Nearly two million Royal Bank of Scotland and Natwest customers must act to avoid having their current account transferred to Santander, or to get a £100 bonus if they want to switch to the Spanish giant.

Santander is buying 318 RBS and Natwest (part of RBS) branches for £1.65 billion. As part of the deal, current account customers at these branches will be automatically moved next year.

If account holders are happy to switch to Santander but do nothing, it's likely they will miss out on a cash sweetener for joining (see the Best Bank Accounts guide).

Who is affected?

RBS current account holders whose home branch is in England and Wales, and Natwest customers whose current account is based in Scotland will be moved to Santander in 12 to 18 months if they do nothing. Around 1.8 million people are affected.

RBS is not allowed to do anything to encourage customers at these branches to stick with it. But both banks stress consumers are free to choose which provider they opt for.

What are customers' options?

Those affected can do one of four things:

  • To stick with RBS or Natwest they must call 0800 210 0214 and request a form to continue banking with it.

  • If they do nothing, they will be transferred to Santander at some point next year. While exact details of what account they will be given have yet to be finalised, the Spanish bank says it is highly unlikely they will be given any new customers bonus. Yet ...

  • ... customers who manually switch to Santander before the automatic transfer will be treated as a new customer (if they don't have a Santander current account already) so will be entitled to any new customer offers. At present, the bank is offering £100 to those who switch to its Preferred In-credit Rate account which pays 5% interest in year one (then, 1%) on the first £2,500 balance. This is our top pick for those in credit.

  • At any point in the process they could switch to a different account with any bank or building society they choose (see the Best Bank Accounts guide).

Further reading/Key links

Top deals: Best Bank Accounts
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