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Switching your current account just got easier – but what now?

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The long-awaited current account switching service was launched on Monday across 33 banks and building societies, and Tom Revell is on hand with a few handy tools that help utilise it.

The £750m government-backed current account switching scheme guarantees that customers can change current account providers within seven days. It is aimed not just at reducing inconvenience, but also at shaking up the British banking sector, and it is hoped that the service will increase competition in the market and loosen the grip of the big banks that dominate the market.

Increased competition will mean that banks fight to keep their customers and to attract new ones. They will launch advertising campaigns, and offer a range of incentives and, in some cases, bribes. All of this might make it even more difficult to decide which bank is for you, especially when there is more to consider than simply which will give you the best deal.

Click here to read The Guide to Sustainable Banking 2012

Fortunately, if you’re thinking about moving your money there are plenty of tools that can offer practical advice.

Which? and Money Saving Expert both offer invaluable tips for finding a bank account which is right for you. To do this, they help you figure out ‘what kind of customer you are.’ Are you always in credit? Or do you sometimes go overdrawn? Working out factors such as this can be crucial in finding the bank account that works out cheapest and most rewarding for you.

Meanwhile, YourEthicalMoney.org encourages banking customers to consider what their bank is doing with their money. Your money doesn’t just sit waiting in your bank account until you need it; your bank lends it on to corporations, institutions and even governments. If you found out your bank is lending your money to heavily polluting industries, arms manufacturers or oppressive regimes, would you let them continue?

YourEthicalMoney.org has developed an easy-to-use search engine that allows you to investigate your provider’s performance in the areas which matter most to you. It also provides a five-step process to find out more about your existing bank and potentially choose a new one:

Step 1 – Research: What exactly are your bank’s green and ethical lending policy? Are they carbon neutral, for example? Do they lend responsibly? Research on their website, or contact them directly to ask.

Step 2 – Support: If you’re happy with the answers you find, let them know, as it make help ensure that they maintain these policies.

Step 3 – Oppose: If you’re not happy, then there’s even more reason to let them know. Make yourself heard.

Step 4 – Switch: If your bank does not meet your ethical standards, find one that does. Use YourEthicalMoney.org’s banking search to compare.

Step 5 – Stay informed: Use sources such as Banktrack to keep up to date with your bank’s behaviour.

To coincide with the launch of the new service, campaign group Move Your Money has published a scorecard that also rates banks on their ethical performances in.

The so-called big five – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander – are said to be among the least honest and the poorest performers in customer service. Meanwhile, top ‘green’ rated performers include Cumberland Building Society, Coventry Building Society, Reliance Bank, Leeds Building Society, Metrobank, Handelsbank and the Islamic Bank of Britain.

If you decide to make the jump and switch, then Which? has also compiled an equally useful step-by-step guide to the process of the new service. It serves to outline how hassle-free the new process should be.

The second annual edition of Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Banking is set for publication in early October, so look out for that to find out which institutions place sustainability (both environmental and social) and the very core of their business.

But if you’re still not convinced, Move Your Money has recruited five volunteers who will be tweeting throughout their switching experience: @jembendell, @zoesqwilliams, @durry14, @jesstherese and @hannah_rm.

Further reading:

Banks launch new account switching service in £750m system overhaul

Bank switching scorecard launched to help customers find ‘something better’

Don’t be bribed, bank campaign group warns high street customers

Two in five will move banks after launch of switching scheme in September

42% will switch banks in September, claims new survey

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