The best credit cards for customer service - as voted by you
If you've got a balance to transfer, or a big purchase to make, the rate you get on your credit card is vital. However, if you're using the same card regularly you don't want to overlook customer service.
Credit card companies are notoriously good at getting people through the door, but aren't always so good at keeping their cardholders happy with good customer service.
Every year Moneywise encourages UK consumers to speak up about poor customer service with its Great British Customer Service survey. It helps us flag up the best and worst financial service companies for customer service and makes it easier for you to choose providers that you can trust.
Last year's winner
In 2010 the winner for best overall customer service, as in many other product categories, was First Direct. Customers just love the fact that a person - not a computer - answers the phone, and whether this perception of personal attention is causing some of the scores in the other categories to be exaggerated or not (they top the charts in every single category), it clearly demonstrates that First Direct customers feel well looked after.
Since First Direct tops every category the rest of the analysis becomes a fight for second place and a bottom of the table scrap to avoid relegation shame. If you have to make a decision between a couple of cards with good introductory offers or attractive awards, hopefully your fellow customers shared insight can find you a top performer, or at least help you avoid a dud.
Best of the rest
Second in class for overall customer service were John Lewis and the Co-operative Bank, the former also coming in second for call centre service whilst the Co-op scored well all round, in particular for ease of account opening, ease of balance transfers and fraud protection.
At the bottom of the pile is where the big banks gather and unsurprisingly their call centre service is the worst rated category. Citibank comes last, with Abbey (now Santander), Halifax and Barclaycard keeping it company.
Get more details on your credit card provider's service with the table below. It shows the average customer service scores (out of 10) for the UK's key credit card companies, across a range of categories from ease of account opening to fraud protection as well as call centre and online service.
|Card provider||No. of votes||Ease of account opening score||Ease of balance transfer score||Fraud prot. score||Online service score||Call centre service score||Overall customer service score|
|Marks & Spencer||395||8.8||8.5||8.3||8.4||7.3||8.2|
|Bank of Scotland||85||8||7.5||7.5||8.2||7.8||8|
|Alliance & Leicester (now Santander)||127||8||7.9||7.9||7.9||6.9||7.6|
|Abbey (now Santander)||98||8.2||8.2||7.4||7.1||6.1||7.1|
|Total / Average||7,425||8.4||8.1||8.2||8.2||7.4||7.9|
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.
Moving money from one account to another, whether switching bank accounts or more likely transferring the outstanding balance on your credit card to another card that charges a lower – or 0% – rate of interest. Some card providers may charge a transfer fee that can be a percentage of the balance transferred.