There'll be a new bank account switching service in September

Five questions answered.

The Payments Council has announced a new bank account switching service that will start on the 16 September. We answer five questions on the new scheme. 

What does the new service do exactly?

It enables current account holders to switch banks within seven days instead of up to 30 days. 

As of Monday 16th September, 33 bank and building societies brands – accounting for virtually 100 per cent of the current account marketplace – will deliver the new switching service for consumers, small charities and small businesses.

How will it work exactly?

After the start date, when switching accounts the new provider will arrange for all direct debits and standing orders to be redirected to the new account. This system will stay in place for 13 months so no one off payments are missed.

Payments going in will also be redirected.

Why is the Payments Council launching this service?

It is being launched as a recommendation from the Independent Commission on Banking two years ago. The commission said that people only changed bank accounts once every 26 years on average.

As a result, the so-called "big four" High Street banks - Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC - retain control over the market.

If it’s easier to switch, will banks be offering more incentives?

Yes! Two banks are already offering customers a cash incentive of up to £125 to switch their current accounts to them.

Will this new service provide a boost for smaller banks?

That’s one of the aims. Small banks taking place include the Reliance Bank, which is part of the Salvation Army – it has just one branch. Plus the Cumberland Building Society, which has 34 branches based across Cumbria and the north-west of England.

Payments Council has announced a new bank account switching service. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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