Cookies at Which? We use cookies to help improve our sites. If you continue, we'll assume that you're happy to accept our cookies. Find out more about cookies

Best bank accounts

Best basic bank accounts

By Chiara Cavaglieri

Article 6 of 6

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Best basic bank accounts

Basic bank accounts are fee-free, giving anyone access to a no-frills current account without fear of running up debt.

Fee-free basic bank accounts 

Looking for a basic bank account but unsure which to pick? We've ranked the main basic current accounts on the market by bank customer satisfaction

Nine major banks and building societies launched new fee-free basic bank accounts in 2016, bringing an end to high charges and limited access to cash machines for those excluded from the mainstream banking system.

Barclays, The Co-operative Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, RBS, Santander and TSB all launched new deals on 1 January 2016, following an arrangement with the Treasury back in December 2014. 

Customer score

General public score based on customer satisfaction and likelihood of recommending company to friend/family member. Customer scores are based at brand level.

Back to customer score in money table

Customer scores are based on a survey of an online panel of respondents from the general public, who were invited to take part in the bank account customer satisfaction survey during September 2016. The final sample size was 4,918.

What is a basic bank account?

Basic bank accounts are designed for people who don’t qualify for other types of current account because they have a poor credit history. They offer basic facilities for receiving money and settling bills, without overdraft facilities. 

Anyone can open one, including those with previous credit problems, such as CCJs and bankruptcy, as long as they pass ID checks and provide proof of address.  

They can be a lifeline for people who have faced financial difficulties in the past but, because they aren’t as profitable as other accounts, providers haven’t done a good job of advertising them. 

What are the new rules for basic bank accounts?

Previously, these accounts came with charges of £6-£35 if a direct debit or standing order payment bounced. Some providers even let these charges accumulate uncapped, pushing customers further into debt.

All of the major providers have now removed these fees entirely. Account holders also qualify for a debit card, rather than just a basic cash card, which can be used at ATMs and online.

These new accounts are available to anyone who doesn’t already have a bank account, is ineligible for a standard current account, or who can’t use their existing account due to financial difficulty. If you're an existing customer, ask your bank or building society whether you are now eligible for one of these new basic bank accounts.

The new accounts at a glance:

  • Fees for failed payments have been scrapped
  • There is no charge for going overdrawn
  • Providers must offer you a debit card to access the entire ATM network and make payments in stores and online
  • All basic accounts must offer direct debits and standing orders as payment methods
  • You can deposit money and withdraw cash over the counter at any Post Office or bank branch, on the same terms as other personal current account customers
  • Banks will review their basic accounts and may move you on to a more appropriate current account if your financial circumstances change (they must give at least two months written notice)

Which? Recommended Providers 

Which? Recommended Providers are companies that are both rated highly and have products that meet the high standards of our researchers. Which? closely monitors the products and practices of all recommended providers and reserves the right to exclude any company that does not treat its customers fairly. Follow the link for a full list of WRPs.

Which? warning of poor satisfaction

We also understand that for many people, finding products with the best rate is a priority. But where a product from a provider with a poor customer score appears in our Best Rate tables, we'll highlight this with the warning logo. Our customer satisfaction surveys measure overall satisfaction with the provider in relation to bank accounts, not individual bank accounts offered by the brand. The customer score should therefore not be associated specifically with any individual bank accounts. Only customer scores that are significantly below average will receive our warning. Our customer scores are updated every six months.

By naming and shaming providers that customers judge to offer poor satisfaction in these tables, we hope to encourage companies to improve their standards.

Which? Limited (registered in England and Wales number 00677665) is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited (registered in England and Wales number 07239342). Which? Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited. Registered office: 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF.