Halifax relaunches £100 switching offer

Ten pound notesHalifax has brought back its £100 switching offer to new customers.

From today until 3rd March you can instantly pocket £100 when you request to switch to a Halifax current account.
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The cash incentive is credited to the new account on the day you sign up, which is a bit unusual as other banks with similar schemes tend to make you wait a few months before handing over any cash bribes.

Last year the £100 switching offer attracted over 300,000 new customers, but this time round there is an added extra that could encourage more to switch.

12-month fee free overdraft
On top of the £100 incentive Halifax is now also offering switchers a 12-month, fee-free planned overdraft

Halifax estimates that someone switching with a £700 overdraft has the potential to save £137.55 in overdraft charges based on an average overdraft rate of 19.65%, but the savings could be much bigger once other overdraft charges banks levy are considered.

You won't pay any charges or interest on your overdraft for 12 months as long as you arrange it with Halifax first - unplanned overdrafts will incur the usual charges.

The size of the overdraft is subject to status, but the maximum on offer from Halifax is £5,000.

For those looking to borrow cheaply this offer of up to £5,000, fee free for 12 months, is attractive as normally fee-free overdrafts either don't last very long or are only applicable on a small buffer value.

Santander for example offers four months fee free on its Everyday and 123 accounts, while Nationwide offers only a three-month interest-free period on its Flex and Flex Direct accounts. If you need an overdraft facility without a time limit Co-operative Bank's Current Account Plus comes with a £200 fee-free overdraft and First Direct's 1st Account has a £250 interest-free buffer that won't dissappear after a few months.

Why make the switch?
Apart from the cash incentive to join and the attractive planned overdraft, Halifax actually has some rewarding accounts that could leave you better off.

If you go for the Halifax Reward Current Account for example, you will get £5 paid into your account each month that you deposit £1,000. You get this reward even if you spend everything in your account that month. So if you make the switch this January you will pocket £160 in total this year.

There's also the Ultimate Reward Current Account, which offers travel insurance, mobile phone insurance and AA Breakdown Cover for £10 a month.

Other switching incentives
But Halifax isn't the only bank trying to entice new customers with a sizeable cash bonus.

With the 1st Account from First Direct you also get £100 for switching. To qualify you will need to deposit £1,500 per month (this must start to happen within three months of the account opening) and use the Easyswitch service to transfer at least two Direct Debits or standing orders to the account.

Although First Direct doesn't pay the £100 switching incentive straight away like Halifax, the bank is so confident you will love the service it also has a £100 satisfaction guarantee. So after six months and within 12 months, if you're not happy First Direct will give you £100 and help move your account.

More rewarding accounts
But if you're not too bothered about a cash bonus and are more interested in a rewarding account for the long-term you might be better off with the Santander 123 Current Account.

With this account you get paid tiered levels of cashback on direct debits.

You get 1% paid on water and council tax, 2% on gas and electricity bills, 3% on communication costs like broadband and 3% on mortgage repayments if the mortgage is with Santander.

The 123 account also offers in-credit interest of up to 3% on balances of up to £20,000 and a four-month interest-free overdraft.

But to benefit from the features you will need to pay a £2 monthly fee for the account which is a cost of £24 a year. So you will need to do a few calculations to work out if the Santander 123 account could really benefit your finances compared to the cost.

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Halifax relaunches £100 switching offer

More than 46,000 of 106,000 the complaints received by the FOS in the second half of last year related to payment protection insurance (PPI). And the organisation is expecting to receive a record 165,000 PPI complaints in 2012/2013.

The huge numbers are due to the PPI mis-selling scandal that should now be a thing of the past, but there is no doubt that the insurance, which can add thousands to the cost of a loan, is highly unpopular!

(Pictured: Martin Lewis after the PPI payout ruling)

Complaints about mortgages jumped by 38% in the last six months of last year, the FOS figures show, compared to an increase of just 5% in investment-related complaints.

Common gripes about mortgages include the exit penalties imposed should you want to sell up or change you mortgage before a fixed or discounted deal comes to an end, and the high arrangement fees charged by many lenders.

While there is nothing in the data released by the FOS about the number of complaints relating to savings accounts, hard-pressed savers have been struggling with low interest rates for several years now.

You can get up to 3.10% with Santander's easy-access eSaver account, but many older accounts are paying 1.00% or less and even this market-leading offer includes a 12-month bonus of 2.60% - meaning that the rate will plummet to just 0.50% after the first year.

Banks are imposing the highest authorised overdraft interest rates since records began, with today's borrowers paying an average of 19.47%, according to the Bank of England.

A typical Briton with an overdraft of £1,000 is therefore forking out around £200 in interest charges alone. Coupled with meagre returns on savings, it's enough to make your blood boil!

While authorised overdrafts may seem expensive, going into the red without permission will cost you even more due to huge penalty fees.

Barclays, for example, charges £8 (up to a maximum of £40 a day) each time that there is not enough money in your account to cover a payment.

If you need to send money abroad, the likelihood is that your bank will impose transfer charges - and offer you a poor rate of exchange. Someone transferring a five-figure sum could easily lose out by £500 or more as a result.

The good news, however, is that you can often get a better deal by using a currency specialist such as Moneycorp.

Automated telephone banking systems, not to mention call centres in far-flung parts of the world, are one of our top gripes - especially as we often encounter them when we are already calling to report a problem.

In the words of one disgruntled customer: "What is it about telephone banking that turns me into Victor Meldrew? Well, maybe it's the fourteen security questions, maybe it's the range of products that they try to push or maybe it's because I'm forced to listen to jazz funk at full volume while my phone bill soars.

"Actually though, I think it's because the people I eventually speak to rarely seem able to solve the issue I'm calling about."

The days of a personal relationship with your bank manager are long gone - for the huge majority of us at least.

When ethical Triodos Bank investigated recently why around 9 million Britons would not recommend their banks to a friend or relative, it found that almost a third felt they were not treated as individuals. Another 40%, meanwhile, were simply disappointed with the customer service they received.

When you're in a rush, the last thing you want to do is wait in a long queue at your local branch.

Researchers at consumer champion Which? recently found that most people get seen within 12 minutes, but you could have a much longer wait if you go in at a busy time. Frustrating stuff!

The Triodos Bank research also indicated that the bonus culture that ensured the bank's high-flying employees received large salaries, even when it was making a loss at the taxpayer's expense, was hugely unpopular with consumers.

About a quarter of those who would not recommend their current banks said this was the main reason why. And with RBS executives sharing a £785 million bonus pool despite the bank, which is 82% publicly owned, making a loss of £2 billion last year, it's not hard to see why.

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