First Direct account introduces account charges

First%20DirectFirst Direct, the internet and telephone bank, is introducing account charges in a bid to reduce the number of dormant accounts. The bank says the accounts represent a "significant" cost to its operation.

It is writing to customers to inform them that from February next year, customers who hold only a First Direct current account will incur changes of £10 a month if they do not pay in at least £1,500 a month.

The HSBC-owned company says it services more than 40,000 dormant accounts and more than 250,000 accounts which see less than ten transactions a month.

The bank hopes the policy change will encourage account holders to use First Direct as their primary bank.

Chief executive Chris Pilling says: "I want to focus our efforts on our most important customers: those who use us as their main bank, or who have a number of products with us."

He also hopes the move will encourage customers who do not meet the new criteria to take out new products or shift their salary payments to First Direct.

The move reflects research published by PricewaterhouseCoopers this week which indicates banks will begin reintroducing yearly fees for credit card products to recoup money lost as a result of changes to consumer-protection rules.

Last year, Morgan Stanley marketing director Patrick Muir predicted a return to fee-paying products as financial services companies looked to building trust and loyalty rather than chasing "rate tarts" (MW December 1, 2005).

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