What is a basic bank account?
Basic bank accounts are designed for people who don’t qualify for other types of current account because they have a poor credit history.
They offer basic and fee-free facilities for receiving money and settling bills, without overdraft facilities.
They can be a lifeline for people who have faced financial difficulties in the past but, because they aren’t as profitable as other accounts, banks and building societies haven’t done a good job of advertising them.
Compare basic bank accounts
New basic bank accounts have a whole suite of features that make them attractive to people who have a poor credit history, or have struggled with debit in the past. These include:
- No fees for failed payments
- No overdraft facilities
- Providers must offer you a debit card to withdraw cash and make payments in stores and online.
- They must also let you set up direct debits and standing orders.
- Deposit money and withdraw cash at any Post Office or bank branch counter, on the same terms as other personal current account customers.
Banks will review their basic accounts and may move you on to a more appropriate current account if your financial circumstances change (they must give at least two months’ written notice).
How to open a basic bank account and other FAQs
Basic bank accounts are designed for people who don’t qualify for other types of current account, typically because they have a poor credit history.
They offer basic facilities for receiving money and settling bills, without overdraft facilities, though you qualify for a normal debit card which can be used at ATMs and online.
Here we explain how to open one and answer some of the most frequently asked questions:
How do I open a basic bank account?
You need to be at least 16 years old to open most high-street basic bank accounts, although the minimum age is 18 at others.
How do I prove my identity and address?
You’ll be asked to provide photo ID i.e. a passport or driving licence.
If you don’t have either of these, the bank might accept an alternative such as an original copy of a letter from HMRC or the Department of Work and Pensions.
Proof of current address can be a bank or credit card statement (less than three months old), a recent UK utility bill, or a tenancy agreement from a local council or housing association (dated within the last 12 months).
Check the website of your chosen bank for a full list of acceptable documents.
Do I get an app with a basic bank account?
Yes, all of the basic bank accounts in our table above can be managed via a smartphone app.
Could I be refused a basic bank account?
Since September 2016, you are entitled to open a basic bank account if you are ineligible to open a standard bank account.
However, Money Advice Service says you might be refused if:
- You can’t provide proof of ID or address
- You are eligible for a different account with that bank or building society
- You refuse a credit check (although you don’t have to pass one)
- You are threatening, abusive or violent towards staff
- They suspect you of fraud or money laundering.
If you think you’ve been unfairly rejected, you can appeal first to the provider, and then to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
It’s worth noting that providers don’t advertise basic bank accounts very well – because they aren’t as profitable as well as their other accounts – so you may need to enquire directly if they aren’t forthcoming.
Could my account be closed?
Yes, your bank or building society could close your account if:
- there haven’t been any transactions for more than 24 months;
- you regularly fail to meet the terms and conditions of the account;
- you’re no longer legally resident in the UK;
- you have access to another basic bank account.
Your provider should tell you why it’s closing your account – you can lodge a complaint if you don’t agree – and you must be given at least two months’ written notice.
Can I use the switching service if I have a basic bank account?
Yes, you can use the switching service for all of the basic bank accounts in our table except Virgin Money’s Essential account.
It should take just seven working days to switch from your old account and the move is backed by the Current Account Switch Guarantee guarantee which means that your new bank will take care of moving over incoming and outgoing payments and correct any problems.