Two white piggy banks on a yellow background

How long does it take to switch bank accounts really? The MoneySavingIdiot times it...

Switching bank – Martin's been telling you to do it since the heady days of 2003 when Spirit in the Sky by Gareth Gates and The Kumars reached number one and national newspapers regularly reported when David Beckham changed his hair. Yet our most-recent poll of MoneySavers found one in three have NEVER switched their main bank account. Outrageous.

So to show those of you who don't like free cash – they literally give you money to switch btw, check out Best Bank Accounts to see how much – that changing bank is nowhere near as much of a faff as you may think, I timed how long it took me to do it. And if it doesn't take a MoneySavingIdiot (you may remember my previous attempts to follow MSE's tips and tricks, like doing an (accidental) direct debit audit) long to do it, you've got no excuse.

🏛️ Switching bank: Day 1

  • Looking at the top bank accounts with freebies for switching: 4 mins (including being distracted by MSE Sarah talking about her cat)

  • Choosing which account to switch to: 5 mins, which mainly involved checking which ones I was eligible for (with some you need to pay in a minimum amount each month or can't get the perks if you've had a current account with the bank in so long, which can be as little as a few months and as long as over three years) and then picking the best bribe of the bunch.

  • Checking what overdraft limit I could get using the bank's overdraft eligibility calculator: 3 mins, including the time it took me to work out my take-home pay using MSE's Income Tax Calculator, which I also used to make sure I'd be paying in the minimum amount each month.

⌚ Total time: 12 mins

🏛️ Switching bank: Day 2

  • Filling out the application on the bank's website: 16 mins, but it wasn't nearly as laborious as that sounds as it took me a while to find my passport (it was in a drawer under a selection of novelty cigarette lighters) as I needed to enter my passport number.

  • Switching accounts using the Current Account Switch Service (CASS): 4 mins

  • Signing up to online banking: 2 mins, including some swearing because my first-choice username was taken and special characters weren't permitted in passwords.

  • Applying for an arranged overdraft: 6 mins – bit more blurb to read than elsewhere because it involves a credit check. This can have a small, short-term impact on your creditworthiness, so if you're planning an important credit application soon, like applying for a mortgage, hold off switching bank accounts just to get a freebie. I've put my plans for buying a rocket like Jeff Bezos's on hold for now, so this wasn't an issue for me.

  • Downloading mobile banking app, adding switch completion date to calendar: 5 mins

⌚ Total time: 33 mins

🏛️ Switching bank: Days 3-9

Good news everyone! That's pretty much all you have to do until the switch is complete. Not so good news everyone! You'll get a lot of emails, texts and post (not the exciting kind) over the next few days, such as...  

Day 3

  • Received online banking activation code and user agreement in the post.

Day 4

  • Received PIN for my new debit card in the post.

Day 8

  • Received debit card and notification of interest-free arranged overdraft for six months in the post.

Day 9

  • Received text from the bank confirming the switch had been completed – break open a bottle of whatever you break open to celebrate very modest achievements!

⌚ Total time: 4 days (but I didn't actually have to do anything)

💭

Given the volume of documentation you're sent, even with all the will in the world you're unlikely to read it all – I refuse to believe anyone anywhere has made it all the way through an online banking user agreement. So what I did was give it a quick gander to get the gist, then put it away where I'll be able to easily find it if I need it (not in the drawer underneath the novelty lighters).

🏛️ Switching bank: Day 10

  • Registering for online and mobile banking: 24 mins, including the time it took to read the letter about it, download the app and curse under my breath about our Wi-Fi being slower than a tectonic plate.

  • Changing the PIN at an ATM and making a purchase via chip and PIN to enable contactless: 27 mins, including the time it took to walk to the shop and then to decide which crisps I wanted (pickled onion Monster Munch, obviously).

⌚ Total time: 51 mins

And that's it, job's a good 'un – when I logged into online banking for the first time the £100 switching bonus for the bank I'd chosen had already been deposited into my account, so there was no having to wait for it, meaning...

⌚ Grand total of time taken to switch bank:

10 days, which required 1 hour and 36 mins of my time

Don't know about you, but it definitely usually takes me longer than an hour and a half to earn £100+ (and if that's less than you usually earn, you could just get your butler to switch bank for you). Fancy getting yourself some of that free Jack Dash (and/or hot-air balloon rides, cashback and savings interest)? Then have a butcher's at the best bank accounts to compare the top freebies and get full help on how to switch, and let me know how you got on in the comments or forum thread below.