The best and worst cash ISA providers for customer service

Their tax-free status coupled with some fairly decent interest rates means that cash ISAs should be a first stop for every saver with up to £5,340, the annual limit for 2011/2012) to tuck away.


This year's winner is NS&I, one of the UK's largest savings organisations with more than 26 million customers. In spite of all these customers, it didn't even make the shortlist in 2010 so its arrival at the top spot this year is an even more significant achievement.

Customers put it down to a number of factors. Customer service is strong, with praise given to the friendly and efficient call centre staff. Another part of the package that customers particularly appreciate is the information NS&I gives to customers, with several saying the website and literature are the clearest and most comprehensive on the market.

NS&I customers also like the organisation's HM Revenue & Customs backing. This means all its products offer 100% security. "You know your money can be trusted with it," said one customer.


A super-complaint by Consumer Focus last year has shaken up the cash ISA market, forcing providers to complete ISA transfers within 15 rather than 23 days. While this is good news for customers of ISA providers that were dragging out the process, some cash ISA customers have always felt well looked after by their providers.

"Exceptional service," said one customer of this year's winner First Direct. Another said it was easy to access and manage the account online. The ease of making transfers was also highly praised, with customers saying they were happy with the length of time it took to get their money either to, or from, First Direct. "The transfer of two old ISAs to First Direct was very quick and easy to arrange," said one happy customer.

For more read: Four steps to the perfect ISA


With bonuses and short-term deals making it ever important to keep an eye on the interest rate you're getting on your cash ISA, many savers look for a cash ISA provider that offers consistently good rates. This year, customers recognised Leeds Building Society as the best cash ISA provider in this area.

The building society runs a range of different cash ISAs, including simple instant and online ISAs offering maximum flexibility, to a variety of fixed-rate and tracker ISA offering higher interest rates for the additional commitment.

As well as flagging up the keen rates, customers said they particularly liked the personal service, with one saying: "I've been a customer for many years. No problems at all with Leeds Building Society."   


Santander slips to the bottom in this category with customers complaining about the service they receive in branches as well as online. "Service is consistently extremely poor and unreliable, even non-existent in some cases," said one of Santander's cash ISA customers.

Another complained they had to wait over an hour to be seen in a branch, even though there were only a couple of people in the queue.

Botched applications were a common complaint for cash ISAs too, with customers complaining they'd had the wrong ISA opened; their account details were incorrect; or they had to complete the paperwork several times.

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I wanted to invest a measerly £30,000 with Santander in Woking Surrey.After making an appointment a week in advance I was ignored in their reception for more than 30 minutes even though the person I was to see was walking abround and only after complaining bitterly did someone finally deign to talk down to me about what sort of investment they had to offer. In the end the individual was so rude and offhand I picked up my papers and walked out. I am now looking for a good home for my money (closing ALL my SANTANDER Accounts so is my husband) where it and I am appreciated and treated respectfully.

I certainly concur with Santander being the worst. I applied to transfer my ISA from A&L to Santander in August 2010. After repeatedly requesting confirmation that the account had been transferred, I was eventually told in October that the transfer could not be done over the phone and I would need to complete documentation. This I did and returned immediately. 11 months on, I am still waiting for paperwork confirming the account is opened, interest rate, cash card etc. In fact I have received nothing from them. I have taken this up with the Financial Ombudsman and Santander are ignoring his request for further information. If they ignore the Financial Authorities, what hope for the customers!

Well, the Leeds used to be reasonable, especially for on-going ISAa, but this year the offerings are pretty poor (they have fallen into the trap of offering better rates for new money). So my money is going to be moving elsewhere when the current 1 yesr fixed rate deals mature.

I see that the "Santander-bashing" crowd is here again... and yet, Santander have a huge inherited Customer base & although some people are leaving, more (like me) are joining.
Ultimately, I can put up with not best-in-class service. What I value are good rates & an above average return. I get this with Santander.
But I would leave them immediately their interest rates were not competitive.

guest.. the first time you need to complain.. you'll leave

You should all transfer to Santander in Barnstaple. I have been with them many years and I have had nothing but the very best treatment, everyone is so friendly and they cannot do enough to help.