I had a First Direct account around 2 years ago and didn’t understand what the fuss was about. I’d rate them about 3 out of 10 which is on a par with all the other legacy banks.
Their app was unusable to me due to “over-security” and their website was clunky, so a bad user experience. They will also direct you to a HSBC branch if you need to do anything and that is a grim prospect. (I went to a completely dead branch to pay in a cheque, not a single customer there and the staff member waiting to serve with apparently nothing else to do said “yeah that’s not for me, you need to use the machines…”
The thing that people rave about is the customer service over the phone, but as someone who worked in the service industry I knew they had just rounded up some poor hostages in darkest Wales and forced them to be all smiles and rainbows with their manager listening in to tell them where they went wrong. I can see how some people would feel a connection by being asked what they’re up to this weekend or if they have any holidays planned when they call to switch banks, but personally I felt weirded out and felt they should mind their own business.
Their cash bribes are big but I wouldn’t do it again. I had to listen to legal shpeel over the phone for the best part of an hour, saying “yes”, “yes”, “uh huh” until blue in the face and once you’ve switched your banking relationship to them you need to maintain it for a long time to qualify for full bribes.
They are still a very small bank and they have small processes. When I told them I needed them to offer a similar level of overdraft to my Halifax account if I was to really switch banks (£2000 Halifax vs £500 FD) they actually put you through to the underwriter who said my income was too low to justify that level or overdraft. When I asked why it’s not too low for every other bank he smugly said First Direct aren’t like other banks and they have very strict criteria. He then starts looking through every payment on my account and kicked off about a payment received with the reference “Bonga.com repayment” which was a personal joke with a friend I’d lent £50 instead of letting him take out a payday loan. He couldn’t understand what this was all about and wouldn’t increase the overdraft at all.
In the end they terminated my account after I was made redundant and within 2 months of this they sent a letter saying that they’d decided to close my account and they wanted their overdraft back immediately as i’d not been paying a regular income into the account.
Not what I’d call fantastic service at all.