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3 Sep 2020

New bank account perks and penalties: could you earn up to £250 or pay to withdraw cash?

Metro Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland have new switching offers, and Monzo is introducing new fees for occasional users

The number of people switching current accounts fell dramatically between April and June, as branches shut and staff were diverted to help customers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. But now banks are starting to resume the fight to win and keep customers.

Halifax was the first bank to reintroduce its switching offer last month, where new customers can receive £100. Now Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has joined the fray with a £100 switching bonus for newcomers, and Metro Bank has launched its first 'recommend a friend' scheme that allows existing customers to earn up to £250.

But it's not all good news, as Monzo plans to start charging occasional users for withdrawing cash and replacement cards, while those who use the account 'more as a bank than a spending account' or have Monzo Plus will be exempt.

Monzo has consistently been one of the switching favourites, earning a net gain of more than 19,000 customers between January and March this year, while RBS lost more than 14,000 customers. Could these changes usher in new switching behaviour?

Here, Which? details the latest banking changes and weighs up whether you should consider switching.

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Who will pay the new Monzo fees?

Monzo is introducing fees based on how often you use your account. These include a charge of 3% on cash withdrawals when you take out more than £250 every 30 days in the UK and EEA countries, and a £5 replacement card fee if yours gets lost.

This is a big step away from when the bank first launched, when everything was famously fee-free.

These changes are due to come into effect from 31 October 2020, but Monzo says only a 'small number' of users will be affected - those who only use their account occasionally, or as a prepaid spending card.

You won't have to pay if you:

  • pay in at least £500 every 35 days, and have at least one direct debit set up
  • receive a payment from the Department for Work and Pensions or Department for Communities directly into the account in the past 35 days
  • get a student loan paid into the account every eight months
  • share a Monzo joint account with someone who does one of the above
  • have a premium Monzo Plus account.

So, you don't have to be 'full Monzo' to avoid the charges, but you must use the account for a significant amount of your day-to-day banking.

The bank has emailed its customers to tell them whether or not they're likely to have to pay the charges, based on their current use of their Monzo account.

Those who don't need to pay the new charges can keep free cash withdrawals in the UK and EEA countries, but there is a 3% charge on withdrawals over £200 every 30 days (which counts for everyone), and you can get two free replacement cards in the UK each year.

There's a £30 charge for replacement cards abroad for everyone, regardless of the reason - including expiry and fraud.

How to earn up to £250 with Metro Bank

For the first time, Metro Bank is offering existing customers the chance to earn up to £250 when they refer friends to open accounts.

Those with Metro Bank accounts must register beforehand to get sent a unique code to share with family or friends, who will have to use the code when they sign up.

To get the maximum £250, you must successfully refer five friends (you can refer more than this, but you'll only get bonuses for five). Existing customers and the friend they've referred receive £50 each - but there are a few terms you'll need to fulfil before you get the cash.

Firstly, each 'friend' must open a personal current account or private banking account, and switch within 30 days using the Current Account Switching Service (CASS).

Once the new account is set up, the customer who has been referred must pay in at least £500 in each of the first two months, and make at least 10 debit card purchases during that time.

The bonuses will be paid within 30 days of all this being done, as long as neither of you have closed your Metro Bank accounts, or if any active account blocks have been put in place.

The offer runs until 11 December 2020.

Get paid £100 to switch with RBS

With a fairly straightforward switching offer, new customers can switch to an RBS Select Everyday bank account or Reward account to get the £100 bonus, but you might have to wait until next year to receive it.

Depending on which account you choose, different eligibility criteria apply. The Select account is for UK citizens over the age of 18, it's fee-free and has the option for an arranged overdraft.

The Reward account costs £2 a month, and requires at least £1,250 to be paid in each month, but you can earn up to £5 a month in rewards if you set up at least two direct debits from the account and log in to the mobile app at least once a month.

For both accounts, you must make the switch by 19 November 2020, but the offer could end any time before that.

Once the account has been opened, you must pay in at least £1,500 and log in to either the mobile banking app, or digital banking, by 30 December 2020.

As long as all criteria have been fulfilled, the bonus will be paid into your account by 29 January 2021.

What other current account perks could you get?

The Halifax £100 switching offer is available until 14 September, but you might also want to consider accounts with perks other than cash bonuses.

Earn interest on your cash

Nationwide's FlexDirect account pays 2% AER - which doesn't sound like much but is an astronomical figure compared with today's savings rates, unfortunately.

Note that you must pay in at least £1,000 each month to receive the rate, which is only offered for the first 12 months and is paid on the first £1,500 in the account.

After a year you'll earn just 0.25% AER, when you might want to consider switching again.

Get cashback on what you spend

While the Santander 123 accounts have undergone many changes this year - with more to come - it's still one of the best deals when it comes to cashback.

You can earn up to £15 a month (£5 in each cashback tier) if you use the account to pay for bills and some Santander financial products, and the standard account also pays interest on balances up to £20,000.

However, there are monthly fees:the 123 account costs £5 a month, and 123 Lite costs £1 a month - increasing to £2 at the end of October.

Try a packaged account

Packaged accounts come with extras such as travel insurance and car breakdown cover, for a monthly fee.

The 'best' account will depend on your circumstances, and what services you'll actually make good use of, but our analysis has identified Nationwide's FlexPlus account as a top pick.

It costs £156 annually and includes car breakdown cover, travel insurance (which stacked up well when we analysed it for COVID-19 scenarios) and mobile phone cover, but you could save up to £180 a year using this account rather than buying each policy as a standalone product.

Which account should you pick?

It's not all about the bonuses and special features. Switching your current account can have a big impact on your everyday banking, so make sure the account works for you.

For instance, if an account is online-only and you have poor internet coverage or prefer going to a branch, it's unlikely to be the right choice.

It's also worth checking how the provider's customer service measures up, and whether it's signed up to the APP code to protect you from fraud.