Challenger banks eclipse high street giants in Which?’s current account survey

Four in 10 current account holders have been with the same bank for more than 20 years, new Which? research reveals, despite challenger banks outperforming traditional high street banks in the consumer champion’s current account survey.

Which? surveyed more than 4,400 members of the public on their opinions of their current account providers, and found that a trio of challenger banks were the most highly rated by customers.

Starling Bank, Monzo, and Triodos topped Which?’s customer score table, with users ranking the brands highly for their customer service and mobile apps.

Starling Bank also received a high enough score in Which?’s product analysis to be named a Which? Recommended Provider (WRP). It is joined by First Direct and Nationwide Building Society.

Four challenger banks achieved high customer scores, but missed out on becoming WRPs by not meeting all of Which?’s criteria: Triodos and Metro Bank got lower-than-average scores in Which?’s own product analysis, while Monzo and Triodos have not signed up to an important industry code for reimbursing scam victims. Revolut also missed out on being a WRP as they are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Many traditional high street banks can be found languishing at the bottom of Which?’s customer satisfaction table, often ranking poorly for service in branches, and getting mediocre scores across all other categories.

The Royal Bank of Scotland finished bottom of the table – meaning it has been one of the three lowest-ranked banks for customer score every year since 2014. HSBC and TSB make up the bottom three.

When Which? asked people what they like about their current accounts, most cited online banking facilities (47%), positive past experiences (34%) and mobile banking facilities (32%).

However, not everyone manages their finances using online banking via a smartphone – one in seven (13%) current account holders never use it and five per cent use it less than once a month.

Of those who never or rarely use mobile banking, half (49%) said it is because they prefer to use online banking via a computer or tablet, around four in 10 (43%) do not feel the need to use it and three in 10 (31%) think it poses too much of a security risk.

Accessibility is also an issue, as one in five (18%) of those who never use mobile banking or use it less often than monthly lack the confidence to use mobile banking technology and 10 per cent have phones that are not suitable for apps.

The proximity of the local branch is something a quarter (27%) of people in Which?’s survey said that they particularly like about their accounts, but banks continue to make drastic cuts: 736 branches shut their doors in 2021, and more than 220 are already scheduled to close in 2022.

If you can manage without branch access, Which?’s research shows you could get better service. Only four of the top 10 banks (Cumberland BS, Metro Bank, Nationwide and The Co-operative Bank) can be found on the high street.

Which? findings also suggest that opting for an ethical provider does not mean compromising on customer service.

Nine in 10 (89%) customers of Triodos, nearly two-thirds (64%) of customers of the Co-operative Bank and six in 10 (61%) of Smile customers said that their provider’s environmental record for ethical values was one of things they particularly like about their account.

As the cost of living soars, it’s more important than ever to get the most out of your current account. While many people are happy to stick with their current account for years, switching means you can benefit from a range of perks on offer – which are not just limited to cash bonuses.

Some accounts pay interest on your balance, others are linked to savings accounts with preferential rates, and some offer cashback on your purchases.

Jenny Ross, Which? Money Editor, said:

“While many current account holders stick with their banks over many years, we found leading challenger banks are ahead of the traditional high street names in terms of customer satisfaction.

“Our research shows a clear gap between the best and worst providers and this should encourage customers unhappy with their service to switch banks, as it’s never been easier.

“With the cost of living soaring, it’s vital to get the most out of your current account. Switching can bring great incentives such as cash bonuses, accounts paying interest on your balance and even cashback on your purchases.”

Notes to editors:

Table

  • Which? surveyed 4,438 members of the public in Great Britain between 16th September – 4th October 2021. Fieldwork was carried out online by YouGov and data has been weighted to be representative of the GB population (18+). Customer score is based on satisfaction with the brand and likelihood to recommend the provider.
  • Which?’s step by step guide to how to switch bank accounts can be found here: https://www.which.co.uk/money/banking/switching-your-bank/how-to-switch-your-bank-account-a3xmb4z4z97t
  • Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
  • The information in this press release is for editorial use by journalists and media outlets only. Any business seeking to reproduce information in this release should contact the Which? Endorsement Scheme team at endorsementscheme@which.co.uk.

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