Not many customers change banks despite 'easy switching'

Only about 320 people a week are using a government scheme designed to take the hassle out of changing banks, with many customers still deterred by the complexity of switching.

Only about 320 people a week are using a government scheme designed to take the hassle out of changing banks, with many customers still deterred by the complexity of switching.

After the account-switching scheme opened for business in July last year, a Treasury spokesman said more than 15,500 people had used the service in its first 11 months, and the average monthly turnover of deposit accounts had also risen by 6.2 per cent.

But industry representatives said the take-up rate was underwhelming. Some 3.5 million accounts were already "switched" each year before the scheme started operating.

The chief executive of Teachers Mutual Bank, Steve James, said the process of changing banks remained complex, and most people who applied to use the scheme did not end up switching.

"We get people applying, but probably only about 30 per cent of the people actually do the switch at the end of the day," he said. "The system's still a little complicated for most customers."

The service - which applies only to transaction accounts - was set up as part of Labor's 2010 banking competition reforms.

It allows people to change banks by filling out a single form, but Mr James said this did not automatically transfer direct debits and credits. For this to occur, customers can ask their bank for a list of all direct debit and credits, which they can then give to their new bank.

Mr James said about one in 10 applications to switch were rejected by the bank that was losing a customer because their signature was different to the one kept on file.

Australian Bankers Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg said surveys showed most people were satisfied with their banks, and switching was made more difficult in Australia because of the way people set up their direct debits and credits.