Why I’d never consider paying for my current account

1 November 2011

Whether in a restaurant, bar or at the gym I resent having to pay for water. Given that I can get it for free from the tap – as can the proprietors of these establishments, I don’t see the need to ever pay for water.

That’s why I’ll always ask for “just tap water please” or fill my water bottle up at the fountain at the gym. Of course water connoisseurs will tell me that mineral water is superior to my chlorinated tap stuff and no doubt the fancy filter processes aren’t a bad thing but I just don’t need them – or a carefully sculpted plastic bottle – to enjoy a glass of aqua. 

In the same way, I’ve never paid for my current account – why would I need to pay my bank to provide the same services that it currently does for free? Banks and fans of paid-for or so called packaged accounts argue that these accounts offer plenty of extras that make the monthly fee more than worth it. The average monthly cost of a packaged account is now £15.40, according to data provider Defaqto and the most common benefits included are commission-free travel money, preferential savings rates and mobile phone, travel and motor insurance.

But how useful and comprehensive these benefits are to individuals will vary considerably. I for one don’t need many of these benefits and the one that I do – travel insurance, I’d rather buy separately to ensure that I get adequate cover on areas like baggage reclaim and cancellation.

In fairness, travel insurance included within many packaged accounts is ‘worldwide cover’ so the fact that I don’t have any complicated medical conditions or Louis Vuitton luggage to worry about means travel insurance offered within one of these accounts would probably be more than adequate – but why pay £15 a month when I can get an annual policy (including baggage cover) for £56.92 with insureandgo.com?

Insuring my mobile phone is pointless – it’s so old I’m thinking of submitting it to the British Museum – but I know enough people who do have phone insurance with their banks and have been tested to the limit trying to make a claim.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has slammed banks and building societies for pushing packaged accounts without necessarily checking if the benefits suit individuals. From now on it wants to ensure that sales staff go through all the extras to see if a customer is eligible – and point out explicitly when they are not.

Will this put a stop to paid-for accounts? It’s unlikely, given the huge amount of revenue banks generate for themselves from them, but hopefully it will get across the message to some consumers that they could have the same current account for free. And that, like a free glass of water, is pretty refreshing.