Banks offer little reward to most of their loyal customers, but if you’re lucky enough to have a good salary or some money sitting in your account they claim to have some great free perks on offer.
The question is whether that is an offer worth taking up, or simply a banking ploy to part you from more of your money.
Premium bank accounts sit somewhere in between private banking and a packaged bank account.
They offer a whole host of added value including free travel insurance or airport lounge access and a more personalised service with dedicated relationship managers or premier banking teams.
What’s in it for the banks? These highly-prized customers are a lucrative business if they can cross sell other products such as mortgages, investments and credit cards.
Travel in style: Some premium accounts offer free airport lounge access
So could you qualify?
To qualify for a premium bank account you don’t have to have the hundreds of thousands or even millions required for private banking.
For private banking, Lloyds Bank, for example requires at least £250,000 in savings or investments or the same amount as an annual income while Investec requires £3million in investments or savings or a £300,000 income.
For a premium bank account however, most of banks require slightly more affordable annual salaries of £75,000 or more, or that you have a certain level of savings or investments with them, nearer £50,000.
Some, such as HSBC, also extend accounts to those who have a mortgage with the bank and are borrowing over a required threshold which could be £500,000 or more.
Are the perks any good?
If you fit the bill, banks will offer you a special level of service either with a dedicated relationship manager or access to a premier banking team with 24-hour customer service.
This doesn’t mean free financial advice, it’s more like first-class customer service or or bank managers of old.
Banks also throw in freebies such as fee-free holiday money, travel insurance for your family, free airport lounge access or even free discount dining cards or English Heritage passes.
And they usually give wealthy customers preferential rates or exclusive deals on other products like credit cards and investment fees to draw you.
If you don’t fit the criteria but want a bit more from your bank you could consider a paid-for package bank account. You won’t get the same dedicated bank manager but they offer bundled insurance perks for a monthly fee.
You will need to weigh up the advantages against the costs by comparing the cost of what’s included if you were to buy it yourself separately.
Remember banks are not offering these freebies as a favour. Their hope is that by snaring wealthy customers they will earn more from them by cross-selling their mortgages, credit cards, savings or investment products.
To help you sort through what’s on offer from the various providers, we’ve pulled together a review of the best below.
Travel money deals: Wealthy customers tend to travel for business and pleasure more often and therefore prize foreign currency perks
Requirements: The HSBC Premier Account has no fee, instead you must have a minimum annual salary of £75,000, with either an HSBC mortgage, investment, life insurance or protection product or £50,000 in savings or investments with the bank.
What you get: HSBC has one of the longest lists of added perks for wealthy customers in addition to its dedicated relationship manager.
The best value perk is the free worldwide travel insurance from Aviva for those under the age of 70. This also covers dependants up to 18, or 23 if they are in full-time education as well as winter sports.
These policies require you to inform them of any pre-existing illnesses first. They may not be able to cover you or may require a further premium.
You can read more about travel insurance with a pre-existing condition in our guide.
The account is geared to appeal to parents and grandparents.
It offers attached children’s current and savings accounts which include perks such up to 3 per cent interest and free cash withdrawals abroad.
You also get specialist rates and service on mortgage products. HSBC extends this to family members too, which could be handy for those trying to help their kids onto the property ladder.
Small print: The withdrawal limit is £1,000 per day. You get a £500 interest-free arranged overdraft facility with no overdraft fee. You pay a relatively low 11.9 per cent EAR on the rest.
When spending abroad on the debit card it charges 2.75 for foreign transactions, but HSBC will waive the cash withdrawal fee for Premier customers.
The credit card: HSBC’s Premier Credit Card offers 0 per cent interest on balance transfers for 18 months and for 0 months on purchases, (standard APR is 18.9 per cent).
The reward card pays one point per £1 spent in the UK and double when abroad which can be swapped for airmiles with BA, Etihad, Asia Miles and Singapore Airlines.
They can also be redeemed for vouchers to spend in stores such as M&S, Amazon or Sainsburys.
Signing up gets you some extra perks – free WiFi access through Boingo worldwide, extended warranties and a 10 per cent discount on Expedia hotel bookings.
The Premier World Elite card offers double the earning potential plus you get 40,000 points to sign up, with an extra 40,000 paid every year that you spend £12,000.
The card carries an annual fee of £195.
Whitby Abbey: Barclays customers get free English Heritage membership
Requirements: There are no fees for the Barclays Premier Account. Instead you need a minimum annual salary of £75,000 or £100,000 in savings or investments with the bank.
What you get: The account comes with some lifestyle-based rewards on top of access to the premier relationship team 24/7 by phone.
You get a free discount dining card from the Gourmet Society that lasts for a year (worth £79.99 per year). This gets you 50 per cent off or two-for-one deals on eating out.
You also get a free membership to Picture House cinemas worth up to £85 and free entry to over 280 English Heritage sites with a membership worth £56 per year.
You can sign up for the Blue Rewards available on its other accounts. It pays cashback on certain products including £7 per month for holding two direct debits.
The account highlights its linked Premier products with preferential rates on savings, loans and mortgages. These are not the most competitive though.
For example its two-year savings account pays 1 per cent less than the market–leading accounts at just 1.1 per cent interest. Barclays’ loans cost 3.9 per cent, that’s a full 1 per cent more expensive than the cheapest personal loan rates.
There is no free insurance, but you can add it on via its tech and travel insurance packs for a monthly fee from £10.50. It offers fee-free international payments.
Small print: The bank offers a bumper £1,000 free overdraft, beyond that you pay £1.50 per day.
You can take out up to £1,000 per day from a cash machine. If you use the card abroad Barclays will charge you a 2.75 per cent fee for purchases and withdrawals, plus an extra £1.50 for withdrawing money from an ATM.
Cinema discounts: Natwest Reward Black customers get 40 per cent off tickets
Requirements: NatWest has a couple of options for those qualifying for its Premier banking service. The basic Premier Select account costs nothing. You can also add on its regular Reward (£2 per month) or opt for its Reward Black (£28 per month) features.
The accounts are open to those with an income of £100,000 or uniquely a joint income of £120,000. Alternatively you must have a minimum mortgage of £500,000 or savings or investments of £100,000.
What you get: You get a premier banking manager as a Natwest Premier customer and access to a mortgage concierge service on mortgages over £500,000.
There is no free overdraft facility, accountholders are charged a £6 usage fee and interest at 14.89 per cent EAR.
If you want extra from your bank account you can upgrade to the Premier Reward account you pay £2 per month as with its standard Reward Account and get 2 per cent cashback on your household bills.
The Premier Reward Black offers the same cashback on household bills plus a handful of other extras for the £28 per month fee. This is going up to £31 per month from January 2019.
While it’s a shame you don’t get any perks from the free select account, the Reward Black does offer a fair amount for the monthly fee.
First off is the 24/7 concierge service that acts like a personal PA, booking hard-to-get tickets to the theatre or a table in an exclusive restaurant.
It even claims it will buy and wrap special gifts if you need. A completely unnecessary touch but one that will appeal to those wanting their account to feel premium and exclusive.
On the lifestyle side you also get 25 per cent cashback when booking theatre, opera, dance or concert performances plus a 40 per cent discount on cinema tickets.
It comes with worldwide travel insurance cover including winter sports. It covers dependants aged under 18, or up to 23 if they’re in full-time education.
There are other insurance perks such as free mobile cover, UK European breakdown cover and home emergency that covers two UK homes.
You get unlimited access to airport lounges worldwide through Dragon Pass which costs from £68 per year. If you choose to open a joint account you both get access, otherwise adding guests costs £20.
In terms of other travel perks, you can use the debit card for free spending abroad and the bank offers 0 per cent commission on all foreign currency exchange, but it’s always worth comparing rates as you could likely find better elsewhere anyway.
Small print: There is no free overdraft facility, account holders are charged a £6 usage fee and interest at 14.89 per cent EAR.
The credit card: There is also an attached credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees, and offers 1 per cent back on supermarket spends and 0.5 per cent everywhere else.
The bank will refund the typical £84 fee if you are a Reward Black account customer, It’s a decent card but there are better deals elsewhere.
Help for savers: Santander’s Select account offers 3 per cent interest on £20,000 in your account
Requirements: Santander asks that you have a main income of £5,000 per month (effectively a £60,000 per year salary) or have £75,000 invested through the bank or in savings or a current account.
What you get: The current account is effectively the same as the flagship 123 Account, but with the personal touch for wealthy customers.
It carries a £5 monthly fee and for that you get 1.5 per cent interest on up to £20,000 held in your account. You also get cashback of up to 3 per cent on your household bills.
You get 1 per cent on water, council tax and Santander mortgages, 2 per cent on gas and electricity, the bank’s home and life insurance policies and 3 per cent on mobile, home phone, broadband and TV packages. To qualify for this perk you also need to ensure you have two direct debits from the account.
The Santander Select service also gets you a personal relationship manager and 24 hour support.
Other perks include a £1,000 daily limit on cash machine withdrawals limit and fee fee-free withdrawals at Santander cash machines abroad which you can find in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, USA, Brazil and Poland.
The first £500 of your arranged overdraft is free, then it’s £1 per day for up to £2,000, £2 for up to £3,000 and £3 for each day you need to borrow more than that.
It also claims preferential rates on savings and mortgages and discounts on insurance products and emergency cash and card replacement abroad.
The credit card: The traditional perks for wealthy customers are handed out if you have its attached credit card.
The World Elite Mastercard costs £15 per month. For that you get airport lounge access, fee-free spending abroad, 0.5 per cent cashback on spends up to £3,000 per month and 18 months 0 per cent interest on balance transfers and purchases.
You also get free wifi access worldwide through Boingo, a 40 per cent discount on Santander travel insurance and access to Mastercard’s concierge service.
Similarly to the NatWest Black this helps with booking travel, entertainment, sports or gifts. Standard interest is set at 18.9 per cent.
The wild card: Citigold
Requirements: The Citigold current accounts have higher entry requirements but the bank offers free US Dollar, Euro and Sterling accounts.
It requires an average balance of £150,000 (or currency equivalent) across all your accounts. This includes investments, if not it costs a whopping £75 per month.
What you get: You can hold all three currency accounts for free and access them with the same Citi debit card. Plus it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees when sending money abroad to both other Citi accounts and non-Citi accounts.
Customers get worldwide travel insurance cover for them and any immediate family members, including winter sports coverage.
You get a dedicated relationship manager and access to the bank’s business facilities to hold business meetings around the world if you need.
If you join Citigold’s wealth management service too you are offered a welcome reward of up to 100,000 Avios points.
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