How to get paid for opening a bank account

Market update: In May 2024, all banks in the UK have withdrawn their bank account switching offers. This article is being kept up for historical purposes and we will update it with current deals once they return to the market.

The UK current account market is fiercely competitive. Right now, there are FOUR banks that'll reward you for switching.

So if you're fed up with your current bank, or you just fancy some free cash, here's how you can get your hands on some cold, hard cash.

How easy is it to switch bank account?

Since the introduction of the current account switch service, changing your bank account is now a piece of cake. The process takes just seven working days and all payments coming in and out of your account are moved over for you automatically. Your new provider also takes care of closing your old account for you. Plus, if anything goes wrong, you won't be out of pocket as you're covered under the scheme.

To switch accounts under the current account switch service all you have to do is open a new bank account of your choosing, and then inform your new provider that you want to switch your accounts. Do this, and all payments will be moved over for you, and your old account will be closed.

Why do banks pay customers to switch?

Prior to the introduction of the switch service, if you wanted to switch your current account you had to do all of the work yourself. So, you'd first have to open a new account and then manually close your old account by informing your provider. Importantly, you were also responsible for moving over any direct debits, standing orders, plus any other important payments—such as your monthly mortgage payment. If you failed to move over payments in time, it was your problem to solve.

Since seven-day switching was launched, moving bank accounts is now a whole lot easier. Despite this, much of the UK population is still seemingly reluctant to move bank accounts. This is why a number of banks regularly offer juicy incentives to encourage reluctant customers to give their old bank the boot.

While bank switch offers change all the time, the strategy of shamelessly paying to acquire new customers is almost certainly working. According to the latest data, during the first three months of 2022, 196,964 UK consumers switched bank account. This is 41% higher than the same period a year ago, when fewer switching offers were available.

What bank switch offers are available right now?

While there are currently FOUR bank switch offers available, though they won't be around forever. So if you like the look of one specific deal, it's best not to wait! All of the offers below require you to use the official current account switch service. Here's the lowdown:

1. First Direct: Free £150.

Switchers to the First Direct 1st Account can grab a juicy £150. To get it, you must pay in at least £1,000, and ensure you complete your switch within three months of opening the account. There is no requirement to set up any direct debits or standing orders, so this is perhaps the easiest switching offer to qualify for. After fulfilling the criteria, you can expect the £150 within 28 days.

Unusually for an account that offers a bonus for switching, First Direct also pays those who open an account but aren't switching from another provider. However, the bonus available to non-switchers is just £20. To get it, you must open an account and use online banking, or sign in to First Direct's mobile app, within 3 months.

2. Halifax: Free £150

The Halifax Reward account pays those switching to it £150. The account has a £5 monthly fee, though you can avoid it if you pay in at least £1,500 per month. To qualify for the cash you must move over a minimum of 2 direct debits as part of the switch.

If you're eligible for the offer you'll get your £150 within 10 days of starting your switch.

3. Nationwide: Free £100 (£125 for existing members)

Switch to Nationwide's FlexDirect or FlexAccount and you can earn yourself a nice little £100. To get it, you must ensure you move over at least 2 direct debits, and ensure your switch completes within 30 days. Do this, and you can expect the £100 to arrive into your account within a speedy 100 days.

If you're an existing member of Nationwide you'll qualify for a boosted £125. You're considered a Nationwide member if you already have a Nationwide current account, savings account, or mortgage.

4. Virgin Money: Free 20,000 'Virgin Red' points

Unlike the other accounts above, Virgin Money doesn't offer a cash bonus. Instead, it pays 20,000 'Virgin Red' points to switchers to its 'M' Account. Points can be used towards a host of things, including flights on Virgin Atlantic, or days out via Virgin Experience Days.

To qualify, you must open an account and then switch within 45 days. You also have to open its linked 'M Plus Saver' account, and then pay in at least £1,000 into the linked account. You're also required to use its mobile app. While you don't have to move over direct debits as part of the switch, you do have to set up at least 2 of them once your account is open (within 45 days of opening the account). Fulfill all of this criteria and you can expect your points within 14 days.

Bank switching: top tips

Now we've touched on the hot bank switch offers available right now, there are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to moving current accounts.

1. You don't really have to switch your main account.

While most banks would prefer you switched your main account, you don't really have to. If you like your existing bank there's nothing stopping you keeping it, and opening another account solely for grabbing switching offers.

2. You're allowed to bag more than one offer.

Some hardcore bank switchers have made £100s by switching from bank to bank. As long as you fulfill the criteria of each individual offer there's nothing stopping you bagging multiple bonuses.

3. Pay very close attention to the terms of each switch offer.

Each bank switch offer is different. Most won't let you switch from one of their existing accounts, while others will disqualify you from a bonus if you're switching from a 'sister bank'. For example, First Direct doesn't pay a bonus to those switching from a HSBC account. Always study the terms of each bank switch offer before you apply.

4. Don't settle for a poor account because of a one-off switching bonus.

If you switch to a new account because of switching cash, don't feel obligated to stay if you aren't happy. With the current account switch service, switching is now easier than ever, so make use of it.

Need an overdraft, or looking for a bank account thats pays interest?

If so, don't focus solely on bank switch offers. While it can be difficult to turn down free cash, it's likely there are other accounts out there better suited to your needs. For a list of options, plus more switching tips, take a look at our comprehensive best bank accounts guide.