What’s a basic bank account?

When the sock under your mattress can’t fit any more pound coins or crumpled fivers you know you have to find an alternative. A basic bank account is simple, easy to use and you don’t need a regular wage to open one. 

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Although most of us couldn’t live without them, some people can’t get a regular high street bank account. Banks may be reluctant to allow you to open a standard current account or savings account if you have:

  • A poor credit rating
  • A low income
  • An account that’s already overdrawn

If any of the above sounds like your situation then a basic bank account could be the best option.

What do I get from a basic bank account?

Basic bank accounts give everyone access to banking facilities. Unlike an ordinary bank account, basic accounts will not allow you to go overdrawn (wahoo no charges), but it’s unlikely that you’ll get interest paid on your money (boo no interest).

Most high street banks and building societies now offer basic bank accounts. Basic bank accounts have the following features:

  • Somewhere to deposit your wages, salary, benefits and tax credits.
  • A debit card to make withdrawals from cash machines and make payments in store and online.
  • No setup fees and no charges for going overdrawn.
  • You can open an account with a small amount of money.
  • You can also pay cheques and cash into the account.
  • Bills can be paid via direct debit and standing orders. Remember, if you don’t have enough money in your account you could be charged by the company that hasn’t been paid.

That sounds great, how can I get this account?

Head to any high street bank, or search online for a basic bank account.

Your credit history will be checked, and your application may be declined if you are an undischarged bankrupt, if you have a criminal history of fraud or if you fail the bank’s ID checks.

You will need:

  • ID, such as a passport or a driving licence
  • Proof of address, such as a utility or council tax bill

What should I look out for?

Before you open a basic bank account, you should make the same checks as you would when choosing a regular bank account.

  • Some basic bank accounts can be accessed at the Post Office but check if you want this facility as not all banks offer it.
  • Consider how easy it is to get to a branch of your bank during the day or if there’s a bank near where you live or work?
  • If you open a basic account with a bank that you already have an account with and that account goes into debt, your bank can take money from your basic account to pay off those debts. For that reason it’s often worth opening your basic bank account with a different bank.
  • Make sure the bank understands exactly which account you are applying for. Use the specific name of the account to avoid confusion.

More information