Switching your current account? Pick one that reflects the way you run your finances

Andrew Hagger has carried out some research to try to establish which accounts are strongest in each of the different areas

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The Independent Online

The latest current account figures reveal that 1.1 million people have moved banks in the past 12 months – up by 4 per cent on a year ago but still a low figure.

The data, from the Bacs electronic payment system, shows that Santander, the Halifax, Nationwide building society and Tesco Bank are winning the biggest share of current account transfers, while Barclays and NatWest continue to lose the most customers.

Research this week from Aimia, the marketing and loyalty analyst, reveals that 33 per cent of people say loyalty rewards are the biggest influence when choosing a current account. This marries up with the latest Bacs switching statistics, where the Halifax (£5 monthly reward) and Santander (cashback on utilities and up to 3 per cent credit interest) are both beating the competition hands down.

One of the biggest problems is that, even though new rules make switching easier, people are confused about which account to choose and are scared they may end up with a product that isn't any better than what they already have.

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 biggest reasons why customers have remained 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.

For some people, a low-cost overdraft will be the priority, while for others, interest 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) or M&S Bank (first £100 free).

For those seeking interest on credit balances or reward for their custom, 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 and Santander 123 are tops for those with balances of £3,000-plus, with the latter clearly the market leader for balances over £5,000 – paying an attractive 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 utility 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 for free worldwide, while Nationwide and Metro bank are much cheaper than the main banks in this area.

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 British call centre 24/7, and to receive a good level of customer service, day in, day out. The consistent top performers for service continue to be First Direct and the Co-operative Bank.

If you think it's time to give your bank the elbow, pick an account that reflects the way you run your finances – and try not to be swayed by the offer of short-term incentives.

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

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