Are we leaving the wrong banks?

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Are we leaving the wrong banks?
Are we leaving the wrong banks?



A massive 567,677 people changed their bank account using the Current Account Switch Service in the first half of 2016, new figures from payments service BACS show.

That's 4% more compared to the same period last year.

In March alone there were 124,615 switches – the highest level since the service launched back in September 2013.

The current account switch scheme is designed to make moving from one bank or building society to another quick, simple and hassle free. It's a free service that promises to move all outgoing and incoming payments from an old account to your new account within seven working days.

Who are we switching to?

BACS has also provided switching numbers between October 1 and December 31 last year.

The table below shows how many personal customers, small businesses and small charities have switched to and from banks and building societies using the switching service during this period.

Bear in mind that these figures are six months in arrears so aren't really in tune with what's happening with current accounts right now.

Banking brand

Gains Q4 2015

Losses Q4 2015

Net gains Q4 2015

Halifax

57,523

26,342

31,181

Nationwide

37,640

11,490

26,150

TSB

19,661

10,057

9,604

Santander

41,772

38,180

3,592

Clydesdale Bank (includes Yorkshire Bank)

9,792

8,022

1,770

Bank of Scotland

2,479

3,658

1,179

Tesco Bank

827

526

301

Low volume participants (includes C. Hoare & Co., Virgin Money, Cumberland BS, Duncan Lawrie, Hampden & Co, Reliance Bank and Weatherbys)

691

543

148

Bank of Ireland (includes Post Office)

351

681

-330

Danske Bank

416

893

-477

AIB Group (includes First Trust Bank and Allied Irish Bank)

168

947

-779

Ulster Bank

206

1,505

-1,299

HSBC (includes First Direct and M&S Bank)

31,309

33,291

-1,982

Co-operative Bank (includes smile)

2,846

8,961

-6,115

Lloyds Bank

15,024

26,039

-11,015

Royal Bank of Scotland (includes Adam & Company, Coutts and Isle of Man brand)

2,179

13,609

-11,430

NatWest

14,931

28,859

-13,928

Barclays

5,653

32,717

-27,064

Source: BACS

The winners

Out in front is Halifax with a net gain of 31,181 customers in the fourth quarter of 2015.

People must have been tempted by the bank's £100 switching bonus as well as the benefits of its Reward Account, which pays you £5 every month that you pay in £750, stay in credit and pay out two different direct debits. You can also earn cashback on certain offers when you spend with this debit card.

The next big winner is Nationwide, which gained 26,150 customers overall between October and December 2015. Nationwide has a number of cracking current accounts, like the FlexDirect account, which pays 5% on balances up to £2,500 for 12 months, as long as you pay in £1,000 a month. It also offers new customers a fee-free overdraft for the first 12 months.

Taking the third spot is TSB with a net gain of 9,604 customers switching to the bank at the end of last year. That's unsurprising when you consider its Classic Plus account pays 5% interest on balances up to £2,000, which doesn't drop away after a year. To qualify, you'll have to pay in £500 a month and register for internet banking and paperless statements.

Top bank deserted

In fourth place is Santander, which has previously top of the table when it comes to current account switching thanks to its 123 Current Account.

The bank racked up 41,772 new customers in the fourth quarter of the year but 38,180 decided to leave, meaning the bank only made a net gain of 3,592.

Santander's 123 Current Account pays 3% interest on balances from £3,000 up to £20,000 and offers up to 3% cashback on certain direct debits.

The move away from this account is probably down to the bank's decision to hike its monthly account fee from £2 a month to £5 a month from January 2016 – a 150% increase.

It's likely that lots of account holders switched in the final quarter of the year to avoid the hike, after deciding the account was no longer a good option.

However, the new Personal Savings Allowance actually means the account looks attractive again for some.

Since April 6, basic rate taxpayers can earn up to £1,000 in savings interest without attracting any tax, while higher rate taxpayers can earn up to £500 and this applies to the credit interest earned in current accounts like the 123 Current Account.

So if you have a larger savings pots you want to earn a decent amount of interest on, while still retaining the option of withdrawing it easily without any penalties, the 123 Current Account is actually a very good option, even with the increased fee.

The losers

Barclays was the biggest loser, according to the figures. The bank reported a net loss of 27,064 customers between October and December last year. However, the launch of its Blue Rewards cashback scheme on its Bank Account could help convince people to stay. This pays you up to £180 a year in cash rewards depending on how many products you have with the bank.

NatWest was the next worst performing bank, losing 13,928 customers overall, followed by RBS (down 11,430). However, like Barclays, these banks are trying to win customers back with a more competitive account offering. The new Reward Bank Account pays 3% cashback on seven different household bills.

It's a little surprising to see HSBC perform so poorly, if only because its figures include its wildly-popular First Direct 1st Account. This account wins every customer service award going, offers a £250 fee free overdraft and pays you £100 just for signing up.

There's also another £100 satisfaction guarantee which it promises to pay if you choose to leave after six months but before 12 months is out. You need to pay in £1,000 a month or hold another First Direct product in order to avoid the £10 monthly fee (though it's fee-free for the first six months anyway).

Having said that, HSBC's customer service on its own accounts isn't as highly rated and its accounts weren't anything to get excited about last year.

Thinking about changing current account? Compare your options

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