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Editorial Team

Published: 25/04/2024
Canary Wharf at night

Four of the UK’s largest banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest Group – control 75% of current accounts, but are they rewarding their customers’ loyalty?


With some of the UK’s biggest banks coming under renewed fire in recent months for offering uninspiring interest rates and reducing in-branch access, is it time to question whether these providers are becoming too big?

New analysis in INTEREST from Moneyfacts reflects on the continual poor value being offered to consumers by the UK’s ‘Big Four’ banks (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest Group) in recent years as they profit from their near monopoly of market.


A history of low rates

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and up until 2022, the average savings rate offered by UK banks was just 1.52%, according to INTEREST.  This is despite the average rate of UK inflation sitting considerably higher at 2.71% throughout the same period.

With many of the big banks using quantitative easing measures taken by the Bank of England during this time to justify offering meagre returns, finding a savings deal that could better inflation was a rarity.

As recently as April 2021, it’s revealed Barclays Bank paid an average of just 0.15% across its nine open savings accounts. Meanwhile, Lloyds Bank had 21 accounts with returns averaging 0.23%; HSBC, 25 accounts paying an average of 0.24%; and NatWest offering an average of 0.38% with its 19 open accounts.

Across these 74 accounts, their customers received average returns of just 0.26% in total, despite inflation at the time sitting at 1.5%.

This is a phenomenon that can still be seen today to an extent. Even though inflation slowed only slightly to 3.2% in March and the Bank of England base rate sits at a 15-year high of 5.25%, the ‘Big Four’ continue to each pay less than 2.00% on a selection of their easy access accounts*.

By contrast, the average easy access account paid a rate of 3.11% at the start of April, according to data from the Moneyfacts UK Savings Trends Treasury Report.


Easy access savings rates offered by the UK's 'Big Four' banks
Provider Account Name Gross rate at £10,000
Barclays Bank Everyday Saver 1.65%
HSBC Flexible Saver 1.98%
Lloyds Bank Easy Saver 1.40%
NatWest  Flexible Saver 1.74%
Easy access savings accounts available to new customers that permit multiple withdrawals without penalty.


In a recent update on the implementation of its Consumer Duty, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) noted the failure of some firms to show that products offer fair value to retail customers.

“Some firms have relied solely on an assessment of similar product offerings in a market. This alone does not prove that the customer is getting a good deal. We also see statement being made about value, without any qualitative reasoning outlining why a firm considers that its products offer fair value,” the FCA explained.

What is Consumer Duty?

Introduced in July 2023, the FCA’s Consumer Duty sets out the expectations for the standard of care banks and building societies provide to consumers. Among its desired outcomes, the Duty looks to ensure fair prices and quality are being offered to consumers, and that the diverse needs of consumers are being met.

Declining branch access

The problem of poor interest rates is further aggravated by a decline in the number of bank and building society branches operating in the UK.

Moneyfacts’ research found more than a third (40%) of easy access savings accounts failed to offer in-branch access in January 2024 - up from 37% the previous year and 29% a decade ago.

This follows the number of bank branches in operation in the UK falling from 14,689 in 1986 to just 5,745 in 2023, according to data from the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which was collated by the House of Commons Library.

The same data found the number of building society branches also fell from 6,954 to 1,925 within this period.

INTEREST says closures have been mutually disadvantageous for both providers and their customers. By closing branches, the publication argues providers have lost contact with their customers – particularly small businesses which would utilise their local branch as a matter of course when it came to borrowing, expanding, moving, buying and investing.

Meanwhile, a report from the House of Lords Library on the impact of branch closures on local communities identified people with disabilities, older generations and those living in rural areas as groups who may be most affected.

“The Big Four banks must be stopped from abusing their dominant position in the future. They must restore competition between them – starting with stopping any more bank closures and then restoring branches to unbanked areas,” states INTEREST.

“The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), under its Consumer Duty Rules, is now able to wield a fairly large stick and should do so,” the publication concludes.

As for those whose loyalty is not being rewarded, you can compare the best savings rates currently available with our regularly updated charts and consider switching if you find an attractive offer that meets your needs.

For accounts that operate in person, you can filter by ‘branch’ under account opening and management methods after selecting ‘full search’ on our charts.


INTEREST is a publication using Moneyfacts’ data, intelligence, impartial editorial and graphs to inform readers of the factors influencing the UK’s central interest rate. Printed and despatched in advance of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meetings, it seeks to provide historical and political context and an insight into the decision-making process.


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