The average marriage lasts for 11 years... but we stay with our bank account for 17!
The reason for this is generally thought to be the hassle involved in switching. However, a scheme introduced on September 16th has cut the time it takes to move your account to only 7 days (from up to a month). Perhaps more importantly, the process of switching has been greatly simplified and streamlined - your new bank will take care of everything, you should not even need to talk to your old bank and you should have a single point of contact to deal with everything. All your direct debits and standing orders, as well as your salary, will be transferred automatically. Any payments that are made accidentally into your old account will be automatically redirected for the first 13 months and there is a "switching guarantee" meaning you'll receive a refund of any interest or charges that are incurred as a result of anything going wrong.
The majority of the main banks and building societies have signed up to the scheme but the process still involves changing your account number, with calls for fully 'portable accounts' - where your account number can be moved between banks easily - remaining unheeded, for now.
Many customers have not switched accounts for such a long time that they are out of touch with the range and sophistication of banks and accounts available today - tailoring your choice of account to your own specific needs is important. Things to consider when choosing a bank account, as well as the obvious headline level of interest paid are: how much you regularly have in the account, whether you ever go overdrawn, how much you value customer service, versus low costs and good interest rates, whether you are happy with telephone and internet banking, or want to take advantage of other payment technologies now available, or you value a branch network, and whether you travel abroad frequently, as well as the various incentives and packages on offer. All of these can correspond with specific features of the accounts out there, to affect how well suited the overall package is to your specific circumstances and preferences.
There's a huge range, beyond the big 'high street' banks and The Money Advice Service has just launched a comparison service at: http//compare.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/CurrentAccounts. Alternatively there are the well-known, well advertised commercial comparison services.