Before you start: how to compare bank accounts
Opening a current account is an important financial milestone. They’re not just a home for our salaries and pensions – you can use one to boost your savings, manage a household budget and bundle all of your financial products together.
Picking the right current account will depend on the way you spend and manage your money. Here are some things to think about when comparing accounts:
Does the bank have a good reputation?
Twice a year, we ask the public to rate their banks to reveal the best and worst current account providers for customer service.
Does it have a nearby branch?
Challenger banks Monzo and Starling offer current accounts run entirely from your mobile phone but if face-to-face service is important to you, check that your chosen provider has a branch you can reach. We've mapped almost 3,000 branch closures since 2015.
Does it pay interest?
Some current accounts pay better rates than traditional savings accounts. This table outlines the best accounts for in-credit interest.
Do you need an overdraft?
Some overdrafts cost as much as payday loans so if you’re likely to need to borrow money occasionally, compare fees for both arranged and unarranged overdrafts in our tables.
Are you willing to pay for perks?
Packaged accounts include various products such as travel insurance, mobile phone cover and vehicle breakdown cover, for around £10-£20 per month. We’ve analysed the best and worst value packaged accounts.
Do you want a joint account?
If you want to manage household finances smoothly, a joint bank account is helpful although remember that you are both liable for any debt, regardless of who spends or provides the money.
Opening a bank account online: what do you need?
Banks must always verify who you are and where you live before they can offer you an account so you’ll need to provide:
- proof of identity (typically a passport, driving licence or National identity card, although banks may accept other forms of identification);
- one or two documents as proof of address (a recent utility bill, rental contract, benefits or state pension letter issued within the past 12 months).
Checklist: opening a bank account online
You don’t need to visit a branch to start your application – you can do most of the legwork online, although you may still be asked to pop into branch with some ID once you get the green light.
If you want to open a joint account, some banks will only let you add additional account holders in branch. Others will perform an ID check for both of you online.
Here’s a handy checklist of the information you might be asked to provide:
Check that it’s registered with the Information Commissioner's Office as a data controller.
Closing a bank account
If you decide to close your account, some banks and building societies will ask you to visit one of the branches so that you can return any cards and chequebooks (Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Santander), although you may also be abel to close your account via online banking (HSBC, Nationwide).
If your account is in credit or overdrawn you'll need to either move that money to another account or add enough funds to clear the overdraft.
You have a right to your transaction history for up to five years after you have closed your account, thanks to rules put in place by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Switching a bank account
In most cases, it's much easier to switch to a new provider using the Current Account Switch Service (CASS) which aims to close your old account and transfer all of your payment arrangements within seven working days.
It's backed by a guarantee that if anything goes wrong, any charges you incur will be refunded - and transactions to or from the old account are redirected for three years.
If you don't want to close your old account, you can choose a partial switch instead of a full switch. This is still an automated process and should still be completed within seven working days, but you aren't covered by the service guarantee and transactions won't be redirected.
Find out more: How to switch banks in seven days
Bank accounts and probate: closing an account on death
Once the death has been registered, the registry office will issue a death certificate – this is required by financial companies and government departments to settle the affairs of the deceased.
Usually, the person named as executor in the will notify any banks or building societies that the deceased holds savings and current accounts with. Where there isn’t a will, a family member can apply to be administrator of the estate.
Find out more: What to do when someone dies
Banks will usually let you release funds from the deceased's account to cover probate fees, inheritance tax and funeral bills. Payments are generally made directly to HMRC or the funeral director.
You can often close an account without going through probate if the total balance is below a certain threshold (see table below).
If the total funds exceed this threshold, the bank will ask to see an official document called a ‘grant of probate’, or ‘letter of administration’ in Scotland, to prove that you have the right to manage their affairs.
For example, Nationwide asks to see this if the account holds more than £30,000, while Barclays requires this for accounts holding more than £50,000:
|Threshold||Paperwork to close an account|
|Barclays||£50,000||Indemnity form*, death certificate, ID|
|First Direct and HSBC||£20,000||Will, death certificate, ID|
|Lloyds, Halifax, Bank of Scotland||£50,000||Death certificate, ID|
|Nationwide||£30,000||Death certificate or solicitor's letter if balance is more than £5,000, ID|
|NS&I||£5,000||Will, death certificate|
|RBS and NatWest||£25,000||Account details, will, death certificate|
|Santander||£50,000||Death certificate, ID|
|TSB||£25,000||Indemnity form*, will, ID|
*Signing an indemnity form means you agree to compensate the bank or building society for any losses in the event of future claims made against the estate.