top bank accounts

Best Bank Accounts

Get £125 to switch, up to 3% back on bills or up to 2% interest

If you're looking to get paid for your banking custom, you can now earn £100+ for switching to HSBC or First Direct, while other accounts offer wine, cashback on bills or savings interest. So if you're unhappy with your bank and want to give it the boot, this guide explains it all and helps you compare the top-pick accounts.

Other top MSE banking guides...
Packaged Accounts: save £100s on insurance
Need a business bank account?: for the self-employed
Basic Bank Accounts: for those with poor credit histories
Digital Banking: learn about app-based banks

illustration

The five bank account need-to-knows

There are a few points you need to think about when choosing a new bank account to ensure you make the right selection:

  • Current Account Switch Service logo

    If you want to switch bank, there's nothing stopping you, even with the coronavirus crisis going on.

    The Current Account Switch Service (CASS) process is straightforward and takes just seven working days. Just open a new account with your chosen bank, then request a switch through it – you'll usually be asked during the application if you want to switch. Provided both banks are signed up to CASS (most are), the switching service will close your old account and move your money, direct debits, standing orders etc across.

    It'll also move payments meant to go into your old account into the new one, eg, your salary. If something goes wrong, the bots behind the scenes sort it, so for at least three years any money paid into the old account or wrongly earmarked to come out of that account is transferred to the new one. Also, if you're hit with any charges due to an error in the switch, this should be refunded by the new bank.

    Quick questions

    • No. Otherwise known as continuous payment authorities, these are set up using your debit or credit card details, as opposed to your account number and sort code. They're often used for memberships, online subscriptions and payday loan repayments. The company will ask for the long number across your card, giving it permission to take cash from your account.

      If you switch, you need to give your new card details to any companies that take money from your card in this way.

    • An active direct debit is one that has paid out in the last 13 months or – if it has never paid out – is less than 13 months old.

      Direct debits have this dormancy rule in place, so old direct debits can remain active even if you're not paying out on them every month in case they're needed again, or they're there for annual payments. But after 13 months, your bank may remove them from your account or mark them as inactive.

    • Yes, if you switch via CASS (which you usually need to do in order to get any switching incentives). As part of the process, your new bank will automatically close it and also move all payments, eg, direct debits out or salary in, across.

      But if you'd rather keep your old account open, or your old or new bank is one of the few not signed up to CASS, you'll need to use the older, slower and more complicated system. Your payments will still be switched over, but there's less protection if anything goes wrong and it's likely you won't get any of the switch incentives.

    • If you want to join finances with a partner, it's possible to use seven-day switching to switch a sole account to a joint account. Do remember that this'll link your finances, so their credit record could affect yours – always think carefully before doing so.

      This doesn't work the other way round, so you can't switch a joint account to a sole account under seven-day switching.

    • Most other products that you hold are totally separate, so moving your current account won't affect the others and it's fine to do. In fact, even if you have a direct debit set up to pay them, that'll automatically be moved to your new bank account for you so it shouldn't put you off switching at all.

      There are a few special regular savings accounts that are linked to current accounts (where you get a special rate if you've got the current account) that you could lose if you move bank, but you'll know if you've got one of those and your new bank may offer something similar.

    • More than 40 providers are signed up to the Current Account Switch Service (CASS):
       
      • Acorn Account
      • Adam & Company
      • AIB (NI)
      • Allied Irish Bank (GB)
      • Arbuthnot Latham & Co.
      • Bank of Ireland UK
      • Bank of Scotland
      • Barclays
      • Barclays Private
      • C. Hoare & Co.
      • CardOneMoney
      • Clydesdale Bank
      • Co-operative Bank
      • Coutts
      • Coventry Building Society
      • Cumberland Building Society
      • Danske Bank
      • First Direct
      • Habib Bank Zurich
      • Halifax
      • Hampden & Co
      • Handelsbanken
      • HSBC
      • HSBC Private Bank
      • Investec Bank
      • Isle of Man Bank
      • Lloyds Bank
      • Lloyds International
      • Lloyds Private Bank
      • M&S Bank
      • Metro Bank
      • Monzo
      • Nationwide Building Society
      • NatWest
      • Natwest International
      • Reliance Bank
      • Royal Bank of Scotland
      • Santander
      • smile
      • Starling Bank
      • Tesco Bank
      • thinkmoney
      • Triodos Bank
      • TSB Bank
      • Ulster Bank
      • Unity Trust Bank
      • Virgin Money
      • Weatherbys Bank
      • Yorkshire Bank

      Last updated March 2021.

  • With most of the top accounts in this guide, you'll need to pay-in a certain amount each month in order to qualify, get the perks and/or avoid a fee. But if you can't afford the minimum, don't fret – there's a way to play the system. 

    Say you need a min £1,000, but only have £500 coming in. If you pay £500 in, withdraw it or move it to another bank, then pay it back in... BINGO, that's your £1,000.

    Note: we've had reports some banks may not accept you when you apply if your income's not high enough to meet the minimum monthly pay-in. 

    These are the minimum pay-ins for bank accounts we mention in this guide, plus details of what happens if you miss that minimum payment:

    Top bank accounts ranked by minimum pay-in

    Account Min monthly pay-in Equivalent salary/yr needed (1) What if I don't pay in this much?
    Virgin Money current account None N/A N/A
    First Direct 1st Account None (2) N/A N/A
    Nationwide FlexPlus None N/A N/A
    Santander 123 Lite £500 £6,000 No cashback paid
    Barclays Blue Rewards £800 £9,700 No rewards earned
    Co-op Bank Everyday Rewards £800 £9,700 No rewards earned
    Bank of Scotland Vantage £1,000 £12,400 No interest paid
    Nationwide FlexDirect £1,000 £12,400 No interest paid
    NatWest Reward £1,250 £16,700 Transferred to NatWest Select account
    RBS Reward £1,250 £16,700 Transferred to RBS Select account
    Club Lloyds £1,500 £21,200 £3/mth fee
    Halifax Reward £1,500 £21,200 £3/mth fee and no reward that month
    HSBC Advance £1,750 £25,600 Transferred to HSBC's Bank Account

    (1) This is an estimate and will be higher if you have anything taken out of your pay like pension or student loan contributions. (2) No monthly min but must pay in £1,000+ once to get switching bonus.

  • Almost all major banks now charge about 40% interest for overdrafts: double what it costs to borrow on a high street credit card. But a few banks charge less, and some even offer 0% overdrafts – so if you're in the red, have a look at the top overdrafts section below for the cheapest options.

    It's worth noting that you CAN still switch if you're overdrawn – but it's tricky as it depends on the new provider's lending procedure. For example, it could decide not to offer you an overdraft, or could offer you a lower limit. Yet don't let that put you off trying – many banks have eligibility checkers so you can see if you're likely to get the overdraft before applying.

    For more help if you're struggling with your overdraft, see our full Cut overdraft charges guide.

  • credit score illustration

    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're rejected, it could be for one of many reasons, for example: you've got a poor credit record, you've had past dealings with that bank where you've missed payments or the bank doesn't think you'll be a profitable customer.

    But don't assume because one bank doesn't want you, none of the others will. All the same, don't just apply everywhere as it can do more damage to your credit record.

    Instead, you need to do two things – first, ask the bank why it rejected you. Its answer may be vague, but it should tell you if you were rejected because of your credit record.

    Then, check your credit files with the three credit reference agencies to spot any problems or possible errors. Our Credit Report guide tells you how to do this for free and how to correct errors.

    Can't get a standard bank account? Try a basic one

    Sadly, as many as one million people in the UK are rejected from mainstream bank accounts, often due to past credit problems. Yet as long as you can prove your identity and address, you should be able to get a basic account – here, you're not credit-checked as strictly, so most can get one.

    You can do most of the same things as with a normal bank account, except you won't get an overdraft. Read full help and tips in our Basic Bank Accounts guide.

  • Packaged accounts can be great, saving some £100s a year, as for a monthly fee you get a host of insurance policies – typically travel, breakdown and mobile phone insurance.

    But they can also be worthless if you don't need the cover or you could have got it cheaper elsewhere, so check first.

    For more help on whether this type of account is right for you, see our Best Packaged Accounts guide.

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Top bank accounts with freebies for switching

The coronavirus crisis saw banks concentrate on helping existing customers, meaning they weren't offering switch incentives to new customers. However, three banks now offer a switching perk. Read carefully, as you need to meet certain conditions to get the bonuses.

Free £125, plus access to a 1% regular saver

Newbies switching to HSBC's Advance account can get a free £125. To get it, you must open an account and start a switch within 30 days (incl moving 2+ direct debits/standing orders across) and pay in £1,750+/mth. It'll then take up to 20 days from the time your switch completes for the cash to be paid in to your account.

Once your account's open, you can also get a linked 1% regular savings account where you can save up to £250 each month.

How HSBC rates on service

42% GREAT
33% OK
25% POOR
DATE: FEB 2021. VOTERS: 318

To get bonus: Apply and start a switch within 30 days, including at least two direct debits or standing orders
Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,750 to keep the account open (or £10,500 every six months – equates to a £25,600 annual salary)
In-credit interest: None
Who's eligible for offer: Anyone who's not had an HSBC current account (or opened a First Direct current account – they're part of the same group) since 1 Jan 2018 and meets switching criteria
When bonus is paid: Within 20 days of switch completing
Does it have full FSCS savings protection? Yes, but it's shared with First Direct

  • Under the account's terms, you need to pay in £1,750/mth, or pay in £10,500 over a six-month period (good if your earnings are irregular, for example). If you can't meet the minimum pay-in, the account will just change to HSBC's 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.

Arranged overdraft cost: £25 buffer at 0%, then 39.9% EAR variable
Unarranged overdraft cost: 39.9% EAR variable. Maximum total charges £20/mth

Free £100, plus GREAT service and access to a 1% regular saver

First Direct* offers newbies switching to it a free £100. To get it, you'll need to open the account, switch and pay in £1,000+ within three months. The bonus will then be paid within 28 days of meeting the criteria.

Once the account's open, you'll get access to a linked 1% regular saver where you can save up to £250 each month. Plus, First Direct's cracking for service, with 91% ranking it 'great' in our last poll.

How First Direct rates on
service

91% GREAT
6% OK
3% POOR
DATE: FEB 2021. VOTERS: 650

To get bonus: Apply, switch and pay in £1,000+ within three months

Minimum monthly pay-in: None
In-credit interest: None
Who's eligible for offer: Anyone who's not had any account with First Direct before (or opened an HSBC current account since 1 Jan 2018 – they're part of the same group) and meets switching criteria
When bonus is paid: Within 28 days of meeting criteria
Does it have full FSCS savings protection? Yes, but it's shared with HSBC

Arranged overdraft cost: 0% under £250, 39.9% EAR variable above that
Unarranged overdraft cost: 39.9% EAR variable (max £20/mth)

New. Free £100 to switch + monthly rewards incl £5/mth cashback

The Halifax Reward account offers £100 if you open an account and start a switch by 4 May 2021. It's fee-free if you pay in £1,500+/mth but charges a £3/mth fee if you don't. As well as the switching bonus, you can also choose one of the following rewards each year:

- £5/mth cash
- Three monthly digital magazine subscriptions (eg, Cosmo, Esquire)
- Two Rakuten online movie rentals a month
- One Vue cinema ticket and a voucher for half-price popcorn a month

However, to get your monthly reward, you need to pay in your £1,500/mth and stay in credit AND either:

- Spend £500/mth on your debit card, OR
- Keep a balance of £5,000+ in the account (it doesn't earn interest). 

You need to specify in advance which of these conditions you'll meet, and can only change it once a year.

How Halifax rates on service

60% GREAT
27% OK
13% POOR
DATE: FEB 2021. VOTERS: 239

To get bonus: Open account & start a switch by Tue 4 May
Minimum monthly pay-in£1,500/mth, equates to a £21,200 annual salary (£3/mth fee if not met)
In-credit interest: None
Who's eligible for offer: Anyone who hasn't had a switching bonus from Halifax since April 2020. Existing customers need to open and switch into a new, separate Reward account to qualify (you WON'T be eligible if you just upgrade your existing account or if you already have a Reward account)
When bonus is paid: Within three days of the switch completing
Savings protectionShared with Bank of Scotland and BM Savings

  • If you can't pay in £1,500 in any month, you'll be charged £3. You also won't get your chosen reward that month.

  • Those with the Halifax Reward account will be offered the choice of:
     

    • £5/mth cash

    • Three digital magazines from the following selection: Cosmopolitan, Country Life, Elle, Elle Decoration, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Bazaar, House Beautiful, Men's Health, Prima, RedRunner's World and Women's Health. When we checked we found these typically cost about £20/yr – so three magazines would together cost about £5/mth.

    • Two digital movie rentals from Rakuten TV. These typically cost about £5 each.

    • One free Vue cinema ticket per month (which we found typically costs £5-£15, depending on which cinema you go to and when) and a half-price popcorn voucher. Of course, you may not be able to use these now as most cinemas are still closed, but you should be able to use them once cinemas reopen as they're valid for 12 months after being issued.

    Once you choose a reward, it's fixed for the next 12 months and you can't change it during this time.
     

    How do I get the rewards?

    You need to:

    • Pay in £1,500+/mth, AND
    • Stay in credit
    In addition, you need to either:
    • Spend at least £500/mth, every month, on your debit card, OR 
    • Keep at least £5,000 in your account (you won't get any interest on this)

    Importantly, you'll need to pick which of these criteria you will meet – debit card spend or minimum account balance – ahead of time, and won't be able to change this until the following year.

Arranged overdraft cost: 39.9% EAR variable, though some may get a rate of 49.9% EAR variable
Unarranged overdraft cost: 0% EAR variable

Get 12 free bottles from Virgin Wines (valued at £138) + £50 for charity when you switch, plus 2.02% interest on up to £1,000

The Virgin Money current account gives newbies who switch to it a free 12-bottle case of wine from Virgin Wines (please be Drinkaware – non-alcoholic wines are also available). Plus, Virgin will donate £50 on your behalf to any charity you choose from the 13,000 or so on the Virgin Giving website. However, there are a few hoops to jump through to get the perks – see key info below.

Alternatively, if you apply via the Virgin Red website or app, you can get 15,000 Virgin points for switching instead of the wine and charity donation – see FAQs for more on this.

The account's good for savers as it pays 2.02% AER variable on the first £1,000 in your account (there's no minimum pay-in required to get this). It also comes with a linked easy-access savings account paying 0.5% AER variable, though this is dropping to 0.35% from 27 April.

You also get fee-free spending and cash withdrawals overseas – an added boon if you normally travel a lot.

To get bonus: Apply for account online, then within 31 days – complete a switch (including at least two direct debits), download and register for the mobile banking app, and add £1,000 to the linked savings account (and keep it there until you get your Virgin Wines code)
Minimum monthly pay-inNone

In-credit interest: 2.02% AER variable on up to £1,000
Who's eligible for offer: New customers switching to Virgin Money
When bonus is paid: You'll get an email with your Virgin Wines code and details of how to redeem the offer within 14 days of fulfilling the criteria above
Does it have full FSCS savings protectionYes, but it's shared with Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank

  • First, open a Virgin Money current account by applying online, then, within 31 days:
     

    • Complete a full current account switch including two or more direct debits.
    • Deposit at least £1,000 into the linked easy-access savings account.
    • Download and register for the Virgin Money mobile banking app.

    You'll then get a voucher code by email within 14 days of meeting this criteria. You can use the code on the Virgin Wines website and redeem it for a case of 12 alcoholic or non-alcoholic wines. Delivery can take up to five working days, and the code will be valid until 31 January 2022.

     

    You can also use the same code on the Virgin Giving site once you've chosen one of the 13,000+ charities to support. The email with the code will give full instructions on how to make the £50 donation that's part of this offer.

     

    Important. You'll need to keep at least £1,000 in the linked savings account until you get your code.

     

    Please be Drinkaware.

  • Virgin claims the wines included with this deal are worth £138, and if you purchased the bottles separately on the Virgin Wines site we've calculated it would cost £138.88.

    Yet Virgin Wines is currently offering new customers a £20 discount voucher on its site with no sign-up necessary, or £40 if you sign up to its subscription service. This means a true value of about £98-£118. (Though be wary about the subscription as it takes a min £25/mth to use as credit. You can cancel penalty-free at any point.)

     

    However, if you're less discerning about your wine, it's likely you can pick up similar bottles for less from a supermarket, so the value to you may be less – see our cheap wine deals for more.

     

    There's also an option to get a case of non-alcoholic wine, which Virgin Money values at about £75. You'll be able to choose which case you want when you redeem your code.

  • Yes. Virgin told us the offer complies with UK alcohol licensing laws, including Scotland's minimum unit pricing, so it's available across the UK.

  • Virgin Red is a new scheme and the options for spending points are somewhat limited at the moment, making it tricky to calculate their true value. However, the offer is most likely to appeal to those keen on other Virgin companies – eg, 15,000 points could get you £82.50 off a Virgin Voyages/Virgin Atlantic Holidays booking or one of a number of Virgin Experience Days (for more examples, see Virgin Red launch details).

     

    Since the points don't expire, the offer could also be of interest to frequent flyers looking to build their points stash in anticipation of overseas travel resuming – 15,000 points is three quarters of the cost of a Virgin Atlantic return flight between London and New York City (JFK Airport), which costs 20,000 points (plus around £250 in taxes, fees and charges).

     

    How to get the points

     

    First, if you haven't already, you'll need to sign up to Virgin Red. Then, find the offer in the 'Earn points' section of the website/app and follow the link to apply for the Virgin current account online.

     

    Once your account's open, you'll need to do the following within 31 days:

    • Complete a full current account switch including two or more direct debits.
    • Deposit at least £1,000 into the linked easy-access savings account.
    • Download and register for the Virgin Money mobile banking app.

    A code for the points will then be sent to you by email within 14 days of meeting this criteria.

     

    Important. If you apply for the account via Virgin Red, you won't get the wine or charity donation – just the points.

  • If you kept at least £1,000 in this account, over a year you'd earn £20 in interest before any tax – assuming the variable interest rate doesn't change.

Arranged overdraft cost: 19.9%, 29.9% or 39.9% EAR variable, depending on your "financial circumstances"
Unarranged overdraft cost: 19.9%, 29.9% or 39.9% EAR variable. £4 unpaid transaction fee. Unarranged overdraft charges are capped at £40/mth

Top bank accounts that give ongoing cashback

Some accounts give free cash as a percentage of what you pay out in bills, or offer cashback for paying direct debits or logging in to online banking. However, many come with with a fee, so check the cashback you get is more than the fee before going for one of these accounts.

Get ongoing 1-3% cashback on household bills for £2/mth fee

The Santander 123 Lite* gives tiered cashback on certain household bills for a £2 monthly fee. Provided you pay by direct direct, you get:

  • 3% back on water bills
  • 2% back on gas, electricity, Santander home insurance and life protection
  • 1% back on Santander mortgages, phone, broadband, mobile and TV bills and council tax

Cashback is capped to £5/mth in each tier (so a max £15/mth). Those with mid-to-large bills can make around £40-£80/yr after the fee – you can use the calculator on Santander's site to check how much you could earn.

To get cashback, you need to pay in £500+/mth, have two active direct debits, pay your monthly fee and 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.

How Santander rates on service

55% GREAT
31% OK
14% POOR
DATE: FEB 2021. VOTERS: 537

Minimum monthly pay-in£500 (equates to a £6,000 annual salary)
In-credit interest: None
Does it have full FSCS savings protectionYes, but it's shared with Cahoot

  • You only get cashback on direct debit payments made directly to 'qualifying suppliers'. While this includes all the biggest firms we sampled, it's worth checking your council and utility providers are covered before getting the account.

     

    You won't get cashback on any bills paid by recurring card payment (eg, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, some Sim-only plans from providers such as Voxi), or on your TV licence payments.

    If your water bill is included within your council tax bill, you'll only get 1% cashback on the lot (Santander says this is because it's not possible to identify what portion of the payment relates to water).

  • The main Santander 123 account comes with the same cashback on bills, plus 0.3% AER variable interest on up to £20,000 – for a higher £4/mth fee.

    But given that normal easy-access savings pay 0.4% with no fees, and you can get the same cashback from the cheaper 123 Lite account, the main 123 account won't be worth it for most.

Arranged overdraft cost: 0% for four months (only if you switch to this account). Then 39.94% EAR variable
Unarranged overdraft cost: 0% EAR variable

Other accounts that offer cashback

There are a few 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:

  • The Halifax Reward account currently gives £100 to switch, plus a choice of perks, one of which is £5/mth cash paid into your account. To get this, you'll need to pay in £1,500+/mth (there's a £3/mth fee if you don't), stay in credit and either spend at least £500/mth on your debit card OR keep at least £5,000 in your account each day of the month (you won't get any interest on this). You need to pick which of these criteria you'll meet – either debit card spend or minimum account balance – ahead of time, and can't change this until the following year.
  • Open a Barclays Bank Account and you can add its Blue Rewards scheme which, for a £4 monthly fee, will pay you at least £7/mth 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 have a mortgage, loan, home or life insurance with Barclays.

  • The NatWest Reward and RBS Reward accounts pay up to £5/mth cashback, for a £2 monthly fee. You get £1/mth back for logging in on mobile and £4/mth back paying out two or more direct debits of £2+ each. You need to pay in £1,250 a month or more to keep the account.

  • Sign up to Co-op Bank's Everyday Rewards scheme and you can earn up to £5/mth. You'll get £2 each month you pay in £800+, pay out four or more direct debits, stay opted in for paperless statements, log in to online or mobile banking, and stay within your overdraft limit. If you do all that, you can then earn 5p per debit card transaction, up to a maximum £3/mth.

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Top bank accounts that pay savings interest

Sadly, these aren't as attractive as they used to be given the low interest rate environment, with accounts cutting rates almost across the board. We've picked a few accounts out here that pay decent rates on £2,000 or less. None require you to switch to get the interest (though most require a minimum pay-in each month, or to have direct debits going out).

If you have £2,000 to £5,000 to save, there are options are in the table below that'll get you more interest per year than Virgin Money pays, though overall they pay a lower rate.

Get 2.02% interest on up to £1,000 with no minimum pay-in + free wine for switching

The Virgin Money current account pays 2.02% AER variable on the first £1,000 in your account (there's no minimum pay-in required to get this) and comes with a linked easy-access savings account paying 0.5% AER variable, though this is dropping to 0.35% from 27 April.

It also gives fee-free spending and cash withdrawals overseas – an added boon if you normally travel a lot.

Plus, newbies switching to Virgin Money can claim a free 12-bottle case of wine from Virgin Wines (please be Drinkaware – non-alcoholic wines are also available). In addition, Virgin will donate £50 to charity on your behalf. Alternatively, you can get 15,000 Virgin points via Virgin Red instead. See FAQs for full details on both offers.

Minimum monthly pay-in: None
In-credit interest: 2.02% AER variable on up to £1,000
How to open/access: Open online or over the phone (16/17-year-olds can open in some branches) – note that only online applications are eligible for the switch offer
Interest paid: Monthly
Does it have full FSCS savings protectionYes, but it's shared with Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank

  • First, open a Virgin Money current account by applying online, then, within 31 days:
     

    • Complete a full current account switch including two or more direct debits.
    • Deposit at least £1,000 into the linked easy-access savings account.
    • Download and register for the Virgin Money mobile banking app.

    You'll then get a voucher code by email within 14 days of meeting this criteria. You can use the code on the Virgin Wines website and redeem it for a case of 12 alcoholic or non-alcoholic wines. Delivery can take up to five working days, and the code will be valid until 31 January 2022.

     

    You can also use the same code on the Virgin Giving site once you've chosen one of the 13,000+ charities to support. The email with the code will give full instructions on how to make the £50 donation that's part of this offer.

     

    Important. You'll need to keep at least £1,000 in the linked savings account until you get your code.

     

    Please be Drinkaware.

  • Virgin claims the wines included with this deal are worth £138, and if you purchased the bottles separately on the Virgin Wines site we've calculated it would cost £138.88. 
     

    Yet Virgin Wines is currently offering new customers a £20 discount voucher on its site with no sign-up necessary, or £40 if you sign up to its subscription service. This means a true value of about £98-£118. (Though be wary about the subscription as it takes a min £25/mth to use as credit. You can cancel penalty-free at any point.)

     

    However, if you're less discerning about your wine, it's likely you can pick up similar bottles for less from a supermarket, so the value to you may be less – see our cheap wine deals for more.

     

    There's also an option to get a case of non-alcoholic wine, which Virgin Money values at about £75. You'll be able to choose which case you want when you redeem your code. 

  • Yes. Virgin told us the offer complies with UK alcohol licensing laws, including Scotland's minimum unit pricing, so it's available across the UK.

  • Virgin Red is a new scheme and the options for spending points are somewhat limited at the moment, making it tricky to calculate their true value. However, the offer is most likely to appeal to those keen on other Virgin companies – eg, 15,000 points could get you £82.50 off a Virgin Voyages/Virgin Atlantic Holidays booking or one of a number of Virgin Experience Days (for more examples, see Virgin Red launch details).

     

    Since the points don't expire, the offer could also be of interest to frequent flyers looking to build their points stash in anticipation of overseas travel resuming – 15,000 points is three quarters of the cost of a Virgin Atlantic return flight between London and New York City (JFK Airport), which costs 20,000 points (plus around £250 in taxes, fees and charges).

     

    How to get the points

     

    First, if you haven't already, you'll need to sign up to Virgin Red. Then, find the offer in the 'Earn points' section of the website/app and follow the link to apply for the Virgin current account online.

     

    Once your account's open, you'll need to do the following within 31 days:

    • Complete a full current account switch including two or more direct debits.
    • Deposit at least £1,000 into the linked easy-access savings account.
    • Download and register for the Virgin Money mobile banking app.

    A code for the points will then be sent to you by email within 14 days of meeting this criteria.

     

    Important. If you apply for the account via Virgin Red, you won't get the wine or charity donation – just the points.

  • If you kept at least £1,000 in this account, over a year you'd earn £20 in interest before any tax – assuming the variable interest rate doesn't change.

  • There's no set limit, though Virgin Money told us you'd need to have a good reason to open further accounts. When pressed, it suggested that opening another account to get more interest wouldn't be considered a good reason, but opening a joint account with your partner as you liked your individual account would be.

     

    You'll only be able to get one wine offer, even if you open and switch two accounts.

Arranged overdraft cost: 19.9%, 29.9% or 39.9% EAR variable, depending on your "financial circumstances"
Unarranged overdraft cost: 19.9%, 29.9% or 39.9% EAR variable. £4 unpaid transaction fee. Unarranged overdraft charges are capped at £40/mth

2% interest on £1,500 fixed but only for a year, 0.25% afterwards

Open a Nationwide FlexDirect* account and you'll get an interest rate of 2% AER fixed for a year on up to £1,500 (so max interest of £29.70). To get the interest, you need to pay in £1,000+/mth. The rate drops to 0.25% after a year, so look elsewhere then to see if it can be beaten.

How Nationwide rates on
service    

75% GREAT
17% OK
8% POOR
DATE: FEB 2021. VOTERS: 518

Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,000/mth to get interest (equates to £12,400 annual salary)
In-credit interest: 2% AER fixed on up to £1,500 for 12 months, 0.25% AER variable on up to £1,500 in subsequent years
Who's eligible for offer: Anyone who hasn't had a FlexDirect account before
Arranged overdraft cost: 0% for newbies in year one; 39.9% EAR variable after (limit depends on credit score) 
Does it have full FSCS savings protection? Yes

  • You just won't be paid any interest that month.

  • For the first year, your overdraft will cost nothing as long as you stay within your limit and you haven't had a FlexDirect account before. After that, you pay 39.9% EAR variable. So if you had a limit of £1,500 and owed £1,000, you'd pay £28.91 per month for your overdraft.

     

    There are no additional charges for the overdraft, not even if you go over your overdraft limit, though Nationwide says it'll try to stop transactions that take you over the limit. 

     

    If you're switching to this account with an existing overdraft, you could 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.

  • You can have two accounts, and can even get two lots of interest – though one of your accounts must be joint. Nationwide says 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.

Arranged overdraft cost: Year one: 0%. Years two+: 39.9% EAR variable
Unarranged overdraft cost: N/A (Nationwide will try not to let you go over your overdraft limit)

Other interest-paying current accounts

It's not just these accounts that offer decent interest rates. A few others give you varying levels of 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.

For comparison, the top easy-access savings deal open to all pays 0.4%.

TABLE_CELL_STYLE

IN-CREDIT INTEREST (AER) MAX
INTEREST /YR (1)
MIN MONTHLY PAY-IN HOW MANY CAN YOU HAVE?
Bank of Scotland Vantage 0.6% on up to £3,999.99 and 1.5% on balance between £4,000-£5,000
£38.90 £1,000 (2) 3
Club Lloyds 0.6% on up to £3,999.99 and 1.5% on balance between £4,000-£5,000.
£38.90 £1,500 (3) 2 (2nd must be joint)
(1) Before any tax if you always held the max balance+. (2) You need 2+ direct debits going out to get the interest, and must also add the 'Vantage' feature to your account. (3) 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.

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Top accounts if you're overdrawn

Overdrafts are debts, and often very expensive debts at that. However, during the coronavirus crisis, all banks need to help customers who are struggling with overdraft interest. See our financial products coronavirus guide for what help might be available to you.

Don't just tackle the symptoms of your overdraft, though – it's important to try and pay it off. See our full Cut overdraft costs guide for tips on how to do this while also cutting costs.

These accounts could help you cut costs over the long term, though do remember that you're not guaranteed to get an overdraft when you apply. We've included links in these reviews to banks' overdraft eligibility checkers, which should help you find out if it's likely, before you apply.

£250 0% overdraft, plus free £100 for switching and GREAT service

If you just dip in and out of your overdraft, the First Direct* account should cover you for free, as it offers many a £250 0% overdraft – though it's not guaranteed. Above that you'll pay 39.9% EAR variable. Try First Direct's eligibility checker before applying to see if it might give you an overdraft.

Plus, it currently gives newbies switching to it a free £100. To get it, you'll need to apply, switch and pay in £1,000+ within three months.

First Direct is also a cracking account for service, with 91% ranking it 'great' in our last poll.

How First Direct rates on
service

91% GREAT
6% OK
3% POOR
DATE: FEB 2021. VOTERS: 650

To get bonus: Apply, switch and pay in £1,000+ within three months

Who's eligible for offer: Anyone who's not had any account with First Direct before (or opened an HSBC current account since 1 Jan 2018 – they're part of the same group) and meets switching criteria

When bonus is paid: Within 28 days of meeting criteria

Minimum monthly pay-inNone
In-credit interest: None
Does it have full FSCS savings protection? Shared with HSBC

Arranged overdraft cost: 0% under £250, 39.9% EAR variable above that
Unarranged overdraft cost: 39.9% EAR variable (max £20/mth)

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

The Nationwide FlexDirect* account offers a year's 0% overdraft, as long as you haven't had a FlexDirect account before. It's important that you see this as a respite to try to clear your overdraft, as you start paying a hefty 39.9% EAR variable for it once you've had the account for a year.

There's no guaranteed overdraft limit, and what you get is subject to a credit check, so if you're switching to this account you may not be offered one as large as your existing overdraft. But you can use Nationwide's eligibility checker before applying to see whether you might be able to get an overdraft with it.

How Nationwide rates on
service

75% GREAT
17% OK
8% POOR
DATE: FEB 2021. VOTERS: 518

Minimum monthly pay-in: None (£1,000/mth to get interest)
In-credit interest: 2% in year one on up to £1,500, 0.25% on up to £1,500 after
Arranged overdraft cost: 0% for newbies in year one; 39.9% EAR variable after (limit depends on credit score)
Does it have full FSCS savings protection? Yes

  • For the first year, your overdraft will cost nothing as long as you stay within your limit and you haven't had a FlexDirect account before. After that, you pay 39.9% EAR variable. So if you had a limit of £1,500 and owed £1,000, you'd pay £28.91 per month for your overdraft.

     

    There are no additional charges for the overdraft, not even if you go above your overdraft limit, though Nationwide says it'll try to stop transactions that take you over the limit.

     

    If you're switching to this account with an existing overdraft, you could 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.

  • To get interest you need to pay in £1,000/mth, though you only get interest when you're in credit.

  • Nothing happens, you just won't be paid any interest that month.

  • You can definitely have two accounts, and can even get two lots of interest – though one of your accounts must be joint. Nationwide says 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.

Arranged overdraft cost: Year one: 0%. Years two+: 39.9% EAR variable
Unarranged overdraft cost: N/A (Nationwide will try not to let you go over your overdraft limit)

Easy-to-control overdraft with a lowish rate, plus no extra charges if you bust your limit

While it doesn't offer a 0% overdraft, app-based Starling Bank* has one of the lowest standard overdraft costs of 15% EAR interest (though if your credit history's poor, you could be charged 25% or 35% EAR). If you qualify for one of the lower rates, this is still a good deal, especially compared with other overdraft rates which tend to be bunched at 40%.

It's also easy to control your overdraft limit in the app, and Starling will send you real-time notifications when you use your debit card and when you're about to go into, or are using, your overdraft.

Use Starling's eligibility checker before applying to see whether you are likely to qualify for an overdraft with it – though it only asks a few basic questions, so see the result as an indication only, rather than a sure thing.

How Starling Bank rates on
service

93% GREAT
4% OK
3% POOR
DATE: FEB 2021. VOTERS: 110

Minimum monthly pay-in: None
In-credit interest: 0.05% AER variable on up to £85,000
Does it have full FSCS savings protection? Yes

  • As well as providing spending notifications and insights, the app offers various budgeting features to help you manage your money. It also lets you split bills with others, round up transactions for savings and deposit cheques. For more on app-based bank accounts, see our Digital Banking guide.

  • The debit card is a Mastercard, so you'll get the Mastercard rate, which you can check here. There are no fees for using your card abroad, making it a top pick for overseas use.

  • If you apply for an overdraft, Starling will run a full credit check on you. If you apply for the account without an overdraft, it'll just run an ID check on you, which won't appear to lenders on your credit report (though you'll be able to see it).

     

    However, once you've opened the account, whether with or without an overdraft, it will appear on your credit report as an active account – and other lenders will be able to see it.

Arranged overdraft cost: 15%, 25% or 35% EAR variable. The rate you get depends on your credit history
Unarranged overdraft cost: None

Top bank account for insurance

Below is our top-pick packaged bank account which, for a monthly fee, offers various insurance perks. Always check if it's cheaper to buy the insurance elsewhere before applying, and for more options see Packaged Bank Accounts.

£500+/yr of travel, mobile & breakdown cover for £156/yr 

Nationwide's FlexPlus* account is a cracking deal – IF you use the features. For £13/mth, you get worldwide family travel insurance, including winter sports, up to your 70th birthday, though you can pay a premium of £65/yr to keep this cover if you're older. The travel insurance provides some limited coronavirus-related cover, but it's worth checking the terms carefully before booking as exclusions apply.

You also get family smartphone insurance and UK and Europe breakdown cover for the account holder(s). We've calculated that all the insurance could be worth £500+/yr for a family of four (see FAQs).

This account also gives fee-free spending and cash withdrawals overseas – an added boon if you normally travel a lot.

How Nationwide rates on
service

75% GREAT
17% OK
8% POOR
DATE: FEB 2021. VOTERS: 518

Monthly fee: £13
Min monthly pay-in: None
In-credit interest: None
Does it have full FSCS savings protection? Yes

  • Mobile cover for all the family's smartphones. The cheapest smartphone insurance for an iPhone costs £56-£120/yr, depending on the model. If there are four of you, that's £224-£480's worth.


    World family travel insurance (incl winter sports and golf cover). The cheapest family cover we've found elsewhere is £65/yr (£125/yr incl winter sports), plus £50/yr for golf cover. If any of you are aged 65+, it'll be even more.


    European breakdown cover. Covers account holder(s) in any car, and anyone driving their car with permission. Similar breakdown cover we've found elsewhere is from £40/yr.

     

    A family of four needing it all could pay £500+/yr buying all the comparable insurances separately. Do bear in mind that the price of individual cover will vary with the number of people in your family being covered and their ages.

  • It allows multiple trips worldwide and includes winter sports, business, wedding and golf cover (includes golf fees).

     

    It covers 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.

    It also has some coronavirus-related cover – but it's worth checking the terms carefully before booking as exclusions apply.

     

    See the full travel insurance policy wording (as well as Nationwide's coronavirus travel insurance FAQs) for more details.

  • If you're 70 or over, you'll need to pay a £65/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.

  • It covers repair or replacement after theft, loss, damage or breakdown, insuring each handset up to the value of £1,500. The excess is a maximum of £120 for an iPhone.

     

    Unusually, it covers the phones of your partner and children too, 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. You can make a maximum of four claims per year.

     

    See the mobile insurance policy document for more details.

  • It's for the UK and Europe, including home assistance and onward travel. 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.

     

    You can also register one vehicle per account holder, and anyone driving that vehicle with your permission will be covered.

     

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

Arranged overdraft cost: 39.9% EAR variable
Unarranged overdraft cost: N/A (Nationwide will try not to let you go over your overdraft limit)

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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 is in your account.

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

Want to complain about your bank account?

If your bank has 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...

Bank account FAQs

Here are some common bank account related queries. If you've got a question we've not answered below or in the text above, suggest a question in the MSE Forum.

  • When sending money to a different account, many banks now use the Confirmation of Payee scheme, which checks whether the name of the account you are sending money to matches up to the sort code and account number you type in. If the name doesn't match, the bank will let you know so you can amend any errors before making the payment.

    If your bank isn't signed up, it'll be using the old system, where the only information it'll use is the sort code and account number, meaning if these details are wrongly entered the cash could end up in a stranger's bank account.

    If you end up sending money to the wrong account, here's what you need to do and what happens then:

    • Contact your bank straightaway to let it know about the mistake. While banks can't stop payments that have already been made, contacting it as soon as possible will help speed up the process of sorting it out. It’s a good idea to keep a note of all correspondence you have with the bank and also to make note of exactly when the error was made. If you know the mistake you made (eg, you used the wrong sort code), then make a note of that too.

    • Your bank will act within two working days of you telling it. And it doesn't matter if you discovered your mistake after a week or even a year... though it's good financial sense to keep an eye on your account(s) to make sure your payments have reached the right recipient.

    • As long as there are no disputes, your money will be returned within 20 working days. Where there's clear evidence of a genuine mistake, your bank will contact the receiving bank on your behalf requesting that the money isn't mistakenly spent by the person who accidentally received it, and you'll get your money back.

    If there are issues, eg, if the person you accidentally sent it to refuses to return it, you'll be notified of the outcome of the bank's investigation within 20 working days from the point that you let it know.

  • As well as offering in-credit interest or bonuses for switching, some current accounts now pay rewards for holding the account and meeting certain criteria, such as paying in a set amount each month or having direct debits.

    A few of these, such as the Halifax Reward Account and Co-op Bank's Everyday Rewards scheme, are paid with basic-rate tax already deducted. Others, including Barclays Blue Rewards, are paid without any tax removed.

    These payments don't count as savings income for tax purposes and instead are classed as 'annual' or 'miscellaneous' payments. This means that the rewards don't count towards your personal savings allowance, and they're liable to be taxed.

    If you're a non-taxpayer, you should claim back any tax taken using the R40 form. Higher and additional-rate taxpayers may need to pay more via tax returns.

  • In the UK, old, now-dormant accounts hold millions of pounds that lay unclaimed – and if you've switched several times, you may still have old accounts that were never closed.

    It's straightforward to get it back – we've full details in the Reclaim Forgotten Cash guide.

  • A direct debit is where you give permission to a company to take money from your bank account, and the amount can vary depending on what you're paying for. You have very little control over how much money is taken, though the company you're paying will tend to send you a statement informing you of how much will be taken and when. And the direct debit guarantee means you're entitled to a refund if there are any errors in the payment.

    A standing order is an instruction from you, to your bank, to pay a fixed amount of money to an account. You can send a standing order to any account, bill, mortgage payment or organisation. You have full control over how much and how frequent the payments should be, as you set them up yourself.

    A recurring payment (or continuous payment authority – CPA) is where you give a company your card details, and they use them to set up a regular or continuous payment from your card. You'll know if it's a recurring payment if you give the company your 16-digit card number, rather than your bank account number and sort code.

    They're usually used if you're paying for a subscription, like a TV streaming service or recipe box. With these payments you have very little control over how much or when they'll take out your money, and you usually won't be informed that the company will be taking a payment.

    However, you can ask your bank to cancel them, as well as asking the retailer if you want to end the service. See Recurring Payments.

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