Revealed: the UK's most trusted financial providers
But one thing remains true: no matter what else changes around us, we value companies that offer outstanding customer service.
The UK's most trusted companies usually take a personal approach, deal with people in a straightforward, open fashion, give people answers when they want them in the way they want them, charge fairly and avoid mistakes. Even if a company makes an error, we value the ones that move heaven and earth to correct them.
We also want companies to reward us if we stick with them through thick and thin by offering us decent rates - especially with it being ever easier for us to switch providers quickly.
To help you find the financial services providers that do all the above and more, Moneywise undertakes the biggest survey of British consumers to find out who your peers really trust with your money.
This year, 30,000 of you voted in our survey - which ran online between New Year's Day and 31 March – and told us what you think of the companies that provide your current account, insurance, credit cards, savings and more.
Here, we reveal who is the most trusted provider in every awards category, as voted for by you.
Most trusted financial provider
Winner: First Direct
Highly commended: Coventry Building Society
First Direct won the big one for the second time in a row, beating Coventry Building Society into second place once again in the process. First Direct has truly reclaimed its crown, having also won the overall Most Trusted award in five of the seven years the awards have been running.
This year, the internet and phone banking subsidiary of HSBC, which sponsors the First Direct Arena in Leeds, hugely impressed voters, who were not shy in praising the firm for the strength of its customer service operation.
For example, one Moneywise reader said: "I've always received excellent customer service, they are efficient and friendly and always advertise good deals. They also stopped a theft from my account before it happened overseas by being vigilant. Great company: I recommend them to everyone."
Another reader wrote: "They empower and encourage their staff to do the best for their customers and they work by offering good products and service rather than gimmicks. They're transparent about what they're doing and explain what changes they're making and why. They are also proactive in looking out for your best interests, even when it is not to their advantage."
Commenting on our runner-up in this category, one of the mutual's customers told us: "It has remained true to building society values. It doesn't change the interest rate using irritating ‘bonus' periods. It doesn't operate to the detriment of loyal customers by trying to attract new customers short term."
Most trusted mainstream bank
Highly commended: NatWest
Following on from its Highly Commended showing at last year's awards, Santander has landed the coveted award of Most Trusted Mainstream Bank this year. The win indicates just what a successful journey the bank has been on since it won our Least Trusted award in 2011.
Santander struggled to adapt to everyday banking after absorbing Abbey National, Bradford & Bingley and Alliance & Leicester five years ago. But a concerted focus on customer service in the past few years has clearly paid off, with voters placing Santander above the other big names on the high street.
It was clear that the strength of Santander's products was also key to its victory. One reader wrote: "They appear to offer the best overall current account with linked Isa and credit card. They appeal to me as they offer good rates of return on my current account, cashback on my credit card and I can't ask for much more in today's financial markets. I trust Santander with my money."
Many voters said they were long-standing customers and had never had a problem with the firm. For example, one wrote: "I was a long-term customer of Abbey National and then Santander. They have always offered me the best deal when I have considered changing mortgage
provider. They provide good customer service."
NatWest won the highly commended award in this category, with many customers commenting favourably about the quality of its staff – both in branch and over the phone. One wrote: "I have banked in many banks and building societies over the years, yet when I go into the NatWest bank in Lincoln the staff know you and ask how you are and how your holiday was if you have just come back. It's old-fashioned service, just what I like."
Most trusted current account provider
Winner: Metro Bank
Highly commended: Coventry Building Society
The current account market has heated up in the past year, not due to particularly competitive rates but due to a number of challenger banks trying to steal market share from high street brands. One long-established challenger is the winner of this year's overall current account award – Metro Bank.
When it launched with four branches in London in 2010, Metro Bank became the first new high street bank in 100 years. Five years later, it has 36 stores across Greater London as well as in areas such as Milton Keynes, Tunbridge Wells, Brighton and St Albans – with more set to open this year and next.
It's clear from the comments voters left, that investing in customer service has paid off for Metro. One customer wrote: "They listen to you and help and advise you. Making money doesn't come across as their primary objective, even if it is. They are open seven days a week and good hours. Staff are always happy, polite and smiling."
Highly commended this year is Coventry Building Society, with readers praising the quality of its products. One wrote: "It has always tried to keep the rates competitive and give good rates to ongoing customers."
Another stated: "They offer the best rates and the most efficient service. They provide all the required documentation without having to be chased and they provide timely information about changes in terms and conditions and make it easy to make changes without compromising security."
Most trusted credit card provider
Winner: First Direct
Highly commended: John Lewis
In a carbon copy of how they finished up last year, First Direct once again scooped the top credit card award – for the third year running. The firm currently offers a 27-month 0% balance transfer card with a fee of 2.29% – one of the lowest fees on the market at the 0% rate.
One person wrote: "They've always been utterly straight with me and I really feel like they're on my side as they've more than once proactively gone out of their way to try to save me money or make my life easier."
Another said: "They're almost always there when I need them, for a new service, to consolidate a loan or for a credit card."
A close second was John Lewis. Every time you spend on the John Lewis Partnership card, you earn points towards John Lewis vouchers. You earn one point for every £1 you spend and every 500 points are worth £5 in John Lewis vouchers.
One reader wrote: "I use my John Lewis credit card for all my purchases during the month, then pay the balance off straightaway. I receive points for all these transactions, which end up as vouchers."
Most trusted mortgage provider
Winner: First Direct
Highly commended: Nationwide Building Society
First Direct has been voted the Most Trusted Mortgage Provider for the seventh year in a row. One Moneywise reader commented: "First Direct informs me when I have savings in the offset mortgage account that were not earning cash. Good service generally when needing credit card allowance increasing."
Another said: "They are very proactive in advising me on the best way to run my offset mortgage. They have also been very responsible in handling queries I have had when re-borrowing.
Indeed, First Direct's offset mortgage was clearly the reason it won this year's award. One reader added: "I've had no problems and cheapest mortgage available, which I can borrow against. Also, any credit in my bank accounts are offset against my mortgage."
Nationwide Building Society was highly commended in this category, with many readers highlighting its consistency. One Moneywise reader wrote: "We have had our mortgage with them for a long time and we always get a good rate." Another simply added: "They have held my mortgage for a number of years with no problems."
Most trusted savings account provider
Winner: Coventry Building Society
Highly commended: First Direct
You've named Coventry Building Society the Most Trusted Savings Account Provider this year – for the second year in a row. Its products might not sit right at the top of the best-buy tables, but customers clearly value the mutual's customer service when it comes to saving with Coventry.
But one reader said its loyalty to customers counted in its favour: "I have used them for years since getting my first mortgage. They always ensure valued customers get good savings rates."
Another loyal customer praised Coventry's status as a mutual: "I have had several savings accounts with them over the years. They always seem to have competitive rates and being a true building society are not-for-profit. They had no issues during the financial crisis."
One more reader wrote the following: "I have saved with Coventry for a long time and always found a good rate for my savings. A reputable place to put my money."
Highly commended in the category was last year's winner, First Direct.
Most trusted personal loan provider
Highly commended: RateSetter
This year's winner makes it six in a row, as peer-to-peer (P2P) specialist Zopa has won this mainstream category every year since 2010. With a rate of 4.4% for a loan of £5,000 over three years, Zopa sits top of the best-buy tables at present.
One customer told us: "Excellent customer service and flexible repayment options to suit me. Also brilliant rates on loans."
It's clear that, according to those who voted, it's not just the competitive rates that are key to Zopa's success but also its service. One wrote: "They inform me of all details and gave me a full explanation of rates on my loan. They spoke to me personally at the start of the loan and I know I can ring them at any time. Also, they don't pester me.
Another wrote: "Having read thoroughly about Zopa before taking out a loan, it seemed a little too good to be true but after speaking to an adviser there and looking at the simple and clear paperwork, it was a no brainer - it had to be Zopa over any local bank."
Highly commended this year is Lending Works - another P2P provider, launched in 2014. One reader said his experience with the platform was highly positive: "The explanation on how they provide financial service was very clear. They replied to my application with promptness and efficiency."
Another wrote: "Customer service is amazing. Constant step-by-step reassurance and a remarkable rapport between customer and lender is built straightaway. I was nervous and unsure but the support they give to me, with patience and time, was amazing. I wouldn't go anywhere else."
Most trusted insurer
Winner: NFU Mutual
Highly commended: LV=
Since we introduced the award last year (to recognise the insurers going above and beyond across all manner of different insurance products), the overall insurance award has become highly coveted. This year, the top two swapped places, with NFU Mutual scooping the top award, having also been named as Most Trusted Home Insurance Provider.
The award is testament to the strength of its products and customer service across its home, car, travel, life and pet insurance offering.
"They have local offices with people I know, trust and can drop in and speak to," one reader wrote. "They are interested in me as a person and have a reputation of never quibbling about claims."
Another customer praised the firm's claims process: "They have really good staff who always do the best they can to help. When we had damage to our home and had to make a claim, NFU Mutual provided an excellent claims service which really made a difference and helped to get us through a very difficult time."
LV= was highly commended in this category and also won the Most Trusted Travel Insurance Provider and Most Trusted Life Insurance Provider categories.
"Liverpool Victoria is one of the longest genuine insurance companies and one of the few you can deal with direct without hurdles," praised one customer. "10 out 10 in every department."
Most Trusted Challenger Bank
Winner: Metro Bank
To recognise the impact of the new wave of banks vying for our custom, this year we have introduced a new award for the Most Trusted Challenger Bank. These new banks are aiming to beat established high street brands on competitiveness of rates but are also seeking to lure away people who are tired of large banks tarnished by financial scandals.
Our inaugural winner is Metro Bank, which also won Best Current Account for Branch Service and the highly prized Most Trusted Current Account. The bank, launched in 2010, was praised for its commitment to customer service. For example, with the exception of New Year's Day, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, Metro Bank is open every day of the year and also opens from 8am to 6pm on Saturdays and 11am to 5pm on Sundays.
Customers were effusive with their praise: "They always put the customer first and open hours to suit the customer," said one. "Friendly staff who do not consider your visit to be an inconvenience."
Another wrote: "Out of all the banks I have had accounts with, Metro has by far been the most customer-friendly, efficient and trustworthy. Issues are dealt with sympathetically and you can be sure you won't be charged extortionate rates for being a few pence over your limit as with all other banks I have dealt with."
Highly commended was M&S Bank, which evolved from M&S money in 2012, when it opened its first branch in London's Marble Arch. It now has 29 branches in M&S stores across the UK and offers a range of competitive current accounts. One reader wrote: "Very reliable and excellent customer service. They make proactive and direct contact if there are any transactions on the credit card that are out of the ordinary to check for potential theft and fraud."
Generally thought of as being interchangeable with life assurance, but isn’t. Life insurance insures you for a specific period of time, at a premium fixed by your age, health and the amount the life is insured for. If you die while the policy is in force, the insurance company pays the claim. However, if you survive to the end of the term or cease paying the premiums, the policy is finished and has no remaining value whatsoever as it only has any value if you have a claim. For this reason, life insurance is much cheaper than life assurance (also called whole of life).
A way of combining a mortgage and savings so the savings “offset” and reduce the mortgage. Rather than earning interest on savings, the savings reduce the mortgage and the interest paid on the borrowing, so savings are effectively earning interest at a higher rate than most mainstream savings accounts will pay. They are also tax-efficient, as savers avoid paying tax on interest that their deposits would otherwise have earned. Offset mortgages offer the disciplined borrower a great deal of flexibility, as overpayments can be made to reduce the term or monthly mortgage repayments, which can save thousands of pounds in interest payments over the mortgage term.
Invidivual Savings Accounts were introduced on 6 April 1999 to replace personal equity plans (PEPs) and tax-exempt special savings accounts (TESSAs) with one plan that covered both stockmarket and savings products, the returns from which are tax-exempt. The ISA is not in itself an investment product. Rather, it’s a tax-free “wrapper” in which you place investments and savings up to a specified annual allowance where the returns (capital growth, dividends, interest) are tax-exempt (you don’t have to declare ISAs and their contents on your tax return). However, any dividends are taxed within the investment, and that can’t be reclaimed.
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.
This is a mutual organisation owned by its members and not by shareholders. These societies offer a range of financial services but have historically concentrated on taking deposits from savers and lending the money to borrowers as mortgages, hence the name. In the mid-1990s many societies “demutualised” and became banks. One academic study (Heffernan, 2003) found demutualised societies’ pricing on deposits and mortgages was more favourable to shareholders than to customers, with the remaining mutual building societies offering consistently better rates. In 1900, there were 2,286 building societies in the UK; in 2011, there are just 51.
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.
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.