Current accounts

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 whatever ways you find convenient.

What you can do with a current account

According to the FCA, people who use mobile banking app and text alert services incur 24% fewer unarranged overdraft charges.

With a current account you can:

  • Pay for things with a debit card
  • Write cheques to pay bills and individuals
  • Receive payments directly into your account
  • Set up Direct Debits and standing orders to pay your bills
  • Transfer money via a telephone or online banking services
  • 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
  • Apply for an overdraft allowing you to spend an agreed amount more than you have in your account
  • Pay cheques into your account – sterling cheques are free to pay in and take six business days to clear

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?

If you don’t qualify for a current account, you should consider a fee-free basic bank account. We’ve pulled together a collection of guides, tips and handy links to help you pick the best one for you.

  • Over 16 - you need to be over 16 to open a current account, although for some banks the minimum age is 18. If you’re under 18 you might be able to open a current account with your parents’ help. If your child can’t open a current account you might want to look at savings accounts for children. Some banks offer accounts you can access from the age of seven.
  • Minimum monthly payment - banks might 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 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.
  • You go over the agreed overdraft limit.
For more information, read our guide - Overdrafts explained.

Transaction fees if your overdraft is unauthorised

If you go over your authorised overdraft limit, you might 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 might 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 might be refused and you’ll 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:

Find out more about Direct Debits and standing orders.

Cash machines (ATMs)

In the UK, taking money out of a cash machine with your debit card is usually free.

There are some exceptions:

  • Some convenience cash machines – especially ones inside small shops, on garage forecourts and in nightclubs – can charge up to £5 each time you withdraw money from them. They’ll tell you about the charges on screen before you take out the cash so that you can decide if you want to go ahead or not.
  • Using a credit card to take out cash comes with a charge, and you pay interest from the date you withdraw the money – interest-free periods only apply to purchases.
  • Some prepaid cards charge you a fee to withdraw money from cashpoint machines.

How to get a current account

How to choose a current account

Comparison websites are a good starting point for anyone trying to find a current account tailored to their needs.

We recommend the following websites for comparing current accounts:

In Northern Ireland, you can also try the Consumer Council Comparison Tool.

Remember:

  • Comparison websites won’t all give you the same results, so make sure you use more than one site before making a decision.
  • It is also important to do some research into the type of product and features you need before making a purchase or changing supplier.
Find out more in our Guide to comparison sites.

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

Read a transcript of this video

How to switch current account

Banks and building societies all offer a free seven-day Current Account Switch Service.

It’s backed by a guarantee that means you’ll be refunded any interest and charges on your old and new accounts if anything goes wrong.

Find everything you need to know about switching bank account on the Current Account Switch Service website.

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 you’re unhappy with something about your bank or building society, speak to your bank or building society first.

They must investigate your complaint and give you a clear answer within eight weeks.

If they don’t send you a response within eight weeks or you’re still unhappy after they do, you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

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