Don't stick with a dud bank account - it's easy to make the switch and improve your finances

There is not one bank account that works out as the best for everybody: it's about weighing up the individual elements, says Andrew Hagger

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The Independent Online

Switching your bank account is easy, so why are many customers staying put?

The latest current account switching report from the Payments Council shows that 1.16 million people moved banks in 2014, up by 120,000 on the previous year, but still disappointingly low.

Santander, Halifax and Nationwide Building Society are currently winning the biggest share of current account movers while Barclays and NatWest are losing the most customers to rival providers. One of the biggest problems is that even with the new switching rules and guarantee, people are confused about which account to choose.

Although each bank and building society has its own tariff and rate details clearly displayed on its website and marketing literature, working out which account is best can prove a big headache. No two accounts are the same, and trying to compare different rates and charging structures is probably one of the major reasons that customers have remained loyal and put up with below average services.

There is not one bank account that works out as the best for everybody: it's about weighing up the individual elements of an account that are most important to you.

For some people a low cost overdraft will be the priority, while for others interest payable on credit balances, or a debit card offering low cost transactions abroad will be key. I've carried out some research to try to establish which accounts are strongest in each of the different areas.

If it's a cheap overdraft that's most important, then it's worth considering First Direct (first £250 interest free), M&S Bank (first £100 free) or Yorkshire Bank.

For those seeking interest on credit balances, for balances of £2,000 or less consider Halifax Reward or TSB Classic Plus; and for £3,000 take a look at Tesco Bank.

Lloyds Bank and Santander 123 are tops for those with balances of £3,000-plus, with the latter being the market leader for balances over £5,000 – paying a very competitive 3 per cent gross up to balances of £20,000.

While some people may be put off the Santander 123 account because of the £2 monthly fee, remember it also pays cashback on your utilities direct debits, which in many cases will more than offset the cost.

If you're seeking a cheap debit card for use overseas, then Norwich & Peterborough Building Society offers this facility free worldwide while Nationwide Building Society and Metro Bank are much cheaper than other banks. Picking the wrong bank when it comes to debit card costs overseas can cost a lot more than you'd imagine.

For many people there's more money to be saved in this area than any other element of a bank account. Your two-week summer holiday could easily see you shelling out an extra £50 or more in charges – for many customers that can save you far more than the amount interest you'll earn on your bank account in a whole year.

Yet for others it's not the nuts and bolts of the account that concerns them – they just want to talk to a human being at a UK call centre and to receive a good level of customer service, 24x7. Consistently top performers for service continue to be First Direct and the Co-operative bank.

If you think it's time you gave your bank the elbow, ensure you do your homework and pick an account that reflects the way you run your finances rather than being swayed by short-term incentives.

Andrew Hagger is an independent personal finance analyst from

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