A free current account seems like one of the necessities of adult life – somewhere to store your money, set up direct debits for your bills and generally look after your financial health. These basic everyday financial activities aren’t something that most of us expect to pay for.
However in a world where banking is becoming more and more competitive, banks are looking to make money wherever they can. Cue the rise of the packaged bank account: premium accounts that offer a range of bonus features in exchange for a small fee.
Considering the perks
Deciding whether or not to pay for a packaged account really comes down to the perks on offer, and whether they’re actually of benefit to you. Some banks offer their premium customers travel perks or insurance. These things are great, but only if you plan to pay for them anyway. Otherwise you’re paying for something that you won’t actually use.
Other banks offer lifestyle perks – think cinema tickets and magazine subscriptions. Again, this can work out as a bargain, but not if it’s something you don’t want or won’t get around to using.
Finally, there are the banks that pay cashback to their premium customers. This might be in the form of cashback on your monthly bills, money spent at certain retailers, or money spent using a rewards credit card. Run the numbers carefully: if you’re going to earn back more than you pay in fees each month then this is probably a great deal.
Avoid the fees
The best pay-to-play bank accounts are the ones that let you avoid paying the fee if you meet certain criteria – usually a minimum monthly payment into the account. If you’re paying your salary into the account each month then you may well meet the minimum payment threshold. That would make a packaged account a good option, offering all of the perks and none of the cost.
If you weren’t planning to use this account for your salary then you could still get around the minimum payment threshold by moving money in and out of the account each month. For instance, you could withdraw the minimum amount from a savings fund, pay it into the account to meet the criteria, and then move it back into your savings pot.
This is not against any rules, however banks are free to pick and choose who they want as their customers. If they feel like you’re taking advantage of their generosity, they’re within their rights to close your account. In reality, most people wouldn’t not experience any problems from using an account in this way.
The final thing to consider is the importance of customer service. Usually, customers who pay for their bank account have better access to customer support. This is unlikely to be a deal breaker for many, but if you’ve had bad experiences in the past and can easily afford to spend a few pounds each month avoiding it then the option is definitely there.