It pays to shop around when you're switching banks

27th April 2015

I am all for life being made easier, so, in common with many people, I welcomed the new commitment from banks which means you can switch current accounts within seven days.

So far, according to latest figures from the Payments Council 1.14 million people have taken advantage of this service.

The process of switching, with all the changing of standing orders and direct debits which used to take so long and was often too much bother, has been made much easier. But one thing hasn’t – access to statements!

If you currently receive your bank statements on paper, you have a ready-made record, possibly, like mine, stretching back many years, so you can compare spending patterns, and always find that vital transaction from months back that the accountant inevitably needs.

If, however, you are banking online, then it could be a different story.

Many people, in the rush to find a better banking deal - and why wouldn’t anyone want to swap from a tired old account doing you no favours to one which offers better interest, cash-back or other promotions? -  haven’t thought further ahead.

If you’ve been banking online, suddenly the access you always had can be switched off in an instant. All the financial history which was once at your fingertips is suddenly inaccessible.

Our recent research found there are marked differences with access once you switch. The majority of the main current account providers turn your account off immediately, though one bank will allow you to keep your online access to your statements for 13 months after you switch.

If you then want to see your previous statements it comes at a cost - you can request a copy but the majority charge around £5 per request. And some banks will only do this if you go into a branch, inconvenient for many - yet another of the unforeseen consequences that being online only has thrown up.

So, as with any other product, my advice is to shop around before you switch – ask questions about access afterwards, and above all make sure that it’s you who has control of your own financial information and it’s not suddenly hidden from view.  

Judith Donovan, chair