What’s the point in good rates if you can’t get the product?

Santander may be the newest name on high street after becoming the new face of Abbey this month but, in my experience, the shiny new façade has not been met with shiny new service – far from it.

In this internet age, with (sometimes) slick money transfers and account openings, it’s not often the computer generation need to step foot in a branch.

But one of Santander’s top-rate deals, its 5% First Home Saver account, is only available in-branch (see the 5% Santander savings loophole MSE News story and Top Savings guide).

Yet good luck to anyone who tries to open one, based on my experience. I’d certainly be interested to know how others, like me, have fared (please discuss).

Funnily enough, while writing this blog, an email came in from a disgruntled MoneySaver told by his Santander branch he needed to be under 30 to open this account when in fact you need to be under 35. Santander clearly has some work to do.

In my case, it’s been two phone calls and three visits to my local Santander and still no account.

On call one I was told the account was not available by phone (despite the bank’s website stating otherwise).

On call two (I’d assumed the agent I first spoke to made an error) I was given the same information.

When it came to light there was an error on the website, I went into my local branch.

On visit one, I was told to make an appointment (after a ten minute wait due to lack of staff).

On visit two, I had the appointment (after waiting half an hour in branch due to staff shortage despite arriving bang on time). I thought the account was opened until I was told I needed to have the initial deposit in cash or as a cheque, rather than being able to transfer it electronically. I was told to come back three days later to pay in a cheque as I didn’t have the cash, or my cob-webbed covered chequebook, on me.

On visit three, today, I went in to pay the cheque (on the arranged day) only to be told the person who had my original forms had locked them in her drawer and was off, while there were not enough staff to start a new application, which only takes five minutes. There’s a theme developing, isn’t there?

Who knows if there will be a visit four, as patience can only run so far.

Compare this with the Natwest branch two doors down, where you can often go in, speak to an adviser immediately and get everything sorted in twenty minutes (see the Best Bank Accounts guide).

Of course, every bank will have its tale of satisfied and unsatisfied customers. It’s often pot luck who you get on the phone or how many staff are off sick.

Yet it’s all very well banks having the best rates and shouting loudly about how wonderful they are. Without access to those deals they are pointless.

Have you attempted to open this account? If so, please feedback your experiences.

Further reading/Key links

Best accounts: Top Savings, Fixed Savings