Written on: 15/05/2012
I am an offshore client of the Co Op bank which I have been with for almost 20 years after dumping Barclays for appalling service and too many charges. I have to say that for 90% of that time I have been extremely happy with them. Some examples of what I mean by good service are: 1. they call me if they notice any movement on my accounts which appears to be suspicious, thus forewarning me of possible fraud. 2. when my credit card details were stolen and almost 4,000 GBP taken by the thieves, the bank applied a temporary reimbursement until the charges had been proven so that I did not at any time lose any money. 3. In all dealings with staff over the phone they are courteous, helpful and usually totally on the customer's side.4. When I had a problem with an overseas transfer that did not go through on time, causing me great stress, as it was for my office rental, they apologised and reimbursed the difference in the exchange rate between the day I had ordered the transfer and the day it finally came through. They also gave me 150 GBP compensation for the delay as a gesture of goodwill.
In terms of banking services, I am also very happy that they do not force me to keep a huge amount of money in my offshore savings account. When I opened an account with HSBC Offshore, thinking I could save on transfers from the UK to my country of residence where I had another HSBC account, I started by having to leave 5,000 GBP in the account as a "goodwill" gesture. Within 12 months they had upped this to 25,000 GBP, so I immediately closed the account. With the Co Operative I only need to leave 1,000 in that account, which is perfectly reasonable.All my credit card bills are paid by automatic switching between my savings and current accounts so I never miss a payment date, and they pay them at the last moment so I don't lose interest either.
I have had no problems at all with online banking or statements, but one thing that is extremely inconvenient for me as an offshore client is that I cannot make overseas transfers online, as I can with other banks. I have to do it by phone, and this is very, very expensive, unless I am in a wifi zone and can use an internet phone system.It's really time they upped the technical side of the online system. Even on UK transfers there is nowhere for you to record a reference for the transfer and this is sometimes a big problem if paying funds to a large organisation (eg my daughter's university fees which cannot be traced without a reference). They now have an electronic verification system but instead of a simple token, as I have with other banks, it is a huge clunky "card reader" which forces me to carry my UK debit card with me everywhere in case I need to check my account. This is a real negative.
Apart from this, however, and in human terms, I have never found any bank to be as customer friendly and genuinely helpful as the Co Operative and this is why I stay with them.When you call you talk to a real person in the UK, there are no offshore call centres, no waiting 45 minutes after selecting 24 options to find a human voice- you can go straight to a real staff member 24 hours a day. That's worth a lot more to me at the end of the day than technical wizardry!