Basic Bank Accounts UK – How to choose, where’s the best deals? Which bank should you use?

By | Last Updated: 17th September 2019 | This post may contain Affiliate Links

If you’re wanting to open a new fee-free basic bank account, there’s a lot of different options in the United Kingdom. Generally, a basic bank account means you’ll be able to receive money such as your wage and pay bills.

Typically, you won’t have access to credit facilities such as overdrafts and credit cards, however this means it’s less likely you’ll get into debt and less likely you’ll have any interest to pay. The term ‘Fee-Free’ literally means you won’t have any ‘monthly’ fees for using the account.

In most cases, basic bank accounts are designed for people who don’t usually qualify for a standard current account. The reason for not qualifying can wide massively, from having debt issues in the past, been bankrupt, poor at managing their money and so on.

Usually fee-free bank accounts offer fewer services than a normal UK current account, as previously stated you won’t have access to an overdraft or credit card, however you will be able to:

  • Receive your wages, benefits or other income into your account

  • Pay money out – such as for bills

  • Have the ability to use direct debits or standing orders

  • You will also be able to buy items in a shop or online, using a debit card

  • Check your account balance, either using a mobile banking app, at a cash machine or in person at a local branch

How to Open a UK fee-free basic bank account?

Generally, you’ll need to be at least 16 to open a fee-free basic account in the UK. However, some banks and building societies may require you to be at least 18.

Remember, these types of accounts are ideal for people who’ve experienced money problems in their past. They’re also good for people who don’t have a good credit history, and most won’t need you to pass a credit check before opening an account.

Basic banks accounts can also be great for people who want to improve their credit score after bankruptcy or major debit issues. It allows them to show they’re responsible with their money and in the future may allow them to qualify for a standard current account.

Remember to open a basic account in England you’ll need two forms of identification. This is typically a ‘Name ID’ and an ‘Address ID’. For your name you can use a UK driving license, passport or birth certificate. For your address, you can use a recent council tax bill, mobile phone bill, benefits letter, utility bill and so on.

You can normally apply for an account in person, over the phone, using their official website or by popping into a local branch. As previously stated, your account won’t be ‘activate’ or accepted until you’ve proven who you are, by providing the relevant identification documents.

Which Building Societies and Banks offer this type of account?

Most UK banks and building societies will offer a fee-free account, since 2016, the nine largest banks are ‘required’ to offer them, this includes:


Ulster Bank

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a basic bank account cost?
The clue is in the name, a fee-free bank account typically includes no charges for ‘day-to-day’ running. As you don’t have access to an overdraft or credit card, you won’t be charged interest. Equally you don’t normally get charged any fees for using direct debits or standing orders.

Sometimes if you miss a third-party payment, let’s say for your mobile phone, you may be charged the company’s general ‘miss payment fee’. This however applies to everybody who uses their services.

You may also be charged if you buy things in a foreign currency or use your account while abroad. Please read all terms and conditions before signing up to any account, so you know exactly what is and isn’t charged as standard.

Can I use a cash machine with this type of account?
Yes, your bank or building society will provide you with a debit card. This allows you to withdraw money from cash machines and post offices across the UK. Usually is is free, however you’ll need to check this with the bank you use. Normally ‘private cash machines’, such as those found inside shops, may charge you.

Can I open a Joint Fee-Free Basic Account?
Typically no, most providers will only allow a fee-free bank account for one account holder only. Please click on the following link to read our full guide on Joint Bank Accounts in the UK, it’s full of fantastic information and can be ideal for married couples, people living together and civil partnerships.

Why was I refused?
Unfortunately, there can be many different reasons. Not everybody can open a basic account, typically you’ll be rejected:

  • If you fail to provide the correct ID documents

  • You may be eligible for another account

  • You’ve been rejected during a credit check

  • Depending on your history, some providers may think you might use the account fraudulently or unlawfully

  • You’ve threatened members of the banks staff

Normally if you’ve been refused an account, you’re entitled to ask why. Even after you’ve ‘found out the reason’ for your rejection, the bank or building society doesn’t have to overturn their ruling. Each provider will have a different set of requirements.

Why was my account closed?
Sometimes if you’re not eligible your bank or building society may move you to another account, which suits your needs much better. Equally your account may also be closed because:

  • You’ve failed to meet the bank’s terms and conditions

  • You’ve giving misleading or false information

  • You’ve used your account for fraudulent or unlawful activities

  • You haven’t used your account for more than two years

  • You’ve been threatening or abusive towards the banks staff

In most cases, you should be given around two months’ notice if your bank or building society has decided to close your account.