First Direct has replaced its longstanding £100 switching bonus for new customers with offers of online courses worth up to £1,000, hi-tech gadgets or a £150 Expedia voucher.
The online bank, part of HSBC, withdrew its usual "golden hello" in favour of a range of non-cash incentives aimed at "digitally-savvy" and "entrepreneurially-minded" customers.
There are more than 300 self-development courses on Blue Mountain Training Solutions, an online training firm. The average value of the courses is £238 but one, "Boost Your Business Fast With Marketing, Google Analytics and Social Media", is listed for £1,000 on the website.
Other courses include Life Coaching for Success (worth £600), Accounting and Bookkeeping (worth £300) and a Bartending & Drink Mixologist Master Course (worth £350).
Blue Mountain Training Solutions sessions can often be bought from Groupon or other discount websites for a song – it previously listed an Adobe Mobile Games Design Online Package for £29, usually worth £300 – but First Direct said these would not be the same calibre of the courses it is offering new customers.
The bank is also offering a £150 Expedia voucher, which can be used to pay for flights, care hire, trains or accommodation.
Or there is a choice of gadgets on offer including Bose on-ear wireless headphones (RRP £169.95), the Soundlink Bluetooth speaker (RRP £169.95), Amazon's Echo Spot (RRP £119.99) and a special edition Fitbit (worth around £140).
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To get the gifts, customers must switch using the Current Account Switching Service (Cass) and pay in £1,000 in the first three months of opening the account.
They should receive an email with a code within 14 days, which they will need to register on Hellogift.firstdirect.com, the bank's dedicated website, within 60 days.
Customers then have 90 days to choose their gift.
First Direct offers £100 to those who leave after six months but before a year if they've paid £1,000 into the account each month.
The new switching incentives will be offered as part of a pilot scheme, which First Direct said it could cancel at any time. However, a spokesman confirmed it will run for at least three months.
Current account providers have been offering cash incentives for years to entice new customers but Andrew Hagger from Moneycomms, the personal finance site, said the market has become stale.
Last week, Lloyds Banking Group announced it was cutting the rate or increasing the fee on its range of Halifax, Lloyds and Bank of Scotland current accounts.
Mr Hagger suggested First Direct could be doing its bit to "shake up the market" but he said most people would probably prefer the money instead of non-cash incentives.
But with unimpressive switching figures, he said banks should be offering more than they are at the moment: the top offer is currently a £125 gift card from M&S Bank.
Mr Hagger warned that customers should not choose a bank just on the freebies.
"First Direct has a good reputation for good customer service and its overdraft is cheap. But it doesn't pay interest. Those with bigger balances might prefer Santander's 123 current account, which pays 1.5pc on up to £20,000, or Tesco Bank, which offers 3pc on £3,000."
See here for more on high interest current accounts.