Changing banks just got easier

Tim Bennett rounds up this week’s personal finance news, including the news rules that will make switching banks easier and how to lighten the burden of paying off your credit card.

Moving your bank account usually because you are fed up with the service offered by your existing bank is a hassle. So Chancellor George Osborne's vow to see banks "working for their customers, not for themselves" is welcome. As reports, from September new rules should mean that you can walk into your bank and demand that your account, including all linked direct-debit payments, be moved within a week.

Osborne is staying silent on the question of where you might want to move your money to, but we suggest a likely candidate is First Direct it regularly tops the Which? consumers' association table for customer service.

According to comparison site, failing to shop around for an annuity a bugbear of ours could cost a retiree with a savings pot of £100,000 as much as £800 a year. Yet only 40% of us take the "open market option", instead of just swapping our retirement savings for an annuity from our existing pension provider. That percentage is way too low, which is why we keep saying, again and again: shop around!

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Most of us don't want to think about dying. But that can cause a headache for those we leave behind. As Teresa Hunter notes in The Sunday Telegraph, a growing number of wills are being contested, resulting in legal fees that can eat up a sizeable chunk of any inheritance. Things get ugly when the deceased fails to leave a will at all.

Obvious solutions include making a will in the first place, and deciding well in advance who will administer it (an "executor"). This can be a trusted family member, or a professional. Saga claims it can process a "straightforward will" on a £500,000 estate for £1,890. That compares to the £7,500 you might be billed by a solicitor.

If you can't clear your credit-card debts each month, the latest Barclaycard deal on its Platinum Card is worth a look, says Kara Gammell in The Daily Telegraph. Its interest-free period has been extended to 25 months with a reduced handling fee of 3.2% (so a £1,000 balance transfer will cost you £32).

After the 25 months, the rate reverts to 18.9%, balance transfers from another Barclaycard aren't allowed, and you must transfer your balance within 60 days of opening the account.

Tim graduated with a history degree from Cambridge University in 1989 and, after a year of travelling, joined the financial services firm Ernst and Young in 1990, qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1994.

He then moved into financial markets training, designing and running a variety of courses at graduate level and beyond for a range of organisations including the Securities and Investment Institute and UBS. He joined MoneyWeek in 2007.