How to open, switch or close your bank account

With so many different bank accounts available, it’s worth checking you have the best one for you. You could save hundreds of pounds with an account that better suits your needs. 

Opening a bank account

Choose a bank account

First, make sure you know what bank account you’d like to open.

For all the information you need to make a decision, read our guide How to choose the right bank account.

If you have a partner, you might want to read our guide Joint bank accounts.

How to open a bank account

When you know what bank account you want, it’s time to speak to the bank.

You can do this in branch, over the phone or online.

The bank will run a credit check to find out your credit history. This will tell them if you’ve had problems with paying back money in the past. If you have, you might not be able to open some types of account.

You’ll also be asked to provide proof of identity and address.

How do you prove your address or identity? Here are some of the documents banks and building societies will usually be looking for:

  • driving licence
  • Council Tax bill
  • UK utility bill, such as gas or electricity
  • bank or building society statement
  • credit card statement
  • HMRC letter or tax statement
  • mortgage statement
  • tenancy agreement
  • benefits statement.
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Different banks will ask for different forms of ID. You can check online what ID you’ll need, so you’re prepared when you open your new account.

Fee-free basic bank accounts

If banks turn you down for a standard account, you can always apply for a fee-free basic bank account.

These accounts don’t charge fees or offer overdrafts. They also won’t charge you if a Direct Debit fails.

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How to switch bank accounts

Almost all banks and building societies now 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.

During the switch process, you’ll be asked about your current overdraft. As long as you can prove your overdraft limit, for example with a bank statement, your new account might match your current limit.

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How to choose a current account

Comparison websites are a good starting point for finding a current account that gives you everything you need.

You can start by thinking about some basics:

  • If you’ve often got money in your account, look for one with a high interest rate to increase your savings.
  • If you’re often using your overdraft, look for one with lower overdraft rates. For tips on controlling your overdraft, see our guide Overdrafts explained

You can then look at other features of accounts. For example, do they offer linked higher interest savings accounts, cashback or switching bonuses?

Here are a few websites that compare current accounts:

  • MoneySavingExpert
  • Which? – You can use the their quality rating to find the banks with the best customer score.

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

Compare charges for basic bank accounts by using our Compare Bank Account Fees and Charges tool. This will help you find the right account for you. For example, compare fees for using a card abroad or costs for sending or receiving money outside the UK.

Switching bank accounts if you have an overdraft

Even if you have an overdraft, you can switch using the Current Account Switch Service. The service will:

  • switch your current account
  • move money from your old current account to your new one. Or, if you’re in your overdraft, it can move it into the new current account
  • move all your payments going out (such as Direct Debits and standing orders) and those coming in (such as benefits or salaries) to your new account
  • close your old account
  • make sure any payments accidentally made to your old account will be automatically redirected to your new account.
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Your overdraft will need to be agreed with your new bank or building society for it to be switched. Or they might be able to offer you a way of helping you pay off your overdraft instead.

If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to repay your current overdraft before you switch.

The switching service takes seven working days. And if something goes wrong, you’re covered by the Current Account Switch Guarantee. This means you’ll be refunded any interest or charges you get as a result of any problem with the switch.

What do I need to be aware of when trying to switch with an overdraft?

It’s up to the new bank or building society to decide if they accept your overdraft, and different providers have different rules. They might turn you down if you have a very large overdraft or have been in it for a long time.

The decision depends on lots of different things. For example, if you’ve used an overdraft before, and have always paid it off, this sends a good signal to your new bank or building society. It shows you’ve been able to pay off debts in the past.

When you find a better account, speak to the account provider to find out if you can get it.

Bear in mind that your credit score is a factor when switching accounts. You’re more likely to get the account you want if you have a good credit score.

Even if you can’t get the new account you wanted, it’s important to shop around to find a loan with better rates than your current account.

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How to close a bank account

You can close most bank accounts whenever you like without being charged.

It’s usually just a case of getting in touch with your bank.

But if you’re overdrawn, you’ll have to pay off what you owe.

If you’re not using the Current Account Switch Service to shut your account, make sure you transfer any Direct Debits or payments to your new account.

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If your bank decides to close your account

If your bank decides to close your current or instant access savings account, you’ll usually be given two months’ notice.

For other accounts, they must give you ‘reasonable notice’. This is so you can make other arrangements. This should be at least 14 days.

The bank can delay the closure if you’ve made payments that haven’t left your account yet. For example, a cheque or card payment.

If things go wrong

If you’re unhappy about something your bank has done, the first thing to do is to talk to someone at the bank about it.

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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.

Continue to website
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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