Chris Zetter

Halifax, I Wish you Were Easier to Talk to

I lost my debit card when I was on holiday1 so I needed to contact Halifax (my bank) to cancel my old card and get a replacement.

This is what I would have liked to happen:

Sign in to my online account and click a button saying “I have lost my card”. Then get a new card in the post.

Here’s what happened:

I signed in to my online account and saw that I had to phone up. I phoned up and went though a menu system to get put on hold. I talked to an agent and explained what had happened with my card. I was then put on hold again and transferred to another agent, I explained again to the next agent and they said they would cancel my card and send me a replacement. A few days later I received two cards in the post. I had to call Halifax again to ask what was going on since I had only expected one card (more call menus and hold music).

To complicate matters my insurance company wanted proof that I had contacted my bank to cancel my card. I phoned up Halifax again (more menus and hold music) and was told that, even though I have requested a new card by phone, the only way I could get proof was to go into a physical Halifax branch.

This is a good example of a typical interaction I have with Halifax. Painful. If their online service was better I wouldn’t have to phone up. If their phone lines were better run I wouldn’t have to stay on hold for 5 to 15 minutes at a time. If Halifax weren’t incompetent, they wouldn’t send me two cards instead of one. If they were more flexible and accommodating they would have been able to post me the letter I needed as proof of me canceling my old card.

How to contact the Halifax

Halifax has 35 phone numbers on their “Contact us by phone” page. Each phone number comes with its own opening hours and annoying menu system and hold music. Some numbers will allow you to perform some tasks using automated systems but then to talk to a person there will be additional, more restrictive, opening hours.

Amazingly, there is no way to contact Halifax online, through an email or web form. You might be able to tweet them if you can squeeze your question into 140 characters.

Evolution of an online bank over the last 8 years

To my knowledge, Halifax has introduced no new features for users to its online banking service over the last 8 years and the site looks the same as it has always done. However, it hasn’t stood still either and there have been two rather frustrating changes. Firstly, features have been removed2, and secondly there has been gradual Ad Creep of rather obtrusive adverts that are animated or require your attention by filling up the whole screen. I really wish Halifax aimed higher in the level of service it provides.

first direct

This week I’ve switched to first direct because they bill themselves as having excellent customer service. I’ve been very impressed the two times I’ve needed to phone them so far. They don’t have any menus on their phone system and I’ve been put through to helpful agents right away. I haven’t used first direct for long enough to feel like I can strongly recommend them, but they are offering a £100 bonus for anyone joining them so may be worth a try if your bank’s customer service is as bad as Halifax’s.

December 2014 Update: I’ve been with first direct for a little over a year and have no regrets about moving to them. Their service has been great and I am impressed at how quickly they answer the phone and the generous hours their lines are open for. Their website and iPhone app aren’t great, but that still makes them better than Halifax and other UK banks.

  1. @the_richey threw my wallet in the ocean while we were on a boat.

  2. I had a savings account with Halifax that I could manage online. Halifax told me with 18 days notice that they would shutdown access for a year. After a year, access never returned.

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