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Home > Housing > Money advice and support > Basic bank accounts

Basic bank accounts

A basic bank account allows you to receive money and pay bills.


Benefits of a bank account

With a bank account, you can:

  • Have wages, benefits and pensions paid directly into your account
  • Pay in any sterling cheques you receive
  • Take money out at cash machines or at the Post Office
  • Pay bills by direct debit or by standing order


Opening a bank account

To open an account, you have to meet the bank or building society’s conditions to open an account including:

  • Proving that you are who you say you are by providing identification
  • Having a credit check run on you

The conditions for opening an account will vary so you should check directly with banks and building societies what their conditions are.

You may be declined if:

  • You are under the minimum age (some require you to be over 16 or over 18)
  • You have a record of fraud
  • You have been declared bankrupt
  • You have a record of bad debt


What do you not get, with a basic bank account?

With a basic bank account, you will not get a cheque book or an overdraft. Some banks or building societies may not give you a debit card but some might, so you need to check.


What happens if your bank account application is turned down?

If your bank account application is turned down, you can ask the bank or building society why. They should tell you, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as suspicion of fraud or money laundering.


How do you prove your identity?

It will vary but some documents that are usually accepted as proof or your identity include:

  • A government issued document with a photograph e.g. a valid passport
  • A government issued document without a photograph e.g. a valid old style driving licence and another approved document
  • A letter from the local council confirming your rights to benefits
  • Information from a place or work or place of education e.g. college

If you are an international student, asylum seeker, or on probation there are other documents that may be accepted. See the Money Advice Service for information.


How do you keep track or your money with a basic bank account?

With a basic bank account you can easily keep track of your money.

Usually you can:

  • Receive a regular statement in the post showing what money has been paid in and what has gone out
  • Check how much money you have by getting a mini statement from a cash machine
  • Check your balance at a Post Office
  • Check your balance online


Bank Account Queries

Do Banks and Building Societies have to meet certain standards?

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is responsible for monitoring how Banks and Building Societies do business with their customers.

Some of the things they must do include:

  • Providing information about the payments you make or receive e.g. if there are charges for unpaid direct debits
  • Tell you what information it needs to send and receive payments e.g., sort code and account numbers. If you give the wrong information and money goes to the wrong place it will not be the banks fault but yours
  • You have the right to complain if you are not happy with the service that you receive and your Bank or Building Society must investigate. If you are not happy with the response you get you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service


What is a buffer zone?

If you have £6 in your account and the cash machine will only let you take out £10, a buffer zone means a bank or Building Society will allow you to take out £10 and will not charge you for going overdrawn.

Only some Banks and Building Societies will allow you to have one of these but you can take out the exact money over the counter.