The Two Minute Review
Santander is a huge bank with long standing reputation. Beyond that, it’s quite hard to get excited about them. If you want a big bank with a straightforward but basic app then Santander is fine.
- Very established bank.
- Sometimes has switching offers.
- Basic banking app.
- Customer service is middling.
- 1|2|3 accounts are not groundbreaking.
Ranked #13 of 25 personal current accounts in the UK.
What The Experts Say
On the 123 Current Account: “Using the Santander 123 Current Account as your main account for bills and your wages will allow you to benefit from earning cashback and interest. Despite the poor reviews, there are satisfied customers out there.”
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 Santander in 11th position.
Click to see the full picture.
Santander has a Trustpilot rating of 1.3 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 1.32. In terms of organic Trustpilot rating this means Santander is number 20 out of the 25 personal banks/current accounts we review.
At the last check, Smart Money People had collected 1,785 reviews which gave Santander an average score of 3.9 out of 5.
Santander in a Nutshell?
Santander is one of the “Big 5” banks in the UK. It has 20,000 staff and around 11,000 branches.
Opening a Santander Account
You can apply online or in a branch. You will need to be a UK resident and over 18 and be able to provide a valid form of ID (driving licence, passport etc). You will also need the following details:
- Valid email address and phone number.
- Address history for the last 3 years.
- Job start dates (not required for student accounts).
- Yearly income and expenditure.
The whole application should take about 10 minutes and you should get approved in a day or so.
If you’re switching from another bank you can also use the switch guarantee service meaning you will automatically have your old account closed and moved over to Santander. All Direct Debits and regular payments should also be moved for you also.
What Accounts Do They Offer?
Everyday Current Account
This is Santander’s standard account. It’s free to use, but you don’t get any interest on your balance and it doesn’t come with any great benefits – though it does have a couple of nice features. One of these is cashback offers for retailers. You get up to 15% off at the likes of Costa and Just Eat – usually offered on a time-limited basis, You can view these offers in the app and choose to opt in or not.
You also have the option to apply for an overdraft.
1|2|3 Current Account
This is Santander’s premium account. This account doesn’t come for free, but it does offer some key perks:
|Interest||1.5% on balances up to £20,000|
|Cashback (up to a max of £5 in each tier monthly)||1% on Council Tax, phone, mobile, TV and broadband and Santander mortgage payments|
|2% on gas and electricity|
|3% on water bills|
|Requirements||Pay in £500 a month|
|Set up two Direct Debits on your account|
Like with the basic account you also get access to cashback offers with certain retailers.
So is the account worth it? Well that depends on your personal circumstances. Here is a typical example of household bills and the cashback you would get:
So in the example above you would get £6.05 of benefits. However, as the account costs £4 a month it would only be worth £2.05 to you overall.
Occasionally, Santander will vary rates, e.g. energy will go to 4% in September and October this year, but overall we don’t think it provides exceptional value unless you are a Santander mortgage customer.
You should also note that not all providers are eligible for cashback. For example, GiffGaff isn’t listed as an eligible mobile phone network. You can check if your providers are listed here.
1|2|3 Lite Current Account
This is a slimmed-down version of the 1|2|3 account that costs £2 a month. While it has the same cashback benefits as the more expensive account, it does have some drawbacks:
- No interest on balances.
- No paper statements option.
- You have to log into online banking to check your statements at least once every 3 months.
Features We Like
The best thing about them has to be the current switching offer which for most will be a £160 bonus at a very welcome time
Features We Don’t Like
It is hard to get super excited about the Santander accounts, but they are solid if a bit lacking in perks.
Foreign transaction fees are not too competitive either. You will be charged a 2.75% transaction fee when buying in a foreign currency plus a £1.25 non-sterling purchase fee. For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend Santander for travel.
How good is the app and digital banking?
It is fine for the basics, but not much more. It has a clean design and will give you full access to your balance and transactions. You can make payments, transfer money and do other basics such as setting up standing orders. Cashback offers can also be accessed through the app.
However, if you want a breakdown of your spending you have to download a separate app – My Money Manager. Even this clunky workaround is not as good as the features challenger banks such as Monzo or Starling load into their apps natively.
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:
Excellent online banking!
I honestly believe Santander has one of the best and most flexible Web and App banking systems. Security checks have been a bit OTT recently but that is understandable and reassuring given the amount of scams currently about!
I love my Santander 123 account because you get cashback each month on services and purchases. I also like that I can monitor the account via the App. Santander are also very efficient at letting you know if any suspicious activity on account.
Fair and caring
Santander Bank is fair and caring with customers, my oldest bank. I have had great experience with them with financial support, credit card facilities. Their banking app is good, guiding customers against online fraud. I have enjoyed banking with them, helpful.
Getting impossible waiting times to contact
I have banked with Santander quite happily for several decades from when it used to be Alliance and Leicester, always had good customer service by telephone. I know there is chaos now with the Ukraine war and the past two covid years but really trying to contact them by phone has become so bad in the last few weeks – I have just waited for 46 minutes before giving up – to deal with a transaction I couldn’t make yesterday as they wanted me to check payee details – for that conversation I waited 23 minutes. I will have to try again tomorrow., am now dreading it. As other reviewers have said – get more staff! This is unacceptable. If it continues I will be changing my bank.
Beaurocratic, slow, old school
Santander have a big issue when it comes to UI/UX. They lag behind competitors when it comes to mobile banking.
Their structuring of what should be simple accounts is sub-par. Their approach to digital is archaic. Staff are consistently uninformed of products and procedures. Over reliance on forms and paperwork is off putting in dealing with them.
How Does It Compare Against The Competition – Can I do Better?
Santander is ranked #16 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.