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Fee-free basic bank accounts

You could consider a fee-free basic bank account if you don’t already have a bank account, or don’t qualify for a standard current account. You can use it to receive money and pay bills, but it doesn’t allow you to use an overdraft. It’s worth knowing whether you might qualify for one, what documents you need to open one, and how to use it.

Fee-free basic bank accounts

Fee-free basic bank accounts are for people who don’t have a bank account or don’t qualify for a standard current account.

This could be because you haven’t been able to build up a credit history. Or maybe you have a poor credit history because of money problems and want to use a fee-free basic bank account until you qualify for a standard current account again.

Fee-free basic bank accounts offer fewer services than a standard current account, and you can’t use an overdraft. But you can:

  • have your wages, benefits and other income paid into your account
  • pay in money and cheques for free – as long as they’re not in a foreign currency
  • take out money over the counter or from a cash machine
  • pay regular bills by Direct Debit or standing order
  • check account balances over the counter, at a cash machine, online or on your mobile
  • use a debit card to pay for things in shops and online.

Can I open a fee-free basic bank account?

You need to be at least 16

You need to be 16 or over to open a fee-free basic bank account, although for some accounts the minimum age is 18. 

If you’re under 18, it’s worth comparing fee-free basic bank accounts with other young persons’ current accounts.

You don’t need to have a good credit history

Fee-free basic bank accounts don’t allow you to go overdrawn. So you don’t need to pass a credit check when you open the account. Although your bank or building society might still run a credit check on you.

Have you had money problems before, including bankruptcy? Then a fee-free basic bank account can be a good way to help improve your credit score until you qualify to open standard current account.

You’ll have to give proof of identity and address

All banks and building societies will ask for proof of your identity and address before you can open a fee-free basic bank account.

Join accounts

You can open a joint fee-free basic bank account if both of you qualify to open one.

If you’re in prison or have a conviction

You might be able to get a fee-free basic bank account. Banks don’t have access to criminal records. But they do have systems to detect applications from people who have a record of fraud or related illegal activities.

All banks and building societies can reject applications from people who have a record of fraud.

Bankruptcy

Banks can also reject you if you’re an ‘undischarged bankrupt’. This means you’re still going through the process of becoming bankrupt.

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Who offers fee-free bank accounts?

Any bank or building society can offer a fee-free basic bank account. But certain largest bank groups must now offer them.

If you don’t have a bank account or don’t qualify to open or use a standard current account, these are where you can get a fee-free basic current account:

Name of bank
Fee-free basic bank account name

Ulster Bank (Northern Ireland)

Royal Bank of Scotland

Nationwide

Co-operative Bank

Lloyds Banking Group (including Halifax and Bank of Scotland)

Metro Bank*

*This account is not required to follow the same regulations governing the largest providers.

What do I need to open a fee-free basic bank account?

You can usually apply for a fee-free basic account:

  • in person
  • by post
  • over the phone
  • online.

You’ll have to provide ID before you can open a fee-free basic bank account. You might also have to confirm your address.

An official proof of ID could be a:

  • passport, or
  • driving licence.

See below for links to each bank’s specific page on how to prove your address and identity to open an account.

How to prove your identity and address

Using alternative documents to prove your ID and address

You might not have the documents that your bank would normally ask for. Here are some other documents that you could use:

If you don’t have
You could try

A passport or driving licence

Letters:

  • from the Department for Work and Pensions
  • from HMRC
  • from JobCentre+
  • from your local council,
  • about your Blue Badge disabled driving pass
  • confirming who you are and where you live – from your employer, college or training provider
  • about your benefits or State Pension.

Proof of address

Letters from :

  • your GP letter
  • your social landlord
  • a minister of religion
  • your care home manager
  • a warden of sheltered accommodation, hostel or refuge
  • an armed services officer.

You might have other documents to prove your ID and address if you’re:

  • an international student
  • a migrant worker
  • a refugee
  • an asylum seeker
  • a prisoner
  • on probation.

If you’re not sure what you can use to prove your ID and address, take along all the documents you have.

This will help the bank or building society to decide what they will accept most easily.

How much does a fee-free basic bank account cost?

There are no charges for running a fee-free basic bank account and you won’t have to pay fees for Direct Debits or standing orders that fail.

But the people you owe money to might still charge you for missed payments.

You’ll be charged for buying things in a foreign currency or using your account when travelling abroad.

Cash machines (ATMs)

Taking out money from a cash machine at a bank, building society or Post Office in the UK is usually free.

Private cash machines, such as those found in shops, might charge. But you’ll be asked to agree the fee before you take out cash.

You’re likely to be charged to take out cash when you’re abroad.

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How to choose a fee-free basic bank account

Before you open a fee-free basic bank account, it’s important to compare basic bank account fees and charges.

We can help you compare any charges for basic bank accounts with our comparison tool. For example, fees for using a card abroad or costs for sending or receiving money outside the UK. This will help you find the right account for you.

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Things to consider when choosing a bank account:

  • Check the cash machines you want to use regularly are free.
  • Find out if there’s a local branch of your bank or building society, or a Post Office, where you can pay in money and check your account.
  • Check if there’s a buffer zone. This lets you take out a small amount – £10, for example – even when your account balance is low. This is so you can still get money using a cash machine.
  • Have you already got have an account with the same bank or building society that you owe money on – for example, you’re overdrawn? Then could they use money in your fee-free basic bank account to pay off what you owe on your old account? If so, it might make sense to open your fee-free basic bank account with a different bank or building society.

Managing your basic bank account

When your fee-free basic bank account is open, make sure you set up Direct Debits or standing orders for regular payments for when you know the payment will be covered. For example, the day after you get paid or you get a benefit payment.

Your bank or building society might cancel the payments if you regularly don’t have enough money in your account. And you might be charged by the people you owe money to.

Check your balance regularly to help you make sure there’s enough money in your account to cover your spending.

You can set up text or email alerts to your mobile phone or computer that will let you know if you’re running low on money or when payments are due.

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When you might be refused a fee-free basic bank account

Not everyone can open a fee-free basic bank account.

Your bank or building society will want to check you qualify before they accept your request.

They might refuse to open a new basic bank account if:

  • you can’t provide proof of ID or address
  • you could get another account, for example a standard current account
  • you refuse a credit check – although you don’t have to pass one
  • they think you’ll use the account unlawfully or fraudulently
  • you’re threatening, abusive or violent towards staff.

If your application for a fee-free basic bank account is refused, you are entitled to ask why.

Your bank or building society should tell you the reason, unless they suspect you of fraud or money laundering.

If you don’t agree with the decision and think you’re entitled to open a fee-free basic bank account, you can appeal to your bank or building society.

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If you’ve had difficulty opening an account with a bank or building society, a credit union current account could be a good option for you.

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When your fee-free basic bank account can be closed

Your bank or building society can close your fee-free basic bank account or move you onto a standard current account if you:

  • give false or misleading information
  • open another bank account in the UK
  • regularly fail to meet the account’s terms and conditions
  • don’t use your account for more than two years
  • have used the account unlawfully or fraudulently, or there are concerns you might use the account in this way
  • are threatening, abusive or violent towards staff.

They must give you at least two months’ written notice, giving you time to appeal if you don’t agree.

If you want to complain about the service you’ve received

Mistakes can happen but there are things you and your bank or building society can do to put things right.

If you have a complaint about the service you receive, first contact your bank or building society to give them a chance to sort the problem out.

They should look into your complaint and reply within eight weeks.

If you’re not satisfied with the response, you might be able to take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service to see if they can help you.

Your bank or building society must give you details of this free Ombudsman service when they reply to you.

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Free printed guides

Our free printed guides give you clear, unbiased information and guidance. They’re a good starting point and can help you make informed choices.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free, impartial help for all your money and pension choices. Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free, impartial help for all your money and pension choices. Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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