How to switch your bank account

Switching your current account is still something people shy away from. In an interview with Philip Robinson of Halifax, Clare Francis explores how easy it is to get a new account...

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Q1: Can you just explain how the current account switching process works?

Philip Robinson: The first thing I’d say is that it’s actually incredibly easy. It’s really straightforward to switch.

Once they’ve decided where they want to bank, they should choose how they want to switch to that bank; they might do it by phone, do it online or most people will just choose to go into a branch.

So all you need to do as a customer or potential customer is sign 2 pieces of paper. The first piece of paper is to give the bank permission to switch all your payments like your direct debits and bills – so your utility bill, or council tax bill – and it gives us permission to write to them on your behalf. And the second bit of paper is for all your credits, so for example your salary.

They generally have a dedicated switcher team as well, so as well as opening the account, the switcher team would then follow that whole process through and keep you up to date.

Q2: And how long does the switching process take on average?

PR: It usually happens within three weeks. So the bank does its bit pretty quickly, so once you confirm the direct debits, then really it’s a question of wait. We write out to all the utility companies, councils as I said, and then it’s just a question of how fast they move to redirect payment from your old bank to your new bank.

Usually within three weeks, so if you compare it to switching your utilities, your electricity or gas, that’s usually six weeks, so this is a little bit faster.

Q3: And what about if you do use an overdraft, can you switch your current account if you are overdrawn?

PR: Yes, of course. Anyone who wants to switch and move their bank, it’s entirely up to them.

That will depend on a discussion with the new bank, and would be subject to status, and basically they would look and there is nothing to stop them doing that if they wanted to. So, it would be a discussion between you and the bank.

Q4: I think there’s a perception that if something goes wrong it’s going to be an absolute nightmare to get fixed or sort out, so are there any reassurances and guarantees that the process with be smooth, and if it doesn’t, you the bank take responsibility for correcting it?

PR: Completely. Every bank wants to make it as smooth as possible, and want to make sure that no-one has any issues, and generally there are very, very few issues.

So if you go into a bank, usually most banks will offer you a fee-free overdraft to cover you for the first three months when you switch, so that means you won’t have any charges or fees at that time, and if the payments do fall out of sync – which they generally don’t – you would have a fee-free overdraft so the payments still went out from your account.

Q5: And in terms of the number of people who do switch their current accounts its really low, why do you think it is that so few people do switch?

PR:  I think there are a couple of reasons really, firstly people think it’s a hassle, so they think it’s a lot of work, what am I going to have to do – they really don’t want to have to go through that themselves – what I’d say to that is really straight forward as I said, come into a branch, talk to someone or phone up and its takes about half an hour, you sign a couple of bits of paper as I said and then everything is done for you.

So, from a hassle perspective – I know people think it is – but it really, really isn’t.

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