MoneySavers who've racked up £100s by repeatedly switching banks have battled it out for the title of Britain's biggest bank tart – with one couple sharing a whopping £1,565 and another switcher making £845 in the first three months of 2016 alone.
Earlier this year we asked if you could beat the £791 in free cash and vouchers amassed by energy efficiency adviser Stephen McNulty, who switched current accounts six times in just over two years (see the Is this Britain's biggest bank tart? MSE News story).
As his story showed, it's possible to make £100s from 'tarting', or switching bank accounts – and while there's a limit on how much you can make, as only a certain number of bank accounts offer switching incentives, the response we had from MoneySavers shows he's far from alone.
See our Best Bank Accounts guide for our current top picks – in this article we explain how to do it, plus what to watch out for and the possible impact on your credit file.
How Britain's biggest bank switchers did it
When we set the bank tart challenge back in March, lots of MoneySavers stepped up and shared their switching success stories. Most impressive was Simon Bartram and his wife, who told us they'd made a cool £1,565 between them.
Simon, who said he was working part-time at Tesco.com, said: "It all started back in 2012 – my wife and I, inspired by Mr Martin Lewis, started switching our accounts. Keeping track of the £1,000 float going in and out of some of the accounts to qualify for the deals takes some doing, but was well worth it in the end."
Meanwhile, Christopher Owen from Putney in London told us he'd only started switching in January this year – but by the time he'd contacted us in March he'd already made £595 and had another £250 on the way from switches in progress.
He said: "I only found your website in November last year and have adopted so much. Instead of moving one account around to various other banks, I have opened many accounts with banks that don't offer switch incentives and switched to the ones that do." Christopher said he'd also made £300 from referring three friends to open a Nationwide account.
We've listed some of the biggest successes below. To compile the table, we looked at two measures – the amount made from banks' introductory switching bribes between March 2014 and March 2016, and then the total amount over a longer time period and including additional cashback. Where a couple both switched accounts we've combined their earnings.
What the top bank switchers made (cash & vouchers)
|Bank switches Mar 14 – Mar 16
|Earned Mar 14 – Mar 16
|Other earnings (also incl cashback)
|Simon & Mrs Bartram
|Simon – Tesco to Halifax £100 (plus £5/mth for some months). Also Nationwide to Yorkshire Bank £150, then Co-op £100, TSB £100, M&S £100 vch plus £10/mth for 12mths. Mrs Bartram – Tesco to M&S £125 vch, then Co-op £100, Halifax £100, TSB £100, Yorkshire Bank £150, HSBC £120. Joint – RBS to First Direct £100
|£100 for previous switch to First Direct in 2012
|Halifax to First Direct £100, then Tesco £100 gift card, M&S £100 gift card, Co-op £100, Clydesdale £150, TSB £100
|£200 for switches to Santander in 2011 & Halifax in 2013. Also £40 from Topcashback for switch to Co-op & owed £75 for TSB to Nationwide
|Santander to Halifax £100, then First Direct £150, Co-op £100, Nationwide £100, TSB £100, M&S £100 vch, HSBC £120, Clydesdale £150
|Michael & Stacey Oldroyd
|Michael – Santander to Halifax £125 (plus £5/mth for some months). Stacey – Halifax to Co-op £100, then Halifax £100 & a 2nd Halifax acct to HSBC £120. Switched joint mortgage acct to TSB £150
|Two further switches started as of Mar 16 from two different Barclays accts – Yorkshire Bank £150, First Direct £150
|Santander to Halifax £125, RBS to HSBC £120, Nationwide to TSB £100, NatWest to First Direct £150, Santander 2nd acct to Co-op £100
|Two further switches started to Clydesdale and M&S – £250 in total
|First Direct to M&S £100 vch, then Halifax £100 plus £5/mth for 7mths, Co-op £100, Yorkshire Bank £150, TSB £100
|£100 from previous switch to First Direct in 2013, plus cashback from Quidco (£40 for Halifax, £66 for Co-op)
|Santander to Halifax £100 plus £5/mth for 4mths, then First Direct £150, Yorkshire Bank £150, TSB £100, HSBC £120
|£100 for previous switch to Santander in 2013
|Current acct to Yorkshire Bank £150, then Co-op £100, Nationwide £100, Co-op again £100. Also savings acct to TSB £100, & spare bank acct to Halifax £125 plus £5/mth for 5mths
|Figures as of March 2016. * Not incl £5/mth earnings from Halifax
If you think you've mastered the art of the old switcheroo and can blow the totals listed above out of the water, please get in touch to share your success by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can you do it?
Bank switching incentives change regularly, and some of the deals the MoneySavers who got in touch in March took advantage of are no longer around. Right now, the big banks are offering switchers a total of £450 in cash or vouchers:
- Free £150 and £5.50/mth with Everyday Rewards scheme: Co-op Bank's* Standard Current Account gives you £150 to switch to it – to qualify you'll need to transfer four direct debits, which must be active until you're paid the bonus. You can also get up to an extra £5.50/mth with its Everyday Rewards scheme – for this you must also pay in at least £800/mth, receive paperless statements, log in to online or mobile banking and stay within your overdraft limit.
- Free £100 and £5/mth: The Halifax Reward account gives switchers £100. To get the £5/mth 'interest', you'll need to pay in £750 each month, remain in credit, and pay out at least two direct debits.
- Free £100, No.1 service and £250 0% overdraft: First Direct*. To get the £100 switching bonus, you need to use First Direct's switching service to fully switch and close your existing account and pay in at least £1,000 within three months of account opening.
- Free £100 M&S gift card and £10/mth credit on the gift card: Switch to M&S Bank and even with no minimum monthly pay-in you get a £100 M&S gift card, £100 0% overdraft and 6% linked savings account. Pay in £1,000/mth and it adds £10/mth on the gift card for a year.
See Best Bank Accounts for full details plus info on each account. Switching bonuses come and go though, so make sure you're signed up to our weekly email to see when banks offer new bonuses or up their incentives.
Here are the key need-to-knows:
- Seven-day switching means it's mostly no hassle. Within seven working days, your new bank will switch your direct debits and standing orders for you, close your old account and ensure all payments to it go to the new one. Our snap Facebook poll showed 82% found it "easy and hassle-free".
- Most require a 'minimum monthly deposit'. But there's nothing to stop you bouncing your cash from one account to another to meet each criteria – you don't have to leave the cash sitting in one account.
- Split your direct debits. Many want you to switch at least two direct debits, so if you're opening multiple accounts at the same time, spread them out among your accounts to be eligible.
- Track your switch. If you apply online you'll often have to call the bank or return forms for the switch to go ahead – if you don't complete the switch you won't get paid.
- Grab your cash THEN go. Some like Halifax pay out very quickly after your switch is complete but others take a lot longer, so don't start your next switch until the bonus is in your account.
Is there a limit on the number of times you can switch bank accounts?
Each current account has its own separate rules, so you need to check the terms and conditions. However, as long as you abide by these, regulator the Financial Conduct Authority says there's no limit to how often you can switch accounts.
Try to pick bank accounts to switch to when they're paying the max, though, because you may have to wait years to do it again, if you can at all. Here are the restrictions the current top payers place on their switching bonuses:
Current account switching rules
|Qualification for switching bonus
|Can't have received a Co-op current account sign-up bonus since Jan 2014
|Can't have ever held an account with First Direct before
|Can't have switched to Halifax since Jan 2012
|Can't have previously used the Current Account Switch Service to switch to an M&S current account
It's also worth bearing in mind that with some of the best deals you don't get the switching incentive cash immediately – in some cases you have to wait up to 45 days.
What about the impact on your credit file?
Switching bank accounts leaves a mark on your credit file, and only having short-term bank accounts can have a negative impact. Our switchers have generally been able to get the free cash without it having a particularly negative effect.
But if you plan to try to get accepted for a mortgage or a big credit application, stop switching a good year in advance to give your credit score time to recover (applications only stay on your credit file for a year).
See our Credit Scores guide for more info on managing and boosting your credit rating.
Which was the best switch?
Our top 10 switchers had mixed views on this, but three were big fans of Halifax, mainly for the speed with which the bonus is paid (you'll get the bonus within three working days once your switch has completed).
Sarah Marshall gave her view: "I'd say Halifax win. I get more from the £5 reward than my salary would ever get in interest and they also promise your reward in a lightning three days – and were as good as their word."