Reward schemes, ìincentivisedî bank accounts, loyalty bonuses ñ all of these have emerged and expanded in recent years and in many cases, theyíre a boon for us as consumers.
But itís important for us not to lose sight of the reason behind them. Banks have introduced them for one reason only: to persuade us to use them for all our financial requirements.
Of course plenty of us already do just that either out of the ìcomfortî of knowing who we are dealing with; out of laziness; or perhaps simply out of a misguided sense of loyalty.
According to the data group Defaqto, banks are making a determined effort to persuade those of us who havenít yet signed up to the idea of a one-stop shop for all our financial dealings, to do just that.
And the traditional January sales are no longer confined to fashion retailers. Banks are offering all kinds of discounts and special offers right now ñ but to their existing customers only.
But do they really offer the best deal you can get? The answer to that depends on your personal circumstances. As ever, it always pays to shop around but here we look at some of the offers that really might offer value for money.
If youíre looking for an unsecured loan to tide you over the Christmas spending splurge, then the Nationwide has a top deal for its existing current account holders, offering loans of between £7,500 and £14,000 for up to five years at a market-leading rate of just 7.6% APR.
If youíre a Halifax customer, in need of money but unwilling to go for a loan, then its all-one credit card might be a good option as it offers 12 months of interest-free credit rather than the standard nine months for applicants who donít currently bank with the Halifax.
There is a range of good offers on mortgages for customers of the Nationwide, HSBC Halifax and Alliance & Leicester
First time buyers: With 90% mortgages difficult to find full stop, first time buyers might be interested in the Nationwideís offer of a 90% mortgage for its Flex account current account holders.
Mortgage discounts: You can get a discount of between 0.2% and 0.4% on the full range of Halifax mortgages provided youíre an existing Halifax customer. HSBC Plus and HSBC Premier current account customers get a 0.15% discount off a selection of its mortgages
Special fixed rate mortgage discounts: Halifax customers are being offered a market-leading two-year fixed rate mortgage, reduced from 3.99% to a very competitive 3.69%. However, you do need at least a 40% deposit to qualify. To put this into context, only the Cumberland Building Society offers a better two-year fixed deal at 3.49% – again for those with a minimum 40% deposit. Both providers have the same £995 arrangement fee.
Free valuations and cashback: Abbey and Alliance & Leicester current account holders get free mortgage valuations and cashback is available on some of their mortgage deals.
HSBC, Lloyds TSB and Norwich & Peterborough building society current account holders all get offered monthly regular savings accounts that offer exclusive deals not available to non-customers. If you are a Halifax customer, you are eligible for an extra 0.2% on any of the bankís variable rate savings accounts.
But are all these exclusive deals worth it?
In fairness to the banks offering these special deals to existing customers, there are some useful discounts and offers available, some of which ñ like the Halifaxís discounted two-year fixed rate mortgage – are among the best you can find anywhere on the market.
But the irony is that although some of these exclusive offers are good, no single bank offers market-leading deals for existing customers across the full range of financial services we all generally need.
So the notion that itís worth sticking loyally with one bank to save as much as you can, is simply not the case.
Yes, it might well be worth opening a current account with one of the banks weíve mentioned above if, for example, youíre a first time buyer looking to qualify for that 90% mortgage the Nationwide is offering. Or you might consider joining the Halifax in order to benefit from its outstandingly low rate on its two-year fixed rate mortgage.
But do not make the mistake of instantly assuming that any other deals being offered by your ìnew best friendî will be unbeatable ñ because they almost certainly wonít be.
By all means, join a particular bank to take advantage of one particular discount available on its other products but remember to stop there.
Always shop around each time. We all know loyalty doesnít pay and donít make the mistake of letting the banks convince you otherwise.