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2 Aug 2020

Santander 123 current account interest and cashback cuts: should you switch?

The cashback and interest you can earn may no longer cover the monthly fees

The interest rate on Santander's popular 123 Current Account will be reduced to just 0.6% AER from tomorrow (Monday 3 August).

The bank had already cut the rate from 1.5% to 1% AER in May, while introducing a £5 monthly cashback cap for each of its three tiers.

And the changes for this year aren't over yet - last week, the bank announced further shake-ups to current account fees and cashback, which will be introduced in October.

Here, Which? explains what the account changes are and look at whether you can get a better current account deal elsewhere.

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What's changing with the Santander 123 accounts?

From Monday 3 August, the rate of interest on Santander's 123 account will fall to 0.6% AER, from 1% AER.

The 123 account is pretty rare in that it pays interest on up to £20,000 - at the beginning of this year, when the rate was 1.5% AER, that meant you could earn up to £302 in interest over a year.

At 1% AER, that fell to just over £200 - and it will fall again to £120 once the interest rate is reduced to 0.6% AER.

It's also important to note what's not changing - the monthly fee; Santander 123 customers will still be charged £5 a month to hold the account.

This means you'll either have to keep a balance of £10,000 to cover the fees with the interest you earn, or spend between £165 and £500 a month on bills - depending on which cashback category they fall into.

More changes to come later this year

Further changes have been announced for Santander customers, due to come into force from 27 October 2020.

Cashback switch-up

Cashback rates for Santander 123, 123 Lite, Private and Select accounts are being changed again, boosting what you receive from paying your water bill, but reducing the cashback you earn from phone, broadband, mobile and TV packages.

Currently you get:

  • 1% cashback on water bills, council tax bills and on the first £1,000 towards a Santander residential mortgage
  • 2% cashback on gas and electricity bills, Santander home insurance premiums and Santander life insurance premiums
  • 3% cashback on mobile and home phone bills, broadband and paid-for TV packages.

From 27 October you'll get:

  • 1% cashback on mobile and home phone bills, broadband and paid-for TV packages, council tax bills, and on the first £1,000 towards a Santander residential mortgage
  • 2% cashback on gas and electricity bills, Santander home insurance premiums and Santander life insurance premiums
  • 3% cashback on water bills.

While you'll be able to earn more cashback on your water bill, moving phone, broadband and TV bills to the 1% tier could have an effect on how much cashback you earn.

The maximum amount of cashback you can receive per month for each tier is still capped at £5, but it's unlikely many people would earn more than this on bills.

Fees hike

Those who have the Santander 123 Lite account will see their fees doubled from the end of October. Currently, the Lite account costs just £1 a month; but later this year it will go up to £2 a month.

There aren't any additional benefits to go with the increased price.

It will still be possible to use the account's perks to cover your costs of £24 a year, but as there's no interest paid on the Lite account, this will have to solely be from cashback.

You can make £2 in cashback by spending between £67 and £200 on bills each month, depending on their category.

Should you switch?

Santander is one of many, many providers to cut customer perks - in the last few months alone we've seen Nationwide, TSB and Tesco Bank slash the rates on their high-interest current accounts.

However, there are still competitive deals out there - whether you want to switch your current account elsewhere, or opt to earn more interest on your cash with a savings account.

Despite the recent cuts, Nationwide's FlexDirect account still pays 2% AER. However, this is only on the first £1,500 held in the account, and only lasts for 12 months - after that, the AER drops to just 0.25%.

Granted, you'll only earn up to £30 in interest over the course of a year, but if you don't have the capacity to save several thousands of pounds, it's better than the £9 you'd earn on the same balance with Santander 123 (before the fee is factored in).

If you have more cash to save, you could earn 1.16% AER with a top-rate instant-access savings account; £20,000 saved here would earn around £232 over 12 months.