Nationwide has extended its popular 'refer a friend' scheme to allow anyone with one of its mortgages or savings accounts to earn up to £500 a year – though it's added more hoops to jump through to get the cash.

Previously the scheme was only open to Nationwide current account holders, but now almost anyone with a Nationwide mortgage or savings account can net a possible £500 a year pre-tax, by referring five people to switch to a current account.

You and the person you refer each earn £100, as long as they switch to one of Nationwide's FlexAccount, FlexDirect or FlexPlus accounts and haven't already received a bonus after being referred. They can open a new account and switch into that, or switch a non-Nationwide current account to an existing Nationwide account if they already have one.

Who's eligible?

An extra 8.3 million people will now be able to use the scheme. To be eligible you need to:

  • Have a Nationwide current account, savings account or mortgage (excluding buy-to-let and commercial mortgages).
  • Hold the account in your name or be named on a joint account.
  • Be over 18.

You can be paid for referring up to five people each tax year, which runs from 6 April to 5 April.

If two people refer the same person, Nationwide will pay the one whose referral number is received first.

How to earn the bonus

To earn the cash, the referred friend must complete a full switch of a non-Nationwide current account, usually using the Current Account Switch Service (CASS). This takes seven working days and closes the old account - see Switching Q&As for more.

All payments in (eg, salary) and out (eg, utility bill direct debits) will also be automatically moved across - in order to qualify for the bonus your friend will need to have two direct debits moved across as part of the switch.

If their current bank is not a member of the CASS, the person referred can complete a manual switch and still get the bonus, as long as they fully close their old account and switch two direct debits – they'll have to go into a Nationwide branch to take advantage of this once referred. Customers of banks that are CASS members can't get the bonus if they do a manual switch.

Nationwide has changed the process for referring a friend – it used to be simply a case of the referrer filling out a form and the friend switching. Here's how you do it now:

  1. Fill out an online form about yourself, including details of the Nationwide product you hold.
  2. Nationwide sends a unique link via email to you within one working day, for you to send to your friend. The link can only be used once – you'll need to fill the form in for each referral.
  3. Your friend sets up a FlexAccount, FlexDirect or FlexPlus account and does a full account switch including at least two direct debits.
  4. Your friend will get a reference number when the switch is started, which they'll need to enter into the recommendation form accessed via the link you gave them. This must be within 90 days of your initial email being sent.
  5. Within 30 days of them submitting the recommendation form, £100 will be paid into your and your friend's accounts.

Millions more can now earn up to £500 a year by referring friends to Nationwide
To earn the cash the referred friend must complete a full switch of a non-Nationwide current account

Are the bonuses taxable?

If you're the referrer, Nationwide says the £100 payments are taxable, so if you think you'll need to pay, you can call the HMRC tax helpline on 0300 200 3300 for more help.

The payment for the person referred is not taxable, so they don't need to do anything.

How do the accounts stack up?

The FlexAccount once featured in our best-buy bank accounts, but Nationwide scrapped its free travel insurance perk for new customers last year. The FlexDirect and FlexPlus accounts still feature:

  • The FlexDirect pays 5% AER fixed interest for one year on up to £2,500 (1% AER variable after), as long as you pay in £1,000/month. It also comes with a 0% overdraft for 12 months, and has a linked 5% AER variable regular savings account where you can save up to £500/month.
  • The FlexPlus account is a packaged account, offering insurance and other benefits for £10/month (£13/mth from September). You get worldwide family travel insurance up to age 74 (which can cost more than the account charges alone), UK and European breakdown cover for all account holders and family mobile phone insurance. You also earn 3% AER variable interest on up to £2,500, and can open the same linked 5% regular saver.
  • The FlexAccount is a standard current account. It also offers access to the same linked 5% regular saver, but doesn't come with any additional perks that the FlexDirect and FlexPlus accounts don't also offer.

For more information on these and other accounts, see our Best Bank Accounts guide.