a company that delivers good service and decent - if not spectacular - rates all the time.
The Post Office manages to do both and is therefore the winner in this category. It offers a wide range of products, both its own and NS&I's, with options available for online savers as well as those who prefer to use the branches.
Customers praised the rates of interest but also the personal service they received when they went into the branches. Illustrating this, one customer said: "I opened a small savings account with excellent interest rates and easy access. They [the staff] are very approachable, helpful and easy to speak to."
WORST SAVINGS ACCOUNT PROVIDER: SANTANDER
Santander's savings accounts also came in for criticism from its customers, with the company picking up this title for the second year running.
For some of its customers, it doesn't match up to their previous experience with Alliance & Leicester, now under the Santander umbrella. "The service for Alliance & Leicester customers has deteriorated badly to meet the already poor Abbey standards. They don't appear to have consistent rules and the staff can be extremely rude," said one customer.
An increase in the general level of prices that persists over a period of time. The inflation rate is a measure of the average change over a period, usually 12 months. If inflation is up 4%, this means the price of products and services is 4% higher than a year earlier, requiring we spend and extra 4% to buy the same things we bought 12 months ago and that any savings and investments must generate 4% (after any taxes) to keep pace with inflation. Since 2003, the Bank of England has used the consumer prices index (CPI) as its official measure of inflation (see also retail prices index).
An account opened with a clearing bank (few building societies offer current accounts) that provides the ability to draw cash (usually via a debit card) or cheques from the account. Some pay fairly minimal rates of interest if the account is in credit. Most current accounts insist your monthly income (salary or pension) is paid directly in each month and they offer a number of optional services – such as overdrafts and charge cards – which are negotiable but will incur fees.