become your customers primary bank account
become your customers primary bank account
Picture of Frederrick Hamann
Frederrick Hamann

5 ways to become your customers' primary bank account

One of the main desired outcomes within banking is becoming the customers’ primary account. But with the emergence of challenger banks, competition has drastically increased. New features are being introduced for the main purpose of driving this important relationship between the bank and customer.

‘Get 100 pounds when you switch your main account over to us’ has historically been a well known way of getting new primary account customers. And in the past, this strategy has worked. But with new challenger banks, fintechs, and more digital demands from customers, there are now new solutions available to become the primary account of customers.

About 50% of bank account holders have more than one account, a GoBankingRates survey shows. This means that the average customer might have one consumer loan account with one bank, for example, and then multiple checking and savings accounts at other financial institutions. Challenger banks like Revolut and N26 continue to increase in number as most customers are now moving to online banks as their primary financial institution.

What is a Primary Banking Account and why is it important for banks? 

According to traditional banking standards, the account that has a customer’s salary paid into it would be considered the primary banking account. A primary bank account also refers to the main account of operation of a banking customer. This is usually the account where purchase transactions, fees and charges connected to the ATM/Debit Card are debited. 

However, recent findings have shown that the factors that determine a consumer’s primary financial institution are rapidly changing as well. In the past, a consumer’s primary banking account was determined solely by which account was the checking account. These days other factors considered include:

  • The account that receives the direct deposit
  • Accounts used to keep the largest amount of money
  • The account that is used to pay bills/recurring payments
  • Accounts for day-to-day payments

Also, every opened account that is actively used by a primary customer earns a net gain for the banks. This is why banks who are prioritising effective customer retention strategies, are able to generate more revenue. From the onboarding process at the beginning, to nurturing relationships with their primary customers.

Challenges banks face today in becoming the primary financial institution for their customers

In order to acquire active primary customers, financial institutions are faced with several challenges in becoming the primary banking account of choice. Some of these challenges include the following:

  • Customers are now more open to non-traditional financial service providers
  • Customers need additional services that go beyond banking
  • Higher demand for more innovative communication technologies
  • The need to provide expert advice for more specific banking needs of customers (at their fingertips)
  • Implementing a well rounded client onboarding & digital customer process (Simplifying long legal banking documents)

The good news is that traditional banks can take advantage of this changing landscape. With the procedures implemented by challenger banks to acquire primary customers. Traditional institutions can use these lessons to refine their own bank customer retention strategies.

5 primary bank account tactics

The following are some tactics to increase the likelihood of becoming your customers’ primary banking institution:

  • Salary advance offers for participating customers: A use case example for this would be the London-based fintech company Revolut. Revolut offers their customers a feature called Payday, a salary advance feature that gives clients early access up to 50% of their salary. This gives their customers a more flexible economy, which enforces one of the 3 main strategies at Revolut: To drive primary account adoption.
  • No monthly service fees: As in the case of Starling Bank, the online challenger bank well-known for this feature. Starling Bank offers no monthly fees when customers sign up for a personal, business, or a joint account with the bank. With this strategy, they offer zero charges when customers withdraw their cash or use their cards in a different country. Another benefit of this tactic for their customers is that they are notified when they are running low on funds or are about to have an overdraft from an upcoming automatic payment. Customers also get to enjoy the benefits of switching accounts from another bank for free. This can save customers more money if they decide to close the account with the previous bank, especially if the previous bank charges lots of fees. 
  • Budget and planning: Challenger banks like Monese, offer their planning and budgeting tool to help customers stay on track with their spending. Thus living up to the increased demand for primary accounts to give the customers expert advice when needed. This feature shows account holders a snapshot of their monthly and weekly budgeting. Along with instant notifications whenever they spend.
  • No overdraft fees: A use case example for this would be Chime, one of the heavy weights in the digital banking landscape in the US. One of its popular features include ‘no overdraft fees’. Chime allows their participating account holders to overdraft up to $200 without charging any overdraft fees, which is one of the bank’s bets on how to become the primary bank account of their customers. 
  • Recurring payments management: Digital banks like Lunar, are use case examples of online banks that provide their customers with an overview of all recurring payments, while making it possible to cancel those in the app as well. This creates the incentive for their customers to pay all their recurring payments from this account and thus making it into their primary account.


As society forges ahead towards a well-connected digital world, physical proximity to a financial institution is no longer required to be a customer’s primary banking institution. Banks are constantly facing overwhelming demands to create effective bank customer retention strategies. And also cultivating these relationships to increase customer loyalty. 

The number of customers who are more open to non-traditional financial service providers has vastly increased. Although brick and mortar branches are still seen as necessary, potential primary customers are in need of additional services that can go beyond banking to be more in-sync with their daily lives.

As fierce competition from challenger banks for industry dominance continues to increase. Financial institutions can still find effective ways to implement these same strategies used by challenger banks to keep up with customer retention and nurturing procedures. And as modern digitisation is constantly changing the banking landscape.

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