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How to find the best bank account

Finding the best current account among the dozens of options on the market doesn't have to be complicated. On this page, customers can compare bank accounts and work out whether they will gain by switching.

You can choose to compare current accounts by account features, allowing you to find accounts offering interest on credit balances, overdraft facilities, cashback or loyalty rewards and packaged benefits such as travel or mobile insurance. Users can also search to compare mobile only banks or locate basic bank accounts.

If you'd prefer to filter via specific banks or building societies, that can be done. Alternatively, customers can simply search to find the best offer for their needs from a lengthy list of current account options.

Choose aim to cover the wider current account market wherever we can, allowing customers to compare bank accounts from all banks, building societies and financial providers in the UK.

To ensure our offers are appropriate to our customers, our current account comparison covers the wider market. However, we don't list niche accounts such as student accounts, children's accounts or any premium accounts requiring an annual income of more than £50,000.

Our site is frequently updated with the very latest offers. This allows customers to find the best current account for them and to apply online for a quick switch.

Whenever you search on Choose, the deals you see are ordered by price or feature and never by referral revenue. While we may receive a small referral fee if you sign up to the best current account for you via our site, we take our role as an impartial comparison service seriously and never distort our search results.

Finally, as part of our commitment to helping charitable causes, 5% of our profits each year are donated directly to charity. Read more about our current charity partnerships here.

How should I choose a current account?

To find the best current account for your needs, you first need to know what the options are and what best suits your individual needs.

Some current accounts offer rewards including insurance and mobile deals, often as part of a fixed monthly package. Some customers will find those useful, and we cover those accounts in more detail below.

Equally, whether you need an overdraft, whether you're looking for cashback rewards or simply want to earn interest on your credit balance, switching to another current account could help you achieve your goal.

As many banks offer similar overall services, the key to effectively compare current accounts often lies in the detail. In a world where online access to our bank accounts is increasingly vital, does your chosen bank's app stand up to scrutiny? Or, on the other hand, if you prefer to visit branches, is there one near you?

Pay attention to any restrictions on accounts, such as limitations on withdrawing cash abroad or limits on the cash balances eligible for in-credit interest.

Ultimately, when you compare bank accounts, you should approach with one or two deal-breaker features and work from there. For example, if switching to an account with an overdraft facility is important, highlight that as your main account feature when you compare current accounts with Choose.

There are also comparison options for basic bank accounts for those with poor credit histories who can't access a traditional bank account.

How do I apply online for a current account?

Once you find the best current account for you, it's straightforward to apply online. Most banks recognise that it's in their interests to make the application process as easy as possible, so it shouldn't be too complicated.

Click through to the best current account for you and locate the application button on the provider's website when you're redirected. Again, this shouldn't be complicated as banks are eager to sign up new customers.

When you apply online, you'll need to have all your personal details to hand. This includes your name, current address and previous addresses, contact details, nationality and some other important details that might impact the success of your application.

Most banks make it clear before customers even apply what the restrictions are on the accounts, such as age and nationality, to prevent applicants wasting their time on applications that won't be accepted. For example, if an account requires a monthly pay-in of £1,000 or more, some people on lower wages may not be able to commit to that.

After you've checked the eligibility and gone through the online application form, you'll usually be subject to an automatic credit check based on the information you've provided as part of your application.

Do I need a good credit history to be accepted?

To apply online or switch online, customers must meet the criteria put forward by their new provider, and a good credit check is often a major part of this.

Current accounts with major UK banks are subject to credit checks to ensure customers are who they say they are and have a financial history which will make them a "good" customer. This means customers who have been made bankrupt, have large defaults on their credit record or have county court judgements (CCJs) to their name may struggle to pass.

If you are in that position, there are options to help you find the best bank account for you. It's a legal requirement for major UK banks to offer basic bank accounts, which are a stripped-down version of their standard accounts designed for people with money difficulties.

As banks lose money on these accounts because customers don't have access to overdrafts or any of the features you find in traditional bank accounts, they don't tend to publicise their existence. Customers who need access to one may need to specifically request it.

Learn more about basic bank accounts here.

Some mobile only banks were set up to help people such as foreign nationals who had no credit record in the UK yet still require a bank account here.

These might not require credit checks, but they are likely to have fees attached and money may not be covered under the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme), which protects deposits if a bank goes bust.

How easy is it to switch my existing bank account?

Switching from one bank account to the best current account for you used to be more difficult than it is now. In 2013, Bacs introduced the Current Account Switch Service to allow customers to switch online with minimal trouble.

This is a free service and simplifies the switching process. In the past, customers would need to switch all incoming and outgoing payments manually, and there was little redress if things went wrong during the switch.

Thanks to the Current Account Switch Service, this has all changed and the banks are legally required to take care of all the heavy lifting behind the scenes and it can be done in up to seven working days.

There are some accounts which can't be switched, so it's worth checking that you're eligible before you compare current accounts and apply to switch online. For example, joint accounts can only be switched with permission of both account holders, plus savings and ISAs can't be switched under this scheme.

Once you've chosen the best current account for you and successfully applied, your previous bank has to give your new bank all the information it needs to manage the switch effectively.

When you compare current accounts using the Choose comparison tool, you'll notice some banks offer switching incentives including cash rewards and gift cards. These can be useful extras but check all the details of the account itself before you jump at an enticing offer.

We have a full guide to the Current Account Switch Service and how it works for customers. Read it here.

What is the difference between banks? Does it matter who I choose?

In practical terms, no UK bank is better than another. This is simply because they adhere to the same regulations and are compelled to abide by the same rules. However, that doesn't mean switching is pointless or that customers can't compare bank accounts and find one which suits them better.

So, when you're looking for the best bank account for your needs, there are a few things that might help you choose between banks.

Customer service can be a big differentiator, especially if you're switching because you've had a poor experience with your current bank. This could be because they've closed your local branch of mishandled a complaint. Nevertheless, when you switch online, you'll want to check the customer service record of the bank you're moving to.

The details of the account you're switching to is also important. For example, if you know you'll be depositing more each month thanks to a pay rise, you might be eligible for an account with more benefits simply by virtue of paying more into the account each month.

Remember, too, that some banks are owned by the same banking group, so if you're looking to move beyond the banking group you're already a part of, you might have to look further afield.

How much does it cost to use an overdraft?

If you compare current accounts, overdrafts will often be one of the deciding factors for anyone looking to borrow money from their bank in the form of an arranged overdraft.

When you apply online for a new current account, some banks will automatically offer you an overdraft based on the information you have given them such as details of your credit history and income. Other banks may suggest you apply separately for an overdraft as you're likely to be accepted.

Authorised overdrafts are a form of debt, and it's important to remember banks will charge customers for using them. These charges can vary from bank to bank, so if an overdraft is important to you, be sure to compare overdraft facilities carefully when you compare bank accounts.

Some banks charge a fee which can be daily, weekly or monthly depending on the bank. It could be 50p to £3 per day, meaning that regularly drifting into the overdraft could be costly.

Other banks charge interest based on how much of the overdraft has been used during the month. For example, if you use your complete overdraft of £1,000 every day of the month, you'll be charged interest on that full amount for the full month. However, if you're only £500 overdrawn on each day of the month, you'll be charged interest only on that £500.

A perk you might come across when you compare current accounts is an interest-free period for a small overdraft, sometimes for a few months or sometimes longer. This can also sometimes come as an extra for packaged accounts.

Is it worth paying for a bank account with a monthly fee?

Bank accounts where customers pay a monthly fee in exchange for a bundle of services are known as packaged accounts, and these vary more than standard current accounts do.

A monthly fee can give you access to anything from cashback rewards through to store gift cards. Common additions in packaged accounts include insurance and 2% rewards on household bills.

International customers who need access to a bank account in the UK but don't have the relevant UK credit history can also pay monthly fees to access some accounts or prepaid cards from mobile only providers.

Whether it's worth switching to a current account with monthly fees or not depends on each customer's circumstances and requirements. For instance, breakdown cover is part of some packaged deals, but many people already have breakdown insurance, so that may not be a great incentive.

Equally, gift cards can seem like a great deal, yet if you rarely shop in that store, it might be worthless to you. That said, the gift card itself could outweigh the costs of the account over the course of the year, so it might be a worthwhile option when combined with other benefits.

The general rule when considering packaged accounts is to check what coverage you already have when insurance and other products with a monetary value are included, whether you would pay for that product separately and in the case of insurance whether you would be adequately covered.

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