Switching to a Triodos Current Account
I’ve had a Natwest bank account since I was six. At the time they gave you a new piggy bank with every £25 you saved – anyone remember those? I liked having the same account for so long. It meant I knew my bank account number and sort code by heart. I’ve never had any issues with it and on the face of it has been a “good” financial choice. My latest reward account earnt me a tidy £100 ish pounds a year (before they dropped their bonuses). So, why did I end up switching to a Triodos current account that would cost me £36 a year?
Why I switched
I heard about Triodos when listening to Gracie from the Brilliant Ladies’ Handbag Club blog on the Financial Independence Europe Podcast. Gracie spoke about how it was an “ethical bank” which piqued my interest. After doing some research I realised that I had ploughed decades of salary into a bank that:
- was a major investor in the fossil fuel industry,
- lends to companies that sell arms, and also
- has shareholdings in companies involved in palm oil deforestation and have serious workers’ and human rights issues.
They are not alone on this – a number of other major high-street banks also have similar records.
My salary is one of the main ways that I can have an impact. When I realised that Natwest were spending money in a way that I would not, then moving to a bank that was transparent about who it loans to became very important to me. Triodos factor in the environmental and social impact of any investment and it is easy to see exactly where “their money” goes.
How a Triodos account is different
Triodos are B-Corporation certified, so as a company they operate in a sustainable way. They also publish on their website all of the companies and projects that they invest in. This includes around 25% going to the renewable energy sector. You can even see the projects on a map and find out how they are supporting your local community.
Triodos also have a number of policies to make banking with them fairer, including lower overdraft fees than other banks. This means that they need to charge a monthly amount to cover the costs of running the account.
Of course, paying an account fee (£3 a month) is a culture shock after having a reward account. For me, though, this is an example of spending in line with my values, even if it isn’t the cheapest option.
They also offer a referral programme which means if you join through a friend you get a £60 voucher to a few different stores. I used mine at the Ethical Superstore. I bulk bought my favourite brand of laundry liquid, so it was money I would have spent anyway, so has offset the account charge for the first (almost) two years.
I joined through the Current Account Switch Service. This has been smooth so far. My incomings are automatically routed to my new account and direct debits are also switched over. I did have one blip with transferring over the bank details in my PayPal account, but managed to resolve it quite easily.
One of the drawbacks so far is that it does seem to take customer service a while to reply to messages sent through their Secure Messages service. They have been victims of their own success, with many more wanting to open an account than close one, which seems to have had an effect on response times. I read some reviews on Trust Pilot that this was the case and it was my experience too.
However, when I did call them they answered within a reasonable timeframe and answered my questions clearly.
One of the things I asked about was Open Banking. Unfortunately there is no option for me to connect to my Triodos Bank account from the Money Dashboard app. This means that I can’t track my spending in an automated way. Triodos explained that they are actually members of Open Banking, but none of the finance tracking apps have contacted them about setting up a connection. This is disappointing given the recent success they have had.
*UPDATE – as of June 2021 you can now link a Triodos account to the Money Hub app.
Another thing that seems a little clunky is that you need to use a separate “Digipass” to access online banking. For an “ethical bank” it seems bizarre that they are churning out these plastic passes when other banks use an app to achieve the same objective. It also seems to conflict with the fact that their debit cards are made from renewable sources and even biodegradable. They are aware of this though. Their website states that they are looking into other options and that if you return the Digipass by Freepost to their office they can recycle it for you.
Finally, although you can apply for an overdraft facility, it’s not provided as standard. For this reason I did hesitate to recommend switching to my partner, as he often uses his overdraft.
Despite the foibles I mentioned before I’m still very happy that I switched over. It’s refreshing to be a customer of a bank whose strategy seems to be values-driven. They are clearly growing in popularity so I’m sure that will mean a smoother experience over time as they build and modernise their infrastructure.
What has become obvious though is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I still have two mortgages and a credit card with three of the “big five”. Triodos don’t do mortgages or credit cards (yet!) so I’ll be looking at other options.