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Is a basic bank account right for you? Find out the four main factors and more

Basic bank accounts look set to change by the end of 2015, with fees scrapped for unpaid payments and an overdrawn balance. But what exactly is a basic bank account and could it be the right decision for you?

Basic bank accounts explained

1. What is a basic bank account?

If you have financial difficulties such as a poor credit rating, you might not be able to open a standard bank account - and that's where basic accounts come in.

Basic bank accounts are generally simple, as they don’t offer an overdraft facility or cheque book.

With most accounts, you can deposit funds such as wages, salary, pensions and cheques for free; get money out over the counter or at an ATM; and pay your bills by Direct Debit or standing order.

As long as you have money in your account, you don’t usually have to pay for basic bank account services.

2. How to get a basic bank account - the eligibility factor

To get a basic bank account you have to be over 16 and have proof of identity and address. Some banks will only accept photo ID.

A basic bank account should be provided to any customer who isn't able to open a standard account, though some banks don't always do this.

3. Basic bank accounts – what to watch out for

At the moment, if there’s not enough in your account to cover a standing order or Direct Debit the bank can refuse to pay it – and you may be charged as much as £25 each time a payment is refused.

Before you get a basic bank account, make sure it offers the services you need – such as a debit card, Direct Debits or standing orders. You should also check you can use cash machines near your home or work for free as not all banks currently do. 

For more information, see our guide on basic accounts.

4. Basic bank account changes

By the end of 2015, fees for unpaid payments or an overdrawn balance will be scrapped. Basic bank account holders will also be guaranteed a debit card, free access to Link cash machines and the same over the counter facilities as other bank customers.

Nine High Street banks have signed up, accounting for 90% of the UK current account market.

These include Barclays, the Co-operative Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, RBS Group (NatWest and Ulster Bank) and Santander.


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