Would you switch current accounts for free cash?

Two people diving from a boat into the sea
Are you ready to jump ship?
"Current account switching service midata tells you – down to the pound – how much you could benefit from switching"
  • | by Emily Bater

For some of us, switching bank accounts regularly comes as second nature.

And with cashback incentives of as much as £150 on offer from some banks just to move to them, why wouldn't you?

According to recent research by Bacs, the people behind the Current Account Switching Service (CASS) and the University of Bristol, reluctance to switch is in part to do with trust and loyalty and those least likely to switch would benefit the most.

Money for nothing?

Even though the banks are trying to tempt customers with cashback offers and incentives, switching is on the wane.

Less people switched in 2015 than they did in 2014, even with a multi-million pound ad campaign from Bacs at the end of the year.

A little boy counting coins

The Bacs report points to a lack of engagement, an inability to tell the difference between accounts and a general feeling of confusion among consumers.

The report also points out that the people least likely to switch would benefit the most.

This echoes a Competitions Market Authority (CMA) report released in October 2015, which said that people who rely heavily on their overdrafts could save as much as £260 by switching.

There are a number of reasons to switch, but the biggest is what you're missing if you don't. 

Cold hard cash

Finding a bank that's willing to offer cash for you to switch to them has never been easier.

Current account switching service midata tells you – down to the pound – how much you could benefit from switching, and it's usually those offering £100-£125 in cash that come out top.

Image of money

To get the switching bonus, however, you have to tick a number of boxes first.

Some banks ask that you need to switch your current account, including a certain number of direct debit payments, and not just open another account.

Banks may also ask that you deposit a certain amount per month – sometimes £1,000 – and you may have to use the account for a number of months before getting the bonus.

Accounts with benefits

Cash isn't the only thing to consider when switching.

"Getting £100 for switching is all well and good, but if you're going to rack up foreign usage fees, overdraft charges or miss out on in-credit interest earnings then that incentive could quickly be cancelled out," says Gocompare.com's Matt Sanders.

Image of someone making notes at a computer

You might be better off opting for a high-interest current account instead of looking for a big bonus, as give you more cash over time.

Switching to a current account that offers rewards or cashback is another way to get more for your money, or a packaged account could save you cash on home insurance, travel insurance or cover for your mobile phone.

Midata allows you to filter by account features, so you can see which accounts have added benefits such as insurance, but beware of these if you already have any of the products – you don't want to double up and pay twice.

Don't wait to switch

The push to switch from a trusted bank may take a long time for some customers, but the longer you wait the less likely banks are to improve their service.

First Direct was one of the first banks to offer a financial incentive to switch 25 years ago.

Images of pound coins on a purple background

Tracy Garrad, chief executive of First Direct, said: "Switching current accounts isn't something people do every day, but the CASS guarantee gives greater confidence the process is straightforward and reliable.

"Back in 1991 First Direct was unusual for offering a cash incentive to switch current account, but while there are now more switching incentives too many people still only think about moving when they have a poor experience with their current bank."

Compare current accounts with Gocompare.com

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