Money Insider: Don't delay... make the switch and cash in with a new bank account

 

While we transfer our credit card balance without a second thought and shop around for a new mortgage deal each time our fixed rate expires, switching our bank account still seems to be seen as too much hassle.

Despite the advertising blitz from banks and building societies, most of us remain loyal to the provider we signed up to when we left university or received our first pay cheque.

But if you're fed up with the service or charges on your bank account, now's a good time to move, with some banks even offering you cash incentives to switch. For instance, First Direct currently offers a £100 golden hello while Halifax is also trying to entice new customers with an upfront cash payment of £100 plus a fee-free overdraft for the first six months.

But though these offers may look appealing, they shouldn't be the key reason to move your bank account.

The most important thing is to find an account that suits the way you manage your money, whether it's a low-cost overdraft, the ability to earn credit interest/rewards or a cheaper debit card for overseas use.

Many of the standard accounts offered by the high street banks pay no interest on credit balances and some charge upwards of 25 per cent for an unauthorised overdraft – just two reasons to look elsewhere.

If you keep an average of £2,000 credit in your current account, at 0.1 per cent you'll receive a paltry £1.60 (after 20 per cent tax) in interest for the entire year. Yet if you held a similar balance with the 123 account from Santander or Lloyds Vantage you'd receive 20 times as much.

Another account worth a look is Reward from Halifax which pays you £5 every month (yes, £60 per year) as long as you pay in at least £750 per month and stay in the black.

On the flip side Halifax Reward can prove expensive if you're frequently overdrawn as it charges a fixed fee of £1 per day for overdrafts up to £2,000. If it's low-cost borrowing you're after, consider the First Direct 1st current account where the first £250 overdraft is completely free. If you live near a Metro Bank branch, its current account could also be worth thinking about as the interest rate charged on overdrafts is just 15 per cent EAR.

If you're a regular traveller abroad then a debit card with no extra charges for foreign currency transactions and ATM withdrawals should be a major factor in choosing a suitable account.

My top suggestions are the fee-free cards on offer as part of the current account deals from Norwich & Peterborough Building Society and Metro Bank.

If this has given you some inspiration to go out and find a more suitable current account, there are a few things you need to take into consideration:

l You may be required to fund your account with a minimum amount each month; this can vary from £500 to £1,500 per month.

l Beware of packaged accounts where eager bank staff will try to persuade you to opt for an account with add-ons such as mobile phone or travel insurance.

l Ask your prospective account provider the cost of an authorised overdraft and also how much you would be stung if you accidentally went over your limit. While it's not something you plan to do, it's worth understanding what the penalties are if it does happen.

l An account that offers a high rate of credit interest will often turn out to prove expensive for borrowing and vice versa, so opt for an account that fits your account usage.

All the major providers have signed up to the new faster switching promise, so what's stopping you?

Andrew Hagger is an independent personal finance analyst from moneycomms.co.uk

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