Part One of Huffington Post's special report into current accounts and free banking assessed why we had fallen for the fib that banking was free - in Part Two we consider the future of our current accounts.
In the immediate future, customers won’t see any difference with their current accounts; but there is a parliamentary inquiry currently taking place which is asking MPs to consider the current banking standards.
This could lead to changes in how the banks are run, but also how we pay for our current accounts.
Last weekend, several quarters of the press reported that some of the high street banks would use this as an opportunity to call for a shift to a paid-for model.
When Huffington Post tried to contact them however, we were largely met with stony silence. Lloyds TSB and RBS declined to comment further. HSBC and Santander both said they couldn’t comment on what their representatives would say at the inquiry. And we had no response whatsoever from NatWest, the Co-op or Barclays on this issue.
Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie, who is heading the banking commission, is a supporter of an end to free banking and has previously described the concept of free accounts as a ‘myth’.
And the Bank of England’s executive director, Andrew Bailey, has said he favours a bank fee of about £15 per month for current accounts.
ALSO SEE: Free Banking Never Existed, You Just Didn't Know You Were Paying, Says Industry - But Why?
This suggestion was greeted with anger on social network sites and in the press. Why should tax payers, who have already propped up some of the biggest names on the high street, now pay £15 a month just to bank with them?
“The only justification for a monthly fee is if all the other hidden charges are removed, but experience tells us this will not happen,” Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which? told Huffington Post.
“At a time when consumer trust in the banks is so low, the banks’ leaders should be looking at how to improve the transparency of bank charges and provide better customer service, not looking to charge their customers even more.”
But would a flat fee work? According to one banking source, who asked not to be named, a simple flat fee would not be possible.
This is because it does nothing to alleviate the cross subsidies between bank users who levy lots of expenses (ie those who issue lots of cheques or spend ages at the bank tellers’ window) and those who have limited cost impact (ie those who bank online and use direct debits).
“You quickly get to the point where only a pure 'pay as you use' model ticks all the transparency boxes,” the source said.
”The down side of this is everybody's consumer research shows this ‘pay as you use’ model is the least favoured by customers - the most popular being the status quo of ‘ free in credit’ banking.”
Anthony Thomson, chairman of banking newcomer Metro Bank, said it should be down to customer choice.
"We offer a free and a packaged account, and our staff are not incentivised to sell one offer over the other," he said.
"It's fair to say most customers don't want to pay for a current account."
Thomson also favours one suggestion put forward by various banking commissions; to send customers an annual summary showing exactly how much money they've lost, or interest they've forgone, by using that current account.
Some commentators predicted a shift to a paid-for model could even lead to a rise in the use of peer-to-peer lending, where customers shun the banks in favour of a platform that lets users set their own rates for trade.
Jonathan Potter, co-founder of currency exchange marketplace CurrencyFair, prophesised: “If the end of free banking is indeed in sight, we can expect even more uptake of these alternative financial services, as consumers hunt out cheaper, secure options.”
And it's not just consumer banking - business banking could be forced to change too.
Business-to-business financial services provider CashFlows undertook research with YouGov into the costs of business banking in the UK.
The research showed that British small businesses are paying £2.3bn every year to banks in fees.
Unsurprisingly, the report also showed more than half of businesses (52%) would move their business current account to another provider if they could benefit from lower costs.
The parliamentary inquiry began on Tuesday 24 behind closed doors in Westminster, and the committee has been asked to report on proposals for legislative action no later than December 18.
In the call for evidence, Tyrie's statement was full of rhetoric about writing the wrongs that customers had unfairly faced in recent years by acknowledging standards had lapsed and that reform of both culture and practices was needed.
It will be fascinating to see therefore, if the outcome of the inquiry puts the taxpayer, customers and voters' needs ahead of that of the banks, who he has already recognised are "vital...in the UK's economic recovery and future growth."