Not the best way to start a banking experience

Published on 2 December 2008 in , , ,

I’ve occasionally considered doing a series of blog posts on online banking usability, but never really found the time to do it and generally they’re all pretty reasonable so what’s the point?

Of course there are the occasional flaws and black marks, and some are heading towards AA Savings from me right now.

The AA’s Internet Savings account currently has one of the best rates on the market, and ever keen to try and get the best rate for my cash (especially following the collapse of two Icelandic market leaders) I applied. The account is actually operated by HBOS, so no worries about it disappearing into nothing then. Maybe.

Anyway I duly applied, sent off an initial deposit, received my online login details and attempted the “Activation” process for new accounts. This requires putting in your username and an “Access Token”. You’re then asked to set up some security questions, before being told you’re ready to login proper.

After a quick burst of a screen proclaiming it was checking my details, I got the terse and unhelpful message:

Your account is currently unavailable, please contact us on 0845 602 6203 to re-instate your account

Err. Exsqueeze me? Re-instate my account? I’ve only just activated it!

Perhaps there’s some small delay in activation and the account becoming active, I thought and waited a few hours to try again. And again. And again. With no joy.

One phone call later and I’m speaking to the helpful “Anne” (she tells me her name about three times just to make sure I know) tells me she’d seen what had gone wrong and rectified it. I could login now.

Yay! On we go then. I fill in all the details – put in my memorable whatever it is, and� err� nope. Your account details are wrong.

Hmm. I try again.

Your account details are wrong.

Okay� That’s odd because I know – I absolutely 100% know they’re right. But just to make sure�

Your account is blocked due to too many incorrect attempts.


The next person on the phone appears to be nameless, but he unlocks the account, sends me a new “Access Token” which allows me to reset my security details online. I do so, hit the buttons and am told it’s all ready to go.

So I login. Yay! That £10 cheque that formed my initial deposit isn’t lost forever!

And here we go…

Your account is currently unavailable, please contact us on 0845 602 6203 to re-instate your account


Third phone call had the immortal line of “Oh yes, I know what that is”, before we tried logging in with me on the phone just to make sure it actually worked this time. And thankfully it did.

My tenner is now safe, and earning that high interest.

What was most concerning though was that every member of staff seemed to instantly know what the problem was without even looking at the account itself. This suggests that it’s a regular problem – and if it is, then why hasn’t someone fixed it yet? After all, three phone calls shouldn’t be needed to access a brand new online banking experience…

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