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13 Feb 2020

NatWest offers £211 switch - but is it the best bank account for you?

Find out how NatWest compares to other banks for customer service as well as switching incentives

In the latest move in the battle between banks for new customers, NatWest has launched a deal that could net you £211 in the first year.

But although switching current account can be easy money, there can also be costs in convenience, service quality and overdraft charges.

Here, Which? compares the NatWest deal with offers from other banks, reveals how NatWest did in our annual banking survey and explains what to consider if you're tempted to switch.

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Switching current account could net you up to £211

NatWest's 'highest-ever guaranteed switcher offer' promises new customers £175 by 5 June. But you could potentially earn £211 over a year - a further £36 - if you opt for a fee-charging current account and set up regular direct debits.

Although NatWest launched a switcher deal last spring which offered broadly similar incentives, the bank says the returns above the basic £175 are more certain this time.

NatWest told Which?: 'Previously the Reward account was based on getting a percentage back on monthly bills. This is the first time it will be possible to know you will get exactly £211 back for following the criteria set out.'

You can continue to gain the extra £36 after the first year, too.

New customers and those who hold NatWest products other than a current account are eligible to apply, but not if you've already switched to NatWest for cash since October 2017.

You have until Thursday 2 April to sign up for this deal, eitheronline at NatWest.com or at any NatWest branch.

How can I get the payout?

To earn £175 in June you'll need to:

  • be 18 or over;
  • close down your main account and move it to NatWest using the automatic seven-day Current Account Switch Service (CASS);
  • pay £1,500 in total into your new account;
  • log into online or mobile banking through NatWest's mobile app before 10 May; and
  • choose NatWest's Select account, a basic account with no monthly fee.

To earn up to £211 over a year...

You'll need to meet all the conditions above, but instead of opening a Select account, you'll have to open a Reward, Reward Silver, Reward Platinum or Black account (these are all fee-charging accounts).

You'll also have to:

  • set up at least two monthly direct debits, which will earn you from £4 a month; and
  • log into online banking at least once a month, which will earn you £1 a month.

Under these terms the maximum you could make over a year is £60, but after monthly account fees are factored in the maximum net gain is £36 if you take out a Reward account, which costs £2 a month.

Should you open a paid-for current account?

Monthly fees are higher once you go beyond NatWest's Reward account and will cut into the cash gains. The Reward Silver account costs £10 a month, and it's £20 for the Reward Platinum.

However, the accounts offer other perks including travel insurance.

On Premier Reward Black accounts, monthly fees are high at £31 but it is possible to earn as much as £10 a month back: £9 on having two direct debits of at least £4.50 each, plus £1 on using the mobile banking app.

With all these accounts, it's worth studying the details to work out whether you need the 'added extras', and whether they offer true value for money.

Extra cashback - but with strings attached

You can also make extra money on the retailer cashback offers that are regularly offered across all five of the NatWest current accounts.

It's possible to get up £10 a month cashback on the Reward Black account, but make sure you factor in the high £31 monthly account fee.

It's also worth bearing in mind that earlier this month NatWest cut the amount of cashback it offers, so don't base your decision on things you may have read in the past.

How does this compare to other switching deals?

With this offer, NatWest has knocked HSBC off the top spot for the highest-paying switch on the market, if you include the extra £36 in perks.

If not, it's still easier to meet NatWest's conditions because HSBC's deal requires you to pay in £1,750 a month compared with NatWest's £1,500.

Three other banks are currently offering switch sweeteners:

  • HSBC: new customers will get £175 if you pay in £1,750 a month (or £10,500 over six months) and have two direct debits or standing orders out of either an Advance and a Premier account. Alternatively, opening its ordinary no-fee bank account with no minimum monthly deposit will earn you £75.
  • First Direct: £100 available if you pay in at least £1,000 in the first three months.
  • Nationwide: its 'Recommend a Friend' scheme could earn you up to £500 per tax year. Each time you refer a friend you'll earn £100, but Nationwide will claim back the money if you leave within three months of receiving the bonus.

Is NatWest actually a good bank?

In our annual survey of the best and worst banks, in which we asked thousands of current account holders to rate their provider, NatWest was a middling performer. There was considerable distance between NatWest and the four Which? Recommended Providers.

It came 12th out of 21 of the biggest banks, including high street and online-only providers. It received an overall score of 69%, while the top-scorer got 84% and the lowest received 55%.

For customer service, NatWest was awarded three out of five stars, while the best banks received five.Its communication and handling of complaints also received an uninspiring three stars.

Online and mobile banking were both regarded as fairly good, scoring four out of five, but NatWest's in-branch service and benefits both received a disappointing two stars.

Should I rush to grab this offer?

Many of the major high street banks have offered cash or vouchers to switchers over the past few years, and they often attempt to retain new customers by staggering payments throughout the year. NatWest itself has been making two to three offers a year since 2017.

There are three key times in the calendar when these deals tend to pop up. There's often a sprinkling of offers from September in the run-up to Christmas, when people are looking for cash.

Then there are new offers in the new year, when people traditionally overhaul their finances, and again in spring when people are planning holidays and home improvements. There's usually a lull around summer.

While there is always a sense of urgency to these offers, competition for new customers means it's likely they will continue to reappear, albeit in a slightly changed guise - so don't feel under pressure to apply if you're not ready.

What to consider before you apply

The most important consideration is not when, but which bank you should be switching to.

Consider what's important to you: if customer service is a priority, check out our banking reviews.

If you're an overdraft user, check whether the account will offer the best overdraft terms after these increase in April.

And, if you want to be able to visit a local branch, check for planned bank closures in your area before you apply.

How does switching work?

Many people fear that vital payments in and out of their account could be lost or misplaced if they move current account, so avoid switching.

But switching deals nowadays use the Current Account Switch Service (CASS), which promises to move direct debits and standing orders across to the newly opened account within seven days.

If money is paid in to your old account, CASS will redirect the funds to your new account for at least three years.

The CASS service works seamlessly but you may still want to check there have been no glitches for peace of mind. If there are any mistakes and charges as a result, you should be refunded.

Last year CASS completed just over one million switches - 73,000 more than in 2018, which saw the lowest number of switches since CASS launched in 2013.

Is it a good idea to switch current account?

Some people pride themselves on being serial switchers, netting several hundreds of pounds. However, jumping from one bank account to another isn't for everyone.

Quality and convenience are key considerations. You may make some money but you'll need to spend time checking and inputting details, and learning the new bank's system.

If you have people or organisations you pay but not via standing order or direct debit, their bank details won't be transferred across if you do a manual switch, so you'll need to enter these yourself.

The process can also take slightly longer if you are switching a jointly held account into a single one.