The figures are staggering. According to a study conducted by research group Consumer Focus, 75% of people have never considered switching current accounts. No thoughts, no daydreams, not even a musing. Somebody please tell me what on earth is wrong with us?
Why are we so masochistic? I often hear complaints from friends not being able to use their debit cards in certain ATM machines or being charged unfair fees or waiting on hold on the phone for hours. Perhaps it’s the monstrous level of our student debt compared to our meagre current account balances, perhaps we’re all disillusioned into thinking that switching bank accounts is harder than moving house, or perhaps we simply believe that in some strange and quintessentially British way terrible customer service and a free key ring are all we really deserve.
Students are incredibly valuable to banks. As hard as it is to believe, there’s quite a high chance that one day your anaemic account balance will be plump and healthy. You’ll have a regular, steady income and a nice pot of savings for a rainy day – just the type of customer that banks love. Between now and then you’ll do some extraordinary things, but it’s unlikely you’ll switch your current account. This is why banks are happy to give away accounts to students that come with high interest-free overdrafts and great freebies like an annual 16-25 railcard (saving you over £30).
Many current accounts are completely free and offer a debit card linked to the account. The problem is many of us only have one card, and usually that one is particularly good at getting lost, stolen, put in the wash or left in our other pair of jeans. If you only have one debit card and one account then you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. Try opening up another account, putting a small amount of money in that account and wait until that new card comes in handy. If you prefer the new account, then go into your local branch and they’ll help you swap everything over. Contrary to popular belief this is an extremely easy process and it’s quite likely that the new bank will take care of everything for you. And so they should, you’re very important. Don’t worry about closing the other account – just leave a few pounds in there. Banks hate having accounts with low and inactive balances as their administration costs far exceed the money they can make for you.
Managing your personal finances is an incredibly important skill. If you want a handy guide to the best accounts, my recommendation is this. Please don’t get caught out. Make sure you read the small print and if you’re not sure then just ask. You’re the customer. The banks are there to serve you.