First Direct today launches its new range of simple, competitively priced products via firstdirect.com, with a pledge to be the on-line bank that customers can talk to. Its customers will be the first in the UK to benefit from internet prices combined with a person-to-person telephone service, 24 hours a day, at no extra charge.
Alan Hughes, chief executive, said: “We are offering sustainable internet rates, gift-wrapped in service excellence. Customers benefit from great prices, but not at the expense of the service they receive. Some of our competitors support their interest rates by penalising their customers for calling them, whilst others are shut when you need them or automate their response to customers. We will not compromise our service for unsustainable headline-grabbing rates.”
The company is offering an interest rate on current accounts of up to five per cent, more than 20 times those offered by traditional high street banks. A new savings account offers internet customers rates of up to 6 per cent, including five per cent on balances as low as £1 ($1.66). The bank is also launching a new credit card, designed for internet purchases, with a balance transfer rate of 4.9 per cent, which increases to just 10.9 per cent after 6 months.
Current account internet customers will receive an automatic overdraft of up to £500 and pay no fees on agreed overdrafts up to £10,000, with an interest rate of 10.9 per cent. Everyday banking transactions will also be free, including cash withdrawals at any ATM.
With over 200,000 customers already using electronic services – 33 per cent of all the bank’s transactions – the bank expects a large proportion of its customers to use firstdirect.com. First Direct’s banking service still attracts over 10,000 new customers a month.
Alan Hughes continued: “We will be contacting all of our one million customers in the next month, to give them the first chance to take advantage of these new rates.”
Now customers can access their accounts from any PC through a quick internet download. From late August, the bank will enable customers to use Apple Macs to access their accounts. WAP banking will be introduced in August and TV banking will become available in the Autumn.