Are you a switcher? 2,000 more account-holders ditch Northern Ireland's big banks

Some 1,970 account holders switched away from the north's four main clearing banks in the last three months of 2022, according to Cass
Gary McDonald Business Editor

CLOSE to 2,000 more current account customers in the north ditched their legacy banks over the last three months of 2022, according to the Current Account Switch Service (Cass).

Between October and December, Cass processed 1,970 switches away from the region's four main clearing banks as customers are often lured away by providers offering cash to switch, which is seen as a welcome boost at a time when budgets are tight.

AIB Group UK, which includes Allied Irish Bank NI and Allied Irish Bank GB, lost 788 customers over the period, followed by Ulster Bank, where 509 account holders went elsewhere.

Bank of Ireland lost 395 customers while 278 switched away from Danske Bank.

The overall UK figure of 376,107 switches was the highest quarterly total since the service was launched by Cass in September 2013.

The high switching totals may signal that consumers and businesses across the UK are reassessing their current account options during the challenging economic climate and looking to accounts that offer services that suit them better or provide switching incentives, Cass suggested.

Under the initiative, current account switches are usually completed in seven working days and payments are automatically moved from the old account to the new account.

Payments accidentally made to or requested from the old account will be automatically redirected to the new account.

A guarantee also means that the customer will not be left out of pocket if anything goes wrong with the switch.

The scheme can be used by small businesses and small charities as well as individual people.

Switching figures released voluntarily by banks and building societies also showed that Santander, HSBC, Starling and Monzo had the highest net switching gains between July and September 2022, among switchers specifically using Cass.

The figures do not include current accounts switched outside the scheme, so they do not show all the switches made.

Earlier this week, Santander UK launched a new £200 switching incentive. Last November, it launched a new current account called Santander Edge, which offers cash back on bills and spending as well as having a linked savings account paying 4 per cent interest, for a £3 monthly fee.

The bank also still offers its long-running 123 Current Account, which pays cash back on bills and 1.75% annual interest on balances up to £20,000, for a monthly fee of £4.

Cass said its own research among 2,000 people indicates seven in 10 (73 per cent) switchers preferred their new current account to their previous one, with service-related benefits continuing to be the main reasons people preferred their new account.

Online banking was found to be the main reason cited for preferring their new account, followed by customer service and mobile banking/banking app ease.

The interest rate gained through a current account continued to be the fourth most important factor for switching, Cass said.

David Piper, head of payments operations at Pay.UK, owner and operator of Cass, said: "It is encouraging to see the highest level of switches ever this quarter, demonstrating the continued relevance of the service to consumers and businesses across the UK."