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It had never been my intention to have a bank account with Barclays. Back in the early 1980s when I found myself south of the border as a student and looking for a bank account to deposit my grant cheque Barclays was the subject of an NUS boycott due to their links to South Africa. Being a right on type of gal, I opted for the Midland Bank instead.
When my husband and I needed a mortgage to buy our property in Edinburgh in 2006, we chose the Woolwich, which had recently been bought out by Barclays. As part of the mortgage we had to open a joint bank account which actually comprised of a mortgage loan account, savings account and current account. As it was an offset mortgage, the more we had in the savings meant the less we paid in interest on the mortgage. Not long after we got the mortgage and opened the account, all the Woolwich branches were rebranded as Barclays Bank and all our banking switched to Barclays.
I have had some mixed experiences as a customer since then - some good, some downright awful.
What Barclays Offer
Barclays is a large high street banking chain and as such they offer a full range of financial products such as current accounts, savings accounts, ISAs, loans, credit cards and pensions as well as full business banking.
There’s a huge range of accounts on offer, including fee based “reward” current accounts and savings accounts which are internet based. The website details what is available.
As already stated when we opened our account with Barclays it was linked to our mortgage. It was a little used account however - we used it purely for savings to keep the mortgage interest down and only used the current account for paying the mortgage and some bills.
The current account had an overdraft limit of over £70,000 which I well remember my husband laughing about and joking that if things ever got bad he’d use that the abscond the country. The overdraft was so high because there was a large amount of equity in the house and it was, in effect, a way of withdrawing equity from your home without much in the way of red tape. I can’t imagine such an account would be offered in these post credit crunch times, but things were very different in 2006.
After I sold the house in 2010 I opened an Instant Access Savings account with Barclays as the savings account linked to the mortgage wasn’t offering such a good interest rate but I needed an account with easy access for buying my next home. So at the present time I have a savings account and a current account which has a small overdraft limit of £100 on it. I have a Visa debit card for the current account and a cash card for the savings account.
Barclays internet banking uses the PIN Sentry system which I have to say I really like. In addition to having an online user ID, instead of using passwords you use a card reader to access your online banking using your debit card.
You need to insert your PIN with the card in the reader and this will give you a unique pass code to enable you to sign in.
You can link all your Barclays accounts on internet banking and I find it quick and easy to set up bill payments on their interface. I also like how PIN Sentry is used as an additional layer of security not just for entering the site but also for setting up new bill payments.
Before my husband died I rarely used my Barclays current account. I had a debit card and PIN but it was my husband who dealt with finances in our marriage and I had my own account at another bank that I used for bills and my husband gave me money for family shopping.
After he died things changed and I found myself on a very steep learning curve. For the first year I was able to pay just the interest on the mortgage, which was a great relief as legal issues meant I quickly realised I wasn’t going to be able to sell the house straight away. As a housewife and with a very limited income, the overdraft my husband had laughed about so much eventually became my lifeline.
Barclays were very sympathetic on the mortgage side of things. I had a mortgage advisor at their branch in George Street in Edinburgh who was just brilliant. She was very proactive and told me to call whenever I had problems and felt it was too difficult in my bereaved state to deal with and she would deal with them on my behalf. She took a copy of my husband’s death certificate at our first meeting and ensured it was passed on to the relevant mortgage department meaning my change in circumstances was noted quickly and all paperwork was transferred solely to my name.
Even when, after the first year when they had to revert to full repayments on the mortgage it was handled sensitively and I have nothing but praise for them in getting me through two and a half years until I sold the house without missing a mortgage payment. It was because of this I decided to deposit the vast majority of the money from the sale of the house into Barclays in what I now wonder was an act of misplaced loyalty.
The banking side was sadly something else altogether. A couple of weeks after my husband’s death I made an appointment at a different Barclays branch in Edinburgh to inform them of his death and present them with a copy of his death certificate. My sister accompanied me because I was obviously quite distressed although I must add that this was the third financial institution I had visited to do this so I knew what to expect.
The experience was absolutely awful however. The staff member I had the appointment with kept me waiting due to a “phone call” - despite me having a designated time at which to meet. After my sister complained she did deign to meet me but what she failed to do that day led to almost three years of misunderstanding and an inability on Barclays’ part to ensure their system was up to date.
She was presented with my husband’s death certificate and as is the way with all financial institutions, she took a certified copy of it, handed it back to me and led me to believe the certificate would be forwarded on to the relevant department and the joint bank account would change to being in my name only.
Except…this didn’t happen. I didn’t know this at the time and I did write to Barclays after this experience to complain about the manner in which she kept me waiting. A few weeks later I received a fulsome apology and a bunch of flowers from Barclays and I assumed that was the end of the matter.
It wasn’t until last year that I realised what she hadn’t done that day. I had just moved house and I received a new debit card for my current account. The next day, another debit card arrived - addressed to my husband. I also noticed that when I logged in to internet banking that the current account still showed in joint names.
It slowly dawned on me that the staff member I had seen back in 2008 had quite clearly completely failed to close my husband’s side of the bank account. The mortgage staff, who were all former Woolwich employees, had been able to deal with this efficiently and effectively, but the banking side had completely failed to act.
I registered a complaint at my local branch of Barclays in South Lanarkshire and was assured that they had actioned it and I would hear from Customer Services in due course. A couple of months passed and I heard nothing. In the meantime a new chequebook arrived and as it was addressed just to me I thought my complaint had finally led to some action. However when I opened the chequebook it contained both names.
Exasperated, I wrote to Customer Services again, asking why the complaint I had made in my local branch hadn’t even been acknowledged in writing and telling them if action wasn’t taken in the next few weeks I was going to close all my accounts and take my business elsewhere. I also enclosed my husband’s death certificate for them which I obviously asked to be returned to me and requested a cheque book in my name only.
I received a response a month later which was wholly unsatisfactory. Basically I was told how I could remove my husband’s name from the internet banking but the letter failed to even acknowledge receipt of the death certificate and nor did they address my request for a cheque book in my name only.
So I had to write to Customer Services yet again and I must admit that I really was at the end of my tether by now. I had decided that if Barclays couldn’t deal with this letter properly then I was going to close every account I had with them and take my money elsewhere.
After three weeks I received a phone call from Barclays which finally enabled me to reach some kind of conclusion. As it came a mere ten days before the third anniversary of my husband’s death it acted as cold comfort but I live in hope that finally Barclays have realised just how badly they have handled my case from start to finish.
I have to say however that even the initial response to the written complaint I made following receipt of the chequebeook was poor because they employ staff to basically paraphrase a complaint for another staff member - and whoever paraphrased cut out most of the complaint. Moreoever, they also managed to lose the death certificate, although after realising just how unhappy I was, this was located at an office 100 miles from the office it should have been at and I have been assured it will be returned to me.
Fulsome and repeated apologies were offered to me but there was no mention of compensation. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be persistent but I have had almost three years of inaction from Barclays so I requested it from the staff member who phoned me. He informed me he would have to speak to a colleague to authorise a figure and he would get back to me.
He was as good as his word and I finally accepted £400 from Barclays which has placated me enough to keep my money in their bank for now, but if a cheque book fails to materialise which is solely in my name I can categorically state I will be taking my business elsewhere.
I appreciate this perhaps isn’t a typical review of a bank. As a consumer bank Barclays’ mortgage side is, in my experience anyway, excellent. They genuinely seem to want to help people stay in their homes and try to do all they can to help customers through difficult times. Although my situation was bad, it wasn’t dire however because of the equity in my home - perhaps people in worse positions will have a different tale to tell.
Even when I have encountered staff in Barclays branches I have always been impressed with them and how friendly and helpful they are, if not so impressed with the long queues I have had to wait in to find this out. Obviously the one notable exception to this is the staff member who I had the appointment with in 2008 to report my husband's death.
Where Barclays lose marks however is in their inability to efficiently process customer complaints and the failure of the personal banking side of their company to sensitively and efficiently deal with the death certificate they were presented with in March 2008.
Anyone who has been bereaved will tell you that receiving correspondence addressed to the loved one you have lost can be a distressing thing. You expect it to happen for a short period immediately after their passing- not over two years later.
I also feel a bit aggrieved that the onus was on me to request compensation - in the circumstances Barclays should have been far more proactive in offering it to me. I wonder how many other customers who have been let down by them don’t ask and therefore don’t get.
I appreciate my experience could happen at any bank - it just takes one or two staff members to slip up I suppose - but the fact is this happened to me at Barclays. Every other bank I had to inform - and there were several - dealt with my husband’s death with sensitivity and ensured I received no further correspondence addressed to him by updating their computer systems swiftly.
If it hadn’t have been for the wonderful service I received from the mortgage side of the company I would have closed the account long ago. I do think it says something about the different attitudes and training of staff who came to Barclays from the Woolwich in comparison to staff who have always worked for Barclays and I would suggest that perhaps Barclays need to look at those differences and take a leaf out of the staff who came to them through their acquisition of the Woolwich. Furthermore I can only hope that they learn from this and no-one else has to go through what I have endured since my husband died.
Sorry to hear about your loss. First time I tried to open an account 4 years ago, they lost my application(?). This was after declining me for a current account and opening a basic account. I managed to open a current account a year later. I've registered one complaint with no reply. Cashier service is slower than any other bank I use so now I rarely use my account. I now mainly use Natwest, Halifax and HSBC.
mattydalton 23.03.2011 20:46
What an awful experience that, quite frankly, has been borne out of people simply not giving a sh*t! It's outrageous that people can be so bloody insensitive and makes my blood boil. I cannot even begin to imagine how you must have felt...
jesi 09.03.2011 13:43
I have only banked with Barclays to receive my pay in the late '70s when it was the only bank near the hospital where I was resident, kept it open when we moved as I had direct debits going through, and closed the account in the early '80s when they wanted to charge me to keep my account open because I was not receiving enough money each month to suit their greed . . . since then I banked at Midland Bank, Lloyds Bank, and TSB, eventually staying with Lloyds (now LloydsTSB) because of the high level of service they offered, accessibility of their branches to me, the respect and trust they placed in me, and the security and convenience of their online banking
. . . ♥ jesi ♥