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How to switch your bank account: everything you need to know

According to research by Consumer Focus, 75 per cent of consumers have never considered switching their current bank account.

Below, we explain how to make the switch, how long it takes, the benefits of doing so and more.

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Before you make the switch

Before you begin switching your bank account, check that it’s possible given your exact circumstances.

The new Current Account Switch Scheme can’t be used if you have a joint account with someone who hasn’t permitted to switch.

It doesn’t apply to savings accounts, ISAs or non-sterling payment accounts either. 

Think carefully about the kind of account you’d like.

Websites such as moneysupermarket.com and uSwitch can help you decide.

Always make sure you’re eligible for any account you like the look of.

Criteria often include things like a minimum number of monthly Direct Debits, or a set amount entering the account regularly. 

How do you switch bank accounts? 

Currently, most banks use a free seven-day Current Account Switch Service.

This is backed by a guarantee that ensures you are refunded any charges or lost interest if anything delays your switchover.

Here’s the essential process in six stages: 

  1. Check all your payments: Make sure you cancel any payments on your current account that you no longer use – there’s no point in taking them with you to your new account 

  1. Get your documents together: Make sure you’ve got your transaction history to hand, as this won’t be transferred through the switch service. Your bank should be able to supply you with old statements 

  1. Set a date for switching: Select a date that’s right for you, but be sure to allow seven working days for the switch to happen. Remember to avoid weekends and bank holidays! 

  1. Start the switch: Now you can ask your new bank or building society to make the switch, using the Current Account Switch Service. You’ll need to agree to the Current Account Switch Agreement and Current Account Closure Instruction before going ahead, but these will be provided. Speak to your new bank about any agreed overdraft, so this can be transferred seamlessly too 

  1. Relax, there’s a guarantee: If there are any problems with your switch, you needn’t worry, your new bank or building society will correct them and you will be compensated for any lost interest or for any charges incurred   

  1. You’re ready to go: On your agreed switch date, your new account will be ready for you to use, and the old one will be closed   

What are the benefits of switching your bank account? 

Banks like to welcome new customers, so they often incentivise the switching process.

This is known as a switching bonus, which can be up to around £200, or a percentage cashback offer on certain purchases over a fixed period.

Although very welcome, these ‘perks’ should never be the sole reason for switching your bank account.

Instead look at key features such as credit interest rates, overdraft charges and overall performance.

You can check this by looking at their Which? customer score for example.  

If you do a little research before switching, you can pinpoint banks that offer you a better service than you’re currently receiving, a more useful range of apps or perhaps local branches that would suit your routine and location. 

How do you spot the best new accounts? 

In 2016 the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) published a report on the retail banking market and proposed a range of measures that would make it easier for people to shop around for the best possible banking products.

Now customers are allowed to share their data securely with other banks and third parties, and the banks themselves must show ‘core indicators of service quality’, based on feedback from customers. 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has also told the banks and building societies to publish information that helps customers make useful, informed comparisons between providers. 

Basically, it’s now a great deal easier to find out which providers are offering good service and a good deal, and which are not performing so well. 

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Will switching bank accounts affect your credit rating? 

It’s a wise idea to limit the number of applications you make for a new current account in the short term, because banks run credit checks to establish your overdraft facility, and you don’t want to rack up too many credit application searches. 

Evidence of a long-standing relationship with your bank can be a good sign for lenders, but really they’re far more interested in your actual credit history, so don’t let this put you off.

There are plenty of good reasons for switching your bank account, and it needn’t be a hassle. 

Learn more: Does switching bank accounts affect your credit score?

How long does it take to switch bank accounts?

The bank switching process usually takes approximately 7 working days from start to finish.

That means the soonest you can expect the changeover to be finalised is just over a week after signing up with your new bank.

You select the specific switch date, so aim for a low-activity day without any scheduled debits leaving your old account.

This minimises the risk of payment issues during the transition.

Can you switch bank accounts with an overdraft?

When submitting your switch request, you’ll usually be shown if the new bank will offer you an overdraft.

If their overdraft limit fully covers what you owe, the funds get sent to your old bank.

You’ll then owe the overdrawn balance on the new account instead. 

However, if the new bank's overdraft offer is lower than your existing overdrawn amount, or you don't qualify for one, you'll need to pay off the remaining deficit separately.

Settle your old account first before the switch or closure can be finalised and factor overdraft transfer limits into your switch plans.

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About the author
Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.