Switching current accounts or opening a second bank account to escape bank charges that you simply cannot afford is sometimes your only option of escape.
Imagine: You are thousands of feet above the earth in a propeller plane. Far below, the fields spread out like patchwork handkerchiefs. The roads look like pencil lines and you know that somewhere down there, your family are gazing up, pale faced, and open mouthed.
The door to the plane is open, and the wind roars past as you inch closer to the edge. Knuckles white and heart hammering in your chest, you prepare to jump, knowing you can’t go back. You tense your muscles and grit your teeth so hard your jaw aches. And then you jump. As the wind whips past, you reach for the pull chord, but as you fumble with gloved hands, you realise there’s something wrong. You can’t find the string.
A silent scream escapes your mouth as the ground rockets closer and closer and closer until…
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” screams your partner, waking you from your nightmare.
Another bad dream; another sleepless night.
And your dreams have a recurring theme: You never have a parachute. And downstairs, a pile of unopened bills sits on the table and that pile is getting bigger each week. Research has shown that people with
debt problems wait up to 9 months before they seek debt advice, then take an extra month before they act upon it.
If this is your situation, it’s time to think about opening a parachute bank account.
A Parachute bank account?
The term Parachute Bank Account, has been around since about 2006. It was coined by BankFodder, and the earliest usage was on February 22, 2006. This term is now used regularly by money saving expert Martin Lewis and also by the national press.
How would a second Parachute bank account help your situation?
Parachute bank accounts are usually opened to avoid retaliatory charges by your usual bank. If your credit rating is in tatters, and the charges are mounting, it can be tempting to open a second account. However, many banks will not give you an account
if you are overdrawn elsewhere, but as the financial crisis deepens, the need for separate accounts becomes more desperate. And, it’s reassuring to know that if you are in this position, there are several places you can go to open such a Parachute Account.
Switching current accounts if you are in your overdraft should not be too much of a problem if you are trying to avoid charges, or cut the amount of interest you pay. If you have a reasonably clear credit history and have stayed within your overdraft limits, some banks will be more than happy to accept your custom – it’s just a matter of ringing round and finding out which bank will accept you.
Make sure your lenders are not ahem..in bed together
When opening a parachute account, make sure your lenders are not connected to each other: For instance, HBOS and Halifax are part of the same organisation. This means that if you owe money to the Bank of Scotland and also have an account with the Halifax, you run a serious risk if you miss one repayment. Either bank can take money from your account to pay off the other one, known as Setting Off.
Beware of setting off
Setting Off is a legal practice, where a bank has the right to remove cash from your account to pay off other debts, such as
loans and credit cards. Chances are, this will not happen to you, but if you are struggling financially, you need to be aware of the threat.
And guess what? The bank doesn’t need to inform you that this is going to happen, and often, you will find no reference to it in their terms and conditions. And even worse news – it’s on the increase. Indeed, the Citizens Advice Bureau reported an increase of 25% in the number of Set Off enquiries between 2008 and 2010.
The key to opening a parachute account and running it successfully is to consult with your bank about the potential pitfalls and charges, not going overdrawn, and remembering to open those letters.
And back to that dream you had about jumping out of the plane. You were certainly in free fall for a few minutes, looking for the ripcord on your parachute. But thankfully, you had packed a reserve chute, and it’s now opened, allowing you to drift safely back down to earth.