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A current account is great for managing your day-to-day money. You can receive regular payments such as wages, benefits, tax credits or pensions into your account, and set up payments out of your account in whichever way you find convenient.
What you can do with a current account
With a current account you can:
- Receive payments directly into your account
- Pay cheques into your account – sterling cheques are free to pay in and take six business days to clear
- Pay for things with a debit card
- Withdraw cash over the counter or from a cashpoint machine
- Check your balance using telephone or internet banking, at a cash machine or over the counter
- Set up Direct Debits and standing orders to pay your bills
- Write cheques to pay bills and individuals
- Transfer money via telephone or online banking services
- Apply for an overdraft allowing you to spend an agreed amount more than you have in your account
You can access most current accounts through a high street branch, online, using mobile banking or over the phone.
Who can get a current account?
Over 16 – You need to be over 16 to open a current account, although for some banks the minimum age is 18. If you are under 18 you may be able to open a current account with your parents’ help.
Minimum monthly payment – Banks may ask you to pay a minimum amount into your account every month, usually from wages, benefits or a pension.
Good credit history – Because many current accounts allow you to have an overdraft facility, you might need to pass a credit check when you open the account.
Proof of identity and address – All banks or building societies will ask for proof of your identity and address before you can open a bank account.
How much does a current account cost?
As long as you have money in your account, you don’t usually have to pay for current account services.
Overdrafts and current accounts
An agreed overdraft is a way of borrowing money from the bank through your current account, allowing you to spend more than you may have in your account. Banks usually charge you interest or a fixed amount for lending this money. The interest is often at a higher rate than a personal loan. However, some offer interest-free overdrafts.
You could be charged higher fees if:
- You spend more than you have in your account without arranging an overdraft, or
- You go over the agreed overdraft limit
Transaction fees if your overdraft is unauthorised
If you go over your authorised overdraft limit you may be charged for every cash withdrawal or cheque or card payment you make, even if the bank doesn’t allow the payment to go through. These fees can be £10-£25 for each transaction.
You may also be charged for refused Direct Debits and standing orders – see below.
Charges for refused Direct Debits and standing orders
If there’s not enough money in your account to cover a standing order or Direct Debit it may be refused and you will usually have to pay charges. It can be as much as £25 for each refused payment.
Find out more about how to use Direct Debits and standing orders without paying charges:
Cash machines (ATMs)
Withdrawing money from a cash machine at a bank or Post Office in the UK is usually free.
- Private cash machines, such as those found inside shops, will charge but will ask you to agree the fee before you withdraw your cash
- You will usually be charged to withdraw cash from your current account while abroad
How to get a current account
How to choose a current account
Most banks and building societies offer current accounts which you can open on your own or with someone else (a joint account).
Internet comparison sites make shopping around for a current account much easier.
How to open a current account
You can usually apply in person, by post, over the phone or online.If your application is turned down, don’t be afraid to ask why.
Watch our video - How to open a bank account
Managing your current account
Watch our video - How to make payments using your bank account
Checking your balance regularly will help you to make sure there’s enough money in your account to cover any standing orders or Direct Debits – so you don’t pay charges for having them rejected.
What to do if things go wrong with your current account
If there is something about your bank or building society that you are unhappy with, always try raising the issue with your bank or building society first. The bank or building society must investigate your complaint and give you a clear answer within eight weeks.
If the company doesn’t send you a response within eight weeks or you’re still unhappy, you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.