Money Insider: Why wait, switching accounts is easy?

 

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The Independent Online

With the Current Account Switch Service celebrating its first anniversary and running like clockwork there's no excuse to stay put if you're fed up with the service or rates from your bank.

Too many people have put up with mediocre banking for too long, but now it's very easy to switch to an account that's more in tune with the way you manage your money.

The problem is that even with the new faster switching rules and switch guarantee in place, people are puzzled about which account to choose and are scared that they may end up with a product that isn't any better than the one they already have. Although each bank and building society has its own tariff and rate details, working out which account is best can prove a big headache.

The dilemma for consumers is that no two accounts are the same, and difficulty in trying to compare the different rates and charging structures is probably one of the major reasons that customers remain loyal and put up with a below average service.

There is not one bank account that works out as the best for everybody – it's more about weighing up the individual elements 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 take a look at First Direct (first £250 interest free), M&S Bank (first £100 free) or Yorkshire Bank.

For those seeking interest on credit balances or reward for their custom, then for balances of £2,000 or less take a look at 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 monthly £2 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 the main banks. Picking the wrong bank when it comes to debit card costs overseas can cost you 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 more than the amount of 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, all they desire is the ability to talk to a human being at a UK call centre 24/7, and to receive a good level of customer service, day in, day out. Consistently top performers for service continue to be First Direct and the Co-operative bank.

The decision to switch is still scary, so it's important to do your homework and pick an account that reflects the way you run your finances, rather than being swayed by short-term sweeteners.

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

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