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Where to find a basic bank account

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If you need to access your money, but don’t qualify for a standard current account there are plenty of basic bank accounts to pick from.


Basic bank accounts are a relatively recent invention.

The no-frills products were introduced to help people on low incomes or with a poor/non-existent credit history that can’t access regular current account deals.

And they’ve been very successful, with the Treasury estimating nine million have one.

Basic bank account features

Basic bank accounts generally allow you to pay in your salary, wages or pension, set up electronic payments like standing orders and Direct Debits to pay bills and offer a card to access your money.

However, no basic bank account pays any interest, offers a cheque book or offers an overdraft facility. If you want those features, you should ask the bank when you apply if you would be eligible for a standard current account.

In the past major basic bank account providers have limited access to the ATM network and have only offered a cash card, which just allows you to withdraw money, rather than a debit card which also allows you to make purchases in shops or online.

Many accounts also charged an ‘unpaid transaction fee’ for payments that bounced thanks to insufficient funds. These charges could be as high as £35 per failed item and were often uncapped meaning charges could roll over pushing an account holder into an unauthorised overdraft.

But thanks to an agreement between the Government and the banking industry in December 2014, things have improved.

Nine banking groups have now launched new and improved basic bank accounts including Barclays, Santander, HSBC, Nationwide, Co-operative Bank, TSB, National Australia Bank (including Yorkshire Bank and Clydesdale brands), Lloyds Banking Group (including Halifax and Bank of Scotland brands) and Royal Bank of Scotland (including NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank brands).

These new accounts won’t charge any overdraft fees and offer the same services as standard accounts like access to over the counter services at branches and at the Post Office, a debit card and access to the entire ATM network.

These accounts are available to new customers now, but existing basic account customers with old deals should speak to their bank to see if they automatically get the new benefits.

What's on offer

If you want to open a fee-free basic bank account here are your options.

At the time of writing, the only bank accepting undischarged bankrupts is Barclays.

Account

Card

Bank of Scotland Cash Account

Visa debit card

Barclays Basic Current Account

Visa debit or cash card

Clydesdale Bank Readycash

Debit card

Danske Bank Basic*

Debit card

First Trust Bank Basic Bank Account**

Visa debit card

Halifax Easycash

Visa Electron card

Lloyds Bank Cash Account

Visa debit card

Metro Bank Cash Account***

MasterCard PayPass contactless cash card

Nationwide FlexBasic

Visa debit card

NatWest Foundation Account

Visa debit card

The Royal Bank of Scotland Foundation Account (Scotland)

Visa debit card

The Royal Bank of Scotland Basic Account (England and Wales)

Visa debit card

Santander Basic Current Account

Cash card and Visa debit top-up card

The Co-operative Bank Cashminder Account

Visa debit card

TSB Cash Account

Visa debit card

Ulster Bank Foundation Account (Northern Ireland)

Visa debit card

Yorkshire Bank Readycash

Debit card

*Limit on number of cash withdrawals you can make at branch counters set at four a month. Fee of 70p for each extra withdrawal.

**No standing orders can be set up on account

***Account holders can’t make electronic payments like standing orders or Direct Debits and online purchases only available in Sterling.

As you can see there are a range of accounts to take a look at now that are truly fee free. However, Metro Bank, Danske Bank and First Trust Bank still offer basic bank accounts that come with restrictions and ‘unpaid transaction fee’ charges.

Other options

There are some other fee-charging basic bank accounts out there, offered by non-high street banks, which promise no credit checks and therefore could be tempting. But there’s no need to pay for a bank account, particularly if all you need is basic features such as a cash or debit card.

You could also open a bank account with your local credit union, if it offers one. The Association of British Credit Unions runs the findyourcreditunion.co.uk website, which will help you find a credit union near you.

This article is regularly updated

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