First Direct Review – UK Banking (Pros, Cons, Complaints, Benefits, Rates)

First Direct is fairly new to the UK banking scene compared to the big players, such as NatWest or Barclays Bank.

Describing itself as “the platypus of banks”, First Direct is different from most other UK banks as its services are only available online. It has no branches that you can visit in person.

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Initially, UK consumers were sceptical about this type of “online only” bank structure, which was very rare in the United Kingdom. However, First Direct bank quickly proved that it had a place in the UK banking market.

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First Direct Review

  1. Origin and Growth
  2. Bank Services and Products
  3. Pros
  4. Cons
  5. Benefits
  6. Rates
  7. Complaints

Origin and Growth

First Direct was created by Midland Bank in 1989, one of the four main players in the UK banking market.

Marketed as a different way to bank, it changed the way the people of the UK thought about banking, as its services were initially offered by telephone only via a call centre.


The bank showed an impressive rate of growth, going from 100,000 customers in 1991 to 500,000 in 1995.

1999 saw the introduction of SMS or text messaging banking. This meant that customers could receive balance details of their accounts on their mobile phones along with messages to alert them if their balance falls below a certain level.

First Direct was taken over by HSBC in 1992.

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The bank began testing internet banking services in 1997. In 2000, after three years of testing and enhancement, First Direct rolled out its full suite of internet banking to all its customers, allowing full control of bank accounts from wherever a customer had computer access.


Bank Services and Products

First Direct’s list of services and products has steadily increased over the years and is now comparable with many of the mainstream banks. Services include:

  • Current accounts
  • Overdraft facilities
  • First Directory – offering a number of services to use alongside your current account. These include: worldwide travel insurance, 24 hour Roadside Breakdown Assistance, ID theft assistance, mobile phone insurance,
  • Mortgages
  • Personal loans
  • Credit cards
  • Savings accounts
  • Investments
  • Child Trust Funds
  • Share dealing services
  • First Direct stocks and shares ISA
  • Exchange Traded Funds
  • Car insurance
  • Home insurance
  • Travel insurance
  • Travel money
  • Foreign payments


Pros – First Direct Review

  • Access to your accounts and products 24/7 either via telephone or the internet
  • Committed to responsible lending
  • Amazing customer service
  • Real people, not computers making decisions about your accounts
  • Can also be contacted via Twitter
  • “On the Go” app can be downloaded onto your mobile device allowing access to your balances and the last 90 transactions
  • Easy to use website
  • Cash incentive is usually offered to switch your account to First Direct
  • Customers can use HSBC if they wish to visit a branch to do their banking
  • Cheques can also be paid in at the Post Office
  • £250 interest free overdraft


Cons – First Direct Review

  • There are no First Direct branches
  • Will only accept new customers who have a good credit record. Those with poor credit will not be able to bank with First Direct
  • First Direct does not offer quite the same variety of products and services offered by the “big 4 banks”
  • There is a £10 per month fee for the current account, unless you pay at least £1,000 a month into your account or keep the same amount as a balance in the account
  • You can only withdraw money in person and free of charge at the Post Office or HSBC banks


Benefits – First Direct Review

Banking with First Direct offers some great benefits to the customer, including:

  • Telephone and internet banking means that customers can do their banking anywhere.
  • The smartphone “app” also means that banking can be done on any smart device such as iPhone, iPad or tablet.
  • The bank is famous for its brilliant customer service, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • There are no bank charges for the first six months of any informal bank overdraft.
  • First Direct offer a complete switching service, allowing you to move all of your banking to them quickly and easily with no hassle or loss of services.


Rates – First Direct Review

Stopping a cheque    

£7.00 (free if under £10.00)

Disputed debit/credit card transactions           


Copy of cheque or credit      


Special presentation of cheque


Status Enquiry (including VAT)


UK Bank draft


Issue of indemnity for lost share Certificate/dividend warrant and      sundry items

0.5% of the value, minimum £50

Branch payment cheque drawn on savings accounts


Duplicate statements on e-Savings and Everyday e-Saver Account


Duplicate credit card statements


Additional statements


Credit card interest   

16.9% average

Personal loan

5.1%-15.9% dependant on Amount borrowed

Regular Savers account

4.8% net

E Savers account

0.32% net

Bonus Savers Accounts



14.85% on overdrafts more than £250

Fixed repayment mortgages

Various rates depending on amounts borrowed

3.5%-4.15% APR

Repayment mortgages – tracker

Various rates depending on amount borrowed

2.4%-4.3% APR

Offset mortgage – fixed

Various rates depending on amount borrowed


Offset mortgages – tracker   

Various rates depending on amount borrowed


Offset mortgages – standard variable

Various rates depending on amounts borrowed

3.8% APR

Personal loan

5.1% APR representative

Credit card     

19.9% variable


Complaints – First Direct Review

First Direct receives very few customer complaints, as their customer service is second to none. They are so confident in their service, that they offer a guarantee; if you are not completely happy after six months, they will pay you £100 and help you to change banks.

They are one of the most highly rated banks for customer service in the United Kingdom with over 80% of customers stating they are happy with their service, as opposed to 42% for Barclays Bank.