Six banks will pay you up to £130 for free to switch to 'em - grab cash from one or maybe all
It's been over two years, and a pandemic, since we last had so many top banks throwing cash out to vacuum in new customers. This month alone, four new deals have launched. So if you're not deliriously happy with your existing bank account, carpe payem (seize the payment) and do it now while the choice is wider than a whale's yawn.
For those slightly switch-tentative, perhaps remembering someone's past horror story, do check when that was. Most moans are over eight years old, before the new easier 'seven-day switch' system came into play.
Now bank-switching services do it for you - closing the old account and auto-moving all direct debits, standing orders, and payments.
This info was first written and published by Martin in our weekly email on Wednesday 15 September 2021. The MoneySavingExpert.com team updated it on Tuesday 21 Sep 2021.
The SIX banks that pay you £100+ to switch
To get the cash you must usually be a new customer, pass a not-too-harsh credit check, and use the bank's official switching service. All accounts are available both as single and joint accounts.
1. New. Santander pays the most upfront cash - £130 (its first cash bribe for 9yrs) plus cashback when you pay bills.
MSE customer service poll rating: GOOD. 61% 'great', 26% 'OK', 13% 'poor'.
It's been a long time since Santander played the sign-up cash game, and as one of the accounts the money is offered on, Santander 123 Lite*, was already a top pick without it, this makes it a real doozy.
As well as the free £130, with this account you pay a £2/mth fee and get cashback on bills paid by direct debit from it. You can get up to £5/mth in each of 3 percentage tiers: 3% for water, 2% energy, 1% council tax, mobiles, broadband, paid-for TV & Santander mortgages.
Even after the fee, for those with medium to large bills this usually means £40-£80/yr cashback. To get the cashback you need to pay in £500/mth (its way of saying pay your salary in) and use digital banking.
- To qualify for the £130: Apply, then within 60 days switch (incl 2+ direct debits), log in to its mobile app, and pay in £1,000+. Though you must either be new to Santander (incl Cahoot or Cater Allen) or if not, be switching in a non-Santander account to your existing one (as long as you've not had a Santander switch incentive before).
2. Nationwide pays a free £100 (£125 for existing customers) and is especially strong for those who are overdrawn.
MSE customer service poll rating: GOOD. 67% 'great', 13% 'OK', 19% 'poor'.
Nationwide's free switchers' £100 is across a range of accounts, but the standout is the fee-free Nationwide FlexDirect* as it offers a year's 0% overdraft too - depending on your creditworthiness. So switch and use the £100 to reduce your overdraft, then work on getting rid of the rest of the debt within the year, as after it jumps to the same horrid 39.9% EAR that most banks charge.
- How to boost this to £125 if you're an existing Nationwide member: If you've already got its FlexDirect, FlexAccount or FlexPlus account, and have another bank account you can switch into it, you get £125 via selecting 'Switch to Nationwide' in online banking.
Or if you've another Nationwide current account, mortgage or savings, open one of the three 'Flex' accounts above, and request the switch during application.
- Trick to get £125 if you're not an existing Nationwide member: Open the FlexDirect account via the link above but DON'T request to switch during application - wait until the day after it's fully open, so you're then a Nationwide member, and at that point in online banking request to 'Switch to Nationwide' to get the £125.
- To qualify for the free sign-up cash: Apply, then within 30 days switch (incl 2+ direct debits). There's no min pay-in for this.
Overdrawn? Nationwide isn't your only option
With overdraft rates now typically 39.9% EAR they should be considered a danger debt, and clearing them is a priority, often even over credit cards. Nationwide's free £100 and year's 0% are useful, but there are other options too such as an ongoing £250 0% overdraft. Full info and help in 10 ways to cut your overdraft.
3. New. HSBC's simple deal gives £110 cash and £30 Uber Eats voucher.
MSE customer service poll rating: OK. 40% 'great', 27% 'OK', 33% 'poor'.
The fee-free HSBC Advance* has reintroduced its £140 sign-up incentive - made up of £110 cash and a £30 voucher for either Uber Eats or The Dining Out. The minimum monthly pay-in is a high £1,750/mth though - equivalent to a salary of £25,600/yr going in.
- To qualify for the cash & perks: Apply online and within 30 days switch (incl 2+ direct debits or standing orders) and meet the minimum monthly pay-in. You can't have had an HSBC current account, or opened a current account with its sister bank First Direct, since Jan 2018.
4. New. RBS pays £100, an ongoing £3/mth, and jump through hoops and you can get £50 if you're still with it after a year.
MSE customer service poll rating: OK. 58% 'great', 21% 'OK', 21% 'poor'.
RBS and sister bank Ulster are now again offering those switching in accounts from elsewhere a free £100. The standout is RBS Reward* which bizarrely charges a £2/mth fee but then pays most people £5/mth, so you're £3/mth up.
Stick with it and it'll give you another £50 in Nov 2022, provided you've met both its £1,250/mth min monthly pay-in (its way of saying have a salary of £17,000+ going in) and do 10 transactions each month from Jan to Sept next year. If you manage this, depending on your bill size, for some it may beat Santander as the most cash over a year.
- To qualify for the sign-up cash: Apply online or in app, then switch and pay in £1,500+. Plus, to get the monthly bonus too you'll need to pay out 2+ direct debits and log in to its mobile banking app every month. You won't get the switching bonus if you've already had one from RBS or sister banks NatWest and Ulster Bank since Oct 2017.
5. New. Lloyds Bank gives a free £100, and gets perky, with freebies such as cinema tickets.
MSE customer service poll rating: OK. 58% 'great', 27% 'OK', 16% 'poor'.
Club Lloyds* pays £100 and is fee-free as long as you meet its £1,500/mth minimum monthly pay-in (equivalent to a salary of £21,500/yr). You also get to pick one of these four perks for the year:
- 12 digital movie rentals (that would normally cost you c. £55)
- OR six cinema tickets (that'd cost £35-£65, depending on location)
- OR a magazine subscription (that'd cost £30-£50)
- OR a Gourmet Society membership (that'd cost c. £35)
It pays decent in-credit interest too... 0.6% AER variable, similar to the top easy-access savings, from £1 to £4,000 (so nowt on the first pound), and 1.5% AER variable on the bit between £4,000 and £5,000. Nowt above.
This is a fiddly to explain structure, so to clarify, if you saved £5,000 you'd earn 0.6% on £3,999 and 1.5% on £1,000, giving an avg 0.76%.
- How do I qualify for the cash? Apply and start a switch by 19 Oct. You're ineligible if you've had a switch bonus from it since April 2019. To get the interest you need to have 2+ direct debits going out of the account each month.
6. Virgin Money says pah - forget cash, have a £150 'experience', 2% interest and a top overseas debit card instead.
MSE customer service poll rating: OK. 46% 'great', 19% 'OK', 35% 'poor'.
The fee-free Virgin Money* account's incentive I suspect aims to target those who feel free cash would just disappear into their account, and instead want to be excited by something they wouldn't otherwise do.
Switch to it and you get a £150 gift card to put towards Virgin Experience Days, from driving supercars to quad bikes, sushi-making classes to hot-air balloon tours. I suspect most MoneySavers would prefer the cash, but some of you may fit into this category.
It also... YAY... pays a whopping 2.02% AER variable in-credit interest, but BOO... only on up to £1,000. Its debit card is a top pick for spending abroad, meaning you get the same near-perfect exchange rate banks do, in every country (though you can do similar without switching banks - see Top overseas cards).
- To qualify for the voucher: Apply online, then within 45 days: switch (incl 2+ direct debits), register for mobile banking and keep £1,000+ in the linked 0.35% savings account until you get the gift card. You can't have had its previous switch bonus, or a current account with Virgin or its sisters Clydesdale or Yorkshire Bank, since Mar 21.
Bank switching FAQ
Full details on all of the accounts above and more are in Best bank accounts, but to answer some of the key questions...
- Can I cheat the minimum pay-in if I don't earn enough? Usually, yes. Say the pay-in is £1,000 but you only have £500 coming in, pay in the £500, withdraw either to an external bank account or as cash, then pay it back in, and BINGO. Worth noting if you earn a long way below the minimum pay-in, some banks may reject your application anyway.
- What if something goes wrong with the switch? If you're hit with charges due to a switch error that leads to a missed payment, these will be refunded by the new bank.
- I don't qualify for one of these accounts - what can I do? Sadly, over a million people don't have a bank account. Yet if you've ID, you can get an account where there's no overdraft, called a basic bank account.
Meet the super-switchers who make £1,000s from shifting multiple bank accounts
They may look like ordinary people, sound like ordinary people, hell, even smell like ordinary people (to be fair we've not checked). Yet hidden across the UK is a disparate tribe of money-making super-switchers.
Quite rightly they love to share their tales with us, such as this one: 'We made £1,000 switching banks and used it to do up our garden.' And read about the battle of the bank switchers. Indeed we even have some of these fiscal Clark Kents who work in MoneySaving Towers.
To do this isn't simple. If you fancy joining the MoneySaving elite though, here are a couple of quick tips to help:
- The easy route is multiple switches of your main account: You can just repeatedly switch your main bank account, and once you've got the free cash simply switch to a new one meeting all the criteria.
- Or grab one or more burner accounts: To get switching cash, you need to use banks' switch services, and they will close your old account. So if you're looking to do multiple switches at once, or want to keep your main account, open any old naff account, so it's a burner account for switching.
Then once you've got the new account, meet the minimum criteria until you get the free cash or perks, then use it to move to the next.
- Check if you need to switch direct debits: Most banks want you to switch 2+ direct debits, so ensure you spread direct debits, and funding for them, so they're coming out of each account (or burner account) that you're switching. If you don't have enough, set up a direct debit for charity.
- Bounce cash from account to account to meet min monthly pay-ins: Many accounts impose these requirements, as effectively a way of saying pay your salary in. Yet there's nowt to stop you bouncing your cash from one to the next to meet the criteria, then moving it out the next day.
Many successful super-switchers do this via standing orders a couple of days apart and use a spreadsheet to keep track of what's needed.
Be very careful doing this if you've a big credit application coming: A single bank switch can be slightly negative to your creditworthiness for a few months as some lenders like to see evidence of longevity. Yet multiple applications and short-lived banking tenure can look really odd. So don't do it if you've, say, an important mortgage or credit card application due.
Related important bank account info
- Reclaim £1,000s in packaged bank account fees for free. If you pay or have ever paid monthly fees for your bank account, you may be able to reclaim £100s or £1,000s, as many of these accounts were mis-sold.
- Get up to £500 of insurance for £150 via your bank. The right packaged bank account can get you £100s of travel, mobile & breakdown insurance for a far smaller monthly fee.
- Reclaim £100s in bank charges for free. Excess bank charges are now less of an issue as many banks no longer charge fees for going over your overdraft limit, yet many people can still reclaim £100s in past charges.
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