The best banks to switch to in 7 days

If you’ve ever been fed up with your bank – whether in terms of service or value for money – it’s just got a whole lot easier to jump ship.

New rules introduced by the Payments Council that take effect September 16, mean you will now be able to switch current accounts in seven working days. The process of getting to your new provider will be smoother too as it will be underwritten by an official guarantee. You can read more on every aspect of the Current Account Switch Service in our 7-Day Switch hub.

But which current account should you switch to? The good news is the big banks have all been brushing up their offerings in preparation for the new rules, so the world is now your oyster when it comes to getting the best current account deal and service. Here’s a roundup of who’s offering what.

Santander

Like NatWest, Santander won’t pay you just for switching to its 123 current account but there’s plenty of benefits when you arrive – especially if you tend to carry a large credit balance.

You’ll earn 1% interest on balances of £1,000 or more (on the entire amount). As soon as you hit £2,000 or more, you will earn interest of 2% and on balances of between £3,000 and £20,000 interest of 3% will kick in – higher than every easy access account currently on the market.

The 123 account pays also pays cashback in denominations of 1%, 2% and 3%. You’ll earn 1% back of any Santander mortgage payments (up to £1,000 a month) that leave your account and water and council tax bills. Cashback rises to 2% of what you spend in energy bills, and again to 3% of spend on mobile, home phone, broadband and paid-for TV packages. If you switch to the 123 account through the bank’s special designated Switcher Service (which means closing your old one down), you’ll also benefit from a four-month fee-free overdraft.

To qualify for the 123 account, you’ll need to pay in at least £1,000 a month and set up two direct debits.

Good for: Those who carry large credit balances in their account and have the role of bill-payer in the household.

Halifax

You will be rewarded with £100 if you switch to any of Halifax’s three bank accounts – the Reward, Ultimate Reward or the Halifax current account. The one you choose will have to be your main bank account though, which means you’ll need to pay in £750 a month and set up at least two direct debits. You will also have to close down your other main bank account as a condition of the agreement.

Halifax is also introducing a new Cashback Extras scheme which will reach all new and existing customers by the end of September. Cashback Extra pays up to 15% straight back into your current account when you spend at a range of selected retailers (including Morrisons, Argos and Homebase) using your Halifax debit or credit card. You’ll have to sign up to online banking and register for the scheme, which you can find out more about in Mel Wright's article.

Halifax’s Reward and Ultimate Reward accounts will also pay you £5 a month so long as you continue to use them as your main account and stay in credit.

Good for: Those who remain in credit and are regular customers of the listed cashback stores.

First Direct

First Direct pays an even bigger £125 to new customers who open its 1st account. You will need to pay in at least £1,000 a month if you want to avoid the £10 monthly fee – or have additional products with the bank, such as a mortgage or savings account.

While the 1st account doesn’t pay 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 a handsome 6.00% for a year on monthly deposits of up to £300. First Direct is also widely renowned for its high level of customer service.

Good for: Those who are fed up with bad customer service from their bank, don’t object to banking online and may occasionally dip into their overdraft.

M&S Bank

M&S Bank, which is managed by HSBC, only launched in 2012 but it’s been quick off the mark to offer tempting incentives to draw in customers. If you open one of its two Premium current accounts, you’ll get a £50 voucher to spend in-store. But if you actually switch to the account – which entails closing down your existing one – you’ll receive another £50 voucher on top. Either way, you’ll also get 12 vouchers with 20% discount shopping at the store to spend in the first year.

And from September 16, M&S is also reducing the monthly fee on both its Premium accounts. The account that comes with worldwide annual travel insurance will cost £17.50 month instead of £20, and the account without travel cover will cost £10 instead of £15. The reduced fees apply to both new and existing customers.

Neither of M&S’s Premium accounts pays interest but you’ll get access to a Regular Saver account with a rate of 6.00% on monthly savings of up to £250 for 12 months, plus an automatic £500 overdraft, the first £100 of which is fee-free.

Good for: Loyal M&S customers (bank branches are in-store) who may sometimes dip into their overdrafts.

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NatWest/RBS

NatWest/RBS has also polished up its offerings to new customers in time for the introduction of the 7-Day Switch rules. In mid-August it introduced its Cashback Plus Loyalty programme which can be applied to its fee-free Select Current Account as well as its three paid-for accounts.

Under the scheme, new and existing customers can earn up to 5% cashback at participating retailers including BP, Cineworld and – until November 30 – Tesco.

Once your Rewards balance reaches £5 or more, you can choose to bank the cash, exchange it for gift cards or tickets from selected retailers, or even donate it charity. You will have to register for online banking and activate your card online to benefit. You can learn more about the scheme with Rachel Wait’s article, How to make the most cashback.

While NatWest/RBS now offers a cashback service, you won’t get a one-off payment for switching. The Select account also doesn’t pay interest on credit balances and there’s no fee-free overdraft beyond a standard £10 buffer.

Good for: Regular shoppers of the selected Cashback Plus stores who don’t go overdrawn.

Nationwide

Nationwide Building Society offers two eye-catching current accounts for anyone in the market to jump ship from their existing provider – and the one you prefer will depend on your circumstances.

The FlexDirect account pays a whopping 5% interest. But it only applies to balances of up to £2,500 and just for the first 12 months. After this time, the rate drops to 1% up to the same cap. This account also offers a fee-free overdraft for the first 12 months, after which time you will be charged 50p a day if the borrowing has been prior arranged. There’s no operating fee on the FlexDirect account but you’ll have to pay in £1,000 a month to qualify.

Good for: Those with a consistent balance of around £2,500 in their current account, or those with an overdraft they want to transfer and can clear in the next 12 months.

Nationwide’s FlexAccount’s biggest perk its free annual European travel insurance – which applies to customers up to the age of 75. For an extra £20 you can pay to upgrade it to worldwide cover. There is no interest payable on the account and no monthly fee either.

Good for: Regular travellers – especially if retired – who like to keep savings separate from their current account.

Lloyds Vantage or TSB Enhance

On Monday 9 September, Lloyds launched new bank called TSB which currently offers the same deals as Lloyds but sometimes under different names. The Lloyds Vantage and TSB Enhance offerings are therefore effectively the same product. They are not current accounts in their own right but facilities that can be added applied to the banks’ existing ones which include the Classic or Added Value accounts.

If you have added Vantage or Enhance to your TSB or Lloyds current account, you will earn interest at 1.50% on balances up to £1,000. If your balance is between £1,000 and £3,000 you will earn 2.00% on your cash, and this increases again to 3.00% if you keep up to £5,000 in the account. If you hold more than this in the account the rate drops to nothing. Where you do earn interest, it’s payable on the whole amount (from £0 upwards).

Lloyds Bank has also just increased the savings rate on its Monthly Saver account from a fixed 2.00% to 3.00% for 12 months - and requires payments of between £25 and £250 a month. The account is only open to new customers and you will need a current account with Lloyds Bank to qualify.

Good for: Those who carry larger balances in their current accounts which are not likely to exceed a cap of £5,000 – even on including on payday.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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