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Best Bank Accounts

£200 bonus or 5% interest

Martin

Updated Weekly

If you're unhappy with your bank account, don't groan, moan or whinge - switching has never been easier and you can get up to £200 in cash to do so as banks lust for your custom.

Changing bank is easy yet millions have never done it, languishing in accounts with shoddy service, that levy huge fees or pay a pittance. This is a full guide on how to max your returns.

Nine tips to find your best account

Not every bank account's going to be the right one for you. But with these tips, you can find out how to find and switch to the best account for YOU.

Switching should now be quick & hassle-free

Switching bank accountsIf you haven't switched bank accounts in the last couple of years, you'll find that the process is now much quicker and easier than it used to be.

This is because 'seven-day switching' was introduced in September 2013, meaning switching accounts is now – for the majority – quick, easy and completely pain-free. All you need to do is open a new account, then use their switching service to move everything across.

Under the scheme (provided your existing bank's signed up), a switch takes seven working days, all payments going in, eg, salary, and out, eg, utility bill direct debits, will be moved to your new account, and any wrongly applied charges will be refunded.

If you haven't tried it, and your bank gives you lousy service, read below for full info, then take a look at our top pick accounts.

Quick questions

How long after I switch will payments made to my old account find me?

Does seven-day switching automatically move direct debits and standing orders?

Some switching bonuses or perks require 'active' direct debits. What does this mean?

Are recurring payments from my card also moved?

Are all banks and building societies signed up to seven-day switching?

Do I HAVE to close my old account when switching?

What day will my switch happen on?

Can I still switch if I'm overdrawn?

Will my new debit card and PIN arrive within the seven days?

Can I switch a sole account to a joint account and vice versa?

The best-buy bank accounts with no or low minimum pay-ins

Most hot bank account deals require you to 'pay in' a certain amount each month to get the benefits. And many are worried they'll fall foul of this, making the deal pointless.

In fact, just because a bank has a minimum pay-in, that doesn't mean you must be in credit. It means that you must pay in a set amount – banks' way of ensuring your income/salary goes through the account.

For example, £1,000/mth equals a £12,850/yr pre-tax salary. So the best thing to do is to find all the top accounts that meet your minimum monthly pay-in.

The only best buys without a minimum pay-in are the M&S account – which gives a free £50 M&S gift card to switchers, plus a £100 0% overdraft and 5% linked regular saver – and the NatWest account, which gives 3% cashback on bill spending (though it has a £3/mth fee).

Additionally, Halifax allows you to get its switching bonus without paying in a specific amount, though you won't get its ongoing rewards unless you pay in £750/mth.

Can I jemmy the minimum pay-in amount? Usually, yes. Quite simply, the rules say you need to pay in a set amount from external sources. So let's say you want a £1,000 pay-in but only have £500 coming in. If you get the £500 paid in, withdraw it either as cash or to an account with another bank, then pay it back in – BINGO, you've qualified.

Some banks have wised up to this, though – we've had reports that HSBC in particular may not accept you if your income's not high enough to meet the pay-in.

See a full list of accounts ranked by minimum pay-in

Which pays more? Free intro cash, or savings interest?

The majority of accounts in this guide fall into two categories. The first lot pay you a one-off bonus of up to £150 to switch to them. The second pay interest on varying balances within your current account. But which type's better for you?

Well, a few months ago, we would have said that if you have savings, an interest-paying account would be the most rewarding. But, with Santander, Lloyds and TSB all cutting their high interest rates, the market's been shaken up.

Our message now is one of chasing short-term cash gains. As the interest-paying providers have shown, loyalty doesn't pay. Now the bonus-paying accounts will have their time, as they pay up to £150 when you switch to them. And some even give ongoing rewards on top. This is important, as the switch bonuses themselves are a one-off payment, so if you won't switch again you can still get rewarded for staying.

But, if you want somewhere guaranteed for your savings, Nationwide FlexDirect pays 5% AER fixed for a year on £2,500, which'd give you a maximum £122.25 interest. If you've a larger lump sum, on a one-year comparison at current rates Santander 123 will beat all other accounts – including those such as First Direct that have an intro bonus and ongoing rewards – at around £14,500 of savings (assuming cashback covers the £5 fee).

Beyond this, it's tricky to say which account is best for you. Here are a few things you need to consider when making the choice between interest or bonuses...

Quick questions

How often can I switch?

Where could I save otherwise?

Do you pay tax on savings interest?

If you're often overdrawn, focus on the account with the cheapest overdraft, not other benefits

Angry ManIf you're often or always overdrawn, then pick a bank account that charges you as little as possible for using your overdraft.

There are huge differences in the amounts different banks charge for going overdrawn; we've identified the cheapest ones in our top accounts if you're overdrawn section.

If you are in the red, it's worth trying to get out of the mire by seeing if you can cut outgoings by doing a money makeover and then making (and sticking to) a budget. But, that's not the only way. See if any of the methods in our quick questions below could help you.

Quick questions

Can you shift the debt to a 0% credit card?

Can you SPEND on a credit card instead of from your current account?

Can you change the dates your bills go out?

Does your account give you a 0% overdraft buffer?

Have you registered for free 'close-to-overdraft-limit' text alerts?

All the top bank accounts require you to pass a credit check

Most of these accounts offer overdraft facilities, which means that the bank will credit-check you when you apply for the account to see if you're someone it'd lend to, and if you did go into your overdraft, that you've a track history of repaying what you owe.

Banks will use this credit check, plus data on your application form, to decide whether to accept or reject you for the account you applied for. If you don't want that, check out the bullet point below...

Quick question

Could you be rejected when applying for a bank account?

Can't get a bank account? There is a way...

Sadly, over a million people in the UK are rejected from mainstream bank accounts like the ones in this guide. Yet as long as you can prove your identity, you should be able to get a basic bank account – they don't credit-check as strictly, meaning most will be able to get one.

You can do most of the same things with a basic bank account that you can with a normal bank account – set up standing orders and direct debits, pay from the account using a debit card, etc. The main difference is that you won't be able to get an overdraft. Read full help and tips in our Basic Bank Accounts guide.

Quick questions

What does the bank charge if you try to spend more than you've got?

How do you open a basic bank account?

Avoid going into your unauthorised overdraft or banks turn nasty

It's said a bank will lend you an umbrella when the sun shines and ask for it back when it rains. Go beyond your overdraft limit and this feels true. When you're in trouble, charges get hefty, up to £15 a pop.

If you are overdrawn and flirting with your limit, don't just tackle the symptoms. Try using the free Budget Planner, give yourself a Money Makeover to cut bills, and check the tips to avoid charges in the Compare Bank Charges tool. It's also worth seeing if your bank will temporarily give you a larger overdraft limit.

If you have got into trouble and see charge upon charge rack up so that it's put you in financial hardship, it can be possible to reclaim bank charges.

You could save £100s on travel, mobile & breakdown insurance with a packaged account

parcel tied up with string

You'll either love 'em or hate 'em. Packaged accounts can be great, saving some £100s a year, as for a monthly fee you get a host of insurances, typically travel, breakdown and mobile phone insurance.

But they can also be absolutely worthless if you don't need the cover or you could have got it cheaper elsewhere, so always check first. See the Best Packaged Accounts guide for more, including a tool which helps you find the right account for you (if there is one).

Quick questions

What's the real annual cost of one of these accounts?

What's the value of the 'benefits' you're getting?

If you're not benefiting, why do you have the account?

If you're a student or graduate, the accounts below aren't the right ones for you

If you're a student or graduate, there are accounts designed especially for you, many of which offer 0% overdrafts for a long period, meaning you can easily beat the terms of the best accounts mentioned in this guide. Find the best: Read the Best Student Accounts or Best Graduate Accounts guides.

Top accounts with free cash for switching

There are several accounts that offer you a bribe to switch your existing account to them. Many pay cold hard cash, others offer vouchers. We've analysed the best here. Bear in mind that you typically need to meet some conditions to get the bonus, so check you're able to do that before applying.

We've put these top, as provided the switching offer is still on when you apply (double-check), you have more security of it staying compared with the interest-paying accounts below, many of which are slashing rates.

These are the right accounts to switch to if...

...you're always in credit

...you don't have enough spare cash to make use of the interest-paying accounts below

...you want quick-ish cash for something

These are the wrong accounts to switch to if...

...you don't have an existing bank account

...you're regularly overdrawn

...you don't want to fully switch, by using the switching service

...you can't meet the minimum pay-ins required

First Direct

Ending. Switch to the no.1 rated bank for customer service + get £125

First Direct*

Newbies to First Direct* can now, via our link, get a whopping £125 to switch to it (£100 direct). First Direct is our top pick due to its excellent customer service – it's won every bank service poll we've ever done, with 91% of its customers rating it 'great' – only 3% said they got poor service. You also get a small £250 0% overdraft, and can open a linked 5% regular saver.

Need-to-knows
  • To get the £125 switching bonus, you need to apply by 11.59pm on Mon 27 March, use First Direct's switching service to fully switch and close your existing account and pay in at least £1,000 within three months of your account opening.
  • Once you've made the payment, the £125 is credited to your account within 28 working days.
  • If you have any problems with the switching process, you can contact First Direct's account opening team on 0800 24 24 24.
  • This account has a £10 monthly fee after six months, but this is waived each month you either pay in £1,000, have an average monthly balance of £1,000 or hold selected other accounts with First Direct.
  • You can't get the switching bonus if you've ever held an account with First Direct before.
  • First Direct shares its £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee with HSBC, so ensure you don't hold more than £85,000 across the two banks.
Rated 1st  ribbon

How First Direct rates on service (in credit)

91% Great

6% okay

3% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 920

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in : £1,000 (equates to an annual salary of £12,850) to avoid £10/mth fee unless you meet selected other criteria
  • In-credit interest: None
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 0% under £250, 15.9% EAR above that
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer then £5/day (max £80/mth) plus 15.9% EAR
Key questions

How do I get the £125 switching bonus? Once you've opened and been accepted for the account, you have three months in which to complete your switch and pay in £1,000. Once you've done that, the £125 bonus will be paid within 28 working days.

What if I can't pay in £1,000 every month? If your salary reduces and you can no longer pay in £1,000 per month you'll be whacked with a £10 monthly fee. However, if you have another account with First Direct – savings or a mortgage – then it's waived, so just open a bog standard savings account (this trick excludes the 5% regular savings account), and put the minimum amount in. The fee will also be waived if you maintain an average monthly balance of £1,000 or more.

Can I open two of these accounts? You can open two accounts if the second one is a joint account, but you'll only get the switching bonus once (as it's just for new customers). Plus, opening a joint account financially links you with the other person, so think carefully before doing so.

Are there any other perks? There aren't any additional perks on the bank account – but you'll be eligible to open up its linked 5% regular savings account.

HSBC Bank Account

Ending. Best cash bonus of the lot. Free £150 to switch PLUS £50 if you stay, though high min pay-in

HSBC Advance*

Open and switch to HSBC's Advance Account* and you'll get £150. And if you stay for a year, you'll get a further £50 bonus, making this the best cash incentive on the market. However, the account has a high minimum monthly pay-in – £1,750 a month – so consider whether you'll be able to meet this before opting for it.

Need-to-knows
  • You must open the account by 11.59pm on Wed 29 Mar, then use HSBC's Current Account Switch Service to switch, including at least two direct debits or standing orders, within 30 days. If you say you want to switch when applying online, HSBC will call you to arrange a phone or branch appointment.
  • The bonus is paid within 70 days of opening the Advance Account – provided you've met the switching criteria in the bullet above.
  • You can't get the bonus if switching from another HSBC account, or if you've had a current account with it since 1 Jan 2015. You can get it if you have a mortgage or savings account with HSBC – just apply online as normal.
  • If you qualify for the £150 bonus payment, you'll also get a 0% overdraft for six months when you open the account, though the limit you get is credit score dependent.
  • If you want to get the £50 extra bonus, you need to register for mobile or online banking within 60 days of account opening, plus you'll need to pay in £1,750/mth for at least nine of the first 12 months. It'll be sent within 30 days of your first anniversary of account opening.
  • You'll be eligible to get HSBC's 5% regular savings account.
  • The switch bonus is also available if you're switching to HSBC's Premier Account. But you'll need to either pay your income in to it and have £50,000 of savings/investments with HSBC; or have an income of £100,000+ a year, plus another qualifying product with HSBC, to get the account.
  • HSBC shares its £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee with First Direct, so ensure you don't hold more than £85,000 across the two banks.

How HSBC rates on service (in credit)

42% great

36% okay

22% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 363

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,750 (equates to £26,100 annual salary)
  • In-credit interest: None
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 0% for the first six months, then 17.9% EAR
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer, then 17.9% EAR interest, plus £5/day charge each day you're overdrawn (max £80/month)
Key questions

What if I can't pay in £1,750/mth? You need to pay this in for a year from the date of switching to get the full bonus. But if you can't continue to pay it in afterwards, the account will just change to a regular bank account. We've had reports that HSBC asks for income levels when you apply, so jemmying the pay-in may not be possible for this account.

Are there any other perks to the Advance current account? The account itself doesn't have extra benefits, but you'll be eligible to open HSBC's 5% regular saver and get discounts on other products, including mortgages and loans.

Co-op Bank Account logo

Free £110 + up to £5.50 per month - less than the accounts above but still great

Co-op Bank

The Co-op Bank's Standard Current Account, which has decent customer service, will now pay you £110 to switch to it. Jump through some hoops and you can also get up to an extra £5.50/mth with its Everyday Rewards scheme so hold the account for a year and you could get £176, though after the first year, it'll be a maximum £66/yr.

This account allows you to switch to it and get the £110 bonus without requiring a minimum pay-in.

Co-op up for sale – still worth switching? In the short term you’re unlikely to see any changes at all, so it shouldn’t affect the £110 switching bonus or the monthly reward. Plus, up to £85k of your deposits are protected so there's no need to worry if the bank fails.

Need-to-knows
  • You need to fully switch using the Co-op's Switch Service, including the transfer of four or more direct debits which must be active until you're paid the bonus (an active direct debit is one that's paid out in the last 13 months, or – if it's never paid out – one that's less than 13 months old).
  • The £110 bonus will be added to your account within 45 calendar days of your switch completing.
  • To get the monthly rewards, sign up to its Everyday Rewards and you'll get £4 each month you pay in £800, pay out four direct debits, receive paperless statements, log in to online or mobile banking, and stay within your overdraft limit.
  • If you meet all the criteria above, you'll also get 5p per debit card transaction, up to a maximum of £1.50 per month, as part of Everyday Rewards, though getting this isn't worth spending more than you usually would.
  • You can't get the bonus if you've received a Co-op current account sign-up bonus since Jan 2014. Existing Co-op customers can get the £110 as long as they've been putting less than £800+/mth into their current account since 3 Oct 2016.
  • Co-op shares its £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee with Smile and Britannia BS, so ensure you don't have more than £85,000 across the three brands.
Rated 3rd ribbon

How Co-op rates on service (in credit)

71% Great

19% okay

10% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 222

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £800 (for rewards; equates to an annual salary of £9,800)
  • In-credit interest: None
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 18.9% EAR
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £20 buffer, then £10/month service charge. 18.9% EAR interest, plus £10/day charge each day your overdrawn balance increases. (Max charges of £60 per quarter.)
Key questions

What if I don't have four direct debits? To get the cash, you'll need to switch over four active direct debits, which is a lot – if you don't have this many then you could consider setting up more, even if it's just £1/mth to charity, to get the reward.

How can I get the bonus if I'm an existing current account customer? You won't be eligible for the £110 if you've paid in £800+/mth since 3 Oct 2016 and/or you've received any Co-op or Smile switching incentive since Jan 2014.

If that doesn't apply to you, you can get the bonus by switching a non-Co-op Bank account to your existing Co-op Bank Current Account, Everyday Extra Account, Privilege Account, Privilege Premier Account or Current Account Plus.

Do I pay tax on the rewards? The rewards you get fall under a category called 'annual payments', which don't work in the same way as interest, as the amount you have in the account doesn't change how much you get. HMRC tells us this is not counted as savings income and therefore not covered under the personal savings allowance. So, if you're a non- or higher-rate taxpayer, you should claim extra or pay more via tax returns (see Interest Rates Guide).

How does the overdraft work? This one's a bit complex, so we wanted to spell it out. The arranged overdraft is fairly simple: you'll pay 18.9% EAR interest on your overdrawn balance. But, if you go into an unagreed overdraft, it becomes a lot more complex.

The unarranged overdraft has a £20 buffer. After this, you'll incur a £10/month service charge. You'll also continue to pay interest of 18.9% EAR on your overdrawn balance. And you'll pay £10/day if your overdraft increases during that day (so if you try and succeed in making further transactions).

However, there are a few waivers and limits. All unagreed overdraft service charges (not interest) will be waived if it's the first time you're in your unagreed overdraft that year and you're in it for six consecutive working days or fewer. Plus, you won't pay more than £60 in unagreed overdraft service charges over a three-month period.

I've heard a lot scandals about Co-op Bank – is it unstable? A few years ago, Co-op hit the headlines for scandals, solvency worries and the switch in ownership to being 70% privately owned.

You need to decide where you stand on the ethics of the bank, but the key fact on solvency is the first £85,000 of savings per person in the combined group (Co-op Bank, Smile, Britannia) is guaranteed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. This includes money in your current account. For how this works, see the full Savings Safety guide.

The next account doesn't actually pay you to switch, but it does give you free cash - up to £150 over the next 15 months, plus 3% interest.

TSB Classic Plus

Up to £10/mth cashback until June 2018 WITHOUT SWITCHING, plus 3% interest on £1,500

TSB Classic Plus*

The TSB Classic Plus* gives up to £10 per month free cash until June 2018 without the need to switch - £5 every month you have two or more direct debits paid out from the account, and another £5/mth if you use your debit card at least 20 times in that calendar month (includes online, contactless and Apple and Android Pay transactions though not ATM withdrawals).

As a bonus, the account also pays 3% AER variable on the first £1,500 in your account. All these perks make it a good option for an extra bank account to make yourself some cash.

Need-to-knows
  • Both cashback offers are available until 30 June 2018, meaning you could get a maximum of £150 cashback before then.
  • The 20 transactions need to be made within a calendar month - the date of transaction will be when the money's taken from your account, which could be a couple of days after you spend.
  • The direct debits need to go out within the calendar month (so watch out for bank holidays & weekends), and need to be paid to different companies.
  • You'll need to pay in £500/mth, register for internet banking (and log in at least once a year) & opt for paperless statements & correspondence to get the interest. You need to be registered for internet banking for the direct debit cashback.
  • This offer's for accounts opened after 1 March 2017 - you won't be able to get it if you had an existing account before this.
  • If you have more than one account, you can get the cashback on both, provided you meet the criteria on each account.
  • TSB has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

How TSB rates on service (in credit)

63% Great

30% okay

7% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 404

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £500 (equates to an annual salary of £6,000)
  • In-credit interest: 3% AER variable under £1,500.
  • Arranged overdraft cost: Up to £25 fee-free and £10 buffer, then 19.84% EAR + £6/mth usage fee
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer, then 19.84% EAR with charges of £5/day under £25, £10/day for £25+ (max £80/mth); £10 unpaid item fee (max three/day)
Key questions

How much interest can I earn? You can earn 3% AER on the first £1,500 in the account, but no interest on anything over that amount. Put and keep the full £1,500 in and you'll get £44.40 per year.

Can I have more than one account? You can only open two accounts if one is a single and one is a joint account – think carefully before doing this, as if you join finances with someone else, their credit record affects yours. Joint accounts can only be opened in branch.

Each account needs to be operated as if it's a main current account, so you need to pay £500 in to both each month (though you can fund one from the other). You also need to sign up to internet banking & paperless statements and correspondence on both accounts to get the interest paid.

Other accounts that offer switching rewards

There are a couple of other accounts that'll pay you (in cash or vouchers) to switch to them, along with monthly rewards on top. While those above generally offer better deals, it could be worth considering these too:

  • M&S Bank* gives newbies a £50 M&S gift card within a month of switching to it (must switch at least two active direct debits within three months), plus reward points when you shop in M&S. Plus, you get a decent £100 0% overdraft, and a linked 5% regular saver.

    For an extra perk, you can get an extra £5 added to the gift card each month for the first two years when you deposit £1,000/mth. This means that you could get up to £170 for switching to M&S and keeping the account for at least two years.

  • The Halifax Reward account gives £75 to switch to it, paid before your switch completes. Plus, you'll get £3 every month you pay in £750, remain in credit, and pay out at least two direct debits. You can't get the bonus if you're switching from Bank of Scotland, or if you've received any Halifax switching incentive since Jan 2012, and beware its hefty overdraft fees (up to £3/day for arranged overdrafts), which kick in six months after you switch.

Top accounts for savers (high interest)

Only a few years ago, several banks launched high-interest current accounts. But, following last August's Bank of England base rate cut, and hints of more, there's been a shake-up in the market, with Santander, Lloyds and TSB all cutting the rates on their high interest accounts.

It's clear loyalty no longer pays with bank accounts, so it's also worth looking at the switching bribes above, and being ready to switch regularly to chase the free cash.

But here are the top deals for accounts paying interest – but remember all interest rates are variable (unless stated) so could drop further in future...

These are the right accounts to switch to if...

...you're always in credit.

...you can't find another account or investment that beats the interest.

...you're likely to have enough cash to leave in the account to actually earn the interest.

These are the wrong accounts to switch to if...

...you're regularly overdrawn.

...you don't have enough cash likely to be sitting in the account to make it worthwhile.

...you'd rather put your money elsewhere, eg, invest it or buy a property.

...you don't have financial self-control, as it can be easy to spend money sitting in your current account.

Santander

Great for BIG savers. Get 1.5% interest on up to £20k & up to 3% cashback on bills

Santander 123*

The Santander 123* account pays 1.5% interest on entire balances up to £20,000, making it a winner for many bigger savers. If you're willing to open multiple accounts, though, then it's possible to earn more by getting three Bank of Scotland accounts (£444/yr vs £298/yr).

The Santander account does have a £5/month fee but for most users that's more than covered by the up to 3% cashback it gives on utility bills paid by direct debit.

Need-to-knows
  • Get cashback on some bills – 3% on phone, broadband, mobile & TV, 2% on gas & electricity and Santander home insurance, 1% on water, council tax & Santander mortgage payments (max £10/mth on mortgage).
  • Santander only pays interest & cashback in months you've paid in £500+, had two 'active' (so not disused) direct debits, and paid your monthly fee. Watch out, it counts a month from the anniversary of the account opening, not a calendar month.
  • You can save more than £20,000 in the account, but won't earn interest on anything over £20,000.
  • You can have two accounts in your name, but one must be joint – meaning couples can save £60,000 between them. Here's how this works
  • Santander shares its £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee with Cahoot, so don't hold more than £85,000 across the two banks.

How Santander 123 rates on service (in credit)

66% Great

29% okay

5% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 1,098

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in : £500 (equates to an annual salary of £6,000)
  • In-credit interest: 1.5% AER variable up to £20k
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 0% for four months after switching. Then, £12 buffer and £1/day below £2,000, £2/day from £2,000-£2,999.99 and £3/day over £3,000.
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £12 buffer then £6/day (max £95/mth)
Key questions

What if I've more than £20,000? Any extra above £20,000 gets no interest, which means that if you just left £20,000 in the account the whole time, you'd actually get the gross rate of 1.49% – as the monthly interest earned would take you over the £20,000 limit (and therefore wouldn't be able to earn interest itself). This would mean that instead of getting £300 interest in a year that you'd get if the interest could compound, you'd only get £298.

Is there a catch with the cashback? Santander has a list of qualifying suppliers (though it's worth checking with it about your suppliers, even if they're not listed). You also need to pay your bills by direct debit from the account to get the cashback.

How much cashback could I really earn? We crunched the numbers on how this stacks up for low, average and high bill payers. After the fee, we worked out low users would be up by £11 a year, average users £79 and high users £190, even before savings interest's taken into account.

The cashback works best for those who have a mortgage payment of around £1,000 a month with Santander – but even without the mortgage payment, anyone with high bills will be able to make money from this account, even after the fee is covered.

Our table details how the account works for low, medium and high bill payers.

Nationwide

5% interest on £2,500 fixed but only for a year, 1% afterwards

Nationwide FlexDirect

Switch to the Nationwide FlexDirect account and you'll get an interest rate of 5% AER on the first £2,500 of your cash. This rate is fixed for the first year you hold the account, which gives some security in a world of uncertain savings rates. Be aware that it drops to 1% from year two, so look around then to see if it can be beaten.

Need-to-knows
  • Nationwide has told us it has no plans to change the rates on this account. Plus, because the rate is fixed, provided it's still at 5% when you apply for the account, you know that's the rate you'll get for the first year.
  • To get the interest, you'll need to pay in £1,000+ per month.
  • If you refer a friend and they successfully switch to a Nationwide current account you will both receive £100. You can be paid for referring up to 5 friends per tax year.
  • This account also offers a 12mth 0% overdraft (as long as you haven't had a FlexDirect account in the last year), though the limit you get is credit score dependent. After the 12 months, it charges 50p per day for the overdraft.
  • Nationwide has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.
Rated 2nd ribbon

How Nationwide rates on service (in-credit)

80% Great

17% okay

3% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 1,026

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,000/mth to get interest (equates to an annual salary of £12,850)
  • In-credit interest: 5% AER fixed in year one on up to £2,500, 1% in subsequent years
  • Arranged overdraft cost: Year one: 0%; years two+: £10 buffer, then 50p/day
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer, then £5/day (max £60/mth), £5 paid/unpaid item fee (max £35/mth). Total unarranged fees capped at £95/month.
Key questions

How do I get the interest? To get interest, you need to pay in £1,000 a month, though you only get interest when you're in credit.

What if I can't pay in £1,000? Nothing happens, you just won't be paid any interest if you're in credit at all that month.

How much will the overdraft cost? For the first year, your overdraft will cost nothing so long as you stay within your limit and you haven't had a FlexDirect account in the last year. After that, you pay 50p per day you're overdrawn (within your limit). So, if you have a limit of £1,500 and owe £1,000, then you'll pay £182.50 if you're overdrawn every day of the year.

Don't bust your overdraft limit, as you'll pay £5 per day plus a charge of £5 for every paid or unpaid item.

So, use the 12 months when your overdraft is at 0% to get your finances in order and avoid future fees. For tips, see Cutting Overdraft Costs.

Can I have two accounts? And two overdrafts? You can definitely have two accounts, and can even get two lots of interest – though one of your accounts must be joint to get this. Nationwide say that you may be able to get two overdrafts if you have two FlexDirect accounts, but each would be assessed on its merits, so there's no guarantee.

Bank of Scotland

Up to 3% interest on £5,000 (+ trick to get it on £15k), though the rate's dropping to 2% from June

Bank of Scotland Vantage

The Bank of Scotland Classic Account pays 3% AER variable on balances between £3,000 and £5,000, though it's just announced that it's to drop its rate to 2% from 11 June 2017.

There is a trick in that the rules allow you to open three accounts, giving you 3% on £15,000. You'll still need to meet the criteria on each though – see our multiple account tips below for help.

Need-to-knows
  • The interest doesn't automatically come with the account – you need to add the 'Vantage' feature to the account to get it. You can do this during your application.
  • You'll need to pay in £1,000/mth, stay in credit, and have two different direct debits paid from the account(s) each month to get the interest.
  • If you've less to save, you'll get 1.5% AER on £1 to £999.99 and 2% AER on £1,000 to £2,999.99. From 11 June, this will be a flat rate of 2% on all balances between £1 and £5,000.
  • Bank of Scotland shares its £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee with Halifax.
  • Multiple accounts tip one: Some MoneySavers have found issues when trying to open the second or third accounts too quickly. Waiting 48 hours between each and calling instead of applying online seems to make things easier.
  • Multiple accounts tip two: You can recycle £1,000 to meet the pay-in criteria – simply set up a standing order to move it from account one to account two, then two days later to account three, but remember to keep cash in to pay the direct debits.
  • Multiple accounts tip three: If you don't have enough direct debits, set up small direct debits to specific savings accounts or even to charity. Bank of Scotland doesn't care where the money's going, as long as they're direct debits. See full alternatives.
Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in : £1,000 (equates to £12,850 annual salary)
  • In-credit interest: 3% AER variable if you've £3,000 to £5,000 (on entire balance); 2% on £1,000 to £3,000; 1.5% under £1,000; nothing above £5,000. From 11 June: 2% AER variable between £1 and £5,000; nothing above £5,000
  • Arranged overdraft cost: £25 buffer, then 19.89% EAR + £6/mth usage fee
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer, then 19.89% EAR with charges of £5/day between £10 and £25 over limit, £10/day for £25+ (max £80/mth); £10 unpaid item fee (max three/day)
Key questions

How much interest can I earn? You can earn 3% AER on the entire balance if you have between £3,000 and £5,000 in the account, but no interest on anything over that amount. Put and keep the full £5,000 in, and you'll get £148.

If you've less to save, you'll get lower rates of interest – 2% AER between £1,000 and £2,999.99 and 1.5% AER between £1 and £999.99.

Can I have more than one account? You can open three of these accounts. However, each needs to be operated as if it's a main account, so you need to pay in £1,000 to all three each month, have two direct debits going out, and stay in credit to get the interest.

I've been asked to bring documents to a branch but I don't live in Scotland. What can I do? When applying, it's possible that Bank of Scotland may ask you to bring in some documents (normally if it can't ID-check you based on details you enter when you apply). Branches are only in Scotland, but if you live elsewhere in the UK, you can take them into a Halifax branch, where they should be able to make a copy and send them on.

Other top-interest paying current accounts

It's not just these accounts that offer decent interest rates. A few other accounts give you varying levels of decent interest (see below), and the one you pick should depend on how much cash you're likely to be able to keep in your account.

The top current account savings interest
For comparison, the top easy-access savings deal open to all pays just 1.05%.
In-credit interest (AER) Max
interest /yr (1)
Min monthly pay-in How many can you have?
TSB Classic Plus 3% on up to £1,500 £44 £500 2 (2nd must be joint)
Club Lloyds 2% on up to £5,000 £99 £1,500 (2) 2 (2nd must be joint)
(1) Before any tax if you always held the max balance+. (2) If you don't pay in this much, there's a £3/mth fee. You also need 2+ direct debits going out to get the interest.

Top accounts with ongoing cashback

Some accounts give you free cash for paying bills, or for using the account regularly. However, many of them come with a fee, so check you spend enough on bills to cover the monthly fee (if it has one) before going for one of these.

These are the right accounts to switch to if...

...you want cashback for using the account

...you pay your bills by direct debit

These are the wrong accounts to switch to if...

...you just want upfront cash for switching

...you don't have or use direct debits

Natwest Reward Account logo

Top account for bills with a whopping 3% cashback

NatWest*

If you've a bills account and want to get something back every month, then NatWest's* Reward Account could be a good option for you. For a £3 monthly fee, it will pay you a straight 3% cashback on seven different bills, including council tax, water and energy, as long as you pay by direct debit.

Need-to-knows
  • You can get 3% cashback on council tax, gas, electricity, water, home phone, mobile, TV and broadband, as long as you pay by direct debit.
  • You'd have to spend at least £100 per month to earn any net profit from the account.
  • You can cash in your rewards as soon as you reach £5, and can take this in the form of cash, vouchers with retailers such as Cineworld and Caffe Nero or a donation to one of four charities (Barnardo's, Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support or NSPCC).
  • RBS also offers the same account, though you have to live in Scotland and apply in branch.
  • NatWest has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

How NatWest rates on service (in credit)

48% great

38% OK

14% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 478

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: None
  • In-credit interest: None
  • Arranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer, then £6/month fee plus 19.89% EAR interest
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer, then £6/day fee (max charges of £90 per month) plus £6 unpaid item fee (max charges of £60 per month)
Key questions

Is there a catch with the cashback? NatWest has a list of qualifying suppliers (though it's worth checking with it about your suppliers, even if they're not listed). You also need to pay your bills by direct debit from the account to get the cashback – any payments made by, for example, debit card or standing order, won't qualify. The household bills that qualify for cashback do not include fuel and oil, maintenance, insurance, TV licence, on-demand internet streaming services or any commercial contracts.

How much cashback could I really earn? We crunched the numbers on how this stacks up for low, average and high bill payers. After the fee, we worked out low users would be up by £39 a year, average users £82 and high users £179. Plus, our recent poll showed that some people spend even more on their bills, with 1.5% stacking up an annual cashback of at least £324.

Plus, as long as the bills are for personal (not business) use, there is no cap on the cashback amount you can earn, eg, if you pay a child's mobile phone bill or electricity bills on a holiday home from the account as well as your main mobile and electricity bills, you'll also earn 3% back on those, which could boost your earnings.

Our table details how the account works for low, medium and high bill payers.

Are there any other perks? If you hold a Reward Credit Card, the annual fee will be refunded in any year you hold the Reward Current Account. However, it's not necessarily the best reward card, so see our guide for more options.

Santander

1%-3% cashback on bills but cheapest fee of the cashback accounts

Santander 123 Lite

The Santander 123 Lite gives cashback on pretty much the same bills as the NatWest account above, but it only pays up to 3% so it pays a lower amount of cashback on some bills. However, it has a lower fee of £1. And if you have a Santander mortgage then you could get up to £10/mth cashback on that, which gives seriously good returns on this account.

Need-to-knows
  • You can get cashback on some bills – 3% on phone, broadband, mobile and TV, 2% on gas and electricity and Santander home insurance, 1% on water, council tax and Santander mortgage payments (max £10/mth on mortgage), as long as you pay them by direct debit.
  • Santander only pays cashback in months you've paid in £500+, had two 'active' (so not disused) direct debits, and paid your monthly fee. You also need to log in to online or mobile banking at least once every three months. Watch out, it counts a month from the anniversary of account opening, not a calendar month.
  • You can apply for the account by phone or in branch, and once open it's paperless so you won't get statements through the post.
  • You can have two accounts, but one must be joint.
  • Santander shares its £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee with Cahoot, so don't hold more than £85,000 across the two banks.

How Santander rates on service (in credit)

55% great

38% OK

7% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 241

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £500 (equates to £6,000 annual salary)
  • In-credit interest: None
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 0% for four months after switching. Then, £12 buffer and £1/day below £2,000, £2/day from £2,000-£2,999.99 and £3/day over £3,000.
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £12 buffer then £6/day (max £95/mth)
Key questions

Is there a catch with the cashback? Santander has a list of qualifying suppliers (though it's worth checking with it about your suppliers, if they're not listed). You also need to pay your bills by direct debit from the account to get the cashback.

How much cashback could I really earn? We've crunched the numbers on how this stacks up for low, average and high bill payers. After the fee, we worked out low users would be up by £58 a year, average users £127 and high users £238.

The cashback works best for those who have a mortgage payment of around £1,000 a month with Santander – but even without the mortgage payment, anyone with high bills will be able to make money from this account, even after the fee is covered.

Our table details how the account works for low, medium and high bill payers.

Santander

1%-3% cashback on bills but gives 1.5% interest on up to £20k

Santander 123*

The Santander 123* account pays the same cashback on the same bills as the Lite account above, but also pays 1.5% interest on balances up to £20,000 - though this one has a higher £5/mth fee.

Depending on how much you have in savings, you could be better with other interest-paying bank accounts, though this is a composite account paying both cashback + interest in one account, so could suit you if you want a simple life.

Need-to-knows
  • Get cashback on some bills – 3% on phone, broadband, mobile & TV, 2% on gas & electricity and Santander home insurance, 1% on water, council tax & Santander mortgage payments (max £10/mth on mortgage).
  • Santander only pays interest & cashback in months you've paid in £500+, had two 'active' (so not disused) direct debits, and paid your monthly fee. Watch out, it counts a month from the anniversary of the account opening, not a calendar month.
  • You can save more than £20,000 in the account, but won't earn interest on anything over £20,000.
  • Santander shares its £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee with Cahoot, so don't hold more than £85,000 across the two banks.

How Santander 123 rates on service (in credit)

66% Great

29% okay

5% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 1,098

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in : £500 (equates to an annual salary of £6,000)
  • In-credit interest: 1.5% AER variable up to £20k
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 0% for four months after switching. Then, £12 buffer and £1/day below £2,000, £2/day from £2,000-£2,999.99 and £3/day over £3,000.
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £12 buffer then £6/day (max £95/mth)
Key questions

What if I've more than £20,000? Any extra above £20,000 gets no interest, which means that if you just left £20,000 in the account the whole time, you'd actually get the gross rate of 1.49% – as the monthly interest earned would take you over the £20,000 limit (and therefore wouldn't be able to earn interest itself). This would mean that instead of getting £300 interest in a year that you'd get if the interest could compound, you'd only get £298.

Is there a catch with the cashback? Santander has a list of qualifying suppliers (though it's worth checking with it about your suppliers, even if they're not listed). You also need to pay your bills by direct debit from the account to get the cashback.

How much cashback could I really earn? We crunched the numbers on how this stacks up for low, average and high bill payers. After the fee, we worked out low users would be up by £11 a year, average users £79 and high users £190, even before savings interest's taken into account.

The cashback works best for those who have a mortgage payment of around £1,000 a month with Santander – but even without the mortgage payment, anyone with high bills will be able to make money from this account, even after the fee is covered.

Our table details how the account works for low, medium and high bill payers.

TSB Classic Plus

Up to £10/mth cashback until June 2018, plus 3% interest on £1,500

TSB Classic Plus*

The TSB Classic Plus* pays you £5 every month you have two or more direct debits paid out from the account, so it's a good return if you have few bills or low bills. You can also get another £5/mth cashback if you use your debit card at least 20 times in that month (includes online, contactless and Apple and Android Pay transactions though not ATM withdrawals).

As a bonus, the account also pays 3% AER variable on the first £1,500 in your account. All these perks make it a good option for an extra bank account to make yourself some cash.

Need-to-knows
  • Both cashback offers are available until 30 June 2018, meaning you could get a maximum of £150 cashback before then.
  • The 20 transactions need to be made within a calendar month - the date of transaction will be when the money's taken from your account, which could be a couple of days after you spend.
  • The direct debits need to go out within the calendar month (so watch out for bank holidays & weekends), and need to be paid to different companies.
  • You'll need to pay in £500/mth, register for internet banking (and log in at least once a year) & opt for paperless statements & correspondence to get the interest. You need to be registered for internet banking for the direct debit cashback.
  • This offer's for accounts opened after 1 March 2017 - you won't be able to get it if you had an existing account before this.
  • If you have more than one account, you can get the cashback on both, provided you meet the criteria on each account.
  • TSB has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

How TSB rates on service (in credit)

63% Great

30% okay

7% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 404

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £500 (equates to an annual salary of £6,000)
  • In-credit interest: 3% AER variable under £1,500.
  • Arranged overdraft cost: Up to £25 fee-free and £10 buffer, then 19.84% EAR + £6/mth usage fee
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer, then 19.84% EAR with charges of £5/day under £25, £10/day for £25+ (max £80/mth); £10 unpaid item fee (max three/day)
Key questions

How much interest can I earn? You can earn 3% AER on the first £1,500 in the account, but no interest on anything over that amount. Put and keep the full £1,500 in and you'll get £44.40 per year.

Can I have more than one account? You can only open two accounts if one is a single and one is a joint account – think carefully before doing this, as if you join finances with someone else, their credit record affects yours. Joint accounts can only be opened in branch.

Each account needs to be operated as if it's a main current account, so you need to pay £500 in to both each month (though you can fund one from the other). You also need to sign up to internet banking & paperless statements and correspondence on both accounts to get the interest paid.

Other accounts that offer rewards

While they don't make it into our top picks above, there are a couple of other accounts that offer monthly cash payments in return for your custom. We wouldn't suggest you specifically switch to them over the other accounts in this guide, but if you want some extra rewards you could consider them:

  • Danske Bank's Cash Reward account has a £2 monthly fee, but pays £7 each month you pay in £1,200+, pay out at least three direct debits and log on to online/mobile/tablet banking at least once. Branches are in Northern Ireland, but you can open an account online or by phone even if you don't live there - just be aware that you won't have access to branch banking in the rest of the UK.
  • Barclays Blue Rewards is an add-on to Barclays current accounts which, for a £3 monthly fee, will pay you at least £7/month back - as long as you pay in £800+ and pay out at least two direct debits each month. You can get even more if you hold selected products with Barclays. For full details of the scheme, see our Barclays Blue Rewards news story.

Top account if you want insurance

These accounts tend to come with insurance, or other perks. But it's worth checking you'll use what the account offers – if not, then you're better off looking at other accounts that reward you in different ways. In this section, we have a paid-for account that could save big bucks.

These are the right accounts to switch to if...

...you're always in credit

...you genuinely need the associated insurance

...you can't get the insurance cheaper elsewhere

These are the wrong accounts to switch to if...

...you are regularly overdrawn

...you don't need the insurance

...you can find the associated insurance cheaper elsewhere

Nationwide

£600 of high-end travel, mobile & breakdown cover for £120/yr

Nationwide FlexPlus*

Nationwide's* FlexPlus account is a cracking deal for £120/year – IF you'll use the features. You get worldwide family travel insurance up to age 74 (which can cost more than the account charges alone), smartphone insurance for all the family (at the same address) and UK & Europe breakdown cover.

Another boon of the account is you get 3% AER variable interest on up to £2,500, meaning you could earn £74 in interest each year - think of this as a way of offsetting the fee.

Need-to-knows
  • You have to pay a £10/mth fee to hold the account and get the benefits.
  • The travel insurance covers worldwide trips (including golf, business and winter sports) up to your 75th birthday.
  • The mobile cover includes loss, theft, damage or breakdown, for all phones owned by family members living at your address (max value £1,000, children must be under 19 or 22 if in full time education).
  • You get breakdown cover with the account, across the UK and Europe. It covers the account holder(s) driving any private car.
  • You also get extended warranty cover for an additional 12 months on all new household electrical items between £50 and £2,000.
  • We've calculated that all the insurances this account offers could be worth £600 or more. Here's how we worked this out
  • The account pays 3% AER in-credit interest on balances up to £2,500, beating top savings accounts. This works out at a max interest of about £75/year, which – if you've the savings to put in there – goes some way to offsetting the monthly fee.
  • If you've a pre-existing condition, tell Nationwide as you may need to go through the insurer's medical screening process to see if it can cover you.
  • If you refer a friend and they successfully switch to a Nationwide current account you will both receive £100. You can be paid for referring up to 5 friends per tax year.
  • Nationwide has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.
Rated 2nd ribbon

How Nationwide rates on service (in-credit)

80% Great

17% okay

3% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 1,026

Stats box
  • In-credit interest: 3% AER up to £2,500
  • Min monthly pay-in: None
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 3 months fee-free, £100 fee-free buffer after, 50p per day above that
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: Up to £10 charged 50p/day. Over £10 charged £5 per day (max £50/month)
Key questions

What does the worldwide family travel insurance cover? It allows multiple trips worldwide and includes winter sports, business, golf and wedding cover. The cheapest you could normally get this for is £50, but for a top value policy like this you could pay over £130 per year (read our full Travel Insurance guide).

It'll cover you, children under 19 (or 22 if in full-time education) providing they live at the same address, and your partner, even if it's not a joint account. The excess (the amount you pay towards a claim) is a maximum of £50. If you've a pre-existing condition, tell Nationwide as you may need a medical screening before getting cover and could be charged.

I'm over 75. What about me? If you're over 75, you'll need to pay a £50/yr premium for your travel cover. This isn't necessarily the best deal on the market, so always compare with the premiums in Cheap Travel Insurance.

What does the mobile phone insurance cover? It covers repair or replacement after theft, loss or damage, insuring each handset up to the value of £1,000, so it'll cover all smartphones. The excess is a maximum of £100 for an iPhone. Unusually, it covers the phones of all family members, provided they live with you (children must be under 19 or under 22 if in full-time education, and cannot be married or in a civil partnership) – so maxed out, this gives serious value. See Mobile Insurance for more details.

What does the breakdown cover include? It's for the UK and Europe including home assistance. Cover is for the person, and people travelling in your vehicle (so everyone would be taken to their destination). On a joint account both account holders would be covered.

For more policy details, see the travel insurance, mobile insurance and UK & Europe breakdown cover documents.

Can I use the card abroad? The debit card with the account has no fee or load for cash withdrawals abroad, making it a leading debit card for overseas use. But it still has a 2% charge when using it for overseas purchases, so don't use it for this. Instead, for overseas purchases, if you have the FlexPlus account, you're also eligible for the Nationwide Select credit card. It gives 0% load on overseas purchases, as well as 0.5% cashback on UK spending and 12 months 0% on balance transfers and purchases.

How is the bank rated? In our August 2016 poll, Nationwide was second, with 79% voting it 'great', 17% 'OK' and 4% 'poor'.

Are there any other perks? If you refer a friend and they successfully switch to a Nationwide current account, you will both receive £100. You can be paid for referring up to 5 friends per tax year.

Top accounts if you're overdrawn

Overdrafts are debts, and often they're much more expensive than credit cards, so you need to find an account with the lowest fees possible.

But if you are overdrawn, don't just tackle the symptoms. Also try using the free budget planner, give yourself a money makeover to tackle its causes and check the tips to avoid charges in the bank charges compared tool.

If you've decided that you do want to switch accounts to make your overdraft cheaper, then there are two top picks below:

These are the right accounts to switch to if...

...you're regularly or always overdrawn

These are the wrong accounts to switch to if...

...you're always in credit

First Direct logo

£250 0% overdraft, plus free £125 when you switch to the account

First Direct*

If you just dip in and out of your overdraft, the First Direct* account should cover you for free, as it has a £250 0% overdraft. Plus, when you switch via our link, you get £125 free cash which you could put towards your overdraft to help you pay it off.

Need-to-knows
  • If you go more than £250 into your overdraft, you pay interest of 15.9% EAR, making it one of the lower-cost overdrafts on offer.
  • You need to pay in £1,000+ each calendar month, or maintain an average monthly balance of £1,000 to keep the account free (£10 otherwise).
  • First Direct will pay you a bonus of £125 if you're a new customer switching to its account via our link using its dedicated switching service (£100 if you go direct).
  • If you qualify, the £125 will arrive within 28 days of your switch completing.
  • You can't get the switching bonus if you've ever held an account with First Direct before.
  • First Direct shares its £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee with HSBC, so ensure you don't hold more than £85,000 across the two banks.
Rated 2st ribbon

How First Direct rates on service (overdrawn)

84% Great

13% okay

3% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 91

  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,000 (equates to an annual salary of £12,850)
  • In-credit interest: None
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 0% under £250, 15.9% EAR above that
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: 15.9% EAR, plus £25 per paid item

How do I get the £125 switching bonus? Once you've opened and been accepted for the account, you have three months in which to complete your switch and pay in £1,000. Once you've done that, the £125 bonus will be paid within 28 days.

What if I can't pay in £1,000 every month? If your salary reduces and you can no longer pay in £1,000 per month you'll be whacked with a £10 monthly fee. However, if you have another account with First Direct – savings or a mortgage – then it's waived, so just open a bog standard savings account (this trick excludes the 5% regular savings account), and put the minimum amount in. The fee will also be waived if you maintain an average monthly balance of £1,000 or more.

Can I open two of these accounts? You can open two accounts if the second one is a joint account, but you'll only get the switching bonus once (as it's only for new customers). Plus, opening a joint account financially links you with the other person, so think carefully before doing so.

Nationwide

12 months 0% overdraft – a respite to sort your finances

Nationwide FlexDirect

If you're often or always in your overdraft, you'll be used to paying interest or charges. But switch to the Nationwide FlexDirect account, and you get a year's 0% overdraft. It's important that you see this as a respite to try to clear your overdraft, as you do start paying for it (although fees are low-ish) once you've had the account for a year.

If you are switching to this account, there's no guarantee Nationwide will give you an overdraft as large as the one you currently have with your existing bank, as the limit you get is subject to a credit check.

Need-to-knows
  • Never go over your agreed overdraft limit, as charges are a hefty £5 PER DAY if you do.
  • There's no minimum amount that you need to pay in, although if you pay in £1,000 or more a month, you'll get interest for any time you're in credit – 5% on balances up to £2,500 in the first year, then 1% afterwards.
  • If you refer a friend and they successfully switch to a Nationwide current account you will both receive £100. You can be paid for referring up to 5 friends per tax year.
  • You won't get the fee-free overdraft if you've had a FlexDirect account in the last 12 months.
  • Nationwide has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.
Rated 2nd ribbon

How Nationwide rates on service (overdrawn)

69% Great

17% okay

14% poor

Date: Feb 2017 Voters: 64

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: None (£1,000/mth to get interest)
  • In-credit interest: 5% in year one on up to £2,500, 1% in subsequent years
  • Arranged overdraft cost: Year one: 0%; years two+: £10 buffer, then 50p/day
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer, then £5/day (max £60/mth), £5 paid/unpaid item fee (max £35/mth). Total unarranged fees capped at £95/month.
Key questions

How much will the overdraft cost? For the first year, your overdraft will cost nothing so long as you stay within your limit and you haven't had a FlexDirect account open within the last year. After that, you pay 50p per day you're overdrawn (within your limit). So, if you have a limit of £1,500 and owe £1,000, then you'll pay £182.50 if you're overdrawn every day of the year.

Don't bust your overdraft limit, as you'll pay £5 per day plus a charge of £5 for every paid or unpaid item.

So, use the 12 months when your overdraft is at 0% to get your finances in order and avoid future fees. For tips, see Cutting Overdraft Costs.

How do I get the interest? To get interest, you need to pay in £1,000 a month, though you only get interest when you're in credit.

What if I can't pay in £1,000? Nothing happens, you just won't be paid any interest if you're in credit at all that month.

Can I have two accounts? And two overdrafts? You can definitely have two accounts, and can even get two lots of interest – though one of your accounts must be joint to get this. Nationwide say that you may be able to get two overdrafts if you have two FlexDirect accounts, but each would be assessed on its merits, so there's no guarantee.

Ethical bank accounts

Ethical current accounts – where providers behave ethically in terms of the environment, human rights and more – have jumped in popularity. Our main focus always is telling you the top deals based on what the accounts offer, but to match demand we've worked with Ethical Consumer to list the top accounts that also rate highly on their ethics.

These are the right accounts to switch to if...

...you're always in credit.

...you want an account from a provider with an ethical policy.

These are the wrong accounts to switch to if...

...you're regularly or always overdrawn;

...your sole objective is to get the account with the best bonus/interest or the lowest overdraft fees. Some of these accounts are market-leading in their category, but others aren't.

See the chart below for what Ethical Consumer's ratings mean.

Full ethical consumer

Get 5% interest for a year or cheap foreign spending

Top Rated Ethical Bank Accounts


Other high-scoring ethical providers

Other high-scoring ethical providers include Metro Bank (branches in London/ SE England), Cumberland BS and Coventry BS, though most of these are for locals only.

Cashback sites may pay you for signing up

As an extra boon, members of specialist cashback websites can be paid when they sign up to some financial products. Do check that it's exactly the same deal though, as terms can be different. And remember the cashback is never 100% guaranteed until it's in your account. 

Full help to take advantage of this and pros & cons in our Top Cashback Sites guide.

Want to complain about your bank account?

If your bank's charged you the wrong amount, taken the wrong amount in payment, or its service has been atrocious, then you don't have to suffer in silence. It's always worth trying to call the bank first to see if it can help, but if not...

Free tool if you're having problems

Man complainingThis tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver, which we like so much we work with to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, you can use Resolver to escalate it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.

Q&A Bank accounts

  • How does it work with reward payments and tax?

  • Is there a way to track down old bank accounts?

  • What if I can't pay a set amount into my bank account every month?

  • I applied for one of these accounts and got rejected. What can I do?

  • What counts as a month to meet the minimum pay-in amounts?

  • How do I find my local branch?

  • How long do transfers take?

  • How long does a cheque take to clear?

  • How long does it take for money I pay in to count towards my balance?

  • What's the difference between a direct debit, standing order and recurring payment?

  • How do I set up a direct debit or standing order?

  • How do I transfer money using a mobile phone number?

  • Is internet and mobile banking safe?

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