First Direct Bank Review
Great smartphone app
£100 switching/leaving bonus
Range of savings accounts
A division of HSBC Bank, First Direct is a telephone and internet-based bank based in the UK (headquartered in Leeds), with more than 1.3 million customers.
As part of the wave of digital banks in the UK, First Direct does not have any high-street branches and instead, relies entirely on telephone and online banking.
Voted the Moneywise Most Trusted Financial Provider for 7 years running and a 6-time winner of the Moneyfacts Online Banking Provider of the Year, First Direct is a popular choice for those who are looking for an alternative to a traditional bank account.
The only First Direct current account – the 1st account – is available to people who:
- Are over the age of 18
- Is a UK resident
- Have not been declared bankrupt in the last 6 years
- Have a phone number and email address
A First Direct 1st account comes with a contactless First Direct debit card as well as access to various e-wallet services, including Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Crucially, all 1st account holders will have around-the-clock access to both the First Direct app and telephone banking services, giving customers an easier way of managing their finances, as well as a direct point of contact in the form of a UK call centre that’s open 24 hours a day.
The account comes with a £250 fee-free overdraft (subject to approval), while paying in cheques is also straight forward, with the ability to do so at all HSBC and Post Office branches.
Customers with a First Direct debit card are subject to a £500 daily cash withdrawal limit, as well as the opportunity to opt-in to First Direct’s ‘exclusive benefits’ offering for just £15 a /month.
Some of the services included as add-ons for First Direct customers include:
- First Direct travel insurance (provided by Aviva)
- First Direct breakdown cover (provided by the RAC)
- First Direct mobile phone insurance (provided by Aviva)
- Free cash withdrawals outside of the UK (usually 2%, minimum £1.75)
- Offers and discounts for various UK hotels, restaurants and days out
Note: The insurance policies provided by First Direct will all have their own terms and conditions, so be sure to read them all thoroughly to ensure that the cover provided is suitable and sufficient for you.
To set up a First Direct joint account, you will firstly need to register for a 1st account – a First Direct joint account cannot be applied for online and must be done over the phone.
Before setting up a joint account with somebody else, remember that any money placed in the account will instantly become the joint property of yourself and whoever you open the account with. Whether your money accounts for 1% or 100% of the account’s total value, any money in the account is legally split 50/50.
Only ever open a joint account with somebody you know and trust.
Switching to First Direct is easy thanks to the Current Account Switch Service.
To switch to First Direct by using the Current Account Switch Service, simply set up your 1st account and contact their customer services to let them know.
Your old bank account will be closed down, with any money (as well as Direct Debits, standing orders, etc.) transferred across to your new, First Direct current account.
The switch typically takes 7 days to complete, but you can choose a later date if necessary.
To find out more about the Current Account Switch Service, read our guide here.
First Direct switch offer
As well as benefitting from a quick and easy switch, customers who switch to First Direct using the Current Account Switch Service can claim a £100 cash bonus once they’ve paid at least £1,000 into the account within the first 3 months.
Unlike other banks, First Direct also offers an additional £100 to customers who leave First Direct, as part of their commitment to guaranteeing a service which is better than that on offer elsewhere.
First Direct Regular Saver Account
- 2.75% AER/gross fixed for 12 months
- Save up to £3,600 a year
- No access to savings
First Direct Bonus Savings Account
- 0.40% AER/gross on balances up to £25,000 if no withdrawal is made
- 0.20% AER/gross on balances over £25,000 if a withdrawal is made
- Open with as little as £1
First Direct Fixed Rate Savings Account
- 0.85% AER/gross on balances between £2,000 and £1 million
- Withdrawal is only possible by closing the account
- Minimum £2,000 deposit
First Direct Savings Account
- 0.15% AER/gross on all balances
- Unlimited, fee-free withdrawals
- Open with as little as £1
A First Direct regular saver account is the highest paying savings account that First Direct have to offer at 2.75%, allowing account holders to save a maximum of £3,600 each year (£300 per month). If you don’t manage to save £300 in any month, the difference can be carried over to the following months.
A First Direct fixed rate savings account doesn’t allow free withdrawals, charging a £100 fee to remove the money and close the account within the 12-month fixed term. The account requires a minimum £2,000 deposit and pays 0.85% interest on balances between £2,000 and £1 million.
A First Direct bonus savings account offers higher interest rates for those who save larger sums of money without making regular withdrawals. Account holders with more than £25,000 saved and who do not withdraw money will earn 0.40% interest, while those with less than £25,000 earn just 0.20%. For each month that a withdrawal is made, all account holders will earn 0.10%.
A First Direct savings account offers an interest rate of just 0.15%, but comes with the benefit of a fully flexible savings account with no maximum savings and a minimum deposit of just £1.
First Direct allows customers to ‘sweep away’ their excess money into a savings account on any given date, usually on payday. This allows account holders to easily save on a month-by-month basis, depending on how much they have left over – just be sure that your ‘sweep’ doesn’t occur before payday, as this could leave you short changed when making payments.
The First Direct cash ISA is the only account of its type provided by First Direct, paying 0.55% interest on balances above £1.
There is a maximum £20,000 per year transfer limit for ISAs, so you’ll need to consider any ISAs you hold elsewhere before committing to a cash ISA.
Money can be withdrawn at any time by simply using the app to transfer money from your ISA to any other First Direct bank account.
- Login with fingerprint and/or facial identification
- Freeze and unfreeze your debit card
- See recent and pending transactions
- Apply for savings accounts, ISAs, loans and credit cards
- Excellent reviews
- No ability to summarise your spending
The First Direct app is available to all customers with an active current account and those who have set up telephone security – it is available for both Apple and Android devices.
At the core of the bank’s service, the First Direct app allows account holders to forego their First Direct login for fingerprint or facial recognition, while it also allows provides access to previous bank account statements in PDF format.
In terms of managing finances, the First Direct app allows customers to check the balance of their current account, make payments to new and existing payees and apply for a credit card, loan, ISA or savings account.
First Direct customers with an iPhone (iOS 10 and above) can also use ‘Siri Payment’ via Paym, once they are registered for Digital Banking with an active First Direct Digital Secure Key.
One of the key security benefits of the First Direct app is that customers are able to freeze and unfreeze their debit card instantly, but it should be noted that this will not block all transactions (particularly smaller, contactless ones).
From almost 270,000 reviews on the Apple App Store, the First Direct mobile banking app has received an excellent average rating of 4.8 out of 5. The app has also been rated 4/5 on the Google Play store with more than 15,000 reviews.
HSBC & First Direct debit card holders can connect their accounts with VISA offers, allowing them to earn cashback on everything from fuel to coffee (depending on what offers are available).
To register a First Direct account with VISA offers, all you need to do is:
- Register your First Direct debit card with Visa Offers online.
- Check what offers are available – once you view them, they become active.
- Shop online or in-store with your First Direct debit card.
- Wait 5 days for the cashback to be paid into your account.
Offers are updated regularly and adapted to suit your shopping needs and habits, using your purchase history to tailor deals to you.
Customer review websites like Trustpilot allow customers to air their opinions on the service provided by companies like First Direct, helping others to decide whether or not to switch accounts.
From around 1,900 reviews on Trustpilot, First Direct average a 2/5 star rating with 57% of customers describing the bank’s service as ‘bad’.
Some of the negative comments include scenarios in which customers have struggled to get past the bank’s online banking security measures, while naturally some reviewers are unhappy that they cannot visit a physical branch to discuss their finances.
Despite the majority of reviews being negative, 23% of reviewers rated First Direct as ‘Excellent’, praising the level of service received online as well as over the phone, and the ease of use of the First Direct mobile banking app has also been praised.
- Great smartphone app
- Easy to switch
- Switching incentives
- Poor reviews on trusted websites
- Only one choice of current account available
First Direct has a strong client base from its days as a high-street bank and has proven to be a popular option following its entry into the challenger bank market.
The First Direct online banking app is efficient and secure, utilising modern technologies like face and fingerprint identification to improve ease of use. The bank itself has a fair range of savings accounts to suit all needs; however, the lack of choice when it comes to current accounts is disappointing.
The £100 incentive when switching to First Direct is likely to attract new customers, and for those who don’t enjoy banking with First Direct, the additional £100 as a ‘parting gift’ is a nice touch.