The January blues may be over, but as February gets underway, most of us are still battling with our bank balances.
Luckily for us, Martin Lewis is on hand to tell us everything we never knew (and might have been too confused to ask) about banking; from reclaiming fees and improving service, to gaining hundreds of pounds from our bank.
So pay attention as Martin and his Money Saving Maisonette take us through his ten banking must-knows: Don't get mad, get minted!
Bank accounts are one of our biggest whinges, yet according to our Money SavingExpert Martin Lewis, don't whinge, leave and according to Martin make a packet doing so.
1. Switching isn’t the hassle it was
Banks' switching services move direct debits and standing orders for you. Just tell those who pay you (eg, employers) the new details. My tip is keep your old account open for a few months, with minimal funds, as a back-up.
2. Reclaim £100s of packaged account fees
While packaged accounts are a boon for some, millions should check whether they’re really gaining from the free insurance (multiply the monthly cost by twelve to see what you’re really paying) and if not, cancel.
More so many may have been mis-sold - for example when the extra insurance didn’t actually cover them, or they didn’t realise the account came with a fee - can get money back. See full reclaim packaged bank account fees free help.
3. £100 to switch to top customer service account
If your bank doesn't treat you right, consider First Direct. Right now it's giving new switchers £100 though you need a £23,500 minimum income. Plus it gives 0% on overdrafts up to £250 (15.9% above) and has smashed every customer service poll I’ve ever done.
4 . Get 3% bills cashback AND 3% on savings
Santander’s 123 bank account pays 1%-3% cashback on water, council tax, Santander mortgages, energy, phone, broadband and TV bills. Many will typically earn £115/year, but some could earn more, easily offsetting the account’s £2/month fee. Better still, keep £3,000-£20,000 in and you earn 3% interest, smashing best buy savings. Avoid its costly overdraft, though.
5. Is ethical banking an oxymoron?
Ethical Consumer magazine rates firms on the environment, human and animal rights and politics. Luckily, there are accounts where its top picks and mine for rate overlap. Nationwide’s no fees FlexAccount gives European travel insurance for one, up to age 73. The Co-op’s highly rated too, as is Norwich & Peterborough, which gives cheap spending overseas.
6. The top premier account - huge insurance benefits
If you're going to pay a monthly fee for extras, the easy winner is the highly rated £9.50/month (£114/year) Co-op Privilege account. Its prime benefits are:
- Cover for up to 4 smartphones (including iPhone 5s) in your family.
- Family high-end worldwide travel insurance – even for those aged up to 79 (64 for winter sport).
Assuming all this is suitable, buying separately would cost around £450. There's also its £13/month Privilege Premier, which includes RAC European breakdown cover too.
6. Struggling to get an account?
Basic bank accounts don't credit score you, but you need ID. When applying, ask for the account by name, or even if you say you have a terrible credit score, they often give you the wrong forms and you are rejected. I’d suggest Barclays cash card and Co-Op Cash minder as two banks which play the game a little fairer.
7. Fed up with banks? Try a non-profit local credit union instead
There are 500 UK-wide and a few, about 25 offer bank accounts, all do savings and loans, and there's the same £85,000 per person protection as banks.
8. Shift your overdraft to 12 months 0%
If you're overdrawn, Halifax Reward offers a 12-month 0% overdraft, plus gives new switchers £100. Yet after a year, the overdraft charges jump to a huge £1-£3/day, so you'll need to switch again.
10. Reclaim cash from old accounts
There are billions unclaimed in forgotten accounts (or those of deceased relatives). Check if you've got any lost assets now via the My lost account.