Switching Current Accounts - How to find the best one for you

Today we write about switching current accounts and what questions to ask in order to find the best current account for you. Switching current accounts has recently been in the news because the process of switching current accounts is about to get a whole lot easier. Last week’s government report will trigger the biggest shake-up in banking for years.

Among the Independent ­Commission on Banking’s ­recommendations is that it should take no longer than seven days to move banks. It also wants a new “redirection service” so that direct debits are moved over without delays. Currently many of us are put off by the time it takes to switch accounts and the hassle involved resulting in ­customers on average moving only once every 26 years! Because of this, millions of us are putting up with below average levels of service, steep overdraft charges and poor rates of interest when in credit.

The Independent ­Commission on Banking’s ­recommendations should come into effect by 2013 but consumer experts say you shouldn’t wait until then to switch. Banks have started to  employ dedicated switching teams and the process of switching accounts is much slicker than it was a few years ago.

Comparing current accounts can be really difficult, however, as the right ­account for you will depend on how you use it. For most, the biggest charges are for when you go overdrawn but each of us goes overdrawn in different ways. Some people dip into their overdraft a few days a month while others are always in the red.

How to find the best current account for you
In order to find the best current account for you there are a few questions you need to ask banks you are considering joining and they are as follows:

Overdraft Charges - know the score!
The most popular annoyance with banking customers! An overdraft means you have withdrawn more money than is actually available in your current account and when you do this, more often than not you will incur charges from the bank. Unauthorised overdrafts are particularly expensive to absorb. Some lenders permit you to increase the limits of the amount by which you can be overdrawn so look out for these.

Ask about online statements
Ask if the bank will provide bank statements online on a continuous basis. Some lenders do supply online bank statements but only for a certain period. Other banks only post online bank statements for the current month. Be sure which applies to you.

Internet Banking 24/7? 
Internet banking has made banking easy but did you know that some banks turn off their online banking services at graveyard hours (from midnight to 7am) so that maintenance work can be carried out on their online banking system. If you're a night owl who would be doing your online banking during these hours then you will need a bank whose online banking is open 24/7.
 
Find out about online bill payment
Ask if the bank allows online bill payments using funds from your current account. Most banks even provide an automatic bill payment option to take the burden of having to remember to pay your bills each month off of you.

Can you manage standing orders?
Look for a bank that allows you to manage standing orders via the online banking system. If you opt for a direct debit arrangement, don't forget to finalise the direct debit arrangement with the company you will be paying.

Is the bank service oriented? 
When you're asking these above questions to your bank, are the staff polite and knowledgeable, or do they act like they prefer that you leave them alone? Little things like this are warning signs that maybe you should try finding the right current account for you elsewhere.

If you are a student, ask about student accounts 
If you're a student, it most certainly will benefit you getting a current account which is called a student account. You should be concerned primarily about interest rates and borrowing limits offered in the student account.

and finally 
With so many current accounts available these days, it takes knowledge, patience, and sometimes a bit of luck as well to get the right account for you but asking the above questions will help you get off the the best possible start.

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