Current accounts

As a member of the Armed Forces, you will need to have a bank account so your salary and allowances can be paid into it. And that's where a current account comes in.

It helps you keep MoneyFit when you need regular access to your money for day-to-day expenses and to manage your bills and other payments.

What you can do with a current account

With a current account you can:

  • Receive payments directly into your account 
  • Pay cheques into your account – sterling cheques are free to pay in and take six business days to clear
  • Pay for things with a debit card
  • Withdraw cash over the counter or from a cashpoint machine
  • Check your balance using telephone or internet banking, at a cash machine or over the counter 
  • Set up Direct Debits and standing orders to pay your bills 
  • Write cheques to pay bills and individuals
  • Transfer money via telephone or online banking services 
  • Apply for an overdraft allowing you to spend an agreed amount more than you have in your account

Money fitness tip

Some current accounts earn more interest than savings accounts, so shop around and make your money work for you.

You can access most current accounts through a high street branch, online, using mobile banking or over the phone.

See Running your bank account for more information.

Who can get a current account?

Over 16 - You need to be over 16 to open a current account, although for some banks the minimum age is 18. If you are under 18 you may be able to open a current account with your parents' help. If your child can't open a current account you might want to look at Children's savings accounts as some banks offer accounts that the child can access from the age of seven.

did you know?

A number of high street banks offer banking services especially for the Armed Forces.

It's up to you whether you open an account with them or another provider.

 

Minimum monthly payment - Banks may ask you to pay a minimum amount into your account every month, usually from wages, benefits or a pension.

Good credit history - Because many current accounts allow you to have an overdraft facility, you might need to pass a credit check when you open the account.

Proof of identity and address - All banks and building societies will ask for proof of your identity and address before you can open a bank account.

How much does a current account cost?

As long as you have money in your account, you don't usually have to pay for current  account services.   

Overdrafts and current accounts 

An agreed overdraft is a way of borrowing money from the bank through your current account, allowing you to spend more than you may have in your account. Banks usually charge you interest or a fixed amount for lending this money. The interest is often at a higher rate than a personal loan. However, some offer interest-free overdrafts.

You could be charged higher fees if:

  • you spend more than you have in your account without arranging an overdraft, or
  • you go over the agreed overdraft limit 

See Overdrafts for more information.

Transaction fees if your overdraft is unauthorised

If you go over your authorised overdraft limit you may be charged for every cash withdrawal or cheque or card payment you make, even if the bank doesn’t allow the payment to go through. These fees can be £10-£25 for each transaction.

You may also be charged for refused Direct Debits and standing orders – see below.

Charges for refused Direct Debits and standing orders

If there’s not enough money in your account to cover a standing order or Direct Debit it may be refused and you will usually have to pay charges. It can be as much as £25 for each refused payment.

Find out more about how to use Direct Debits and standing orders without paying charges.

Monthly Maximum Charges

Current accounts now have a Monthly Maximum Charge (MMC) in place, which is the maximum amount you’d pay each month in fees, charges and interest on unarranged overdrafts. It doesn’t affect authorised overdrafts, and the amount varies depending on the bank or building society, and which current account you have.

Make sure you check what the MMC is with your current account so you know how much your overdraft is costing you.

Cash machines (ATMs)

In the UK, taking money out of a cash machine with your debit card is usually free.

There are some exceptions:

  • Some convenience cash machines – especially ones inside small shops, on garage forecourts and in nightclubs – can charge up to £5 each time you withdraw money from them. They’ll tell you about the charges on screen before you take out the cash so that you can decide if you want to go ahead or not.
  • Using a credit card to take out cash comes with a charge, and you pay interest from the date you withdraw the money – interest-free periods only apply to purchases.
  • Some prepaid cards charge you a fee to withdraw money from cashpoint machines.

Money fitness tip

Check the AER, which allows you to compare the in-credit interest that the account will earn over the year.

Find out more in Bank fees.

How to get a current account

How to choose a current account

Comparison websites are a good starting point for anyone trying to find a current account tailored to their needs.

We recommend the following websites for comparing current accounts:

In Northern Ireland, you can also try the Consumer Council Comparison Tool

Remember:

  • Comparison websites won’t all give you the same results, so make sure you use more than one site before making a decision.
  • It is also important to do some research into the type of product and features you need before making a purchase or changing supplier.

How to open a current account

You can usually apply in person, by post, over the phone or online. If your application is turned down, don't be afraid to ask why.

Watch this video - How to open a bank account - from the Money Advice Service.

How to switch current account

Banks and building societies all offer a free seven-day Current Account Switch Service. It’s backed by a guarantee that means you’ll be refunded any interest and charges on your old and new accounts if anything goes wrong.

Managing your current account

Watch this video - How to make payments using your bank account - from the Money Advice Service.

Checking your balance regularly will help you to make sure there's enough money in your account to cover any standing orders or Direct Debits - so you don't pay charges for having them rejected. Download a Direct Debit reminder app from the Bacs website. See Running your bank account for more information.

What to do if things go wrong

If you're unhappy with something about your bank or building society, speak to your bank or building society first. They must investigate your complaint and give you a clear answer within eight weeks.

If they don't send you a response within eight weeks or you're still unhappy after they do, you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Last reviewed: 30/04/2019

This content has been provided by the Money Advice Service