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Best Bank Accounts

Free £75 cash, £185 in vouchers & more to switch

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Martin

Updated Weekly

Top bank accounts

If you're unhappy with your bank account, don't just groan, as switching is easy – and you can get up to £200 in cash or £185 in vouchers as banks lust for your custom. This guide explains it all and compares all the best buys for you.

How does bank switching work?

Seven tips to find your best account

Not every bank account is right for you so use this these tips to nail YOUR best.

  • How to get around banks' minimum pay-in requirements to get the perks

  • Which pays more? Free intro cash bonuses or savings interest?

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

  • All the top bank accounts require you to pass a not-too-harsh credit check

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

  • Avoid going into your unauthorised overdraft or banks turn nasty

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

Top bank accounts with perks for switching

There are some excellent deals below but you typically need to meet key conditions to get the full perks, so read carefully.

First Direct

Top for service + choice of £150 Expedia vch, £170 Bose headphones, online course & more + 0% overdraft

First Direct*

If customer service is crucial, this is the account for you as it has won every bank service poll we've ever done, with 91% of its customers rating it 'great' in our latest.

First Direct* offers switchers a choice of claiming a £150 Expedia voucher, a gadget such as £170 Bose headphones or a £140 Fitbit, or an online self-development course which normally costs £150-£1,000 (see key questions for full list).

You'll also get a £250 0% overdraft, and can open a linked 5% regular saver.

Need-to-knows
  • To get the switching incentive 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.
  • You'll receive an email within 14 days of meeting the criteria above containing a registration code and instructions for how to register. Once registered, you'll be emailed an order code within five days. Then, choose your freebie within 90 days of getting your code.
  • If you have any problems with the switching process, you can contact First Direct's account opening team on 0800 24 24 24.
  • You're not eligible for the bonus if you've ever had an account with First Direct.
  • This account has a £10 monthly fee after six months, but this is waived each month you pay in £1,000, have an average monthly balance of £1,000 or hold selected other accounts with First Direct.
  • 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

91% Great

7% okay

2% poor

Date: Feb 2018 Voters: 919

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,000 (equates to an annual salary of £12,675) to avoid £10/mth fee unless you meet selected other criteria
  • In-credit interest: None
  • App: You can download it for iOS (rated 4.8/5) and Android (rated 3.6/5).
  • 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

What can I get for switching?

You can choose between:

- £150 Expedia voucher.
- Bose on-ear wireless headphones – the cheapest we found were around £170.
- Bose SoundLink Mini II bluetooth speaker (only avail via our link) – the cheapest we found was around £130.
- Fitbit Charge 2 Special Edition – the cheapest we found was around £140.
- Bose Soundsport wireless headphones – the cheapest we found were around £130.
- Amazon Echo Spot – the cheapest we found was around £120.
- Polaroid OneStep 2 i-Type camera – the cheapest we found was around £95.
- One of 250+ online self-development courses incl cooking, graphic design or photography. They're with Blue Mountain training, which sells them for £150-£1k, though you may be able to get similar courses for less elsewhere.

How do I get the switching incentive? Provided you've never had any sort of account with First Direct before (including mortgages and savings), then just open the account and start your switch. You've three months to complete it and pay in £1,000.

You'll receive an email within 14 days of switching containing a registration code and instructions for how to register and choose your gift. You then need to register and you'll be emailed an order code within five days. Then, choose your gift within 90 days of getting your code.

If you choose a gadget, it'll be sent to the address you registered with within 30 days of choosing it.

How does the Expedia voucher work? It can be used on package holidays, hotel bookings or activities. You'll receive an e-voucher by email, and need to use the voucher in a single transaction – if you make a booking of less than £150, you'll lose the rest. You need to redeem the voucher by 1 July 2019, for travel before 31 December 2019.

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.

Do I need to close my existing account? Yes, to get the switching bonus you'll need to complete a full switch using the Current Account Switch Service, which automatically closes the account you're switching from and moves across all payments in and out.

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? You can sign up to First Direct's Visa Offers scheme, which gives tailored cashback deals at selected retailers based on your spending habits. Once signed up, cashback is paid automatically within five working days of each valid spend.

M&S Bank Current Account

Good for M&S shoppers: Free £125 gift card which can be boosted by £5/mth for a year

M&S Bank*

If you're an M&S shopper, this account could be worth a go. The M&S Bank* Current Account gives new switchers a £125 M&S gift card, with no minimum pay-in, plus reward points when you shop in M&S. You also get a decent £100 0% overdraft, and access to a linked 5% regular saver.

As an extra perk, you can get another £5 added to the gift card each month for the first year when you deposit £1,000/mth. This means that you could get up to £185 for switching to M&S and keeping the account for at least 12 months.

Need-to-knows
  • To get the £125 gift card you must open the account and fully switch your account using M&S Bank's switching service within three months, including two or more active direct debits (M&S Bank classes an active direct debit as one that's paid out in the last 13 months).
  • Once you've switched, you'll get the bonus within a month.
  • There's no minimum monthly pay-in to get the £125, but if you want the extra £5/mth you must pay in £1,000 each month, and keep 2+ direct debits active.
  • M&S Bank has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.
Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: None (£1,000 for £5 monthly payment)
  • In-credit interest: None
  • App: You can download it for iOS (rated 4.2/5) and Android (rated 1.5/5).
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 0% up to £100, 15.9% EAR above that
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £50 buffer, 15.9% EAR interest. M&S Bank only allows you to go £50 over your overdraft limit.
Key questions

What's the deal with reward points – how much are they worth? If you spend using your debit card on this account, you'll get one point for every £1 spent in M&S, or in its online store. You get one £1 voucher for every 100 points, and M&S sends these to you quarterly. Bear in mind that this does mean you'd need to spend £500 at M&S just to get a £5 voucher.

How does the overdraft work? If you're accepted to get an account, M&S give you an automatic £500 overdraft – though you may get more if your credit score's good enough.

The first £100 is interest free, and interest of 15.9% EAR applies afterwards. M&S doesn't charge overdraft fees, but at the same time, doesn't let you go more than £50 over your overdraft limit (except if payments are guaranteed).

When do I get the £125 gift card? If accepted, you'll need to call M&S Bank or go into a branch within three months to complete your switch. Once you've completed the switch, the gift card willl be posted to you within a calendar month. You won't get the bonus if you've previously switched a current account to M&S Bank.

How do I get the £5 monthly payment? As long as you've switched your account, including at least two active direct debits, and pay in £1,000 each month, you'll get an additional £5 credited to your gift card every month for the first 12 calendar months after receiving your initial bonus. The card will be topped up by the 15th of the following month.

Do I need to close my existing account? Yes, to get the switching bonus you'll need to complete a full switch, which includes the closure of the account you're switching from. If you use the Current Account Switch Service, this is done automatically, and all payments in and out are moved across to the new account.

My current bank isn't signed up to the Current Account Switch Service. Can I still get the switching bonus? Yes, you can. Most bank switching offers are only available if you use CASS to switch to them, but M&S Bank has made an exception for this offer. This means that Norwich & Peterborough customers whose accounts are being closed will be able to get the switching bonus. Just complete a manual switch, including two active direct debits, for the £125 gift card, and deposit at least £1,000 per month for the extra £5/mth.

Halifax Reward Bank Account

Good for quick cash: Free £75 paid before your switch completes, plus £3/mth

Halifax Reward

Apply to switch to the Halifax Reward account and you'll get £75. It's the quickest bank to pay its bonus, promising it by the time your switch completes. You can also get ongoing rewards of £3 a month if you meet minimum pay-in and direct debit criteria, so could get £111 including the switching boon if you keep the account for a year.

Need-to-knows
  • You'll get the bonus paid into your account before the switch has completed.
  • To get the £3/mth reward, you need to pay in £750 each month, remain in credit, and pay out at least two direct debits.
  • Beware the overdraft – its daily fees can add up, plus if you're overdrawn, even only for a couple of days, you won't get the £3 that month. Do note though that if you switch, you get six months with no planned overdraft fees.
  • You won't be able to get the bonus if you've received any incentive for switching to Halifax since January 2012, or if you're switching from a Bank of Scotland account (the pair are part of the same group). Existing customers can get it by switching a non-Halifax account into their existing Reward account.
  • Halifax shares its £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee with the rest of the HBOS group, so don't hold more than £85,000 across the group.

How Halifax rates on service

51% Great

36% okay

13% poor

Date: Feb 2018 Voters: 436

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: None (£750 for £3 monthly payment)
  • In-credit 'interest': £3/mth
  • App: Download for iOS (rated 4.8/5) or Android (rated 4.4/5)
  • Arranged overdraft cost: No fees for 6mths if you switch. £6.99 buffer then charged 1p/day per £7 borrowed.
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: None (typically you're only able to go into one by tens of pounds "for a couple of days")
Key questions

What if I can't pay in £750 every month? If you miss a month's pay-in, you don't earn the £3. You won't face any other penalties.

What if I don't have two direct debits? As long as you use Halifax's current account switching service you'll still earn the £75 switching bonus, but without two direct debits, you won't earn the £3 a month reward. But you could consider setting up direct debits, for example to charity, to get the reward.

What about tax on the interest? We've called it interest, but it doesn't work in the way other accounts do, as the amount you have in the account doesn't change how much you get.

HMRC tells us it's not counted as savings income and therefore not covered under the personal savings allowance, which allows basic-rate taxpayers to earn £1,000 interest a year without paying tax on it (higher rate can earn £500 interest a year with no tax; additional rate get no allowance).

This means that Halifax pays you with basic-rate tax deducted. So if you're a non or higher-rate taxpayer, you should claim the extra 'interest' back using the R40 form, or pay more via tax returns (HMRC classes the 'interest' as income).

Do I need to close my existing account? Yes, to get the switching bonus you'll need to complete a full switch using the Current Account Switch Service, which automatically closes the account you're switching from and moves across all payments in and out.

Are there any other perks? You can earn cashback at some retailers, though you need to have online/mobile banking to do this. Halifax's Cashback Extras means that if you shop at certain selected retailers, including Argos, Homebase and Body Shop, you'll get some cashback if you use your Halifax debit card.

You need to have online or mobile banking, as you need to activate your cashback offers before using them. Cashback offers are tailored, so not every customer will get the same offers.

Top bank accounts that pay savings interest

Sadly, these aren't as attractive as they used to be given the low interest rate environment, but here are the top deals as they stand.

Nationwide

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

Nationwide FlexDirect

Open a 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. You can also open a linked 5% regular saver with this account.

Need-to-knows
  • 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 (incl two direct debits) you will both receive £100. You can be paid for referring up to 5 friends per tax year.
  • You can't get the 5% interest rate if you've ever held a FlexDirect account before.
  • This account also offers a 12mth 0% overdraft (as long as you haven't had a FlexDirect account before), 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

77% Great

18% okay

5% poor

Date:Feb 2018 Voters: 971

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,000/mth to get interest (equates to an annual salary of £12,675)
  • In-credit interest: 5% AER fixed in year one on up to £2,500, 1% in subsequent years
  • App: You can download it for iOS (rated 4.8/5) and Android (rated 4/5).
  • Arranged overdraft cost: Year one: 0%; years two+: £10 buffer, then 50p/day
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: Under £10: 50p/day, over £10: £5/day (max £35/mth), £5 paid/unpaid item fee (max £15/mth). Total unarranged fees capped at £50/mth.
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.

Are there any other perks? You can sign up to Nationwide's Simply Rewards scheme, which gives tailored cashback deals at selected retailers based on your spending habits. Once signed up, cashback is paid automatically within five working days of each valid spend.

Tesco Bank

3% on £3,000 (+ trick to get it on £12k) + boosted Clubcard pts

Tesco Bank

The Tesco Bank Current Account guarantees at least 3% AER variable on up to £3,000 until 1 April 2019 – though you have to pay out three direct debits per statement month on each account to get the interest.

You can open two accounts per person so if you're a couple it means you can open four, earning a decent 3% on up to £12,000.

As an extra perk, you get Clubcard points on debit card spending. The number you can earn in Tesco are quadrupled until 1 April 2019, from the usual 1 per £4 to 1 per £1, good if you're a Tesco shopper. For example, if you spend £80/week in Tesco, you get 80 points per week (4,160/yr). That's worth £41.60 in normal Clubcard points, but you can boost that to £166, and this is on top of normal Clubcard points.

Need-to-knows
  • To get the interest, you'll need to pay in £750 and pay out at least three direct debits each month – and direct debits to a Tesco Bank savings account don't count. Tesco Bank counts a month as a statement, not a calendar, month.
  • You can open two of these accounts, so it's possible to earn 3% on up to £6,000 if you take advantage of that.
  • If you have two Tesco Bank current accounts, it's possible to cycle the £750 minimum monthly pay-in between the two.
  • On top of normal Clubcard points earned in Tesco, you get one point per £1 spent in Tesco until 1 April 2019 (then one per £4 spent in Tesco), and one point for every £8 spent elsewhere.
  • The interest rate is guaranteed at a minimum of 3% AER until 1 April 2019.
  • Tesco Bank has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

How Tesco Bank rates on service

57% Great

32% okay

11% poor

Date: Feb 2018 Voters: 115

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £750
  • In-credit interest: 3% AER variable under £3,000. Nothing above.
  • App: You can download it for iOS (rated 4.7/5) and Android (rated 3.8/5).
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 18.9% EAR
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: 18.9% EAR; £5 paid item fee; £5 unpaid item fee (max £75 per statement)
Key questions

How much interest can I earn? You can earn 3% AER on the first £3,000 you have in the account, but no interest on anything over that amount. Put and keep the full £3,000 in, and you'll get £88.80.

How many Clubcard points could I get? On top of your normal Clubcard points, you also earn 1 point per £1 spent in Tesco until 1 April 2019 and 1 point per £8 spent elsewhere on your Tesco debit card. We've crunched the numbers to see how much this could be worth, assuming you take advantage of Clubcard Boost to get 4x value for your points.

Annual spend £3,000 £5,000 £10,000 £20,000
Number of Clubcard points earned (1) 1,030 1,720 3,440 6,870
Value of Clubcard points (2) £41 £68 £137 £275
(1) Assumes 25% of spend in Tesco and 75% elsewhere. (2) Assumes you use Clubcard Boost to get 4x value

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.

For comparison, the top easy-access savings deal open to all pays 1.33%.
In-credit interest (AER) Max
interest /yr (1)
Min monthly pay-in How many can you have?
TSB Classic Plus (2) 5% on up to £1,500 £74 £500 2 (2nd must be joint)
Bank of Scotland Vantage 1.5% on up to £5,000 £74.50 £1,000 (3) 3
Club Lloyds 1.5% on up to £5,000 £74.50 £1,500 (4) 2 (2nd must be joint)
(1) Before any tax if you always held the max balance+. (2) Warning. TSB is currently not accepting applications for its current account due to IT problems. We'll update this guide when applications re-open. (3) You need 2+ direct debits going out to get the interest, and must also add the 'Vantage' feature to your account. (4) 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 bank accounts that give ongoing bills cashback

Some accounts give free cash as a percentage of what you pay out in bills, though many come with a fee, so check you spend enough on bills for it to make financial sense.

Santander

Best if you've smaller bills or a Santander mortgage: 1-3% cashback on bills

Santander 123 Lite*

The Santander 123 Lite* gives 1-3% cashback on different bills, including council tax, water and energy, as long as you pay by direct debit, for a £1 monthly fee. If you have a Santander mortgage, you could also get up to £10/mth cashback on it, which gives seriously good returns on this account.

If you have high bills and don't have a Santander mortgage, the NatWest account below could beat this one, as it pays a flat 2% cashback on the same bills, though comes with a higher £2/mth fee. Even then it's close, with our high-bills scenario showing Natwest giving £135/yr cashback compared with Santander's £132.

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 & life protection, 1% on water, council tax and Santander mortgage payments (max £10/mth on mortgage), as long as you pay 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.
  • You also get access to a linked 5% regular saver.
  • The main Santander 123 account comes with the same cashback but has a higher £5 monthly fee. It also pays 1.5% AER variable interest on up to £20,000, though the higher fee means its likely beaten by getting the 123 Lite and the top easy-access savings account.
  • 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

61% Great

31% okay

8% poor

Date: Feb 2018 Voters: 1,097

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £500 (equates to £6,000 annual salary)
  • In-credit interest: None
  • App: You can download it for iOS (rated 2.2/5) and Android (rated 4.1/5).
  • 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). No fees from 10 July 2018.
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 £66 a year, average users £138 and high users £252, assuming they have a Santander mortgage. Without a Santander mortgage, low users would be up by £36 a year, average users £72 and high users £132.

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, you should still be 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.

Natwest Reward Account logo

Best for higher bills: 2% cashback on bills

NatWest Reward*

If you don't have a Santander mortgage and have high monthly bills, NatWest's Reward Account* could beat the Santander account above. For a slightly higher £2 monthly fee, it will pay you a straight 2% cashback on the same bills, including council tax, water and energy (but excluding mortgage payments), as long as you pay by direct debit.

Need-to-knows
  • You can get 2% cashback on council tax, gas, electricity, water, home phone, mobile, TV and broadband, as long as you pay by direct debit.
  • There's a minimum pay-in of £1,500 per month to earn rewards, and you also need to register for online or mobile banking.
  • 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 Caffθ Nero or a donation to one of 10 charities including Barnardo's, Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and NSPCC.
  • As an added perk, you won't be charged any fees for overseas spending until 31 Aug 2018, though a 2.75% fee (min £1) will apply after this date and you'll still pay hefty fees for overseas cash withdrawals.
  • Sister bank RBS* also offers the same account.
  • RBS and NatWest both have the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

How NatWest rates on service

42% great

39% OK

19% poor

Date: Feb 2018 Voters: 490

Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,500 (equates to an annual salary of £21,500)
  • In-credit interest: None
  • App: Download for iOS (rated 4.2/5) or Android (rated 4.5/5)
  • Arranged overdraft cost: £10 buffer, then £6/mth fee plus 19.89% EAR interest
  • Unarranged overdraft cost:£10 buffer, then £8/day fee (max nine per month) plus £8 unpaid item fee (max one per month). Maximum total charges £80/month.
Key questions

Can I get the RBS account if I don't live in Scotland? You can indeed - anyone in the UK can open an RBS account, and you can also use NatWest branches across the UK to manage your account.

What if I can't pay in £1,500 a month? If you don't meet the minimum pay-in requirements, RBS will contact you to say you don't meet the account criteria, and will eventually move your account to a free Select Account, which doesn't offer any cashback.

Is there a catch with the cashback? You 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 fuels other than gas or electric, such as heating 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 £30 a year, average users £66 and high users £135.

Plus, our poll showed that some people spend even more on their bills. If 1.5% of respondents were to use this account, they'd stack up annual cashback of at least £216.

As long as the bills are for personal (not business) household use, there is no cap on the cashback amount you can earn, eg, if you pay a child's mobile phone bill from the account as well as your main mobile and electricity bills, you'll also earn 2% back on those, which could boost your earnings.

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

Other accounts that offer rewards

While they don't make it into our top picks above, 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:

  • Sign up to Co-op Bank's Everyday Rewards scheme and you can earn up to £5.50/mth. 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, though getting this isn't worth spending more than you usually would.
  • 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 over the 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/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 hold selected products with Barclays. For full details of the scheme, see our Barclays Blue Rewards news story.

Top bank accounts for insurance

There are some good deals below but check you'll use the perks or whether it's cheaper to buy the insurance elsewhere before applying.

Nationwide

Up to £700 of travel, mobile & breakdown cover for £156

Nationwide FlexPlus* Monthly fee £13 (£156/yr)

Nationwide's* FlexPlus account is a cracking deal – 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), family smartphone insurance and UK and Europe breakdown cover.

You also get 3% AER variable interest on up to £2,500, meaning you could earn £74 in interest each year.

Need-to-knows
  • The travel insurance covers worldwide trips (including golf, business and winter sports) for you, your partner and dependent children at the same address up to your 75th birthday. It also covers those under 19 (under 22 if in full-time education) who travel independently.
  • The mobile cover includes loss, theft, damage or breakdown, for all phones owned by you, your partner and dependent children 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.
  • We've calculated that all the insurances this account offers could be worth £700 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 £74/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 (incl two direct debits) you will both receive £100. You can be paid for referring up to five friends per tax year.
Stats box
  • In-credit interest: 3% AER variable up to £2,500
  • Min monthly pay-in: None
  • App: You can download it for iOS (rated 4.8/5) and Android (rated 4/5).
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 3 months fee-free, £250 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/mth)
Key questions

What does the worldwide family travel insurance cover? It allows multiple trips worldwide and includes winter sports, business, wedding and golf cover (includes golf fees). The cheapest you could normally get worldwide family travel insurance for is £60, but for a top value policy like this you could pay £180 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 75 or over, 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. You can make a maximum of four claims per year. See Mobile Insurance for more details.

What does the breakdown cover include? 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.

For more policy details, see the travel insurance, mobile insurance and UK and 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 Feb 2018 poll, Nationwide was voted 'great' by 77% of voters, while 18% said it was 'OK' and 5% 'poor'.

Top accounts if you're overdrawn

Overdrafts are debts, and often they're more expensive than credit cards, so aim for an account with the lowest fees.

But if 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 our Cut Overdraft Costs guide.

First Direct logo

£250 0% overdraft, plus top service

First Direct*

If you just dip in and out of your overdraft, the First Direct* account should cover you for free, as it offers a £250 0% overdraft. It's also the best account for service, with 91% saying they had 'great' service from First Direct in our last poll.

Plus, if you switch to it you can choose from a series of perks like a £150 Expedia voucher, gadgets such as Bose headphones or a Fitbit, or an online self-development course.

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 give you a switch incentive if you're a new customer switching to its account using its dedicated switching service, as long as you pay in £1,000 within three months of opening the account.
  • You'll receive an email within 14 days of switching containing a registration code and instructions for how to register and choose your gift. You then need to choose your gift within 90 days of registering.
  • You can't get the switching bonus if you've ever held an account with First Direct before.
  • You also get access to a linked 5% regular saver.
  • 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

91% Great

7% okay

2% poor

Date: Feb 2018 Voters: 971

  • Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,000 (equates to an annual salary of £12,675)
  • In-credit interest: None
  • App: You can download it for iOS (rated 4.8/5) and Android (rated 3.6/5).
  • 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

What can I get for switching? You can choose between: £150 Expedia voucher; Amazon Echo Spot; Bose Soundlink Mini II Bluetooth Speaker; Bose Soundsport Wireless Headphones; Bose On-ear Wireless Headphones; Fitbit Charge 2 Special Edition; Polaroid OneStep 2 i-Type Camera; or one of 250+ online self-development courses.

How do I get the switching incentive? Provided you've never had any sort of account with First Direct before (including mortgages and savings), then just open the account and start your switch. You've three months to complete it and pay in £1,000. You'll receive an email within 14 days of switching containing a registration code and instructions for how to register and choose your gift. You then need to choose your gift within 90 days of registering.

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.

Are there any other perks? You can sign up to First Direct's Visa Offers scheme, which gives tailored cashback deals at selected retailers based on your spending habits. Once signed up, cashback is paid automatically within five working days of each valid spend.

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 open a 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 lowish at just 50p/day) 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 (incl two direct debits) 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.
  • You also get access to a linked 5% regular saver.
  • Nationwide has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.
Rated 2nd ribbon

How Nationwide rates on service

77% Great

18% okay

5% poor

Date: Feb 2018 Voters: 971

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
  • App: You can download it for iOS (rated 4.8/5) and Android (rated 4/5).
  • Arranged overdraft cost: Year one: 0%; years two+: £10 buffer, then 50p/day
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: Under £10: 50p/day, over £10: £5/day (max £35/mth), £5 paid/unpaid item fee (max £15/mth). Total unarranged fees capped at £50/mth.
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.

Starling Bank

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

Starling Bank*

Though it doesn't offer a 0% overdraft, new app-based Starling Bank* has one of the lowest standard overdraft costs of 15% EAR interest, and unusually it won't charge you extra if you go over your agreed overdraft limit.

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.

Need-to-knows
  • Overdraft interest is waived if it's less than 10p in any month.
  • If you go past your overdraft limit, you won't face any extra charges but won't be able to use your account until you bring your balance back inside your limit.
  • Unlike many other banks, Starling doesn't require you to pay in a minimum monthly amount or have direct debits set up.
  • If you're in credit you'll earn 0.5% AER interest on up to £2,000 and 0.25% AER interest between £2,000 and £85,000.
  • Starling Bank has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.
Stats box
  • Minimum monthly pay-in: None
  • In-credit interest: 0.5% AER variable on up to £2,000. 0.25% between £2,000 and £85,000.
  • App: You can download it for iOS (rated 4.8/5) and Android (rated 4.1/5).
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 15% EAR variable (waived if less than 10p in any month).
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: 15% EAR variable (waived if less than 10p in any month). Max £2/mth
Key questions

What else can the app do? As well as providing spending notifications and insights, the app lets you freeze and unfreeze your debit card at the touch of a button, report it lost or stolen or get a PIN reminder in-app. You can also turn off certain functions of your card like online spending, contactless payments or ATM withdrawals if you want to control a specific type of spending.

Starling has just launched its 'Marketplace', which lets you use other companies' services through the Starling app. There's only one company featured at the moment, but in the future it'll offer things like ISAs, savings accounts, insurance and mortgages.

Are there limits on using the debit card? You can make up to three cash withdrawals a day, totalling a maximum of £300.

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

Will Starling credit check me? If you apply for an overdraft, Starling will run a full credit check on you. If you just 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).

Is my money protected? Yes, Starling Bank has full FSCS protection, so your money saved with it is safe up to £85,000.

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.

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

Full ethical consumer

Get 5% interest for a year or ongoing rewards

Top Rated Ethical Bank Accounts

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 and 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?

  • 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?

  • What day will my switch happen on?

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

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

  • Is internet and mobile banking safe?

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