Onboarding of new customers is a hot topic. Anything to do with digital identity, know your customer, customer service management, customer experience, data imports and data onboarding and account activation are all lively discussion points.

We hear rather less about account closing than onboarding for understandable reasons. One might be forgiven for thinking that banks would be pretty good by now at closing customer accounts in general and credit card accounts in particular.

The switch rate for credit card accounts traditionally runs at somewhere in the mid-teens compared to just 2% per year for UK current accounts. So UK card issuers get plenty of practice at closing credit card accounts.

We also hear plenty about banks and credit card issuers wanting to save the expense of posting out paper monthly statements. So, one might assume that when a customer closes an account that incorporates posting out a monthly statement, that bank would be pleased to avoid the expense of issuing a statement. Not Virgin Money, as I will try to explain.

Virgin Money Trustpilot reviews: a tale of woe

Virgin Money’s Trustpilot reviews are pretty dire. Specifically, it scores 1.2 on Trustpilot. Some 90% of over 5,000 reviews score 1 out of 5.

Bluntly, I did not believe the Trustpilot rankings. More fool me. I had always found the Clydesdale Bank/VM press team to be excellent. Clydesdale/VM execs were unfailingly helpful on the conference circuit. The bank has its roots in Glasgow, where most of my family come from. And selfishly, given that the VM credit card product offered 5% cashback on LNER rail travel, I gave it a go. If you had an idea quite how much I spend on rail travel between London and Edinburgh, then you might understand.

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Less understandable however, was the decision to axe my American Express credit card and replace with VM. For 15 years, Amex was excellent and the attraction was the accompanying air miles/Avios. That was in the days however of regular foreign travel, conference chairing chores and international holidays. Then came Covid and no air travel.

Switching Amex for VM=a poor call-a really poor call

Hence, ditch Amex and give VM a go. It was among the daftest consumer decisions I have made and the first time I had changed credit cards in 15 years. I did very well from Amex and had no complaints. Not a single customer service issue in those 15 years. Time is too short to list the litany of issues with holding a VM credit card account but the app was dire, there is no online account facility, some purchases were duplicated and had to be reversed and any attempt to contact customer service by telephone could result in a 30-minute wait. It turns out that Trustpilot comments and reviews were indeed accurate.

So, I closed the account. Or thought I had closed the account. I wrote a quick article about it. Turns out it was one of my better-read articles of 2022. Not, I concede because it was particularly well written-more I suspect on the basis that folks would be puzzled as to why anyone would switch from Amex to VM. And consider me bonkers, given I am supposed to know something about a sector I have covered since 2005.

There was nothing owing on the VM account. Indeed, the balance had been paid in full every month. The monthly statements continued to be posted out. Cue calls to VM customer services asking, please stop posting me statements. The monthly emails continue, telling me to check the VM app, to check my monthly statement. Of course, VM does not encourage emails from customers-and states that the bank does not consider the email channel secure. It does trust email to email out to say, check your app.

Emailing VM asking, please close my account and stop sending monthly statements and emails to me, has no effect. Calling customer services-waiting-and waiting-and eventually finding someone to speak with, who assured me the account was closed, turns out to have been a waste of time. Still the statements continue to be sent out.

The less than welcoming message on the website is continually…our contact centres are a bit busier than normal. Here’s a radical suggestion. Learn how First Direct run a contact centre and copy. Employing more staff might help. So, dear VM, please do actually close the account and stop posting out monthly statements telling me I owe zero.