NatWest debacle spurs 85% rise in switching

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Natwest branchTim Ireland/PA Archive/Press Association Images

When the NatWest crisis broke, the overwhelming response from the Twitter feed and comments on the bank's website was that this was the final straw: people were going to find a better bank. Most people expected the dust to settle and people to give up and resign themselves to more of the same.

However, new figures have revealed that we are following through on our threats and switching. But why?

The switch

The figures come from Nationwide Building Society, which has seen an 85% increase week on week in the number of customers opening and transferring their main account online.

John Crossley, Nationwide head of current accounts, said: "Customers are clearly unhappy with recent events and are opting to vote with their feet. Nationwide is seeing a sharp increase in the number of customers switching their account to the Society, highlighting our commitment to being the challenger brand to the big banks."

Why?

Typically we will put up with a great deal before we overcome the inertia that keeps us with our bank.

So it's the scale of the crisis that is behind the massive surge in switching applications. Thousands found their current account - and hence their lives - in disarray last month. Some 500 called the Financial Ombudsman Service for intervention in the first week. The fact it dragged on for the best part of a week (and longer for Ulster Bank) customers means it achieved the feat of being widespread, far-reaching and long-term.

Cutting people off from their account, and being unable to provide decent information in the immediate aftermath, or a realistic timescale for how long it would take to put things right, made people feel utterly stranded. Many swore that they would not risk being with a bank where this sort of thing could be allowed to happen.

Now, as the dust settles, they are making good on that promise.

The benefits

The good news is that there are a number of benefits to switching. First of all, not all banks are the same. It's worth checking out the ones that score well for customer service. Which? does a regular survey of banking service, and First Direct generally tend to come top of the pile. This year they were followed by The Co-operative Bank.

The second advantage is that some banks will offer rewards if you move your account. So, for example, the First Direct 1st Account offers a £100 bonus, as long as you transfer your salary (at least £1,500 a month) within the first three months. And the Halifax Reward account pays £5 in every month you deposit £1,000, and if you apply using its switching service before 15 July you'll get a £100 bonus into the bargain.

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