Bank accounts

You need a bank or building society account to collect your welfare and Universal Credit. Find out which ones are the best for you.

A fee-free basic bank account could be worth considering if you can’t use or open a standard current bank account.

You can use a fee-free basic account to receive income like wages, tax credits and any other benefits, and also to pay bills, like your rent but you won’t get an overdraft facility or cheque book with it.

You can also pay cash and cheques into a fee-free basic account and set up Direct Debits or Standing Orders. It can sometimes be cheaper to pay your household bills by Direct Debit so you could save yourself money by having a bank account.

Most basic bank accounts will give you a debit card, so that you can make payments in-store and online and use cash machines to withdraw your money.

Most banks or building societies have always offered a fee-free basic bank account, but since September 2016 the nine largest banks are required to offer them. The Money Advice Service provides details of which banks and building societies provide them.

You need to be at least age-16 to open a fee-free basic bank account (some accounts vary). You don’t need to pass a credit check (although your bank or building may run a credit check on you).

However, you will need to pass an identification check by providing a proof of identity and an address for yourself.

If you’ve had money problems, including bankruptcy, a fee-free basic bank account can be a good way to help improve your credit score until you qualify to open standard current account.

If you have a partner, you will get a single payment of Universal Credit for both of you, so consider whether you want a joint account. You can open a joint fee-free basic bank account if both of you qualify to open one.

  • Can I make free withdrawals from the cash machines I want to use?
  • Will be I be charged if I don’t have enough money in my account to pay a Direct Debit or Standing Order?
  • Is there a local branch, or a Post Office, where I can pay in money and check my account?
  • Is there an emergency buffer that allows me to withdraw a small amount of money, even if my balance is low?
  • Can I use online banking with my fee-free bank account?

If you open a basic bank account, make sure you check your balance on a regular basis.

Set up any Direct Debits or Standing Orders to come out of your account at a time of the month when you know the payment will be covered, maybe the day after you get paid or receive your benefit payment. You may be charged if you don’t have enough money in your account to pay a Direct Debit or Standing Order.

To help you keep on top of things, you can set up text or email alerts to your mobile phone or computer that will let you know if you’re running low on money or when payments are due. Ask your bank or building society about this.

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