Switching to a challenger bank can feel like a leap of faith, says RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS: But we simply can’t let the old guard rip us off any longer
Rationally, I know that my money is safe in a bank. It’s been a good 15 years since it last looked like a bank was going to the wall.
Worried Northern Rock savers queued for hours outside its branches to withdraw their cash.
The Government was determined that a run on a bank would never happen again. And since then, protection for savers has been beefed up significantly.
Hit hard: The base rate is already 3.5 per cent, but Lloyds, NatWest and Barclays are still only paying 0.5 per cent on their easy-access accounts
They are guaranteed that they will get their money back if their bank goes bust. All they need to do is choose a bank with FSCS protection and deposit no more than £85,000 in any one bank.
I know all this. Money in a bank is safe.
But, although I’m embarrassed to admit it, there is still a bit of me that is unreasonably wary of newer banks without a long track record.
Take last month, when I was shopping around for a new easy-access savings account.
The rational thing to do would have been to pick the bank with FSCS protection that offers the highest rate of interest.
After all, banks with this protection are all equally safe for deposits, whether they have been around for a week or a century, have 1,000 customers or ten million.
But I didn’t. I scrolled past the best two or three choices because I had only vaguely heard of them. Instead I picked one with a lower interest rate, but which was much better known.
My wariness didn’t stop there.
I picked a digital bank, which functions solely through an app. The process couldn’t have been easier or more convenient. I downloaded the app on to my smartphone, typed in my details and within minutes my account was up and running.
I’m delighted at how the app functions and with its impressive array of security features, but for some reason I still worry.
I do not have a single piece of paper – or even an email – from that bank as everything is conducted through the app. I know nothing will go wrong, but I still find myself thinking: if the bank’s app suddenly disappeared or crashed, what record would there be that it is in possession of my hard-earned savings?
However illogical, there is still something comforting about receiving paper bank statements, about knowing where you’d queue if you ever did want to demand your savings back, and about banks that have been tried and tested over decades.
I’m sure that in time I will get more comfortable with the idea of new and digital-only banks. Several are even leading the way in the latest anti-fraud technology.
But what frustrates me is that the old, traditional banks are now making serious money from the wariness of people like me.
The Bank of England is likely to raise interest rates yet again next week – by a quarter of a percentage point or even double that.
Shortly afterwards, many new, challenger banks will pass the rate rise on to savers. The interest they pay is already generous: some offering rates of up to 4.5 per cent. They are likely to raise rates further.
But, we won’t hear a peep from most of the traditional, high street banks. They have failed to pass on previous rate rises to savers in recent months so there is no reason to believe they are going to start now.
The base rate is already 3.5 per cent, but Lloyds, NatWest and Barclays are still only paying 0.5 per cent on their easy-access accounts, Santander 0.55 per cent and HSBC 0.65 per cent.
The banks know that they still hold the trust of millions of their customers and are willing to take full advantage. They exploit the fact that many of us are too wary to move away from the bank we have been with for years – often since childhood.
Savers are now missing out on billions of pounds of interest by sticking with the incumbents instead of trusting a challenger bank.
I know that switching can feel like a leap of faith.
But we simply can’t let the old banks get away with this any longer.