In a country where millions suffer from poor credit histories, banking exclusion is a real problem. It's almost impossible to get by without a current bank account, yet there is no legal right to a bank account. If you're one of the millions of people who can't get a standard current account, perhaps due to defaults, bankruptcy, or just a lack of credit history, then a basic bank account is solution that you're looking for. Here's what you need to know about basic bank accounts.
What is a basic bank account?
Basic bank accounts are specially designed products for those with poor credit histories, or no record of credit history. They are often under-publicised by the main banks as they don't tend to make any money for the bank. Yet nearly all of the main high street banks offer a basic account.
What do I get with my basic bank account?
As the name suggests, they are ‘basic' in that many only offer a place to store, and withdraw money. You can set up direct debits and standing orders, and many packages also have online and mobile banking. You don't get interest on credit balances, a cheque book, nor an overdraft facility. The good news is that basic bank accounts do not (usually) require a credit check, and many will give you a visa debt card to make payments in store and online.
Who can open a basic bank account?
Basic bank accounts are tailored towards people with poor credit histories, but in reality anyone can open a basic account. Previous defaults, county court judgements (CCJs), or bankruptcies are not normally a problem, but criminal convictions for fraud usually are.
What do I need to open a basic bank account?
There is no credit check when opening a basic bank account. If your banks asks to run a credit check when applying for a basic account, the chances are that you've applied for the wrong account, or they are checking your eligibility or a regular current account. Be sure to tell them that it's a basic account that you want.
To open an account you'll at least one form of official identification such as:
- EU identity card
- UK driving licence (both the photocard and counterpart)
- Firearms certificate
- Student ID (showing date of birth and year of study)
- Senior citizens bus pass
You will also need proof of your address, usually in the form of a Council Tax bill, utility bill (e.g. gas or electric), pension or benefit award letter, or similar. Note that mobile phone bills will not be accepted.
Best basic bank accounts
The best basic bank account really depends on your requirements. That being said, we've listed our top two recommendations below.
This account is only available in branch. We like this account for it's easy set up. It accepts people with CCJs IVAs, and even undischarged bankruptcies. It's instant in that it's set up there and then in branch, with a visa debit card printed the same day. Full online and mobile banking is included, and the debit card also works overseas (though there are cheaper ways to spend abroad). The minimum age is 18, but a similar account exists for 16-17 year olds.
The Barlcays website has more information on the account, but as mentioned, you can't apply online for one.
This is another one that's applied for in branch. It's similar to the Barclay's Cash Card account, though it does take longer to set up. Online and mobile banking is included, as is a visa debit card. Minimum application age is 16. Note that those with undischarged bankruptcies will be turned down.
More basic bank accounts
For a full list of basic bank accounts see Moneysupermarket – http://www.moneysupermarket.com/current-accounts/basic-bank-accounts/
What are the alternatives to basic bank accounts?
If you don't want a basic bank account but still need somewhere to store money, and pay bills then prepaid credit cards offer an alternative, though many charge a fee for their service. Just like basic bank accounts there are no credit checks carried out for prepaid cards, and more importantly for those that don't have sufficient ID to open a bank accounts, pre-paid cards rarely require official ID.
See our post on the best prepaid cards
Think Money account (the top pick for those struggle to stick to a budget)
The Think Money account is a personal account that works much like a basic bank account, but includes budgeting controls that sets aside the money you need for bills and other outgoings to make sure that you never miss a payment. You can withdraw your money worldwide using the Think Money prepaid Mastercard.
At £14.50 per month the account is not cheap, but if you struggle with budgeting, and know you are bad with your money, it could save you a lot in missed payments. Find out more.