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We've had our main current and savings accounts with Abbey National for many years now. Initially there was a small branch within a few minutes' walk from our home, but unfortunately that closed down, and while most transactions happen automatically, it was a bit of a nuisance having to drive four or five miles to an Abbey branch if we needed to do anything out of the ordinary. Telephone banking was all very well in theory, but any time we tried to use the service we would be put 'on hold' for an unknown amount of time, and often gave up before reaching the relevant person to speak to (although on the rare occasions we did reach someone, they were extremely helpful).
So we were delighted with the introduction of Abbey National online banking. We were already somewhat used to secure online transactions, and while I had initial reservations about having our entire bank account online, their promises of security were sufficiently reassuring to encourage us to sign up. This proved to be simple: we spoke to someone at the branch, and they arranged for our accounts to become available online, connected to my debit card.
We were then sent a code word and a numeric password, in two separate registered envelopes, a few days apart. In order to set the system up on the computer, I had to type in the number on my card, then the two codes I had been sent, and some other information they had asked for. I was told to change the pass codes immediately, and found that easy to do by following the on-screen instructions.
I have never regretted this move. I can now check our latest account details, move money between accounts, or even pay bills without ever leaving the computer.
* Site appearance and navigation *
Although for some time there was a rather annoying opening 'flash' screen, the site was redesigned in a more straightforward fashion about a year ago, and now looks fairly friendly and well-organised. There are usually a couple of banners in the middle advertising the Abbey National's latest rates, or preferred bank accounts; there are also links to information about insurance, young people's accounts, loans, and other facilities offered by the bank.
* Accessing the accounts * There's a link on the home page to 'e-banking log on'. Clicking this opens up a page at their secure site, where the debit card number and the two pass-codes have to be entered in full. When this is done correctly, a further screen opens giving the various options: transferring money, seeing balances, checking recent transactions, and so on, for all accounts that are registered with the debit card. These links are clearly marked and simple to follow.
* Checking the account details * I most often log on to check the state of the bank accounts. Although I do keep an up-to-date record myself, as far as possible, it's useful to know exactly when direct debit payments are taken, and when debit card transactions and cheques have been accounted for. When selecting this option, I'm given a drop-down menu of the three accounts I have connected to the debit card, with the default being the current account. There's a printable list of the last month's transactions with the most recent at the top; it's very easy for comparing with other records.
* Transferring money * The only 'action' that can be taken is transferring money, either between accounts which are already linked via the debit card (and thus available to view) or to another account which has to have been set up separately and authorised, for instance to pay a regular bill such as a rent payment. So in the unlikely scenario that somebody managed to hack into my account, they would not be able to get hold of any money from it.
* Help and support * There is an email address for any problems which occur: this can be useful if there are site problems (as there were occasionally when it was first operational) but can't be used for dealing with financial queries. Since email addresses are not secure, they will only deal with account questions in person, or on the phone. I thought this was a bit of a nuisance at first, but then again I'd rather know that my bank account is safe. Too much security is preferable to too little, in my personal view.
* Conclusion * We've been extremely pleased with the speed and efficiency of the service in general. Being able to transfer money instantly between accounts means that it's possible to keep money in a higher-interest savings account until the day when it's needed in the current account, and then transfer it without going into overdraft. With low interest rates these days it probably only makes a penny or two difference, if that, but is still quite satisfying.
So far we have not discovered any errors in the accounting, and have not experienced any problems with this system other than some initial difficulties getting through, which were partly due to its unexpected popularity. All in all this is well-planned system that works as we wanted it to.