I'm due to make $1,170 just by switching bank accounts. It only took 10 minutes to do it each time — here's how I did it.

I'm due to make $1,170 just by switching bank accounts. It only took 10 minutes to do it each time — here's how I did it.
Many banks offer cash bonuses for switching your account.jenna@d1a.com
  • A number of banks offer incentives to encourage you to switch your account.
  • Chris Stokel-Walker set up new accounts and claimed the cash payments.

Many people are looking for new ways to try and make their cash go further as the cost-of-living crisis hits us all.

Faced with rising energy bills and double-digit inflation in the UK, every little bit can help, which is why I was drawn to the idea of switching bank accounts.

The premise, advocated by the likes of Martin Lewis, a "money-saving expert" and financial guru in the UK, is simple. Many banks in the UK, as well as the US, offer cash bonuses to people who switch their savings to them. Lewis listed which banks offer this and on what terms.

I'd never thought of doing this, thinking it was too much hassle for too little reward. But given current the financial squeeze, I tried it and was surprised by how simple it was.

To get the bonuses, I had to close an existing account and transfer it to the new one

I decided that I wouldn't use any of my existing bank accounts, worried about the impact closing them could have on salary payments or bills. Instead, I set up a free current account, the equivalent of a checking account, with the Co-op Bank on August 15. I was planning to use this as the account to leapfrog from one bank to another.


As soon as the Co-op account was set up, I approached First Direct, which offers a free £175 payment for switching an account, provided the customer deposits at least £1,000 within three months.

It takes seven days to complete if there aren't any hitches. With the switch completed, I deposited £1,000 in the account, which I was lucky to have on hand.

The bank pledged to pay the £175 bonus within 28 days, and it did. I was amazed.

Emboldened by the success of my first switch, I decided to keep going

I applied for a new account with Santander and planned the switch from my First Direct account, which now had £1,175 in it. Santander also offers £175 to switch, provided you deposit £1,000 and have at least two direct debits — where a third party is authorized to take ongoing payments from you — set up to come out of the account.

This was my first hitch. The holiday for the Queen's funeral on September 19 delayed the switch, and then Santander made an error in entering my account information. My application was rejected.


By the time I realized this in mid-September, Santander had withdrawn its switching bonus offer. Sometimes banks dangle these to entice customers then withdraw them once they've met quotas for new customers.

Instead, I decided to switch my First Direct account to NatWest, which was also offering £175, provided you deposited £1,250 and used its mobile-banking app.

A few days later, Santander contacted me to explain what had gone wrong. The bank said it would be happy to restart the switch and honor the bonus offer that I had missed out on, provided I met the criteria for the bonus, including the direct debits. I'll be donating some of the switching bonus to charity via direct debit to meet that requirement.

The bank also offered to credit my Santander account with a £50 payment by way of apology.

By then, NatWest was already in the process of switching my First Direct account over, so I couldn't switch it to Santander. However, I had an account with Starling that I'd set up for an international trip earlier this year. I'd not used it since, but it had the required £1,000 in it. I said I would be willing to use that for the switch. Santander agreed, and started the process.


The apology payment meant I'd now earned £225. Once the Starling to Santander and First Direct to Natwest switches have been completed, the £175 payments I'm due to receive from these will take me to a total of £575.

I noticed Nationwide offered a £200 for switching an account with two direct debits — no specific amount in the account was required. I set up another account, this time with Barclays, for the sole purpose of switching it to Nationwide.

That switch started in mid-October and was completed on October 21. Unlike other banks that wait a month or more to pay the bonus, Nationwide promises to pay out within 10 days, so I can expect that £200 by Halloween. When the Santander, NatWest, and Nationwide payments come through, I'll have £775, or around $860.

Then I'll move the Nationwide account to Lloyds, which offers a £150 bonus without any minimum deposit or direct-debit requirements, taking me to £925 total.

I've also recently set up a Monzo account solely to switch to TSB by October 31 to get another £125 bonus. TSB will require me to make one payment on my debit card, which I'll use for something small like a soft drink, two direct debits that I'll set up to give some of the switching bonus I'll receive to charity, and to log onto its mobile app.


In all, switching should earn me £1,050, or around $1,170, by the time all these processes conclude next month.

It's largely been simple – but it has meant admin and there is a potential drawback

Applying for an account typically took me 10 minutes each time. It can have a moderate, short-term impact on your credit score, which is why Lewis advises anyone expecting to apply for a mortgage within the next six months not to make a bank switch.

And you need savings, as some of the banks I used required £1,000 or more in the new accounts to get the switching bonus.

But at a time when budgets are squeezed, more than £1,000 in my pocket for what had been a few hours of work is incredibly welcome.