Fee-free basic bank accounts

A fee-free basic bank account may be worth considering if you don’t have a bank account or can’t use or open a standard current account. You can use a fee-free basic bank account to receive money and pay bills, but it doesn’t allow you to use an overdraft. This page tells you more about whether you might qualify for a fee-free basic bank account, what documents you need to open one and how to use it.

Fee-free basic bank accounts

Want to find out more about fee-free basic bank accounts? We’ve pulled together a collection of guides, tips and handy links to make sure you get the best out of using one.

Fee-free basic bank accounts are designed for people who don’t have a bank account or don’t qualify for a standard current account.

This could be because you haven’t been able to build up a credit history or maybe you have a poor credit history because of money problems and want to use a fee-free basic bank account until you qualify for a standard current account again.

Fee-free basic bank accounts offer fewer services than a standard current account and you can’t use an overdraft. But you can:

Can I open a fee-free basic bank account?

Be aware

Some banks or building societies moved their existing customers who had a basic bank account in place before January 2016 onto a fee-free basic bank account or considered them for their standard current account. Check with your provider if you are unsure. You can move to another fee-free account with a different provider.

You need to be at least 16 to open a fee-free basic bank account, although for some accounts the minimum age is 18 (for Metro Bank the minimum age is 11). If you’re under 18 you should also compare fee-free basic bank accounts with other young persons’ current accounts.

You don’t need to have a good credit history. Because fee-free basic bank accounts don’t allow you to go overdrawn, you don’t need to pass a credit check when you open the account (although your bank or building may still run a credit check on you).

If you’ve had money problems, including bankruptcy, a fee-free basic bank account can be a good way to help improve your credit score until you qualify to open standard current account.

You’ll have to give proof of identity and address. All banks and building societies will ask for proof of your identity and address before you can open a fee-free basic bank account.

You can open a joint fee-free basic bank account if both of you qualify to open one.

If you’re in prison or have a conviction, you may be able to get a basic bank account. Banks don’t have access to criminal records, but they do have systems to detect applications from people who have a record of fraud or related illegal activities. All banks and building societies can reject applications from people who have a record of fraud. They can also reject you if you’re an undischarged bankrupt, which is when you’re still going through the process of becoming bankrupt. You can find out more about opening a bank account if you have a conviction on theInformationHub website.

Who offers fee-free bank accounts?

Any bank or building society can offer a fee-free basic bank account, but since September 2016, the nine largest banks are required to offer them.

If you don’t have a bank account or don’t qualify to open or use a standard current account, these are the nine designated providers:

Name of bank Fee-free basic bank account name
Barclays Basic Current Account
Santander Basic Current Account
NatWest Foundation Account
Ulster Bank (Northern Ireland) Foundation Account
Royal Bank of Scotland Foundation Account
HSBC Basic Bank Account
Nationwide FlexBasic
Co-operative Bank Cashminder
Lloyds Banking Group (including Halifax and Bank of Scotland) Basic Account
TSB Cash Account
Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank Readycash Account
Virgin Money* Essential Current Account
Metro Bank* Cash Account
The Co-operative Bank* Cashminder

*This account is not required to comply with the same regulations governing the largest providers.

What do I need to open a fee-free basic bank account?

You can usually apply for a fee-free basic account:

You will have to provide official proof of identity (ID) before you can open a fee-free basic bank account. You might also have to confirm your address.

An official proof of ID could be a:

See below for links to each bank’s specific page on how to prove your address and identity to open an account.

How to prove your identity and address

Barclays

Santander

NatWest

Ulster Bank (Northern Ireland)

Royal Bank of Scotland

HSBC

Nationwide

Co-operative Bank

Lloyds Banking Group (including Halifax and Bank of Scotland)

TSB

Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank

Virgin Money*

Metro Bank*

The Co-operative Bank*

Using alternative documents to prove your ID and address

You might not have the documents that your bank would normally ask for. Here are some other documents that you could use:

You don’t have You could try
A passport or driving licence DWP letters, benefits and state pension letters, HMRC letters, JobCentre+ letter, letter from your local council, Blue Badge disabled driving pass letter, a letter confirming who you are and where you live from your employer, college or training provider
Proof of address GP letter, letter from your social landlord, letter from a minister of religion, letter from your care home manager, letter from a warden of sheltered accommodation, hostel or refuge, letter from an armed services officer

You might have other documents to prove your ID and address if you are:

If you’re not sure what you can use to prove your ID and address take along all the documents you have.

This will help the bank or building society to decide what they will accept most easily.

Read a transcript of this video

How much does a basic bank account cost?

There are no charges for running a fee-free basic bank account and you won’t have to pay fees for Direct Debits or standing orders that fail.

But the people you owe money to may still charge you for missed payments.

You will be charged for buying things in a foreign currency or using your account when travelling abroad.

Cash machines (ATMs)

Taking out money from a cash machine at a bank, building society or Post Office in the UK is usually free.

Private cash machines, such as those found inside shops, may charge you but will ask you to agree the fee before you take out cash.

You are likely to be charged to take out cash when you’re abroad.

Find out more about Cash machine fees.

How to choose a basic bank account

Before you open a fee-free basic bank account:

Managing your basic bank account

Once your fee-free basic bank account is open, make sure you set up Direct Debits or standing orders for regular payments for a time of the month when you know the payment will be covered, like the day after you get paid or you get a benefit payment.

Your bank or building society might cancel the payments if you regularly don’t have enough money in your account and you might be charged by the people you owe money to.

Check your balance regularly to help you make sure there’s enough money in your account to cover your spending.

To keep on top of things, you can set up text or email alerts to your mobile phone or computer that will let you know if you’re running low on money or when payments are due.

Read a transcript of this video

Read a transcript of this video

When you might be refused a basic bank account

Not everyone can open a fee-free basic bank account.

Your bank or building society will want to check you qualify before they accept your request.

They might refuse to open a new basic bank account if:

If your application for a fee-free basic bank account is refused, you are entitled to ask why.

Your bank or building society should tell you the reason unless they suspect you of fraud or money laundering.

If you don’t agree with the decision and think you’re entitled to open a fee-free basic bank account, you can appeal to your bank or building society.

When your fee-free basic bank account can be closed

Your bank or building society can close your fee-free basic bank account or move you onto a standard current account if you:

They must give you at least two months’ written notice, giving you time to appeal if you don’t agree.

If you want to complain about the service you have received

Mistakes can happen but there are things you and your bank or building society can do to put things right.

If you have a complaint about the service you receive, first contact your bank or building society to give them a chance to sort the problem out.

They should look into your complaint and reply within eight weeks.

If you’re not satisfied with the response, you might be able to take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service to see if they can help you.

Your bank or building society must give you details of this free Ombudsman service when they reply to you.

Find out more about how to sort out money problems in Sort out a money problem or make a complaint.

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