Is it time to switch your current account?

Most people don't think about switching their current accounts to another provider. And that's a shame, says David Stevenson. By making the change, you can earn extra add-ons or cash incentives.

"There's an old saying you're more likely to get divorced than switch your bank account'," says Heraldscotland.com. The statistics seem to support it. Only 7% of customers have switched current account in the past two years, says Consumer Focus. That's even fewer than have swapped energy supplier, insurer or phone company. That's a shame, says Simon Lambert of Thisismoney.co.uk, since constant competition among providers to offer the best deal now means that "switching current accounts can get you added extras and better customer service and make your life easier". After all, current accounts remain key to our daily lives. Our pay goes into them, we pay our bills from them, and most of us use them daily. So our apathy is somewhat surprising, as switching your current account "has never been easier".

These days, comparing current accounts online takes just a few minutes. Providers now offer a dedicated "switcher service" that does the hard work for you, more quickly than ever before. Once you've filled in an application and transfer forms, and provided proof of identity, your new bank or building society does the rest. That includes transferring direct debits and standing orders, or getting your previous provider to cancel any payments you want to stop. Your new account should be ready to go within three weeks. What's more, many current-account providers promise to reimburse customers if their transfer goes wrong.

Better still, the incentives on offer mean you could cash in straight away. Santander is the latest bank to offer incentives to switch, with £100 payments if you open its Preferred, Reward or Premium Account. If you switch via the Moneysupermarket.com website, you get an extra £25 Amazon voucher. The Preferred account has consistently topped the best-buy tables: it pays 5% interest on credit balances up to £2,500. It also offers an interest-free overdraft for the first 12 months, after which customers pay a 50p per day overdraft charge for authorised borrowing, capped at £5 a month.

As Kevin Mountford points out at Moneysupermarket.com, many current deals require customers to deposit at least £1,000 a month, so don't expect simply to open a new account and collect the free cash. But even if you don't qualify or are fairly happy with your current account, you may find an alternative that comes with add-ons that save you money, provide more benefits, or give you better deals on credit cards, loans or savings.

If you decide not to switch, just by comparing accounts and letting your bank know you're after the best deal you're helping to keep them on their toes.

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