What stops you switching your current account?

UK current account customers handed over an average of £152 each in bank charges last year, in monthly account fees, overdraft costs, charges for bounced payments and foreign exchange fees.

But we’re still extremely reluctant to find a better deal that costs us less. And that’s despite the free current account switching scheme set up by government and the banking industry in 2013.

The British banking industry is benefitting from the old truism that people in the UK are more likely to get divorced than to split from their bank.

UK banks and building societies are currently offering generous incentives to encourage customers to move their current accounts – because of the likelihood that once they have our current account we will take out other very profitable banking products, such as loans and mortgages, with them.

So why don’t we switch our current accounts – even though it would save us money? Here are the four most common reasons:

“It will take so much time”

Not unreasonable: time is money, we’re busy at work during the day, and who wants to spend their weekends wrangling with banks?

Except that the online Current Account Switch Guarantee service was set up to do the work for us. Once we’ve chosen a new current account, that bank or building society will do all the admin within seven days:

  • Contact your old bank
  • Transfer across your incoming and outgoing payments
  • Close your old account
  • Set up a redirect so that any incoming payments that get missed are automatically forwarded to your new account – and the senders are told your new account details – for three years

All you have to do is:

  • Find two recent documents proving your identity and your address
  • Check that your old account and the new one are both signed up to the Current Account Switch Guarantee service
  • If you’re running an overdraft, check that the new bank / building society is willing to let you transfer it over
  • Follow the links, fill in the details, upload your documents, and nominate the day you want the switch to be completed
  • As soon as the new account is opened, fill out the Switch Agreement form and the Account Closure form
  • Lastly, go through a couple of your monthly bank statements to identify any regular payments going out of your account that aren’t standing orders (marked as SO on your statements) or direct debits (marked as DD).

Service providers such as telecoms services and gym memberships, and payday loans, often get you to set up a “recurring payment” or “continuous payment authority” which is linked to your debit or credit card, rather than your bank account. (They’ll have asked you to “read out the long number on your card”…) Because they’re linked to a card rather than directly to your bank account, they’re not included in the switching service (or covered by the guarantee). So you will need to contact those businesses direct to give them new debit or credit card details.

How long will all that take: five hours max?

The switch-over bonus currently being offered by one of the banks is worth nearly 12 hours of the average UK wage-earner’s time. If it’s really the time-cost you’re worried about, you’re in profit.

 “They’re all the same”

This is probably the biggest reason why we don’t move our accounts: a generalised disenchantment with the banking industry, and a sense that the benefits you gain in one way will be taken away in charges for something else.

So the greatest amount of time you’ll invest in the switching process is choosing which account you should swap over to.

That involves looking at your current usage pattern and what’s costing you money (overdraft fees?) or could be making you money (interest on your current account balance?).

Yes, that could take another couple of hours, but really… spend less time on tidying up your finances than you might spend tidying the house each week?

What about my mortgage or my savings account?

Leave them where they are for now: they’re completely independent of your current account except for regular payments towards them – and those will be rearranged for you.

Once you’re enjoying the benefits of your new banking arrangements – and you’ve realised that it wasn’t as much hassle switching as you might have feared – you may be ready to look at bigger savings by reorganising them as well.

 “It could go wrong”

This is the great benefit of the Current Account Switch Guarantee service.

Your new bank is responsible for contacting you before the switch date if there are any hitches with transferring payments.

And if any payments don’t go through on time, resulting in charges to you, the switching service is covered by a guarantee which means the new bank must refund you.  (You’ll just need to ask them for any refund.)

Written by Jennifer Stevenson ,
26th May 2019