Nationwide will pay its FlexAccount customers £50 to make the product their main current account.

The bonus also applies to those who already use the account as their core banking facility and transfer more direct debits or standing orders over to it.

The UK's largest building society is thought to be targeting the throngs of consumers who have the account for its overseas spending perks but do not widely use it otherwise.

Switchers from rival banks or building societies will also earn £50 by applying and moving their payments over. However, if you're on the look-out for a new account, the Nationwide offer can be beaten.

The Best Bank Accounts guide outlines the alternatives.

If you qualify for the £50 bonus, you'll get the cash eight weeks after the paperwork is complete. The offer ends on 21 August.

Important conditions

  • You must apply or transfer payments online, and sign-up to Nationwide's internet banking facility, if not already registered.

  • For the account to be classed as your primary account, you must switch all your direct debits, standing orders and bill payments from your nominated account to the society via its official transfer method.

  • Existing customers with some direct debits or standing orders already set up will also get the bonus if they transfer the full set from a different provider.

  • If you do not have any payments to transfer or you move them yourself you won't get the cash.

  • New customers who switch and then cancel their payment instructions once the transfer is complete will still get the cash, Nationwide has confirmed, though this can be a hassle. If you cancel your account before the eight weeks is up, you won't get the money.

  • Technically, you do not need to pay your salary or pension into the account to qualify for the £50. However, if you have payments going out, you'll need income to cover them.

  • The offer is not available to those with the society's Cash Card account or those who do not qualify for a debit card.

How to get the £50 bonus

  • Existing account holders must sign-on to their internet banking account (or register first) and submit an 'Authorisation for a Current Account Transfer' form by selecting 'Transfer all my payments for me'.

  • New customers must apply for the FlexAccount online and when given the chance, choose 'Option A – Transfer all my payments'.

Dan Plant, money analyst, says: "For existing customers, this is a nice little earner, handily supplementing its best-buy European spending features.

"Yet if you haven't got one of these accounts already, it's a more fiddly deal, requiring you to totally switch your banking.

"Instead, unless you're a huge overseas spender, the combo of First Direct, which pays a £100 bonus, and the top overseas credit card, beats this offer."

Overseas perks

The FlexAccount is the best current account for use abroad. Yet for many, even with the overseas bonus, it can be beaten (see alternatives below).

However, if you're a high overseas spender (who typically spends over £1,800 a year in Europe or £2,600 elsewhere), Nationwide is best.

Nationwide charges no cash withdrawal fees worldwide. There is no currency conversion charge on European purchases or withdrawals, though there is a 0.84% fee outside most European countries.

Other cards charge a conversion fee of up to 3%, adding £30 to a £1,000 spend. Some also charge up to £1.50 per purchase. The fees together could mean a £5 purchase costs £6.65.

Most debit cards also charge 2.5% of the amount of any cash withdrawn, meaning a £100 withdrawal costs £105.50 (including the currency fee).

The top overseas credit card, the Santander Zero card, charges no cash withdrawal fee and no transaction fee, though it's always unwise to withdraw cash on a credit card.

Best current accounts

There are three top accounts for those regularly in credit:

  • Those earning over £23,000 a year who pay their salary in can get paid £100 by signing up to First Direct's 1st account.

  • Alliance & Leicester's (A&L) Premier Direct account pays 6% interest on balances up to £2,500 for a year (then 1%) if you earn over £6,050 a year and pay your salary in. That's a £150 before-tax reward on the full £2,500, or a more realistic £75 before tax reward on a £1,250 average balance.

  • The Halifax and Bank of Scotland reward accounts pay £5 a month after basic rate tax if you deposit a minimum £14,700 salary, regardless of balance. While beaten by First Direct and A&L in year one, the £5 payment is ongoing.

If regularly overdrawn:

  • The A&L Premier account offers an up to £2,000 interest-free overdraft in year one (then 50p for each day overdrawn), plus the under-65s get annual European travel insurance included. You'll need to meet its credit score criteria to get an overdraft.

Further reading/key links

Top accounts: Best Bank Accounts
Overseas spending: Cheap Travel Money
Best savings rates: Savings Accounts