The Two Minute Review
Halifax is one of the top high street banks and its Reward Account offers some decent perks (if you meet the requirements to avoid the fee). If you opt for £5 monthly cashback as your reward, this effectively works out at 1.2% interest rate which OK but can be beaten. The insurances on offer for their Ultimate Reward Account are good, but whether it’s worth £17 will depend on what you’re currently paying. The branch network and above average customer service make Halifax quite attractive for some.
- 🏦 Lots of branches.
- 😊 Above average service quality.
- 💰 Rewards may suit some.
- 📱 App not the best (though certainly not the worst and does the basics well – plus it has a “round up” feature and has some cash back).
- ✈️ Foreign currency fees uncompetitive.
Ranked #16 of 25 personal current accounts in the UK.
What The Experts Say
“Despite poor online reviews Halifax are one of the most well-known banks and their Ultimate Reward Current Account although pricey, does offer some benefits that customers may find appealing.”
What Users Say
Each year the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) commissions an independent report that asks a thousand customers of each of the major banks in the UK how they feel about various aspects of the service they are getting. The results put Halifax in joint 7th position.
Click to see the full picture.
Halifax has a Trustpilot rating of 1.6 but here at The Grade we like to dig a bit further.
When you exclude reviews the company has itself invited and look just at organic reviews, the average score is actually 1.59. In terms of organic Trustpilot rating this means Halifax is number 13 out of the 25 personal banks/current accounts we review.
At the last check, Smart Money People had collected 1,749 reviews which gave Halifax an average score of 4.1 out of 5.
Halifax in a Nutshell?
Halifax is a banking brand that is actually a division of the Royal Bank of Scotland – itself a part of Lloyds. It has 553 branches in the UK.
Opening a Halifax Account
You can set up a new account online or in branch. You’ll need the standard things:
- Proof of ID (passport, driving licence, biometric residence card).
- Income and expenditure information.
- Person details and address history.
As part of the opening process you can also ask for an arranged overdraft.
What Current Accounts Does Halifax Offer?
Halifax’s most basic account is called, imaginatively, “current account”. It’s a bog standard free account. You get access to standard things like a contactless card, Apple/Google Pay and free day-to-day banking. There are some cashback offers you can activate, but they’re nothing to shout about (e.g. 10% off at Costa, or 10% off at Boden for limited times).
Reward Current Account
This account is free so long as you commit to putting £1,500 into it each month, otherwise, it costs £3. You must also stay in credit and, if you have less than £5000 in your account, spend £500 a month on your debit card. A bit confusing, but largely the fee is avoidable.
For this you get to pick one of the following benefits:
- A fiver paid into your account each month.
- A Vue cinema ticket.
- 3 digital magazine subscriptions (e.g. Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health).
- 2 digital monthly movie rentals through Rakuten TV.
Once you pick that choice is locked in for a month. To be honest, we’re not blown away by the choice.
The £5 a month is nice, but if you’re just leaving the £5000 in the account to qualify this works out at an effective interest rate of 1.2%. If you’re spending the £500 a month required to activate the offer for lower balances this works out at 1% cash back which is equivalent to Chase bank – but Chase doesn’t come with the restrictions.
You can also get a “Money Smart” account for your children if they’re aged 11-15. This is essentially a current account with parental oversight features.
Ultimate Reward Current Account
This account will cost you £17 a month. We think calling it “Ultimate Reward” is maybe pushing things too far but it does have a number of genuinely useful perks:
- AA breakdown cover.
- Mobile phone insurance.
- Travel insurance.
- The same choice of benefits as the Rewards account (so a monthly fiver, cinema ticket, 2 x mag subscription or 2 x digital movie rental).
If you’re forking out for these insurances independently then it could make sense, depending on your individual circumstances, to switch to the Ultimate Reward Account.
It also has the same £150 switching offer currently available so this would effectively make the account free for 8 months if you qualify for it.
Features We Like
- Lots of branches.
- The app is pretty good for a high street bank (e.g. has a save the change feature).
- The rewards are not bad and the Ultimate Account insurances will be genuinely useful for some.
- Ability to apply for an arranged overdraft.
- Customer service at the better end of high street banks.
Features We Don’t Like
- We haven’t been gripped by the rewards on offer. The £5 a month is OK but you can do better in terms of interest or cashback.
- 2.99% foreign currency transaction fees, plus markups in the effective currency conversion rate. There is additionally a £1.50 charge on top of this for removing cash. We don’t think this is competitive so would not advise using any of these accounts for travel.
- The cashback offers in-app can occasionally be quite handy.
How good is the app and digital banking?
Actually, the app is pretty good, for a high street bank.
It doesn’t have saving spaces like the new challenger banks, so all your money is just lumped together. However, the basics are covered well allowing you to see your transactions and balance, change your details, and freeze cards. On top of this, there are a few things that stand out to us:
- “Save The Change” is Halifax’s optional version of the “round up” features the likes of Monzo and Starling offer. Essentially, if you make a purchase it will round the cost up to the nearest pound and put the difference in your savings account (which has to be with Halifax). So if you bought a beer for £3.40 it would round this up to £4 and deposit 60p into your savings account.
- There is a cashback section of the app that allows you to activate offers with retailers – e.g. 10% off at Huel or 15% off Papa John’s.
We spend hours reading user comments to see what feedback people are giving. Here are some positive and critical comments that stood out to us:
We have the Halifax Ultimate account which for a charge you get perks which include AA breakdown and mobile phone cover. I could not live without these, they have saved me so much not only in money but also when I’ve been stranded.
No muss no fuss
I have been with Halifax for a number of years now, maybe 10? And I can honestly say I’ve never had a problem. I’ve lost a card while out shopping (pre Covid – when you could shop!) I’ve had an online rouge tried to make a fraudulent charge against my account for some “white goods” in a foreign country; and, I once had to query a cash withdrawal I spotted on my statement from an overseas bank. Given that my passport was two years out of date at the time it certainly wasn’t me! All of the above incidents were delt with no fuss whatsoever; and because these incidents were years apart, I can only conclude that this is their operational norm? So, yes, I’ve been tempted with the cash bribes to “ditch and switch” to other providers, but I’m happy where I am; and as long as I don’t go into the red and I abide by the terms and conditions, there are no nasty charges. So here I’ll stay.
Exemplary of what a bank should be
In my 8 – 10 years of banking with HALIFAX, I can count the number of times I had have to go into the bank to discuss any problems because I have never had one. Also, when I did have a query and needed to go into my branch, the staff knew exactly what was required to find a solution. My money was easily accessible and I was never made to feel that I couldn’t get at it. They offered alot of services to customers and businesses. I couldn’t say enough about them if I wanted to. You also get instantaneous alerts whenever there is an activity on your account. They did it first 🙂
Reliable but complacent
It’s a household name so pretty reliable overall but they seem to be making it more and more difficult to qualify for their rewards and prizes. For instance, they started to add a charge for one of their accounts that’s only waived if you meet certain criteria, then you have to hit another high bar to qualify for that account’s rewards and – bizarrely – you can’t change how you meet that requirement. You have to choose between spending £500 per month on a debit card (!) or keeping £5000 in your current account (!) and if your circumstances change meaning the one you chose is no longer viable for you, that’s your tough luck. Not to mention that keeping high amounts in your current account is usually seen as bad practice. They have a competition running but to qualify you have to keep £5,000 in savings with a barely-there interest rate. These things all designed to seem like they are giving ‘rewards’ when in fact you are making what are probably less than stellar investment decisions. Finally, it can take ages to speak to someone on the phone, and the app is not always laid out in the most sensible way – and not easy to use the app to contact them. None of this is necessarily a deal-breaker as lots of major banks have similar flaws, but it is increasingly noticeable that services are going downhill and everything gets a bit harder.
Outdated bank, obsolete IT systems
Bad customer service at my local branch in Milton Keynes. Unhelpful staff on their customer service department after being a loyal customer.
Reward Current Account
I have the reward current account which is perfectly ok. However when I signed up for it you got a £5 per month reward but that has now been reduced to £2 per month.
How Does It Compare Against The Competition – Can I do Better?
Halifax is ranked #9 of 25 personal current accounts in the UK. (Click to see full list)
Are there better current accounts on the market? We’re calling out the following accounts as excellent:
Chase has brought to the UK the kind of rewarding banking you normally only see in the states. We're hoping it starts a revolution on this side of the Atlantic. The digital experience is also first class and there is 24/7 customer support.
Remember to check out the Chase website for all the terms and conditions.
Currently if you switch to Nationwide they will give you £200, plus an interest free overdraft (credit check required). You can also get 5% interest on balances up to £1,500 for 12 months.
You need to set up 2 Direct Debits within 60 days. Check full conditions on the Nationwide site.