Alliance & Leicester is owned by Santander, and is due to be absorbed into the Santander brand later this year. So it remains to be seen how long its online services will continue in their current form.
For now, its site is simple: the main view is a live statement, with options for transfers, standing orders and applications. Banking operations are a step-by-step process, with a summary and a clearly labelled “submit” button at the end, so it’s difficult to make mistakes. The banner at the top of the page also offers links to a set of help pages and a walkthrough of the site’s various functions.
Probably the most challenging aspect of the site is logging in
Probably the most challenging aspect of the site is logging in. First, you must enter an eight-digit online banking ID. If you’re logging on from a computer you haven’t used recently, you’ll be challenged to answer a personal question. Finally, you must enter a PIN, while the site displays a picture and phrase chosen by you to show you’re dealing with the authentic website.
It puts multiple obstacles in the way of hackers, but there’s no randomisation and it’s all done with the keyboard, so malware could capture your ID and PIN. For that reason, the bank offers a free download of Trusteer Rapport, which claims to protect against screen-scrapers and keyloggers.
The one place the bank really falls down is in mobile phone banking: there’s no application support for any phone platform, and no SMS alerts or queries.
It’s a good service for those who are happy doing all their banking in a browser, and are confident in their computer security. But we wouldn’t recommend opening an account on the strength of its online offering.
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