Is it worth switching bank accounts?

Written by Lori Campbell on 13th August 2018

Switching banks is notoriously one thing few of us can be bothered to prioritise. Yet the benefits of getting it right and moving to a bank that ticks all your boxes are real: less stress, you might save a bit and whisper it – maybe even feel good about your banking, too.

So which banks are worth getting out of bed and onto your laptop for? And what boxes do you need ticking, anyway?

Halifax has been revealed as the most popular bank to switch to, with 62,700 new customers in the first three months of this year. Nationwide also fared well, with 45,440 customers switching to it in the first quarter, according to the latest figures released by BACS.

Their popularity has most likely been based on new joiner rewards and incentives. Both banks have been running decent rewards to new customers – Halifax offers a £3 monthly reward if you put in £750 or more a month (falling to £2 a month from October) and Nationwide offers 5 per cent interest for 12 months on its Flex Direct Account, as well as a joining reward.

A statement from BACS said: “In Q4 2017, the two biggest gainers were Clydesdale and Nationwide, potentially as a result of highly competitive switch incentives offered by both. Clydesdale offered £250 to new customers, and Nationwide offered £100 for the new switcher and a friend.

“Other brands seeing net gains during the final three months of last year included Halifax, HSBC, Tesco and TSB, all of which offered various competitive propositions, including switching incentives and reward accounts.

During Q1 2018, Halifax was the biggest gainer, closely followed by Nationwide and HSBC, which have all continued to provide competitive offerings.”

But it’s not just small cash rewards that have got people switching.

A new addition to the top five banks people are jumping ship for is mobile-only challenger bank Starling (in the Good With Money directory of responsible providers), which gained 1,376 new customers in the first quarter of 2018.

Gratifyingly, Triodos Bank, the UK’s most sustainable bank, had almost 1,500 new customers open a personal current account in the six months to the end of March (not all will have fully switched yet, meaning this figure does not appear in the official CASS table below). It demonstrates that for some, the feel-good factor of knowing your money is going into positive impact businesses is a winner. The Triodos account costs £3 a month, there is a debit interest charge of 15.7 per cent on agreed overdrafts and the totally unique and interesting bit is that it shows you, on a map, where your money goes, here.

Why switch banks?

The goal posts for reasons to switch are changing. In the past, the main reasons to switch have been either cash rewards for being in credit, or lower overdraft interest rates and charges.

Now, it could depend more on what you value the most.

If the answer to what you value is a fantastic user experience on your smartphone, enter the wave of new challenger banks, such as Atom, Monzo, Starling and Tandem. These digital banks, boosted by the new “Open Banking” order of things, which allows customers to share their data across different banks and financial services providers, are determined to do things better than the high street. With their whizzy apps and lovely functionality, they have introduced some exciting new criteria for digital banking fans who are considering switching – based on ease of use, but also strong branding and personalisation. Starling, for instance, let’s you set goals and tracks your progress towards these goals. It is also building a marketplace, with loyalty schemes and savings and investments partners, such as PensionBee (also in the Good With Money responsible providers directory), Wealthify and Wealthsimple.

If you are in the super planet-saving bunch, like us, then Triodos could be the one for you. Read our #Upbank post for all of the potential environmental and social reasons to switch to a bank with purpose, or at least one that does no harm (see our top picks) rather than giving your money to a big bank that might invest it in oil and gas, or other more harmful activities.

But the answer is likely to be a combination of financial and other considerations, such as customer service, ease of use and also where your money is going. The good news is that it’s easier than ever and you’ll barely notice it happening.

More people switched current accounts in the 12 months to the end of June than in the year before. A decent 965,317 switches were completed in the 12 months between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. This is a six per cent increase on the previous 12 months. Since the Current Account Switch Service (CASS) was launched in September 2013, more than 4.9 million people have voted with their feet and over 57.1 million payments have been redirected. Switches can complete in less than seven days.

Which banks is the UK switching to?

 

Brand Gains Q1 2018 Losses Q1 2018 Net gains/losses Q1 2018
Halifax 62,700 28,758 33,942
Nationwide 45,440 16,677 28,763
HSBC ( includes First Direct and M&S Bank brands) 56,159 35,274 20,885
Starling Bank 1,376 223 1,153
Low volume participants* 1,680 773 907
NatWest 32,834 32,200 634
Tesco Bank 1,592 1,392 200
Bank of Scotland 4,378 4,354 24
Danske 479 773 -294
Bank of Ireland (includes Post Office brand) 119 919 -800
AIB Group (UK) PLC (includes First Trust Bank and Allied Irish Bank brands) 47 1,080 -1,033
Ulster Bank 282 1,368 -1,086
TSB 11,309 16,435 -5,126
Santander 18,177 28,713 -10,536
RBS (includes Adam & Company, Coutts and Isle of Man brands) 1,487 12,509 -11,022
Clydesdale Bank (includes Yorkshire Bank brand) 2,030 13,861 -11,831
Co-operative Bank (includes Smile brand) 612 14,720 -14,108
Lloyds Bank 13,701 27,815 -14,114
Barclays 8,169 25,797 -17,628

*Low volume participants include: Arbuthnot Latham, C Hoare & Co, Commerzbank, Cumberland Building Society, Hampden & Co, Investec, Reliance Bank, Spectrum Payment Services Ltd, Triodos Bank, Virgin Money and Weatherbys Bank switches.

 

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