Designing effective current account prompts: research summary

Banks and building societies have committed to deliver a package of prompts to their customers. These prompts aim to: increase consumers’ engagement with their current account, raise awareness of the current account switching service, and highlight developments in the retail banking market, for example that customers can now share account information with third party services, including those we regulate, that can help them manage their money. In 2017-18 we undertook research into how to develop these prompts so that they are most effective.

Read current account prompt pilots report (PDF)

This summary brings together the key findings of our research and reflects what we know from the wider academic literature. We hope this will help firms to design effective prompts that work in practice.

Clear prompts that are salient and include clear instructions are likely to be more effective

Making prompts relevant:

  • It is important to tell customers why they are being given information, particularly when prompts discuss switching, as customers can be confused about why they are receiving a switching message from their provider.
  • Reach more people by dispelling common myths – for example, tell customers that being overdrawn does not prevent them from switching.
  • Combining information about cost and service quality can engage a wider group of people to consider switching their account.
  • Telling customers they are missing out if they do not act appears to be particularly engaging.

Personalising messages:

  • Using the customer’s name to speak directly to them can increase engagement.
  • As can using personalised instead of generic information about costs and charges.

Making it easy for consumers to act:

  • Action oriented headlines grab customers’ attention and help to explain the purpose of the prompt.
  • Listing options or steps to take so that customers can choose what to do next can increase the chance of them acting.
  • Including links makes next steps easy. However, consumers are concerned about fraud (phishing).  It is safer to provide links to a secure environment such as mobile/Internet banking.

The following are likely to be less effective:

  • Short ‘teaser’ messages. These messages do not contain all the information the customer needs to act. In our pilots, short messages do not appear to have encouraged customers to find out more.
  • Our research found that directing customers to perform an Internet search, or to download an app, were not seen as appropriate.

Prompts that interrupt consumers at relevant times are likely to be more effective  

Messages in Internet or mobile banking:

  • These prompts reach customers when they are considering money management.
  • Our pilots showed good consumer recall of Internet banking messages and pop-ups.  We believe that these types of prompts are more effective because they interrupt the customer journey.


  • Our pilots showed good read rates of emailed prompts as well as evidence of customer recall. However, firms should be mindful of consumer concerns about phishing.


  • Customers say that they would be receptive to switching prompts when there is a major change to their account.
  • Periodic prompts can show customers rolling and annual aggregated charges. Such disclosures may be more impactful if they focus on money management issues and include clear actions they can take.


  • Positioning of the prompt on the top or left-hand side of a communication was likely to be more effective than positioning on bottom or right hand-side.

The following are likely to be less effective:

  • Banners that sit in the background of Internet banking and secure inbox messages. Our pilots found no evidence that these channels are effective. Engagement with them was low and consumers did not recall receiving the messages.
  • Statement prompts for Internet banking and mobile banking users. Customers say they do not read statements as they access balance and transition information in-app or online.
  • Text message prompts. Research suggests text messages should be reserved for urgent communications such as overdraft or refused payment alerts.

Colour and graphics can make a prompt more effective

Include graphics:

  • Graphics such as warning signs, thumbs up and green ticks are likely to be effective in engaging customers. They stand out and their intention is well understood.
  • Visuals that explain the process of switching, eg the switch guarantee logo or a switching timeline, may help reassure customers about the process.

Use bullet points:

  • Breaking down messages and presenting them in a salient manner with bullet points tested well in our research.

Use colour:

  • Red conveys importance and prompts customers to take note.
  • Transitions from red to green can help depict the benefit of acting.

Use simple graphs to present information:

  • Charts comparing charges or service quality are likely to encourage greater engagement than text alone. Charts that do not show a comparison test less well.

More information