There are some great deals available to get you to open new bank accounts. In fact, it’s the best way to max your interest on cash savings, with up to 5% available. But to really take advantage of the deals you need to have more than once account – and this can put some people off. But I think the reward is well worth the effort.
Last month I wrote about my 11 bank accounts, each giving me a benefit of some kind such as 5% interest or cashback on bills. I was pleasantly surprised how popular it was, particularly with my newsletter readers. As well as telling me how many accounts you have, a fair few readers asked me to explain how I keep on top of them.
Well, it’s actually really easy – though it does require some initial work to set it up. There are two main tools I use: Standing orders and direct debits.
Managing the minimum transfers
Most of the accounts require me to pay money in every month. If I didn’t I could miss out on all those little bonuses. There are two easy methods.
One trick is to move the same cash from account to account so it cycles through each one and back to the start, then repeats itself the next month and so on. For example, you’ve got £1,000 in account a, which you transfer to account b, then to account c, then account d and finally back to account a.
If you use a standing order you can set up the transfer, and then let it keep moving the money, month after month. The only thing you need to ensure is that there is £1,000 in the first account when money is due to leave.
I do it a little differently. Since my accounts have all been set up in batches, I’ve tended to set up a standing order out of a single account to another, and then back the next day. I use my Nationwide for most of the standing orders as that’s where my salary is paid each month, but a few leave from my TSB account.
If you do have multiple accounts with the same provider, as I do with TSB, you often can’t pay out of one of these accounts into another, so this version of the system might work better – as long as you have an account with a different bank too.
Here’s how my standing orders work:
- Salary to Nationwide (min £1,000 needed)
- Nationwide to Halifax (min £750 needed), and then on to First Direct for mortgage
- Nationwide to TSB 1 (min £500 needed) and back
- Nationwide to TSB 2 (min £500 needed) and back
- Nationwide to TSB 3 (min £500 needed) and back
- Nationwide to TSB 4 (min £500 needed) and back
- TSB to M&S (min £1,000 needed) and back, minus £250 for monthly saver
- TSB to Lloyds (min £1,500 needed) and back
Obviously, these are spread through the month to make sure there is cash in the account to leave it in the first place.
Dealing with direct debits
Some of my accounts also require a couple of direct debits each month. Importantly they have to be active direct debits.
Since I get cashback on most of my household bill direct debits through NatWest, there aren’t a huge number left over for the other accounts.
There are a handful which don’t count towards the cashback, and I use these to cover Halifax.
The direct debits for my Lloyds and M&S accounts are actually charity donations. I was making these donations anyway, so I simply moved them to those accounts.
Making sure everything is OK
Since I use standing orders and direct debits, most of it takes care of itself. However, I’ve set up two spreadsheets to keep an eye on things.
The first tells me all the standing orders and direct debits in and out of each account. If I need to amend the size of a standing order (for example when switching banks), I know exactly which is which. It only updates if I change bank.
The other spreadsheet is more active. Every month I open up the apps for my accounts and write down the balances. I try to do this in the first week of the month. This way I know exactly how much I have in each account, and overall. I also add in how much I owe on each credit cards (even though I pay them off in full every month) so I get the true figure of my current savings.
I tend to use the banks own apps though I’ve got Money Dashboard and I think this is pretty good too. You can add all your accounts to it and see them all on one screen. However, I’ve had a few niggles getting some accounts on there. Something I’m sure I can resolve – I’ve just not got around to it!