Personal Accounts – Choosing Your Bank
While many people are with their bank because they’re used to them or because it seems like an unwanted hassle to change accounts, there can be benefits to shopping around. And just because you keep your main account in one bank, there’s no need to keep all your accounts or credit cards with one firm.
If you have a poor credit rating or a large overdraft, you may find it harder to change banks, but some banks will ‘buy’ your overdraft from you, or offer to convert it into a loan. For a small fee you can request details of your credit rating from Equifax or Experian – the two leading credit reference agencies.
Depending on your circumstances, you may find you’d be better off with one of the new internet banks, like Smile or Cahoot. These can give better interest rates, because they have lower overheads than high street banks that have to run branches in ‘real time’. On the other hand, you may rather stick with a large bank you know and trust – perhaps you have a good relationship with your branch manager and can expect extra support when you need it. The larger banks also have plentiful local branches, which could be a plus point if you need to, say, pay in cheques frequently.
While interest rates are an important consideration, there are other factors to take into account when choosing a bank, such as bank charges. Some banks will charge more than others, for example, if you exceed your overdraft limit or if a cheque bounces. Others will charge extra to provide you with copies of statements. Check that the bank complies with the Banking Code, a UK body that promotes best practise in the financial sector.
Bear in mind too, that some banks will offer excellent terms for new customers in order to attract your business, so it may be worthwhile swapping just to take advantage of these. You may find a lower-interest loan, for example, with a new bank.
Bank policy and corporate ethos
Some institutions offer ‘ethical’ banking, so that you can be sure your money is not being used to fund companies who do not conform to certain criteria. The Co-operative Bank led the way in ethical banking, but there are other banks and investment companies to choose from.
As well as the larger high street banks, there are smaller banks, building societies and friendly societies to consider. While normally associated with savings, some offer current accounts with attractive rates, and many of the new building societies are in fact indistinguishable from banks.
By: Joseph Kenny