Now in their fifth year, the MoneySuperMarket Supers Awards recognise those banks and building societies which have outperformed their rivals in 2015. And, crucially, they reflect the opinions and preferences of MoneySuperMarket customers, whose votes help us compile our shortlist.
The judges, made up of MoneySuperMarket representatives and independent financial journalists, look at a range of different factors to help them pick the winners in each category.
They consider the products on offer and focus on how innovative providers have been, as well as how highly they should be rated for customer service.
And the 2016 Supers Winners are...
Best Overall Provider
The judges chose TSB as Best Overall Provider on the basis of its strong suite of products and the successful impact of its brand messaging since the bank was relaunch in 2013.
The bank has managed to carve out a distinct identity in the crowded and competitive retail market, with innovative product design married to a clear commitment to traditional banking values.
The Classic Plus account was singled out as a fine example of a product that offers an impressive range of benefits backed up solid customer service and sustained innovation.
Best Credit Card Provider for ‘Existing Debt’
Virgin Money’s 40-month balance transfer credit card was only available for a limited period of 20 days, but it still managed to catch the attention of the public – and the judges.
The limited edition card marked Virgin Money’s 20th anniversary in financial services. At the time, it was the longest 0% balance transfer deal available, giving cardholders more than three years of interest-free borrowing.
The card also charged zero interest on money transfers for 40 months, as well as 0% on purchases for three months. The design of the card, as a Virgin Records cassette, added to its appeal.
Best Credit Card Provider for ‘Purchases’
The M&S Credit Card regularly features in the best buy tables. It manages to remain competitive in a crowded market, charging zero interest on purchases for more than 18 months. Cardholders also have access to the M&S loyalty scheme.
The judges were impressed with the consistency of the card and praised the brand’s customer focus and reliability.
The attractive interest rates make this card a winner with both customers and non-customers of M&S Stores.
Best Credit Card Provider for ‘Rewards/Cashback’
M&S Bank won over the judges with its strong loyalty scheme. Cardholders earn one loyalty point for every £1 they spend on the card in M&S stores, and one point for every £2 spent elsewhere. The points are converted into M&S vouchers every quarter.
The trusted brand name and the attractive interest rate of 0% on purchases for 19 months helped to push this card to the top slot.
Best ‘Credit Builder’ Card Provider
Barclaycard drew praise from the judges for its ability to operate in both mainstream and niche markets.
The Initial card is a straightforward proposition aimed at customers with limited or no credit history. The Access Balance Transfer card is more innovative, offering customers who are trying to build up their credit score a standard interest-free period on balance transfers of 18 months. The two cards proved to be a winning combination.
Best Current Account Provider
The 1st Account from first direct is designed with its customers in mind – and, according to the judges, it shows. The country’s first telephone bank operates an award-winning service, with real people on the end of the phone line 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The bank remains at the forefront of banking technology with internet and mobile banking facilities, as well as contactless payments.
The judges also praised the account’s sweep facility, which can sweep any money you haven’t spent into one of first direct’s savings accounts every month.
Best ‘Loyalty’ Current Account Provider
Santander won widespread praise when it launched its 123 Current Account in 2012 – and it’s still proving a winner.
Customers earn up to 3% cashback on selected household bills, such as electricity and mobile phone. They also earn 3% interest on credit balances and gain access to a range of other benefits such as preferential rates on savings accounts.
The account charges a monthly fee, but the judges were convinced that many customers could offset the fee with the combination of interest and cashback.
Best Current Account Provider for ‘Overdraft’
Customers with a first direct 1st Account have access to an overdraft of at least £500 overdraft – and the first £250 is interest free.
The bank also sends out text alerts if you breach your overdraft limit and gives you until the end of the day to credit your account.
The informal overdraft fee is £5 a day, but the fee is waived if the overdraft is £10 or less. It is also capped at £80 a month.
The bank impressed the judges with the simple, clear and fair overdraft charges on its popular 1st Account. They also praised the bank’s text alert system, which has helped customers to avoid high overdraft charges. In total, 75% of customers who receive a text alert do not pay an informal usage fee.
Best ‘Cash ISA’ Savings Provider
Skipton Building Society
The top rate on Skipton Building Society’s easy access Bonus Cash Isa caught the eye of the judges. It was a market leader for much of the Isa season.
But the high rate of interest was not the only attraction. The Isa won plaudits for its low minimum balance of just £1. The account also reverted to a fair rate, equivalent to the Isa on sale at the time, when the bonus expired. All in all, the judges viewed it as a good deal for customers.
Best Savings Account Provider
Skipton Building Society
Skipton Building Society scooped this prestigious award for its best-buy E-Saver account.
It’s simple and straightforward – an easy access account that allows unlimited withdrawals without penalties or notice. It is also consistently in the top 5 easy access accounts because of its high rate of interest.
Best ‘Alternative’ Savings Account Provider
Wellesley & Co
Wellesley & Co is one of a growing number of alternative savings account providers. It’s a peer-to-peer lender that lends money primarily to developers to fund residential and commercial property purchases. The interest it charges the borrowers is then used to pay interest to investors.
The judges were impressed by Wellesley & Co’s range of accounts. There are four fixed deals over terms of one to five years. It also offers a 30-day variable account. Plus, the early access facility gives you the option to get your hands on your cash quickly in an emergency.
Praise was also given to Wellesley’s attempts to minimise the risk for investors. It invests some of its own money in every property deal, so its credit checks are rigorous. In addition, all the loans are secured against an asset, which can be sold in the worst-case scenario.
Best Mortgage Provider for ‘First Time Buyers’
HSBC won the award on the back of its first-time buyer mortgage fixed at 2.88% for five years.
The judges were impressed by the financial peace of mind offered to first-time buyers by the competitive rate and the stability of the five-year fix. The loan was also available with a minimum deposit of just 10%.
In addition, the judges praised the support given to first-time buyers by HSBC. The bank’s mortgage advisers are available seven days a week. HSBC has also put together a Mortgage Journey Map, a step-by-step guide to buying your first home.
Best Mortgage Provider for ‘Remortgages’
First Direct’s mortgages are both competitive and innovative and the bank is a regular in the best-buy tables. But the judges were taken aback by its mortgage fixed at 2.84% for 10 years: the low rate and the long fix combined to make it an award winner.
The mortgage was also a big hit with first direct customers. The fee was a reasonable £950 for every £400,000 borrowed, and came with free legal fees for remortgage customers.
Best Personal Loans Provider
The award for best personal loans provider goes not to a bank but to Zopa, one of the first peer-to-peer lenders. It has been up and running for more than 10 years and has lent more than £1 billion to UK customers.
The rates are competitive, the application process is user friendly and borrowers can make additional payments at any time and settle their loan early without charge. All in all, it’s a flexible lender that appeals to the modern day borrower.
Best Customer Service
Over 10,000 MoneySuperMarket visitors voted in our Best Customer Service poll, and perhaps it’s no surprise that the award goes to first direct. The innovative telephone bank has won plaudits for its customer service since it was established more than 25 years ago.
Customers praise its call centre staff, who are all based in the UK, and its customer satisfaction ratings are almost wholly positive. The lack of a telephone waiting queue was also noted.
The judges agreed that first direct sets the standards against which other financial institutions may be judged when it comes to the crucially important area of customer service.
Peter Harrison Head of Money,
Dee Dillistone, Head of Customer Sales & Support,
Guy Anker Managing Editor,
Lisa Elliot Director,
Melanie Wright Independent financial journalist
Sam Dunn Independent financial journalist
Holly Thomas Independent financial journalist
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