Belfast Telegraph

'35,000' switching bank accounts

More than 35,000 people have started to switch their bank current account after a new guarantee was launched last week to take the hassle out of changing providers.

The figure was released by the Payments Council, which said the new service had got off to a "great start" and the IT system on which the service was built was operating smoothly.

Under the new scheme, the length of time it takes to switch accounts has been cut from up to 30 working days to seven and all outgoing and incoming payments should automatically move to the new provider.

Some doubts have been raised over the seven-day switching promise, which has been signed up to by the vast majority of current account providers.

In a report published on the Daily Telegraph website, a journalist who tried to change providers found that the seven-day switching guarantee only kicked in after certain paperwork and identity checks could be completed, meaning the whole process of moving accounts over would take closer to a month to complete.

The Payments Council advises consumers that in order to make sure their switch is successful, they should take as a minimum a recent bank statement and debit card to help with identity checks and linking up to the old account.

It said the new bank would still need to run security checks to help the switch run smoothly.

It said providers would have different requirements for opening an account so consumers should confirm what they needed to bring with them.

Opening an account was a separate process from account switching, the Council said, and once a bank had carried out security checks the consumer could then choose the date they would like to switch.

Adrian Kamellard, chief executive of the Payments Council, said: "Although it is too early to tell what switching levels will be over the longer term, interest in the new service has clearly got off to a great start.

"For us, getting the system successfully launched is only the first step - the next is to learn from what customers actually experience and if necessary to make any improvements.

"Everyone across the industry is determined to put in the work to get the switching experience as good as it can be for customers."

The service covers joint accounts, but all those who hold the account need to complete the forms required to switch.

Consumers who were overdrawn could also switch, but if the new provider did not provide facilities to help them pay off any overdraft they would need to make separate arrangements to pay off their old bank.

Several current account providers and comparison websites have already reported surges in activity from people looking to switch accounts.

Comparison website MoneySupermarket has reported a 45% increase in the number of visitors to its site looking to snap up a new current account following the changes, while Nationwide has seen a 79% week-on-week uplift in the number of people initiating a switch and First Direct has said the number of calls from people looking to switch was running at double the levels it usually saw.

Santander said that last week was on a par with the busiest ever week it had seen for people switching to its flagship 123 current account.