Bank of Ireland's student branch in Queen's Union is an absolute joke. It's service is mediocre and pain-stakingly slow. They fuck up clients names, sex and addresses. When applying with a student credit card they sent me another man's half completed form with his financial details; including his address, employment & income details, spouse and other private information. This is a severe breach of confidentiality. And when I reported it to the bank they simply asked me if I could send it back. To top this off on setting up a direct debit with the bank during my temporary stay in London I had to write a total of 5 letters because each time the staff managed to make a mistake and more laughably they had the cheek to charge me over 30 quid for their stupidity! If you need a bank that you can depend on I wouldn't recommend this one!
Please note: A lot of this opinion is about the banking facilities offered by the Bank of Ireland at Queens University, Belfast. I have been a customer of the Bank of Ireland for around 9 years now, ever since I got my first pay cheque from Royal Mail. Back in those days, I didn’t care who looked after my money, and I chose BoI over the competition for a few reasons. One was that a friend of mine worked for them, and I decided that he could be a useful contact if anything ever went wrong or needed sorted out. Another was that their blue colour scheme was quite nice (I’m not kidding, you know!) and the last part was that I’d gate crashed a big Bank of Ireland induction party one night and was impressed by the new intake of female staff members. Well, come on, I am a bloke! Anyway, out of pure luck, I managed to find myself a customer of a decent bank. These people had the benefit of my custom until I started university. Upon starting university, I switched my account from my normal current account to the student current account, I did keep all my goodies i.e Switch card etc. but wasn’t able to get the special offers they give to new students. This current academic year (Sept 2001), if you open a new student account, the Bank of Ireland will give you £40 plus a free ISIC student card. This fact is plastered across posters all around Belfast, and seems comparable, but neither better nor worse than the similar deals offered by other banks. The student account from the bank offers a lot of things – online and telephone banking (called 365 Banking), a Pass card (their ATM card), free banking with fee free overdrafts. You can also get commission free travellers cheque and foreign currency and interest on accounts in credit. I have, from my days as a “worker” a Switch card and a cheque book/card but I am told that if you require these things, then you simply have to ask for them, althoug h you may have to wait a month or so while the bank analyses your spending habits. Even though my “home” branch is not the one based at the university, I still find that my queries and problems are dealt with quickly and without fuss. Believe me, I have had a few problems (accidental overdrawals etc.) and when going into the branch and speaking to people face to face, I can sort my problems out immediately. I found the staff to be as friendly as they are helpful and rarely had to wait any longer than a few days to get anything sorted. Things like overdrafts, or overdraft extensions are arranged by going into your branch and filling in a simple form – you then return, or call back a day or so later to hear the outcome, which in my experience is usually “Yes”. Access to the various banking facilities around my university (Queens, in Belfast) is fantastic. Within five minutes walk of the main building of the university, I can think of two branches – one within the Students Union, and another only a few hundred yards down the road. As for ATM’s, the same applies – from the university main building, I can think of six Bank of Ireland ATMs all within five minutes walk, two of which are within the students union. You can, of course, use other banks’ ATMs and there are many of those nearby as well. Bank of Ireland does not charge you to use other banks ATMs, but may charge you to use “Link” machines. Travelling within the UK present no problems as BoI ATM cards can be used in “Link” machines and in the machines of other UK banks. Travelling to the Republic of Ireland is also painless, as their banking system is capable of taking BoI cards and allowing you to withdraw punts. I haven’t tried out the phone/online banking services yet so I can’t comment on them from personal use, but a friend reckons they’re as good as any other similar schemes 211; I’ll update this opinion when I get around to registering and using this system. Their website (www.bankofireland.co.uk) offers lots of decent information on their entire range of services in a manner which is reasonably well laid out. It loads quite quickly, is easy to read. The information is cross-linked so there’s no need to back track to find information – a link to related sources is usually on the screen you’re looking at. You can download application forms and fill them in at your leisure before going to your branch of choice to finalise the creation of your account. My only problem with the bank, and this does not apply to the majority of students while at university, is that their range of graduate banking seems to be quite limited. As I graduate next summer (hopefully!), I am looking ahead to what happens afterwards, and always being conscious regarding my financial situation, would like this to be sorted, or in the process of being sorted before it gets to be a last minute thing. I don’t particularly want to leave my bank for all the reasons I’ve stated above about the staff, and my friend being able to offer advice, but unless they’re able to convince me that they can offer what I’m looking for come next June, then I suspect I’ll be moving on.