How do I find the best bank?

Everybody’s banking needs are different. Some with a healthy balance may want to find an account that pays them interest, others are looking for one that doesn’t charge through the nose to use an overdraft.

At Which?, we think the way your bank or building society treats you should be an essential part of finding the best account.

So, we’ve done the hard work for you. Every year, we survey thousands of current account customers and ask them to rate the service they receive. This gives us the Which? Customer Score.

We then calculate the ‘product score’ of almost 40 current accounts to find our Which? Recommended Providers (WRPs) – the banks and building societies that offer great products and top-notch customer service.

Best and worst banks revealed

Scroll through the table to see how real customers have rated dozens of banks and building societies.

Not all banks appear in our table. That’s because we need a minimum of 50 people to respond to our survey to generate meaningful ratings. We’re always trying to increase our coverage.

Starling Bank

Starling made a strong debut in our rankings in 2019, taking second place. It had top spot with a score of 88% in 2020 and again tops the table in 2021 with a score of 85%. Starling is therefore once more named a WRP.

Customers praised its ‘helpful’ and ‘prompt’ staff as well as its mobile app for being ‘easy to use’ and ‘leagues ahead’ of other banks’. Instant notifications of payments in and out, free debit card spending abroad, and ‘saving spaces’ (virtual piggy banks) are also popular.

Although it started life as a smartphone bank, Starling launched online banking for personal customers in October 2020.

Its website was included in our latest online banking security test and earned the top score of 85%. This was partly due to limited functionality (customers mainly operate their accounts from the smartphone app) but our independent experts found nothing concerning.

The Starling debit card is fee-free for purchases and foreign ATM withdrawals anywhere in the world, making it the cheapest debit card to take abroad.

Customers can also apply for an additional Starling ‘Connected’ card which can be loaded with up to £200 and given to someone they trust – ideal if they are unable to leave the house but need some help with the shopping.

It also offers one of the cheapest overdrafts though only for customers with decent credit scores (it charges a rate of 15%, 25% or 35% EAR dependent on your credit score though even its highest rate beats the high street banks).

First Direct

First Direct is once again a WRP in 2021, with its score increasing to 82% from 79% the previous year.

The bank also received the highest score in a separate survey where we asked customers to rate financial brands’ level of service during the first four months of lockdown (87% rated it positively).

Nearly every aspect of its service was rated five stars by customers, including online banking, the mobile banking app, complaints-handling and overall customer service.

The only low rating was for account benefits (three stars). Its standard current account ‘1st account’ doesn’t offer any cashback or credit interest. But you do get a £250 interest-free overdraft (then 39.9% AER) and customers can open a Regular Saver paying 1% AER (was 2.75%) for a year.

First Direct shares deposit protection with HSBC so limit your deposits to £85,000 across the two brands.

Nationwide Building Society

After missing out last year, Nationwide regained its WRP status this year.

Five-star ratings were achieved for its customer service, as well as its telephone and online banking services.

Its FlexDirect current account pays 2% interest on £1,500 for a year (then pays 0.25%) and offers an interest-free overdraft for a year (then 39.9% APR). Its FlexPlus packaged account is also highly rated.

Nationwide is a building society or mutual, which means that it is owned by its members.

It’s the only WRP with a branch network, though First Direct customers can carry out some tasks at HSBC branches. Nationwide has a branch promise stipulating that if it currently has a branch in your town or city, it will still be there until at least January 2023.

Worst banks for customer satisfaction

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is bottom of the table in 2021 with a score of 56%, down from 61% the previous year.

RBS recorded two-star ratings for transparency of charges and service in branch. Disgruntled customers referred to branch closures and a lack of ‘tangible benefits’. Others gave it an average rating and said it is ‘nothing special’, ‘doesn’t offer much’, or is ‘not as good as they can be’.

HSBC (57%) and TSB (59%) also scored less than 60% to form the bottom three banks along with RBS.

Worst banks for customer satisfaction

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is bottom of the table in 2021 with a score of 56%, down from 61% the previous year.

RBS recorded two-star ratings for transparency of charges and service in branch. Disgruntled customers referred to branch closures and a lack of ‘tangible benefits’. Others gave it an average rating and said it is ‘nothing special’, ‘doesn’t offer much’, or is ‘not as good as they can be’.

HSBC (57%) and TSB (59%) also scored less than 60% to form the bottom three banks along with RBS.