Published: 01/03/2019

At a glance

  • The Current Account Switch Service has made it quicker and easier to switch bank accounts.
  • The service is free, and switches should be completed within seven working days.
  • Direct debits should automatically transfer to your new account.
  • Your new provider should do all the legwork for you!

How to switch current accounts

You may think switching would be too much of a hassle, but thanks to the Current Account Switch Service, it's easier than ever to change your bank account. What's more, it's completely free.

Banks involved in the scheme have pledged to complete the switching process in seven days or fewer, and as an added guarantee they'll even refund you any charges or lost interest incurred should things go wrong.

This all means that there's no reason to stick with a bank you're unhappy with. If you're looking for an account that offers extra services, cash incentives or simply a better interest rate, then now's the time to get searching, and we want to help make the process as stress-free as possible. So, here's a quick guide on how to switch so you can reap the rewards that a new current account could bring.

To see a full list of all those banks who participate in the current account switching service head on over to our current account switching guide.

Shop around for the most suitable account

First of all, you need to take some time to research the market before committing to a new account as there are plenty of options to choose from. Comparisons are key.

You'll want to look at the features, charges, overdraft facilities and interest rates to decide if the account will suit your financial needs and lifestyle, and see what incentives can be offered, too (some accounts offer the likes of mobile phone and travel insurance as part of a paid-for accounts package, while others will offer up to £125 cashback just for switching).

OK, I've made a decision. How do I switch?

Once you've found a suitable account and have checked that the bank is part of the scheme (those participating will display the Current Account Switch Guarantee Trustmark), you can get things underway.

All you need to do is let the new bank know your intention to switch, provide them with proof of your identity (most will do this electronically, or you may need to supply some documents such as a utility bill, bank statement, passport, driving licence etc.), agree a specific switch date and fill in a couple of forms – a Current Account Switch Agreement form and a Current Account Closure Instruction form – and they'll take it from there.

How long does the switching process take?

Under the new rules, a new current account must be fully operational within seven working days.

Your existing provider is obliged to supply the new bank or building society with any direct debit and standing order details, and once the switch has taken place, any payments coming into or going out of your old account will be automatically redirected for 36 months. Any money remaining in your old account on the switch date will be automatically transferred to the new account, too.

Will I have to pay any charges if errors are made?

No. The Current Account Switch Guarantee is a core part of the scheme and guarantees that, should mistakes be made and penalties incurred (such as charges levied should direct debits be taken from your old account), you'll be completely refunded.

The same applies if you suffer from loss of interest or have any other problems during the switching process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I switch accounts if I'm overdrawn?

Yes, and your new bank may offer ways to help pay off your overdraft (subject to usual lending criteria). The industry regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, now requires current account providers to put overdraft eligibility checking tools on their websites, so customers can see if an existing overdraft is likely to be acceptable to a new provider.

Can I change my mind?

Yes, but only up to seven working days before the agreed switch date. After that only certain elements can be cancelled.

Will I have to pay?

No, it's an entirely free service that's been designed by Payments UK (formerly the Payments Council) and run by Bacs – a not-for-profit organisation owned by the New Payment System Operator – to make switching quick and simple. Why not take advantage of it?

Does switching bank accounts affect my credit score?

Yes, although the impact is small for a single current account switch, it does have an effect.

When you switch banks using the Current Account Switching Service, does your old account close?

Yes. As part of the Current Account Switching Service, your old bank will close your previous current account within seven days of a successful transfer. In addition, any monies sent to your old current account will be automatically diverted to your new account.

How many bank accounts can I have?

There is no limit to the number of bank accounts you can have. While the standard check that banks do when you open a new account will appear on your credit history, this has either a very small or no impact at all on your credit score. In addition, switching accounts from one provider to another will be recorded, but again there is little to no impact on your credit score no matter how many times you do this. In fact, if you open a basic bank account or similar bank account designed for those who have a poor credit score, these will not appear on your credit history at all.

Can you switch multiple current accounts?

Yes, you can switch more than one current account, but these need to be done one at a time.

How often can I switch current accounts?

In theory, you can switch your current account as many times and as often as you like. As outlined above, switching will have a very small or no effect at all on your credit score. Consumers are encouraged to switch provider if they can get a better deal elsewhere.

Which banks give you money to switch?

There are currently three providers who are offering cash for customers to switch to their current accounts: first direct, HSBC and NatWest. At the time of writing:

  • first direct is offering £100 cash for those who switch to its 1st account, whether this is with or without first directory.
  • HSBC is offering £175 for those who switch to its Advance and Premier bank accounts and the smaller sum of £75 for its standard current account.
  • NatWest is offering £175 to new and existing customers who switch to their Select, Reward, Reward Silver, Platinum and Black bank accounts. The reward account also gives customers £4 per month for two direct debits and an additional £1 for logging onto online banking. This is a limited time offer until 2 April 2020.

It should be noted that terms and conditions apply to all the offers given above and consumers should still check these carefully with the provider before deciding to switch. In addition, offers can be withdrawn at any time.

Do banks run a credit check to open a new account?

Basic accounts (also known as bad credit bank accounts) and prepaid accounts will not need the provider to run a credit check to open. Basically, these are designed for those who have a poor credit score and while you will likely get an ATM card, these forms of account will not allow you any form of credit or overdraft. Often the cards issued will be debit-only, meaning that if you try to buy something but lack enough funds in your account, then the transaction will be refused.
On the other hand, if you are opening a standard account (i.e. one that is not intended for consumers with bad credit scores) or one that includes a package of benefits (sometimes called packaged or premium accounts), then the bank will be running a credit check to confirm your identity and assess your ability to handle credit.

Can banks see your other bank accounts?

Banks cannot see details of your bank accounts when you apply or switch a bank account or if you use a digital banking app that brings all your accounts into one place. The only times they may be able to share information between each other is in suspected cases of fraud/ illegal activity, or if a court order or warrant has been granted for this to happen.

  1. A bank cannot see your bank account details when you switch When you apply or switch bank account, a credit check (if applicable) will show on your credit file. However, your bank account balance or overdraft used or available are not shown, unlike with loan products, which show an outstanding balance or an available amount of credit.
  2. Banks do not share details of accounts between them on money management apps. There are digital banking apps that enable you to see all your bank accounts in one place – this is often referred to as ‘Open Banking’. This is only allowed with your direct permission (this is part of the sign-up process) and the individual banks included cannot see your other bank accounts.
  3. Banks may share details if they suspect fraud or illegal activity Banks do co-operate in anti-fraud initiatives, which might result in them sharing details where they think illegal activity or an attempt to commit fraud is taking place.

What does closing an account mean for your credit score?

Closing accounts is often believed to be a good way to improve your credit score. However, in some circumstances it can actually hurt your scoring instead. An important factor in credit scoring is the proportion of total balances vs. your total credit limit. Paying off credit lowers this proportion, improving a credit score, but closing an account will likewise reduce your overall credit, making the proportion of debt higher and as a consequence it may negatively affect your credit score.
Closed bank accounts (and credit card accounts too) will remain on your credit history for seven to 10 years, depending on the way they were operated and closed. Having closed accounts on your credit history is quite normal and enables a more accurate picture of your financial history for credit scoring.

Moneyfacts tip

Moneyfacts tip Leanne Macardle

Although the Current Account Switch Guarantee will cover you if mistakes occur, it'll make things a lot simpler if you plan your switch date according to when regular payments tend to be made.

If, for example, your standing orders and direct debits leave your account on a certain date each month, it's a good idea to arrange for the switch to take place shortly after. Your agreed switch date will need to be at least seven working days after your new account officially opens.

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

woman holding up paper question mark

At a glance

  • The Current Account Switch Service has made it quicker and easier to switch bank accounts.
  • The service is free, and switches should be completed within seven working days.
  • Direct debits should automatically transfer to your new account.
  • Your new provider should do all the legwork for you!

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