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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Q&A: How to switch bank accounts
The Consumers' Association is encouraging people to switch banks, claiming that UK consumers are losing out by 500m in total each year through poor deals. So how much can you save by switching banks, and how do you do it?

How much can I save?

It really depends on your personal circumstances, how much you earn, how much money you keep in your current account and whether or not you have an overdraft.

According to the Consumers' Association someone taking home an average salary of 1,500 a month and spending consistently across the month could save 20 a year by moving to a current account with 3% interest.

Someone with an overdraft of 500 a month for two weeks of each month could also save 20 a year by moving to a bank with lower interest for overdrafts.

For some people the saving could be 100 a year for others it might be just 10 a year.

The Consumers' Association's "Switch with Which?" campaign is aimed at encouraging people to switch to better value providers and products.

Its website has a calculator which can help you work out how much you can save.

The great divide
Examples of HIGH paying current accounts
Cahoot 4.03%
Zurich Bank 3.45%
Intelligent Finance 3.15%
Examples of LOW paying current accounts
Barclays Additions 0.10%
HSBC Premier Account 0.10%
Natwest Current Account 0.10%
Lloyds TSB Classic 0.10%
Figures supplied by Moneyfacts apply 30 July

How do I find out about cheap rates?

Finding out about the best deals is very easy.

You can use the Consumers' Association site mentioned above.

Also Moneyfacts publishes 'best buy' tables for a range of financial products from savings accounts to credit accounts.

These can be accessed online from the Moneyfacts website.

How long should it take?

Your existing bank must provide details of standing orders and direct debits to your new bank within five working days.

And they should aim to complete the account transfer within five weeks.

But the code is voluntary, and banks can not be penalised if they fail to transfer within that timeframe.

Authorised overdraft charges
Examples of LOW cost accounts
Yorkshire Bank Principal 6.17%
Cahoot 8%
Clydesdale Bank Gold 8.34%
Example of HIGH cost accounts
Co-operative Bank 19.56%
HSBC 18.3%
Lloyds TSB Classic 17.3%
Figures supplied by Moneyfacts apply 30 July

Will switching improve?

The DeAnne Julius report into banking, published in November 2001, has already led to some improvements.

The report called for banks to adopt the five day transfer deadlines for standing orders and direct debits, which they have now done.

It also recommended a five week deadline for completing account transfers, and although the banks are aiming to meet this they say that in some cases transfers will take longer.

They advise customers to ask their banks how long a transfer will take.

Unauthorised overdrafts
Examples of LOW cost accounts
Alliance & Leicester Premier 9.9%
Woolwich Open Plan 11%
Yorkshire Bank Principal 14.93%
Examples of HIGH cost accounts
Citibank 35%
Natwest 33.8%
Clydesdale Gold 33.49%
Figures supplied by Moneyfacts apply 30 July

What else did the report recommend?

The Julius report recommended that banks should pay customers 50 if they failed to meet the deadlines.

The banks do not agree with this proposal, although some have promised to pay the money if they miss the five day target.

The report also called for a new Customers Annual Summary Statement (CASS).

This would give information on interest rates and charges, making it easier for customers to compare their bank's current accounts, personal loans and credit cards with its competitors.

The report also recommended that customers should have more access to "league tables". Most banks collate these figures, but are reluctant to publicise their results.

The league tables would be compiled by independent monitors, who would grade each bank on its compliance with the industry's code. These figures would then be made available to the public.

The report also recommended that league tables should also be published for account switching every six months.

Will banks adopt these measures?

In response to the Julius report, the banks agreed that the banking code, which governs their behaviour, should be reviewed by an independent figure.

Professor Elaine Kempson is carrying out that review and will be making her own recommendations in the autumn.

See also:

14 May 02 | Business
14 Mar 02 | Business
05 Dec 01 | Business
09 Jul 01 | Business
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