Digital challengers Monzo and Starling Bank come top in official research conducted by Ipsos, with Starling edging ahead on mobile services.
Metro Bank offers an excellent in-branch experience according to that data, while first direct are a customer service champion according to the UK Customer Service Index.
Bigger names seem to struggle in the official rankings, something backed up by high levels of anecdotal complaints on review sites.
Which bank offers the best service?
Regular research carried out on behalf of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) by Ipsos looks at what customers think of the service they receive from their bank twice a year.
The February 2022 research looked at:
- Overall service quality
- Online and mobile banking services
- Services in branches
Along with these three elements, Ipsos looks at overdraft services. We won't cover those in depth here, but the full report can be accessed on the Ipsos website.
Note: While Tesco Bank is included in the February 2022 research, we don't include them in the data below as they closed all their current accounts at the end of November 2021.
Overall service quality
Two banks were ranked as joint winners in the category looking at overall service quality: digital challengers Monzo and Starling Bank.
Customers were asked how likely they would be to recommend their personal current account provider to family and friends.
Here's how banks ranked for overall service quality in February 2022:
|1 =||Starling Bank||81%|
|7 =||Lloyds Bank||62%|
|9||Bank of Scotland||60%|
|13||The Co-operative Bank||52%|
|14 =||Virgin Money||49%|
|16||Royal Bank of Scotland||48%|
So, Monzo and Starling (both mobile only banks) come top for overall satisfaction, with HBSC's phone and digital only subsidiary first direct performing much better than their parent company.
In addition, three quarters of Metro Bank customers were also likely to recommend their bank to friends and family - more on them below.
Several of the UK's big names in banking find themselves in the bottom half of the table such as NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), both part of the NatWest Group.
Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, all part of the Lloyds Banking Group, take spots around the centre of the table, suggesting service is fairly consistent across those brands.
There are some surprising names lower down the table, however.
The Co-operative Bank who tout themselves as one of the most ethical banks but customers seem unimpressed with their services and only 52% would recommend them.
Virgin Money, who were acquired by CYBG before all previous Clydesdale and Yorkshire branches were rebranded to Virgin, come in second to last.
Online and mobile
Starling Bank, Monzo and first direct are the top three when it comes to online and mobile banking services.
Once more, customers were asked how likely they were to recommend their bank to their friends and family, this time based on their online and mobile banking services:
|5 =||Metro Bank||78%|
|7 =||Bank of Scotland||77%|
|7 =||Lloyds Bank||77%|
|13||Royal Bank of Scotland||68%|
|14 =||Virgin Money||61%|
|16||The Co-operative Bank||60%|
Starling edged out in front of Monzo on this metric, although there was little in it and the two digital challengers unsurprisingly lead the pack when it comes to digital services.
11 out of the 16 banks covered in the research have a score above 70%, suggesting most banks are providing good online and mobile banking to their customers.
At the other end of the table, we again find Virgin Money second to last, with The Co-operative Bank taking the bottom spot on this occasion. Once more, TSB ranks among the poorest.
The best bank for in-branch service was Metro Bank.
81% of their customers would recommend them to their family and friends based on this metric, 9% more than their closest rival.
Since they opened their first store in 2010, Metro has made a virtue of their convenience and they're open on evenings and weekends (including Sundays).
They're also the only bank to be opening stores rather than closing them, bucking the trend of other banks closing branches in regular waves.
Here are the full rankings for banks and their service in branches:
|5 =||Bank of Scotland||66%|
|9||The Co-operative Bank||62%|
|13||Royal Bank of Scotland||56%|
Note: first direct, Monzo and Starling do not operate a branch network, although some banking services are available via the Post Office network.
Interestingly, there's no direct correlation between branch closures and customers perceiving their bank as offering a poor in-branch service. For example, all three Lloyds Banking Group brands rank in the top half of the table, despite closing more than 1,500 branches in the last 15 years.
Royal Bank of Scotland and TSB customers are least likely to recommend the in-branch services of their bank.
UK Customer Service Index
The UK Customer Service Index (UKCSI) is published twice a year and looks at the biggest brands across the UK and how they rank for customer service.
There is a category for Bank & Building Societies containing 20 organisations, with the sector improving as a whole by 1.9 points over to the year to January 2022.
Drilling down into the data, we find that:
- first direct is the highest ranking of all banks with a score of 85.7 and that score puts them second out of the 273 brands included in the UKCSI (just behind Pets at Home)
- first direct were also ranked in the top 10 for Experience, Customer Ethos, Emotional Connection and Ethics
- Yorkshire Bank (now Virgin Money) ranked in the top 10 for Customer Ethos
- The Co-operative Bank ranked in the top 10 for Emotional Connection
- The other banks and building societies in the top 50 of all brands were Nationwide and The Co-operative Bank (joint 22nd), Yorkshire Bank (27th), Metro Bank (35th) and NatWest (40th)
- Yorkshire Bank were one of the 20 most improved organisations over the previous year
It's interesting that The Co-operative Bank, Virgin Money and NatWest make this list considering their lacklustre performance in the Ipsos data. However, it demonstrates the importance of checking multiple sources and seeing how different types of research comes up with different results.
UKCSI also looked at whether customer satisfaction matched up to current account gains and losses, checking whether customers were turning away from organisations with lower scores. This data was based on the July 2021 report - i.e., once the current account switching data was available.
Banks and building societies with a score at least one point above the average saw net quarterly gains of 3,628 while those with a score at least one point below the average saw net losses of 4,419.
This does seem to suggest there's a link in some cases, although it's worth pointing out that NatWest and Barclays posted slightly above average scores and still lost thousands of customers.
One final point on the UKCSI data: customers in the Banks & Building Societies sector were slightly more likely to choose an organisation due to their focus on customer service (21.9% compared to the 20% average across all sectors).
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) publishes bi-annual data on the number of complaints received by major institutions.
These figures don't just refer to current accounts with credit also covered in the same category. So, they should be taken as a guide only.
Here are the figures for H2 2021:
|Bank||Complaints per 1,000 accounts|
|HSBC UK (inc. first direct)||5.91|
|The Co-operative Bank||4.13|
|Lloyds Banking Group (inc. Halifax)||3.1|
|Royal Bank of Scotland||2.49|
|Bank of Scotland||2.04|
There is a major difference between the challengers here: Starling has very low rates of complaints while Monzo is one of the most complained about banks - as far as FCA figures are concerned.
We can also look at the cases passed on to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
The table below is ordered by the percentage of complaints upheld by the Ombudsman and then lists the number of new banking/credit cases referred during H2 2021:
|Bank||% upheld||Number of new cases|
|HSBC UK (inc. first direct)||36%||4,144|
|Royal Bank of Scotland||34%||774|
|The Co-operative Bank||33%||431|
|Lloyds Banking Group (inc. Halifax)||20%||4,365|
|Bank of Scotland||18%||3,145|
As we can see, the lesser-known banks have greater rates of upheld complaints, even though far fewer complaints are being referred to the FOS overall because of their size.
Of the bigger names, NatWest has the highest rate of upheld complaints while Bank of Scotland (part of the Lloyds Banking Group) has the lowest.
There's been plenty of debate in the past over whether complaint figures are a good indicator of performance, yet we've seen huge fines for major banks in relation to complaints handling failures
NatWest and RBS were fined £2.8 million in 2011 for persistent complaints handling failures while Clydesdale Bank (now Virgin Money) were fined more than £20 million following failures in their Payment Protection Insurance PPI complaints process.
However, the FOS only upheld 4% of complaints about packaged bank accounts in Q3 2021/22, despite them being the fifth most complained about financial product.
The FOS highlight the fact that consumers are complaining because they are not using the benefits included in a packaged account such as travel insurance or mobile phone cover, but this doesn't necessarily mean the policy was mis-sold.
So, we do need to be cautious when looking at complaint figures, and it's much more instructive to look at the number upheld rather than the total number of complaints received.
Other bank customer service information
There are two other sources that can help us understand how good other customers think their bank is:
- YouGov's brand rankings
- Trustpilot's ratings
Let's take a quick look at these two.
Survey website YouGov publishes quarterly updates on consumer brand perception with banks and other financial entities ranked by popularity.
Here are UK banks in the Q1 2022 figures:
|Bank||YouGov Q1 2022|
|Royal Bank of Scotland||35%|
|Bank of Scotland||33%|
It's surprising that the banks who have dominated other tables are the bottom of this one, but YouGov is a more general audience and the brand recognition (and therefore, perhaps, the popularity) of more established brands may win out here.
For example, only 57% of respondents had heard of Monzo while Santander had 99% name recognition.
One further way to understand how customers are experiencing service from their banks is to check their ratings on Trustpilot.
These should be taken with a dose of caution since review sites attract customers who are either disgruntled or delighted, but the reviews themselves can show patterns of behaviour.
Here are the banks ranked from best to worst on Trustpilot:
|Bank||TrustScore (out of 5)||% Excellent||% Bad|
|Bank of Scotland||1.6||14%||78%|
|Royal Bank of Scotland||1.5||6%||81%|
|The Co-operative Bank||1.3||10%||79%|
Many banks including Halifax and Lloyds haven't claimed their profiles on Trustpilot and don't respond to negative reviews. There are also multiple profiles for some banks because of name and URL changes such as TSB separating from Lloyds. Some banks also have far fewer reviews than others.
The ones that tend to perform well on Trustpilot are the digital banks and others who engage with reviewers and solicit reviews like TSB. Many traditional banks just don't seem to bother.
Does bank customer service matter?
The level of customer service offered by banks and building societies can make a difference to our everyday lives, making things simpler and allowing us to carry out our everyday banking activities without issue.
With all this data around, it's easier to decide to switch your current account to a bank providing superior service, something the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have been urging us to do for years.
Customer service and the associated data can help us pick a current account that matches our needs because they link into some important questions:
- Do I have access to a bank branch if I need it?
- How good (and safe) is the mobile banking experience?
- Can I speak to them on the phone easily?
- Do they offer extra services such as in-branch advisers and are those easy to access?
Banks are finding ways of differentiating themselves from each other, not only by promising to retain branches and promoting themselves as a purely digital option in the way Monzo and Starling do.
Over the years, we've seen banks push to be the first at various things such as Metro Bank's decision to allow mortgage customers to rent via Airbnb without prior consent and Barclays becoming the first bank to provide in-branch support for deaf customers in 2015 with the launch of their SignVideo service.
Bank customer service is generally something we only think about if something goes wrong as the number of negative Trustpilot reviews on the pages of the big banks demonstrates.
Even so, it's worth taking a few minutes to check whether a bank's service and processes are working for us now - just in case something goes wrong later.
Summary: Which bank has the best customer service?
Digital challengers and smaller banks are leading the way when it comes to customer service and the customer experience.
The data shows:
- Monzo and Starling Bank are the best for overall service
- Starling Bank is best for mobile banking, closely followed by Monzo
- Metro Bank is ahead of the pack when it comes to in-branch services
- first direct is top when it comes to the UK Customer Service Index, coming second from over 270 major brands
- Monzo, Starling Bank and first direct also have great reputations on Trustpilot
However, there are also areas where the more established names are triumphing, such as Nationwide's popularity level with YouGov respondents and the low number of upheld FOS complaints levelled against Bank of Scotland.
For many of us, choosing a new bank account will be based on multiple factors, including which banking group the institution is part of, but know what other customers think of a bank can be a crucial component too.