‘I switched my bank account – it was easy’

According to one of our recent polls, more than half of people (58%) still have their current account with the first bank they ever joined – and 45% have never even thought about switching.

But 28-year old Matt Lewis, who works on the performance media team here at MoneySuperMarket, is not among them. In fact, he’s just completed the process of shifting his current account from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to Santander’s 123 account.

Here’s what he had to say.

Life with RBSMatt Lewis

“I had several accounts with RBS over and above my current account, such as savings and a credit card – some of which I opened in Scotland, where I used to live a few years back, and some of which I opened in England when I returned home.

“The trouble was, because the accounts were held in two different countries, they weren’t interchangeable online and this gets really frustrating when you are trying to move money between them, or just pay your credit card bill.  To make things worse, when you try to call RBS to discuss the problem, you can sit on hold for ages.”

But the final straw came when Matt started to be charged for a £100 overdraft buffer that had initially been fee-free. He said: “I felt the cost was unfair as I don’t want to be charged for things I don’t need. So, rather than argue or listen to hold music to try get it reversed, I decided to vote with my feet and switch banks as I knew I could get a better deal elsewhere.”

Matt had the foresight however, to wait until after September 16 to make his move, as this is when the Payment Council’s Current Account Switch Service (more commonly known as the 7-Day Switch) rules were introduced which promised a quicker and easier transition.

Shopping around

Matt’s first stop was MoneySuperMarket’s current account channel, where he could compare the best deals available in one clear list. He said: “I knew the market had improved in light of the 7-Day Switch, so I looked out for accounts with the kind of bonuses or perks that might suit my situation – and the Santander 123 account seemed to fit the bill.

“It pays interest of up to 3.00% on credit balances of between £3,000 and £20,000, which is far better than my savings accounts with RBS. And the cashback element of Santander’s 123 is also ‘nice-to-have’ as the bills come out of my account in my household. You get a fee-free overdraft for the first four months but it’s not the cheapest after that. However, with my savings in there too, I should always be in the black.”

Read more about the Santander 123 and how it works.

Kicking off the process

Matt deliberately waited until the 7-Day Switch rules came into force so he could benefit from protection. “I am sure it would have been fine anyway, but having a guarantee of a maximum time it would take – and knowing that all my payments in and out of my RBS account would be transferred automatically – was a bonus I thought I may as well benefit from.” So what happened?

Start date: Wednesday, October 9

“With the new rules having been in place for a couple of weeks, I got back onto MoneySuperMarket and applied for the 123 account I knew I wanted, which was perfectly straightforward. I had to input details of my RBS account, and provide details of my income, the rough balance I would be transferring over, and give examples of some Direct Debits leaving my account – I presume to verify who I was.”

Day one: Thursday, October 10

“The next day I got confirmation from Santander that my application had been received and that the process would now be completed in seven working days. I hadn’t realised it was ‘working’ days and I also thought the clock would start ticking from the day I applied. This meant it would take a little longer than I thought, but it made sense and seemed reasonable.”

Day two: Friday, October 11

“I decided to inform the payroll department at work, as well as my lodger who pays rent into my RBS account every month, of the details of my new Santander 123 account. Even though all incoming funds would be automatically transferred to the new account under the Current Account Switch Guarantee, and even if it did go wrong, I wouldn’t be liable to pay any fines or interest incurred (or lost), I didn’t really want to test it!”

Day three: Monday, October 14

“I received a letter from Santander telling me they required further checks on my application. I needed to provide my passport, proof of address and a couple of utility bills in my name. This was easy enough as the bank said it would accept copies and they had enclosed a stamped envelope for me to return the documents in, which I did that day. I am not sure what the delay would have been to the 7-Day Switch guarantee if I hadn’t.”

Day four: Tuesday, October 15

Process continued.

Day five: Wednesday, October 16

“I received my card and PIN number for the 123 account through the post. So far so good.”

Day six: Thursday, October 17

Process continued.

Day seven, Friday, October 18

“I tried to pay for my daily coffee on my way to work with my RBS card but it was declined. I tried the Santander card instead and it was accepted. I also received a letter from RBS saying they were sorry to see me go. I have no loyalty to the bank at all though – in fact I am just pleased that the account has been officially closed down.”

What’s the verdict?

Matt was pleasantly surprised about the entire switching process which was completed, on the nose, in seven working days. “I had sceptically assumed something would go wrong but it didn’t,” he said.

“It feels better to be with an account that works for me and I am hoping that the customer service will be up to scratch too – though I haven’t tried this yet and I still need to register for online banking too. The good news though, is that I already know my savings are earning a decent rate of interest and that’s cost me nothing.”

What about you?

There’s a whole bunch of great current account deals up for grabs at the moment, which – like Matt-you could be benefitting from in as soon as a couple of weeks.

Switch to Halifax’s Reward current account for example, and you will pocket £100 just for switching. You will also benefit from the recently-introduced Cashback Extras scheme – and, if you stay in credit, you’ll get £5 a month paid into your account too.

First Direct also pays £100 to new customers who open its 1st Account. While you won’t earn in-credit interest, you will benefit from a £250 interest-free overdraft - and you'll also have access to the bank's Regular Saver account, which pays 6.00% for 12 months on monthly deposits of up to £300. First Direct is also widely renowned for its good level of customer service.

If it’s decent credit interest you are after, as well as Santander’s 123 account which pays up to 3.00%, look at Nationwide Building Society’s FlexDirect current account, which will return a whopping 5.00% for the first 12 months on balances up to £2,500.

More recently, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks have launched their Current Account Direct, which pays 4.00% until March 31, 2015 on balances up to £3,000. The rate will fall to 2.00% thereafter.

Note that you will need to make all these deals your main current account to benefit from their perks and rewards – which means paying in a minimum amount a month for example, and setting up a certain number of a direct debits out of the account. Remember also, it’s a condition of the 7-Day Switch rules that your previous account must be closed.

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