28 August 2015 : 

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Basic Bank Accounts

Basic bank accounts are the simplest type of bank account. They are designed for people who don’t want an overdraft, or can’t have one. They can be useful if you have a low credit score, need a way to receive benefit payments such as State Pension, tax credits or benefits. You can also have your wages or salary paid in. With a basic bank account you get a cash card which you can use at a bank machine to withdraw cash. Some also offer a 'debit card' that you can pay for items with, and get 'cashback'; but with a basic account these will only work if there's enough money in your account. You don't get a cheque book with a basic bank account, and you can't take out more money than is in the account ('go overdrawn'). For this reason basic bank accounts are useful for anyone worried about overspending. Compare the table below to find the correct account for you.

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Who can get a basic account?

  • The minimum age required to open a basic account is 16 years, although some banks require account holders to be 18
  • Typically basic bank account customer will have a poor credit rating, a history of bankruptcy or earn a low income - Obviously individuals who do not fall within these categories can get basic bank accounts too, but they might find a standard current account or a packaged bank account is better suited to their needs.

What is required to apply for a basic account?

  • You will need to provide proof of identity e.g. full, current passport
  • Current European Union Member state identity card
  • Current UK photocard driving licence or UK full paper driving licence

How do I apply for a basic account?

You can apply for a basic bank account in branch, by telephone or online. Many people prefer to apply online as it is quicker, safer and secure of doing it. You do not need to make an appointment or spend a long time over the phone.

What do basic accounts typically offer?

With most basic accounts, you can:

  • Have wages, salary, benefits, pensions and tax credits paid straight into your account
  • Pay cheques in for free (as long as they’re not in foreign currency) – you’ll be able to spend the money after four working days
  • Get money out at Post Offices and cash machines
  • Pay your bills by Direct Debit or standing order, and use bank counters to pay money in, take it out or check your account balance

What should I know before choosing a basic bank account?

  • Check you can use cash machines near your home or work for free – ask the bank or building society if you’re not sure
  • Find out if there’s a local branch where you can pay in money and check your account
  • Get money out at Post Offices and cash machines
  • Ensure it offers the services you need, such as a debit card, Direct Debits or standing orders, and check if there’s a buffer zone that lets you take out a small amount like £10, even when your account balance is lower so you can still get money using a cash machine.
  • Ask the bank if they plan to carry out a full credit check rather than an enquiry. If so, they should let you know and explain how this might affect your future credit rating.

What are the disadvantages of a 'basic bank account'?

  • You won’t be able to have a cheque book or go overdrawn
  • You won’t earn a high rate of interest on your money; in fact you probably won’t earn anything at all, even with the best basic bank accounts.
  • Not all basic bank accounts can be accessed at the Post Office. If you want to do this, check with the bank before you open a basic bank account.
  • If you have an overdraft or other debts on your current account and you open a basic bank account at the same bank, they may use the money in your new account to pay off the debts in your old one
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