First Direct has launched a range of new bank switching incentives including a £150 Expedia voucher or a Fitbit Charge 2 - just a day after it stopped offering its £125 cash bribe.
The bank has offered cash switch incentives of between £100 and £150 for around a decade, but customers will now instead choose from a range of online self-development courses, the Expedia voucher or a choice of gadgets, including Bose on-ear wireless headphones, a Bose bluetooth speaker or Amazon Echo Spot.
We first warned last week that the bank, which has won every customer service poll we've ever done, was stopping offering cash incentives.
The new offer means it still features in our best buy accounts for switching, but it's no longer our top pick.
See our Best Bank Accounts guide for the top switching incentives including £185 in M&S vouchers with M&S Bank or up to £111 in cash with Halifax if you switch and stay.
What are the new incentives?
If you decide to switch to the bank's 1st account you'll be offered a choice of one of the following:
- A £150 Expedia e-voucher – This can be used to pay for package holidays or accommodation and can be used as part payment.
- A choice of gadgets – Including Bose on-ear wireless headphones, Bose Soundsport wireless headphones, an Amazon Echo Spot, a Polaroid OneStep 2 i-Type Camera or a Fitbit Charge 2 Special Edition.
- Over 300 online self-development courses – Including graphic design, marketing with Google and YouTube, travel photography and a bartending and drink mixologist masterclass.
You'll be able to choose your incentive within 14 days after completing a full switch, which includes paying in at least £1,000 within the first three months of having the account.
To choose your gift you'll need to follow the instructions sent with a unique registration code, and pick your incentive with 90 days.
First Direct will be continuing its £100 offer to those who leave after six months because they are unhappy with the bank.
Is it any good?
First Direct's 1st Account has long been one of our best buys due to its top customer service - 91% rated it 'great' in our last poll - and decent cash switching boon.
It also offers a linked 5% regular savings account which you can save up to £300 a month in for a year, and some will get a £250 0% overdraft - which will both continue to be available as part of the new offer.
Our analysis shows the new incentives could be worth more than the original cash offer - but only if you were already planning on buying these items, booking a holiday via Expedia or taking one of the courses.
When we checked First Direct's list of gadgets on 23 April, here are the best prices we found them for:
- Bose on-ear wireless headphones – £169.95 at Currys PC World
- Bose Soundsport wireless headphones – £149.95 at Currys PC World/John Lewis/Argos
- Amazon Echo Spot – £119.99 at Amazon
- Polaroid OneStep 2 i-Type Camera – £109 at Jessops/Very.co.uk
- Fitbit Charge 2 Special Edition – £139.99 at John Lewis
To make the Expedia voucher worthwhile it would have to be the cheapest site for your booking, and this is hard to guarantee as the prices could change from the point you apply for the First Direct account to the point you actually are able to use the voucher. It's also worth noting that using a voucher code can sometimes mean you are not able to go via a cashback site to make your booking - so always check before booking.
The training courses range in value from £150 to £1,000 according to provider Blue Mountain Training, however, it's often possible to get deals on cheap online courses, or even free ones, so it's probably not worth getting the switch incentive just for a course.
How does it compare to our other top pick accounts?
In terms of other switching offers currently available, you can get up to £185 in M&S vouchers with M&S Bank, or up to £111 in cash with Halifax, if you keep the accounts for a year.
While the new First Direct offer will be best for some people - if you were already planning on buying some new Bose headphones or a holiday from Expedia, for example - we're now ranking it bottom of the three banks currently offering a switching incentive.
M&S is currently our top pick, though of course it'll only be good if you shop there, and our second best account is the Halifax Reward which offers an initial £75 plus £3 a month. We believe these beat the new First Direct because its choices are more limiting.
What does First Direct say?
Joe Gordon, head of First Direct, said: "We believe the time is right to shake up the switcher market; just like we did all those years ago when we were the first to introduce cash as a joining incentive.
"Typically, First Direct's customers are digitally-savvy and entrepreneurially-minded, choosing to bank with us for our pioneering tech and award-winning customer service. From them we know cash into your account when you join is great, but it can get lost on day-to-day spending.
"These new incentives will start our relationship off on a more personal level, offering something that can be enjoyed over a longer period of time."