How to Choose the Right Bank Account for You

How to Choose the Right Bank Account for You

Selecting the ideal bank account can be challenging, given the variety of options available. Some accounts offer perks like cashback on bills, fee-free international spending, and interest on savings. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you find the best account for your needs.

What’s Covered in This Guide

  1. Identify essential account features
  2. Compare offers and read reviews
  3. Check eligibility requirements
  4. Options if you’re having trouble opening an account

Identify Essential Account Features

Most current accounts allow you to:

  • Use a debit card for online and in-store purchases and ATM withdrawals
  • Receive funds from wages or benefits
  • Transfer money between accounts or pay others
  • Set up automatic bill payments for utilities, rent, or childcare
  • Open a joint account

Beyond these basics, some accounts offer additional benefits:

  • Interest on savings
  • Cashback on bills or purchases
  • Interest-free overdrafts (often for students)
  • Fee-free international spending
  • Rewards or bonuses for switching accounts
  • Access to exclusive products with better rates or discounts
  • Packaged insurance policies (e.g., travel, mobile phone)

Always review the conditions attached to these perks, such as minimum monthly deposits or Direct Debit requirements. Be aware of any monthly fees associated with maintaining the account.

Decide How You’d Like to Contact the Bank

Most accounts can be managed through mobile and online banking, with customer service available via phone or video call. If in-person support is important to you, check if the bank:

  • Has nearby branches
  • Participates in local banking hubs, where multiple banks share one location
  • Allows certain transactions at the Post Office, like cash deposits

Considering an Overdraft

An overdraft lets you spend more than your account balance, but it typically incurs high daily interest. It should be reserved for emergencies or short-term needs. Key points to check include:

  • Availability of an interest-free limit or buffer
  • Overdraft interest rates
  • Fees for insufficient funds

Dealing with Missed Payments

If you’ve missed a payment, use the Debt Advice Locator Tool to find free and confidential debt advice online, by phone, or locally.

Switching an Existing Account

The Current Account Switch Service (CASS) simplifies moving your money and payments to a new account, including redirecting incoming payments. The switch takes seven working days, and any interest or charges incurred due to errors will be refunded. Most banks participate in CASS; check the full list to confirm.

For detailed guidance, see “How to Open, Switch, or Close Your Account.”

Protection of Your Funds

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protects up to £85,000 per person per banking group. In the unlikely event of a bank failure, your money is automatically refunded up to this limit. Use the FSCS Protection Checker to verify if your bank is covered. If your account is a virtual current account covered by e-money rules, your money is held at a different bank, and you would need to claim it from the administrator if the provider fails.

Compare Deals and Read Reviews

Our MoneyHelper comparison tool allows you to view account features, fees, and charges. For detailed reviews, refer to:

  • Which? Bank Account Guides
  • MoneySavingExpert’s Best Bank Accounts Review
  • Consumer Council’s Current Account Comparison Table (for Northern Ireland residents)

To find banks with the best customer service, use the Which? Quality Rating Customer Score.

Check Eligibility Criteria

Once you have a shortlist, ensure you meet the application criteria. Requirements might include:

  • Minimum monthly deposits
  • A good credit history
  • Smartphone ownership
  • Switching an existing account

You will also need to verify your identity and address, typically with a passport or driving license, though other documents are often accepted.

For more details, see “How to Open a Bank Account.”

Struggling to Get an Account?

If you face difficulties, consider these alternatives:

  • Basic Bank Account: Offers most features (except overdrafts) and usually accepts applicants with poor credit histories, convictions, or those in prison.
  • Credit Union Current Account: Provided by not-for-profit organizations, though a monthly fee may apply.
  • Prepaid Card Account: Allows spending and cash withdrawals but usually doesn’t support regular payments.

Choosing the right bank account involves considering your needs, comparing options, and ensuring you meet the eligibility criteria. By following this guide, you can find an account that fits your financial lifestyle and goals.

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