Best Bank Accounts

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

top bank accounts

If you're unhappy with your bank account, you can still move, even with the coronavirus crisis. And while banks aren't competing to get your custom with switching bribes, there are still some good deals out there. This guide explains it all and helps you compare the top pick accounts. 

Five tips to find your best account

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

  • If you can't afford some banks' minimum monthly pay-ins, don't fret.

    If there is a minimum, you can 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 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 if your income's not high enough to meet the minimum monthly pay-in.

    • Top bank accounts (ranked by initial min pay-in)

      Account Minimum pay-in/mth Equivalent salary/yr needed (1) What if I don't pay in this much?
      M&S Bank None N/A No impact
      First Direct None (2) N/A No impact
      Santander £500 £6,000 No cashback paid
      Tesco Bank £750 £9,500 No interest paid
      Barclays £800 £10,000 No rewards earned
      Bank of Scotland £1,000 £12,500 No interest paid
      Nationwide FlexDirect £1,000 £12,500 No interest paid
      Club Lloyds £1,500 £21,500 £3/mth fee
      NatWest £1,500 £21,500 No cashback
      HSBC £1,750 £26,000 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) There's no minimum per month, but you need to pay in £1,000 within three months of switching to get the intro bonus. 

    • The answer to this isn't as straightforward as you might think, as what counts as a month depends on which bank you're with.

      For example, if you bank with Santander, a month counts from the anniversary of the date that you opened the account. In contrast, bank with Lloyds and it simply follows the calendar month. It's important to clarify this with your bank to make sure you don't get penalised for missing minimum monthly pay-ins, especially if your pay is erratic.

      See our table below for the policies of the major UK banks:

      LENDER WHAT COUNTS AS A MONTH?
      Bank of Scotland Calendar month
      Barclays Calendar month
      Co-op Bank Calendar month
      First Direct Calendar month
      Halifax Calendar month
      Lloyds Calendar month
      M&S Bank Calendar month
      Nationwide Calendar month
      NatWest/RBS Calendar month
      Santander Statement month
      Tesco Bank Statement month
      TSB Calendar month
      Last updated October 2018.
    • It's essentially just a way to ensure you use their account as your main account.

  • There can be big differences in the amounts banks charge for going overdrawn, though many banks have now converged on similar, 40% rates after a raft of changes to how overdrafts are charged for. We identify the cheapest in our top overdraft section.

    If you are in the red, it's worth trying to get out of the mire by seeing if you can cut outgoings by doing a money makeover, then making (and sticking to) a budget.

    Quick questions

    • There aren't any set rules on this – it varies between providers. Whether you get an overdraft with the new provider you're switching to, and whether your limit is high enough to switch your full overdraft, will depend on the new account provider's lending procedure.

      You need to ask your new bank or building society for an overdraft. If it matches your existing limit, it'll clear the balance with your old bank. If not, the switch will go ahead but you'll still owe your old bank the money.

      The old account will remain open with a 'marker' placed on it, so you won't be able to use it, it's just so you can pay back what you owe. Some providers may give you a set amount of time to pay it back before classing it as an unarranged overdraft, which could then mean hefty fees – though you should get advance notice of this.

      Take a look at our budget planner for tips on cutting your outgoings, or if you're really struggling, see Debt Problems.

    • Yes, if you qualify for the credit card and enough of a credit limit.

      There are a few specialist money transfer credit cards that let you pay cash into your bank, so you can pay off your overdraft, then you owe it instead. The top-pick card gives you 28 months at 0% in which to clear your overdraft – though you will pay a 3.94% fee to transfer the cash to your bank account.

      However, this technique can be tricky, and you need to know what you're doing, as most cards don't allow this cheaply. You can find step-by-step help in Money Transfers.

    • Yes, but only do it if you're disciplined. Use a cheap 0% spending card for your normal day-to-day spending, making only the minimum monthly repayments on it. This means your monthly income pays off your overdraft as no money's being taken out of that account. Instead, debt builds up on the credit card, but at 0%.

      Doing this is technically the best solution for those with self-discipline – you can't allow yourself to spend more on this card or build up more debt. You should stop using the card once your account is in credit and try to pay off the card by the end of the 0% period. Or, at worst, shift it to a cheap balance transfer deal.

    • Yes. If you jump regularly between being in credit and using your overdraft, it's sensible to keep as much money in your account for as long as possible. Therefore, if you've the self-discipline, set all your household bills, direct debits and other standing orders to leave your account towards the end of your working month, artificially boosting your balance.

      This will also help to limit overdraft charges as most are levied on a daily basis, so the longer you're not in the red, the less you pay.

      If you fear this may lead to money for bills being spent before it's needed, don't take the risk. Also, take a read of the budgeting guide to help manage your cash flow.

    • Banks now send you text alerts when you're in your overdraft or a payment's coming out that will put you there. Most also allow you a little time (often until 3pm or 3.30pm the same day) to put extra cash into the account to allow you to avoid charges. If you're not getting alerts, call your bank and ask it what's happening - you may need to opt in to be able to receive them. 

  • 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 not sure you'll pass, check out the point below...

    Quick question

    • Possibly. If rejected, it may be for one of many reasons, such as 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.

      If you're rejected, 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.

      The second thing you need to do is to 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.

  • Sadly, more than one million people in the UK are rejected from mainstream bank accounts. Yet as long as you can prove your identity, 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.

    Quick questions

    • Regulations mean that you won't pay anything – these accounts are designed to be free of penalty charges. But it's always best to manage your money carefully, so you've enough in your account to meet bills and other outgoings.

    • You'll usually need to go into a branch to open these, as you'll need to show ID to do so. Make sure you ask for the basic bank account application forms specifically, or you'll get standard ones for standard bank accounts and then most likely be rejected.

  • 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. See the Best Packaged Accounts guide for more.

    Quick questions

    • You need to work out how much it's costing you over the year. For example, if you're paying £13 per month, that's actually £156 a year.

      And what are you getting for that? Are you getting a better mortgage rate than someone without the fee-paying account? Or better savings rates? Or lower overdraft charges?

      Just because getting the packaged account gives you 'better rates', don't think that automatically means you've got a top deal. You need to compare it to the deal you could get if you didn't have the packaged account – and then figure out if the fee's worth it.

    • To evaluate how you benefit, you first need to check that you actually use the benefits the account offers.

      And if you do use them, is the account fee cheaper than getting them separately? For example, for less than £40 a year you can get annual travel insurance
      or breakdown cover. So if that's all your packaged account offers, you could be paying too much.

    • If the account doesn't save you money, ditch and preferably switch to a no-fee bank account. This guide will help you find the right account for you.

      If you didn't know you had a packaged account, or found out you weren't eligible to claim, you may have been mis-sold – see the Step-by-Step Reclaim Packaged Account Fees guide for full help.

How does bank switching work?

If you want to switch bank, there's nothing stopping you, even with the coronavirus crisis going on. The process is quick and easy and takes just seven working days. Just open a new account with your chosen bank, then use that bank's switching - you'll usually be asked during the application if you want to switch. If you do, 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 the seven-working-day Current Account Switch Service (CASS). 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 it's likely the new bank will offer something similar.

  • More than 40 providers are signed up to the Current Account Switch Service (CASS):

    • Acorn Account
    • Adam & Company
    • Allied Irish Bank
    • 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
    • First Trust Bank
    • Habib Bank Zurich
    • Halifax
    • Hampden & Co
    • Handelsbanken
    • HSBC
    • HSBC Private Bank
    • Investec Bank
    • Isle of Man Bank
    • Lloyds
    • Lloyds International
    • Lloyds Private Bank
    • M&S Bank
    • Metro Bank
    • Monzo
    • Nationwide Building Society
    • NatWest
    • NatWest International
    • Reliance Bank
    • RBS
    • Santander
    • Smile
    • Starling Bank
    • Tesco Bank
    • Thinkmoney
    • Triodos Bank
    • TSB
    • Ulster Bank
    • Unity Trust Bank
    • Virgin Money
    • Weatherbys Bank
    • Yorkshire Bank

    Last updated February 2020.

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 £1/mth

The Santander 123 Lite gives tiered cashback on certain household bills for a £1 monthly fee. Provided you pay by direct direct, you get:

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

Cashback is capped to £5/mth in each tier, so you can get a max of £15/mth, though you'll need the right combination of bills to max it out. 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

54% GREAT
37% OK
9% POOR
DATE: FEB 2020. VOTERS: 740

Minimum monthly pay-in: £500 (equates to a £6,000 annual salary)
In-credit interest: None
Savings protection: Shared with Cahoot

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 rewards

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.

    The rewards offered are changing on 1 August 2020. 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. The total reward will be a maximum of £5/mth. 
  • Barclays Blue Rewards is an add-on to Barclays current accounts 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.

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 couple of accounts out here, but there are other options are in the table below

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.

Alternatively, if you've up to £5,000 you can keep in a current account, the Lloyds and Bank of Scotland accounts in the table below will pay up to £60 interest per year.

How Nationwide rates on
service    

74% GREAT
20% OK
6% POOR
DATE: FEB 2020. VOTERS: 683

Minimum monthly pay-in: £1,000/mth to get interest (equates to £12,500 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 after
Who's eligible for offer: Anyone who hasn't had a FlexDirect account before 
Savings protection: Full

  • 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.

  • Yes, Nationwide has full Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection, so any money saved with it is safe up to £85,000.

  • Yes – downloadable for iOS (rated 4.8/5) or Android (rated 4.2/5).

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)

Earn 1.5% ongoing interest on up to £1,500, but it's had a relatively poor service record recently

The TSB Classic Plus* pays 1.5% AER variable on the first £1,500 in your account. You'll need to pay in £500+/mth to get the interest, plus you'll need to register for both online banking and statements. 

Note: Before switching to this account be mindful that TSB has been hit by a series of IT problems.

How TSB rates on
service    

39% GREAT
39% OK
22% POOR
FEB 2020. VOTERS: 197

Minimum monthly pay-in: £500 to get interest (equates to a £6,000 annual salary)
In-credit interest: 1.5% AER variable on up to £1,500
How to open/access: Open online or in branch, manage online, in branch or by phone
Interest paid: Monthly
Savings protection: Full

  • If you keep at least £1,500 in this account, over a year you'd earn £22.35 in interest before any tax – assuming the variable rate of interest rate doesn't change.

  • Yes, TSB has full Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection, so up to £85,000 saved with it is safe.

  • You can have two new accounts, though one of your accounts must be joint to get this.

Arranged overdraft cost: 39.9% EAR variable
Unarranged overdraft cost: 39.9% EAR variable. £3 unpaid transaction fee. Unarranged overdraft fees are capped at £30/mth

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 1.2%.

TABLE_CELL_STYLE

IN-CREDIT INTEREST (AER) MAX
INTEREST /YR (1)
MIN MONTHLY PAY-IN HOW MANY CAN YOU HAVE?
Virgin Money 2.02% on up to £1,000 £20 None 2 (2nd must be joint)
Bank of Scotland Vantage 1% on up to £3,999.99 and 2% on balance between £4,000-£5,000
£59.80 £1,000 (2) 3
Club Lloyds 1% on up to £3,999.99 and 2% on balance between £4,000-£5,000.
£59.80 £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.

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 offer the first £500 interest free to customers who are struggling with their finances, and many banks have made the interest-free buffer automatic for all customers with an authorised overdraft. See our financial products coronavirus guide for what each bank's doing to help 

For the most part, these buffers will apply to new customers as well, though you'll need to pass the usual credit check to get an authorised overdraft. Yet, as banks only (currently) need to apply the coronavirus-related help until 9 July, we have based our top picks on accounts we think will help you cut your overdraft costs over the longer term. 

Don't just tackle the symptoms of your overdraft, though - it's important to try and pay it off. See our free budget planner, do a money makeover to see if you can spend less, and check our full Cut Overdraft Costs guide.

Offers a £250 0% overdraft, plus access to a linked 2.75% saver

If you just dip in and out of your overdraft, the M&S Bank account should cover you for free, as it offers many a £250 0% overdraft. Above that you'll pay 39.9% EAR variable. Try M&S Bank's eligibility checker before applying to see if it might give you an overdraft. 

You also get M&S loyalty points if you use your card at M&S, which can be converted to vouchers for money off. Plus, if you switch to the account, you get access to a linked 2.75% regular saver where you can save up to £250 each month.

What overdraft help is M&S Bank offering? It's temporarily made the first £500 of all authorised overdrafts interest free, and limited interest rates if you owe more to 19.9%. These measures are set to last until July.

Minimum monthly pay-inNone
In-credit interest: None
Savings protection: Full

  • If you spend using your debit card for 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 means you'd need to spend £500 at M&S just to get a £5 voucher.

  • You can apply for an overdraft when you apply for an account, but the limit you get depends on your credit score.

    The first £250 of your overdraft is interest-free, but you'll pay 39.9% EAR variable above that, up to your limit. You won't be able to go into an unarranged overdraft in all but the most exceptional cases as M&S Bank won't let you make payments if it'll take you over your limit. 

  • Yes, M&S Bank has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

  • Yes – downloadable for iOS (rated 4.4/5) or Android (rated 1.8/5).

Arranged overdraft cost: 0% up to £250, 39.9% EAR variable above that
Unarranged overdraft cost: 39.9% EAR variable

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.

What overdraft help's Nationwide offering? If you're affected by coronavirus you can request that your overdraft is interest free. Nationwide's also limited interest rates to 18.9% until July for all customers.

How Nationwide rates on
service

74% GREAT
20% OK
6% POOR
DATE: FEB 2020. VOTERS: 683

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 in subsequent years
Savings protection: Full

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Yes, Nationwide has full Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection, so any money saved with it is safe up to £85,000.

  • Yes – downloadable for iOS (rated 4.8/5) or Android (rated 4.2/5).

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.

What overdraft help is Starling offering? You can request a £500 interest-free overdraft if you're struggling due to coronavirus. It's also limiting interest rates to 15% for everyone who had an overdraft before 1 Apr (15%, 25% or 35% otherwise). These measures are set to last until July.

How Starling rates on
service

86% GREAT
5% OK
9% POOR
DATE: FEB 2020. VOTERS: 181

Minimum monthly pay-in: None
In-credit interest: 0.05% AER variable on up to £85,000
Savings protection: Full

  • 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, such as online spending, contactless payments or ATM withdrawals if you want to control a specific type of spending.

    You can put money aside in to a "space", designed to help you save easily from your current account balance. You can set up different spaces for different savings goals. 

    Starling also has a 'Marketplace', which lets you use other companies' services through the Starling app. In it, you can find insurance companies and a mortgage broker - though always make sure you've done a full comparison before going for these companies, as they may not be the cheapest.

  •  You can make up to three cash withdrawals a day, totalling a maximum of £300.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • Yes, Starling Bank has full Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection, so any money saved with it is safe up to £85,000.

  • Yes. It's an app-based bank, so you need to use the app to manage your account. You can download it for iOS (rated 4.9/5) or Android (rated 4.7/5).

  • If the cheque's for £500 or less, you can take a photo of it in-app. The app will read the cheque details and - if it's kosher - add the money to your account within a couple of working days.

    If your cheque's for over £500, you can send it to 'FREEPOST Starling' through the post. Make sure you've written your last name and eight-digit account number on the back of the cheque.

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, 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).

Note that if you sign up now, the travel insurance won't cover you for coronavirus-related claims, as the pandemic is now classed as a 'known event'. 

How Nationwide rates on
service

74% GREAT
20% OK
6% POOR
DATE: FEB 2020. VOTERS: 683

Monthly fee: £13
Min monthly pay-in: None
In-credit interest: None
Savings protection: Full

  • Mobile cover for all the family's smartphones. The cheapest smartphone insurance costs £80-£100/yr. If there are four of you, that's £320-£400's worth.
    - World family travel insurance (incl winter sports and golf cover). The cheapest family cover we've found elsewhere is from around £90/yr (£105/yr incl winter sports), plus £20/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 £70/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.

  • 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.

  • 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, plus the iPhone XR/XS which can cost more. 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.

  • The account's debit card has no fee or 'load' for spending or withdrawing cash, making it a leading debit card for overseas use.

  • Yes, Nationwide has full Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection, so any money saved with it is safe up to £85,000.

  • Yes – downloadable for iOS (rated 4.8/5) or Android (rated 4.2/5).

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

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 it can't (or won't), or you don't hear back from it, you can escalate your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.

Q&A bank accounts

  • As well as offering in-credit interest or bonuses for switching, a few 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.

    Some 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.

    With the introduction in April 2016 of the personal savings allowance (PSA), meaning interest is now paid tax-free, some people hoped that they'd see an increase in the reward amounts paid to them.

    However, 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 PSA, and they're still 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 billions 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.

  • This isn't usually a problem. Mostly it just means that you won't get whatever benefits that account offers for that month, though there are a couple of accounts that will charge fees - we notify where this is the case in the product boxes above.

  • You could try a basic bank account. These don't credit score you (though you need ID) as they don't offer overdrafts. Make sure you ask for their application forms, or you'll get standard ones for standard bank accounts and then be rejected. Full help and tips in our Basic Bank Accounts guide.

  • If you go onto your bank's website, it will have a 'branch finder' facility. Usually you'll have to type in your location or postcode and your nearest branch will come up. If you're searching on a mobile phone, often it will link to your GPS location and will automatically show you where your closest branch is.

    If you just want to find your closest bank and don't mind which bank it is, then visit Yell.com and type that you're searching for a bank and your postcode. It will then list the nearest branches and tell you how far away they are.

    Bear in mind, though, that this may miss banks' agencies – they're often found in local solicitors' or estate agents' offices. For these, you may have to ask locally.

  • Most banks these days use Faster Payments for bank transfers, meaning most transfers you make should arrive within two hours, or at least the same day.

    Faster Payments is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so even if you transfer some money to someone you owe on Christmas Day, it will arrive in their account the same day.

    If for any reason your bank or building society can't use Faster Payments (many credit unions can't, for example), then they will do a BACS transfer, which takes three to five working days.

  • You should be able to withdraw money paid in by cheque by the end of the next working day at the latest. Check with your bank if time is of the essence. 

  • If you pay the money in over the counter in your branch, then the money will count towards your balance immediately. However, if you pay the money in via one of the bank's ATMs, it will vary and can take up to two more days to count towards your balance.

  • 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.

    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.

    A recurring payment 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 DVD rental service or a gym membership. 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.

  • Direct debits are set up by the company you're paying. In most instances, the company will ask for your account details and they'll set up a direct debit for you. However, sometimes they'll send you a direct debit form that you need to fill out and hand in to your bank or send back. You can't set up a direct debit yourself.

    A standing order is a payment you can set up yourself. You'll do this via your bank, in branch, on the phone or online. To set one up, you'll need the account details you're sending money to and you'll need to put in a set amount you want to send each time (you can change the amount with a day or two's notice).

  • If you don't specify a date, everything will be switched over seven working days after the switch begins. If you opt for a specific date, the process begins seven working days before that date.

  • Bizarrely, given the song and dance about seven-day switching, your debit card and PIN aren't covered by it. So despite your account being open and set up – and your old account closed – in seven working days, you may have to wait a few days to access your money.

  • If you have a smartphone, you can use a service called Paym, which allows you to transfer up to £250 a day by using a mobile phone number.

    You need to link your mobile phone number to your account, through your mobile phone app or your online banking. Once linked, you can make a payment by selecting the person you want to pay from your mobile phone contacts, or manually enter a mobile phone number – but you can only send cash this way to people who have also registered their mobile number to receive mobile payments.

    You'll then be asked to confirm the name of the recipient. Once you're happy, check the amount and press 'send'. You'll also receive confirmation that your payment has been sent. And don't worry, you won't be able to pay anyone who isn't registered.

    See the Mobile-To-Mobile Transfer MSE News story for more.

  • Yes. Banks have security systems in place that ensure fraudsters can't hack into your account, whether you're logged in online or on your phone. But you still need to be careful – never ever send your online/mobile banking information to anyone.

    If you're using a mobile app, make sure you download your bank's official mobile app from your app store and make sure you update the app regularly with any new security features.

    It's also worth keeping your computer up to date with Free Antivirus Software, so you're protected from viruses and spyware.

  • When sending money to a different account, for now the only information banks use to identify payees is the sort code and account number, and not the recipient's name, meaning if these details are wrongly entered the cash could end up in a stranger's bank account.

    However, all is not lost. The UK's largest six banking groups (which make up 90% of transfers) have agreed to start checking 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. These new measures will be in place by 30 June 2020.

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

    • Contact your bank straight away 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.

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