Santander: The bank people love to hate

We get a constant stream of emails and letters here at Moneywise from readers complaining about poor service - and the UK's biggest banks seem to be the worst offenders.

The result from our latest customer service survey highlights this problem. Over 12,000 of you voted in the poll, which looked at the most-trusted financial service companies across a range of products, from current accounts, savings accounts and credit cards to car and travel insurance.

By and large, it's the big banks that take the top spot as the worst companies when it comes to looking after their customers. In fact, only one building society - compared with eight major banks - is mentioned among the top 18 worst financial services providers.

And the news is especially bad for Santander. Labelled the worst bank in the UK last year by both consumers and the press, it has yet again been voted the bank most people love to hate.

Bad service

Almost 40% of comments about bad service were about the Spanish-owned bank - an enormous proportion compared with the second and third-worst service providers, Barclays and Halifax, which received just under 11% and slightly over 9% of the comments respectively.

Long queues in branches, unhelpful call centres and untrained staff were three of the most common complaints relating to Santander.

One disgruntled customer said: "My visit to a large branch in Swansea to open a savings account was a nightmare, and a waste of time, due to terrible service. I decided not to open an account based on the experience."

Other comments ranged from "Branch staff well-meaning idiots. Head office in a coma" to "I had more problems with Santander in one year than I had over 30 years with Alliance & Leicester. Out of 10 I would give them minus 10". Not exactly great feedback!

The bank's customer service problems began in 2004 when it went on a frantic shopping spree in the UK, first buying Abbey National's business, then snapping up mortgage provider Bradford & Bingley in September 2008, followed by Alliance & Leicester in October 2008.

Finally, last year it announced that it had agreed to take over 318 branches from Royal Bank of Scotland (likely to be completed in the first quarter of 2012).

No signs of improvement

But while it's understandable that the banking giant's service took a nosedive when it initially tried to amalgamate all these businesses under one brand, there are no signs of subsequent improvement.

To say customers are unhappy is an understatement. So what has Santander got to say? After repeated requests, we finally got hold of Steve Williams, director of service quality at Santander, who issued a grovelling apology.

"It's not our business strategy to have competitive products and poor customer service - that's certainly not our intention," he said. "I'd like to say sorry and apologise to customers for the problems they've had."

However, promises are one thing; delivering them is quite another. Santander needs to show tangible proof that it's serious about customer service and is making some real and fundamental changes.

The big test will be when the bank tries to complete the takeover of the 300-plus RBS branches. It's Santander's big chance to show it's changed, but it's also its greatest challenge. If it leads to a fresh wave of complaints, the bank's reputation could be ruined forever.

For more details of the most and least trusted financial service providers, go to

Your Comments

After being locked out of online banking many times, and always requesting new logins I was eventually told that applying to change logins online 'doesn't work' and always to phone. Well Santander, why have the facility to change logins online?
Changed to a provider with a slightly lower rate, but their online system a breeze!

Santander failed badly in setting up and running a joint online Premium account last year. They then ignored correspondence until I took legal action through the small claims track and copied their CEO. They eventually settled out of court at more than 50 times their first offer of settlement. I would recommend to anyone with a serious complaint to ignore the Ombudsman (the bank prepays the annual and per case ombudsman fees) and insist that the claim is heard before a judge.

Santander will, true to form, throw every obstacle in the way to avoid a court case and make unreasonable settlement offers, but in my opinion is the only way to get proper redress and satisfaction in dealing with - and ditching - a truly awful bank.

Santander are great I have no problems in my branch in Barnstaple North Devon!!!

I agree with most of the comments about Santander's poor customer service at the branch. However I contacted them by e mail and received a written reply, by post ,explaining the situation and which was very helpul. Must speak as one finds.

As an indpendent adviser I am certainly not one to hold back from criticising the big banks! I do however bank with Santander following their takeover of Alliance & Leicester that I moved to for one simple reason, namely their great deals on current accounts! If you accept that you could encounter service issues with any of the major banks (though of course you shouldn't have to), then you may as well get the best deal out of them from a monetary point of view. 5% AER gross interest on balances up to £2,500 for 12 months & £100 cashback on switching. Their savings rates are also generally about as good as one can expect right now. Hence whilst I may have encountered some service issues with them (due it seemed to issues with system intergration having rescued/merged with other banks), extra money in your pocket should be a good reason to be with them rather than any other. Hopefully once the fall out from the banking crisis has settled their service will improve, as it probably should from all banks.

customer service is never top priority - and as long as better customer service isn't bringing in money they won't improve -
most people will complain but will still choose the cheapest product/best interest rate and will not take customer service into their decision

I have dealt with Abbey and now Santander since Abbey National became a bank and have always got good service and don't know what all the fuss is about, I would recommend them to anyone.

I have bee tring to get internet access for my accounts for 9 weeks. They keep sending me page 2 of the details and never page 1. After 3 phone calls to them I am just going to send them a letter to close all my accounts.


I don't have any experience of being a customer of Santander, but I have nothing but praise for them. Last year my son sadly passed away and he had accounts with 2 banks, Santander being one. I had to go in to my local branch to close the account and they were kindness itself. Two days later I received a parcel in the post and it was a beautifully wrapped gift of Molten Brown toiletries with a card from the staff. I was deeply touched by this gesture and I don't imagine any other banks do this.

Santander took 6 months to move a cah ISA despite many phone calls.
My A&L Isa account was "lost" for 3 months and I have never been informed about the change of details.
I am moving my RBS account before Santander takes it over.

I have had a lot of problems with Santander (was an Alliance & Leicester customer). They keep charging me for going overdrawn because they insist on taking payments out before crediting cash that is paid in on the same day. I shall certainly be changing bank.

It is already ruined forever with me. I have never had an account with them only heard about their dreadful customer service from friends and on the mse forums I recently applied to a mortgage broker to find me a mortgage. They reccomended the Santander. I refused to even consider them because of their appalling service. I paid more in set up costs to go with their second choice because I can't abide poor customer service.

Alliance & Leicester were brilliant,our money used to come in on Saturday night,so that we had some shopping money on Sunday.Now nothing! Overdraft used to cost me £5 pcm and if I went slightly over,another £5.Now it is £10 and £25 .Rubbish service in my opinion...Come back A & L !

Personally I can't fault Santander since they took over from Alliance and Leicester.
I do all of my banking on line, I got the £100 for joining, I receive a very small amount of interest each month if my bank account has £2500 in it.

The only problem I had was with my Argos store card.
Argos cocked up a payment, it was only then I realised Santander administer the Argos store card.
After some tooing and froing between Argos, Santander and myself and some investigation on my part, they admitted the mistake, they reimbersed my money and a little extra for my trouble.

As I'm retired, I had the time to carry out this investigation and I quite enjoyed it!

Sad, I can hear you saying but at my time of life every little bit of excitement keeps my brain active.
Harry Charlton
P.S. I don't work for Santander and never have

Worst customer service and treat their employees like cxxp - no thanks..

Having never refused a job. Once I learnt I had an interview with Santander, I did some digging and it all came back very negative !!

Look at comments on the internet and STAY AWAY

couldn't agree more about santander. I had no problem with alliance over many years but after a traumatic period last year with santander i have closed my accounts.

i have been a abbey national customer for years, but santander are diabolical, the service is rubbish. for five months i have been trying to change my isa, that they should have changed last year, they push you from customer service advisor to the man on the free phone back to the customer service advisor. i am fast losing my patience. They are not the only bank in the world.

Impossible to even get an appointment with Santander- so moving all my money from them next week

After being missold PPI by RSB and a year- long fight to get my money back, I would hate to think it would get worse but it look like it!

My wife and I applied for our cash ISAs to be trasferred from Santander to Nationwide back in March. We are still waiting! At one point we were told in writing that a cheque from Santander had been 'presented' to Nationwide for my wife's money and therefore she should take up the issue with Nationwide. Santander had in fact taken the money and closed her account, only for us to discover that the cheque they said had gone to Nationwide had been repaid into her Santander Account!

What should take ten days is still outstanding after more than two months.

juat today I got a letter from Santander telling me that all my details from my current account including my sort code, account number and all my transactions and everything apart from my address had been given to another customer due to a mistake by Santander in January. It is now June. What took so long to tell me I was a victim of their incompetence. I just hate them but they do have some good rates. Their service is rubbish. fran

I tried to get my current account uprated to a fee paying account October 2010 but was told that I would have to personally make the change, close the account, cancel my direct debits and standing orders etc. and personally open a new account. I wrote to Santander complaining that I should be able to switch using their switching service but despite several phone calls I got no sense out of them and no reply to my letter. I decided to simply move the account and investments. I looked round and would have moved to RBS until the woman in the Liverpool branch said that Santander would be taking over in 18months to 2 years! I decided that Coop Bank suited me best and moved to them. No trouble, helpful staff, fine online and on phone. Good benefits for the monthly subscription which I actually wanted to pay Santander (road side assistance, travel insurance, airport lounge plus other benefits). I am happy with Cooperative Bank

Whilst it is truethat branch service at Santander is very poor, my experience has been that it has mainly been the cashiers who are at fault for slow service and general ignorance of their employer's products.

The specialist staff, who are better trained are very helpful and Moneywise has Santander's products, particularly the savings, always in the top three!

I have had shoddy service I constantly receive debt collectors letters threatening to ruin my credit ratings take me to court for non existing store card debt.

I invested a five-figure sum with Allied and Leicester about the time of the takeover. After repeated errors, numerous encounters with Santanders incompetent call centres and general frustration at their appalling service, I have just closed the account. There is only one good thing to say about them - the cheques I received 'buying-off' my threatened formal complaints have increased the return on my capital substantially. But it still wasn't worth the hassle!

Have 2 accounts with Santander - asked them for the 975 tax certificates to complete tax returns for 2010/11.

For one account they sent the 975 for this tax year and for the other account a 975 for the 2009/10 year with only a tiny date line to identify the difference.
Will certainly move from Santander when these bonds mature.

Went there this week to apply for an ISA and the guy selling it was terrible at maths. He told me that at £50 a month I would pay a total of £300 into my account within a year... Excuse me? Doesn't a year have 12 months?!!
So after telling him it would be £600, he calculated that at 3.3% I would earn £19.80 in interest... Yes, if I pay in the sum in full on the first of the new tax year. However if I make monthly instalments of £50, I only earn £9.90. And since the tax year only has 10 months left, it is even less...
I still got this ISA though, it was the best available for my purposes.

I had a Bradford & Bingley account which first changed to Abbey. This caused some problems as Santander kept changing their computer systems which was just as frustrating for the staff at our local branches. However you do expect teething problems when something changes. The staff have had to put up with then changing to Santander with more computer gliches. Our local branches still have the same friendly staff who worked for Bradford & Bingley.
I now have a Santander current account which is much more useful than the Bradford & Bingley passbook.

A nice young man at their help line helped me set up my internet banking. They are working all the time at updating their on line security. There have been issues but the staff have always been helpful to me. No, I do not work for them, before you ask.
I see the positive in most situations and think the British are a nation of moaners. If you can smile in adversity the world would be a happier place.

I opened a tracker bond online and took cheque in to branch on the day before Good Friday. Cashier had problems finding where to allocate payment - after lengthy discussions with coleague, accepted the cheque and told me it would be on my account the same day. It cleared my bank account after the Easter weekend but did not go to my Santander bond until about 5 May! I had several anxious comnversations with Santander trying to track down the large sum of money I had deposited - was eventually (after about 4 x 30 minute calls at my expense) was told the delay was due to all the bank holidays! Why, in this day of electronic communication does it take so long when faster payment takes 2 hours. As compensation, the last, admittedly helpful person I spoke to asked me if I liked chocolate - I replied that I don't and I subsequently received a box of Thorntons Chocolates as compensation - I donated it to a charity raffle! The poor customer service from Santander means that I will think seriously if the apparent better investments outweigh the terrible service.

Yes I agree, the queues are ridiculous and transactions prolonged, staff like automatoms.

I had terrible trouble closing my account with Sandander last Wednesday (1st June) . It took 2 hours, threats of taking my problems to the press and real determination to resolve the problem in the branch on the same day .Our problems cover access to the saving account, the current account and closure of the account, as well.

i got transferred to them from abbey and was regularly utterly unable to get through on the telephone, they even refused to let me close my own account!!!! they were awful: whatever money they offer to entice new customers it will not be worth it in the stress you will go through....

i got transferred to them from abbey and was regularly utterly unable to get through on the telephone, they even refused to let me close my own account!!!! they were awful: whatever money they offer to entice new customers it will not be worth it in the stress you will go through....

Sorry the damage has been done ~ I will avoid dealing with any product under the Santander brand in future. You cannot treat your customers in such a disgraceful way and be so ambivalent when your failings are pointed out. This organisation does not deserve anyone’s custom

Have had endless problems trying to close a former A&L online account, taken over by Santander. As there was no way to close it online, I wrote requesting this. They ignored my letter so I phoned. The girl on the helpline was obviously TRYING to be helpful but clearly had no idea of what to do and had an incomprehensible accent. She said she would close the account and this would take 7-10 working days (on top of several weeks delay already experienced). She said she would "tux" me (whatever that is!) when the closure was complete. Nothing, tuxxing or otherwise, happened for several weeks then I got a letter, saying they were so sorry I had said I wanted to close my acount. I had to sign and return the letter within 30 days or they would assume I had changed my mind and keep the account open. Just how paternalistic is this?! They seem to go out of their way to be awkward if you want to withdraw your money at the end of a bonus period.

My experience with Abbey for 20 years was good but recently Santander have managed to 'lose' one cash ISA account that I was trying to transfer to another provider and then transferred a different cash ISA account that I not asked to be moved. After several more phone calls their complaints team has now promised to sort out the shambles by 10th June. I am not that confident that they will after 8 weeks of hopeless performance. Next stop is the press and anyone else I can find to listen to my tale of woe.

Customer service is not the main priority hence Santander are so popular. I will put up with a potential problem (minute probablity when you consider all the transactions & communications they are involved in) for a fantastic savings rate. To go elsewhere if cutting off your nose in spite of your face!

I have been trying to set up 3 kid's savings account over the phone for 2 months now. I have been passed from pillar to post, every advisor tells me a different story, they don't return your calls, no one can give you answers. I have a pile of paper work that they have sent me, for everything but the set up of their accounts. I now give in. They are totally diabolical!

I swithched to a A&L account lured by the £100 cash offer for switching. Frankly, it wasnt worth the £100. They took 3 months to swittch over all my direct debits even though they had been given 6 weeks notice of the change; they failed to pay 3 of them (including my mortgage) for the first month & I only found out because the companies concerned rang me up to find out why I hadn't paid. They all kindly waived penalties, Then A&L/Santander wrote to me saying I didn't qualify for the £100 as I hadn't used their direct debit switching service! I had to argue my case & they did eventually give me the money. The final straw was when they tried to charge me £85 for accidentally going £14 overdrawn for a few days. On protesting this they immediately dropped a large part of the charge - which reinforced my idea that they are trying it on and hope you will be too weak to protest. I switched to another bank, who managed to switch all my DDs in only a few days, with no mistakes, but Santander did not release the full amount of money in my account when it was switched and never sent a final statement so I could not check it - I wrote it off to experience

I wasn't aware that I am a Santander customer until last week when I received a statement from them. Seems they took over my AA fixed rate bond sometime during the last 18 months or so, and didn't bother to tell me.

The statement reveals that they are paying just under the fixed rate agreed with the AA, so they're in breach of contract.

They have credited the last 12 months' interest to the bond, but I have to find out if they'll pay interest on the full increased balance.

I was told on the phone that a small amount of interest was paid in October 2009 and credited to my (other) bank current account - it wasn't.

Since I was not notified of the interest payment, I under-declared income on my tax return.

I now need to spend (probably a great amount of) time to sort the situation out. I chose an AA bond after researching and checking the banking group that they were part of, to ensure I didn't exceed the £50,000 deposit limit. What a waste of time that was, if another bank can come along and transfer my money without my permission, or even knowledge!!

I have recently opened my first Santander account, and the security process has been an absolute dogs dinner - the saga currently stands at two months and counting, and I am no nearer to getting either phone banking or internet banking set up.

Extremely frustrating and time consuming, their system is a total mess, customer service folk friendly enough but frankly seem lost at sea, and unable to deal with a deeply flawed system.

Worse still is the worry that - since I am repeatedly only receiving half the information I should - is my other security information being sent to someone else?

To anyone thinking of taking out an account with Santander I'd honestly say, go elsewhere. You may think a marginally higher interest rate might be worth the hassle, stress, and time subtracted from your life. Believe me, it's not. Dodge the bullet.

I have recently opened my first Santander account, and the security process has been an absolute dogs dinner - the saga currently stands at two months and counting, and I am no nearer to getting either phone banking or internet banking set up.

Extremely frustrating and time consuming, their system is a total mess, customer service folk friendly enough but frankly seem lost at sea, and unable to deal with a deeply flawed system.

Worse still is the worry that - since I am repeatedly only receiving half the information I should - is my other security information being sent to someone else?

To anyone thinking of taking out an account with Santander I'd honestly say, go elsewhere. You may think the marginally higher interest rate might be worth the hassle, stress, and time subtracted from your life. Believe me, it's not. Dodge the bullet.

I have today sent letters to three Santander Directers, but would be interested to have the name of the CEO based in the UK. Many thanks

Am I the only person who can stand up and say they've nothing to complain about with Santander? I've had numerous accounts with them to get the 5% interest on a £2.5k balance. I can honestly say I've never had a problem with any of the accounts including my old A&L and B&B ones. All set up and dealt with online. My only gripe is their absurdly low Faster Payments (out) limit of £300 which has slowed down movement of funds.

Here is another way to earn some income
Phil. Have a look at this.

All the best,

I actually DO work as a cashier in a santander branch and have read many on line comments from customers who have had bad experiences. Indeed I deal with a few (not many) on a weekly basis.
All I want to get across is the importance of not "having a go" at us on the frontline.
We are seriously overworked and underpaid (put the violins away........for now!) We are heavily targetted for sales and customer satisfaction, have many pressures from an audit point of view , paperwork to complete that you cant imagine , IT systems that are complex illogical and very long winded at times. Certain depts at Head Office that are not contactable by phone or fax. We are governed by an awful lot of Buerocracy and are given no credit for having common sense.
I actually recieved a written warning for helping a very disabled customer after suggesting he have his carer added to his account both customers very well known to all branch staff all relevant ID was present the paperwork properly completed and the customer very satisfied !!!! - My point to anyone who is angry, frustrated or upset or whatever, DONT TAKE IT OUT ON US . SERIOUSLY WE DONT NEED THAT AGGRO ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE. Be calm, politely request that your problem is resolved and we are a lot more helpful. DEMANDING TO BE DEALT WITH RIGHT NOW only puts our backs up and usually makes you look silly in front of the que.

The comment from the member of staff above is poor.

In April 2011 I called into our local Santander about our ISA being transferred . Waited half an hour in the queue, listened to discussions about other customers private investment details over the counter with no privacy.

This month we called in to withdraw our isa funds, £3700, we were told the funds were not available and to call back in 3 days. We protested and were told to call back the following day. We did this only to be told we would need to call back to collect the remaining money after the interest had been calculated in 20 minutes.

Service! relieved the investment is out of Santander.

As an ex employee of Santander, I can understand why there are so many complaints about poor customer service. This is unfortunately due to the banks policy of working with a skeleton staff, with some of the poor employees working well into the evening after the bank has shut just to catch up on the days work. Typical banks, all about maximising profits!

I have no complaints at all about Santander. I've never had a problem and the staff always seem knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. OK sometimes the queue for a teller is slow but most of my dealings are on-line or via ATM. Far better than RBS!

I have banked with Santander and previously Alliance and Leicester for way over 30 years. I now do all my banking online and it works just fine. Never any problems at all.