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Top 7 Best Basic Bank Accounts in the UK -

Financial solutions for challenged circumstances

Written by - 10 min read

Updated 07 May 2024

A bank account serves as a lifeline to manage your everyday finances in the UK. However, what if your credit history isn’t quite perfect? What if you’ve experienced financial difficulties? Or perhaps, you are a newcomer to the UK. Under these circumstances, it may seem incredibly challenging to open a standard current account. Opting for basic bank accounts could be the perfect solution for you; these are often referred to as bank accounts for bad credit.

From my thorough investigation into basic bank accounts in the UK, I’ve found they largely share similar features. You may favour one over the other depending on your specific circumstances (later on this). The best basic accounts are outlined below. It’s worth mentioning that the accounts detailed in this guide are free of monthly fees.

When it comes to recommended Basic Bank Accounts in the UK, two stand out from the crowd due to their favourable conditions and perks. These are the NatWest Foundation Account and the Nationwide FlexBasic.

The Best Basic Account Overall
Nationwide FlexBasic Card

Nationwide FlexBasic

  • You have bad credit (or financial difficulty)
  • You'd like access to savings account
  • You are not a UK resident
  • You have access to another account

Get the Account

Visit Site
Nationwide FlexBasic
Best for No Credit History
The Co-operative Bank Cashminder Card

The Co-operative Bank Cashminder

  • You have had no credit history before
  • You are under 18
  • You are not a UK resident
  • You have access to another account

Get the Account

Visit Site
The Co-operative Bank Cashminder
Best for Refugees
Natwest Foundation Card

Natwest Foundation

  • You are a temporary UK resident
  • You don't want a credit check
  • You have access to another account
  • Your ID linked to fradulent activity

Get the Account

Visit Site
Natwest Foundation
Best for Overseas Spending
Virgin Money M Card

Virgin Money M

  • You frequently travel abroad (no overseas fees)
  • You have non-standard proof of ID
  • You don't want credit search footprint
  • You are not resident of UK or EU

Get the Account

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Virgin Money M
Best for Bad Credit
Barclays Basic Account Card

Barclays Basic Account

  • Ou have no or bad credit score
  • You're moving to the UK in 90 days
  • You don't have UK mobile number
  • You don't want to visit a branch

Get the Account

Visit Site
Barclays Basic Account
Best for Bankruptcy
Lloyds Bank Basic Account Card

Lloyds Bank Basic Account

  • You've been made bankrupt recently
  • You like cashbacks and discounts (Everyday Offers)
  • You are not a UK resident
  • You have access to another account

Get the Account

Visit Site
Lloyds Bank Basic Account
Best for Rewards
Santander Basic Current Account Card

Santander Basic Current Account

  • You like cashback rewards (Santander Boosts)
  • You are under 18
  • You want contactless debit card
  • You don't live in the UK

Get the Account

Visit Site
Santander Basic Current Account

#A Brief Overview

These basic accounts work like any other current accounts. They simplify day-to-day financial transactions. For instance, you can receive your income and pay your bills. Additionally, accessing your money is relatively easy, either over the counter, from a cash machine, or even on your mobile. You do have the ability to pay regular bills by direct debit or standing order, just as you would with a normal account. You will also have a debit card, of course, for purchases online and in brick-and-mortar shops.

It’s important to note that you are unable to access any category of credit facilities. This includes overdrafts, cheques, or any form of borrowing. Consequently, you won’t be able to spend more money than what you currently have.

At first glance, this might seem limiting. But, it’s a key feature.

It enables you to avoid spiralling into debt and instead leads you towards healthier financial habits.

Simply put, a basic bank account is usually free of charge. It doesn’t offer overdrafts but gives individuals the essential banking features they need.

Searching for standard current accounts? Consider our current accounts guide

#Choosing an Account Wisely

Frankly speaking, it appears that the majority of basic bank accounts are alike. It’s your unique circumstances that really determine which one is the perfect fit for you.

For instance, you might need to switch to a different account prior to a Trust Deed or IVA coming into effect to prevent any issues, like a frozen account or unexpected closure. The chances of such problems arising can be minimized if you opt for a new basic bank account with a bank you don’t owe any money.

Steer clear of banks known for low customer service ratings. Choose one that comes with a robust and easy-to-use app and modern tech features. I cannot stress this enough. A working mobile banking app is essential today. Thankfully, the ability to manage your account from your phone is becoming the norm rather than the exception in the banking industry.

Most banks now offer a current account switch guarantee that makes it easy to switch. On average, it takes only 7 days to transfer direct debits and standing orders. However, you’ll need to arrange for your income to be paid into the new account. It is not automatic.

It’s absolutely essential to read and fully understand the terms and conditions before you sign up. You need to be crystal clear on any fees, features, and potential obligations.

#Fee-Free Banking for All

Firstly, as outlined on the government’s website, these accounts are provided free of charge. This is a result of an agreement between the government and major banks. This initiative aims to help millions of people manage their finances effectively. Ensuring no one is excluded from the banking system due to poor credit, financial difficulties or non-UK residency. The lack of fees or charges makes these accounts more accessible for those struggling financially.

However, it’s important to note that not all basic bank accounts are created equal. The largest banks have been required to offer fee-free basic bank accounts since January 2016. That includes the mammoth likes of Barclays, Lloyds, Santander, and HSBC. Nevertheless, other smaller banks and building societies can also provide these accounts. The difference might lie in the fine print. So, it’s always advisable to go through the terms and conditions before choosing a bank.

While researching, I’ve noticed that some other providers offer ‘basic accounts’ with a fee. These typically do not fall under the categorisation of Basic Bank Accounts though. They promise a no credit check bank account with easy applications, and clear terms. At first glance, these might seem appealing. especially if you’re struggling with debt.

However, it’s important to weigh the cost.

I advise against paying a monthly fee for a basic account that should be free. Remember, every £10-£20 matters when you’re on a tight budget. Those extra pounds every month could be better allocated within your financial plan.

#Participating Banks

Nine banks offer free basic accounts, including:

  • Barclays
  • Co-operative Bank
  • HSBC
  • Lloyds Banking Group (including Halifax and Bank of Scotland)
  • National Australia Group (including Clydesdale and Yorkshire)
  • Nationwide
  • RBS Group (including NatWest and Ulster Bank)
  • Santander
  • TSB


Basic bank accounts are designed for individuals who:

  • Have poor credit history
  • Have gone bankrupt
  • Are international students
  • Are migrant workers
  • Are refugees
  • Are asylum seekers
  • Have been recently released from prison
  • Are homeless
  • Are immigrants

#Insights on Fees and Charges

There may be small charges associated with particular types of transactions. For instance, using your debit card abroad will typically attract non-sterling transaction fees. It’s good to be aware of these so you won’t be caught by sneaky charges.

Here’s a roundup of some fees and charges you may come across:

  • Non-sterling transaction fees: As I’ve mentioned earlier, when you use your debit card outside the UK to withdraw money or pay for goods and services, you could be hit with non-sterling transaction fees. This is typically a percentage of the transaction value.

  • Cash withdrawal fees from certain machines: Some ATMs, particularly those in convenience stores or pubs, may charge you to take out money. These fees can vary, so always double-check before proceeding with the withdrawal.

  • Sending or receiving money internationally: If you need to send or receive funds outside the UK, you might face an international transfer fee. This can be substantial depending on the amount and location, so keep this in mind if you frequently move money across borders.

  • Additional statement or document fees: It’s mostly free to access your bank statement online or through mobile banking. However, requesting physical copies be mailed to you or requiring an extra, one-off statement can accrue a small charge.

  • Card replacement fees: Should you lose or damage your debit card, you may have to pay for a replacement. Some banks offer the first replacement for free, but subsequent replacements might carry a nominal fee.

#Opening a Basic Account

Firstly, opening a basic bank account typically begins online, either on a bank’s website or by scheduling a physical appointment at your preferred bank. To kick things off, I’d suggest looking at the list provided above for an extensive network of banks offering this service. You’ll find the best basic bank accounts available in the UK. It’s also designed to take you straight to the banks which cater to your specific needs.

Secondly, once you’ve shortlisted your preferred banks, ensure that you have all the paperwork in place. The most common documents are proof of your identity, such as a passport or driving license. You also need tangible proof of address, typically a utility bill. But bear in mind, that the requirements could vary between the banks. I recommend that you check the bank’s website. Or, get in touch with their customer service to make sure you’re well-prepared.

Keep in mind that perhaps you can’t apply for a basic account directly. Instead, you may need to apply for a standard current account. The bank will then review your financial situation and circumstances. If you don’t qualify, they’ll steer you towards a basic bank account.

Once your account is up and running, it’s worth taking some time to familiarise yourself with all of its features.

Lastly, remember, these bank accounts are described as ‘basic’. But, there’s nothing basic about the financial freedom and flexibility they can offer to those who need it most.

In certain scenarios, the steps might be slightly different. However, it’s crucial to emphasise: no matter your circumstances, even if you’re in prison, banking options are available to you. I believe it’s vital to highlight schemes like the Prisoner Banking Programme. It offers fantastic support for those transitioning from prison life back into the community.

#Your Money is Safe

Basic bank accounts are also protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), covering up to £85,000 for each banking group.

I have been mentioning this frequently on our website. You must always remember is that the protection provided by the FSCS applies to the banking institution you’re with, not the individual accounts you hold. Therefore, I recommend spreading your money across multiple banking groups to maximise the FSCS protection.

#Understand Your Rights

One thing I’d like you to remember: you’re entitled to a bank account in the UK, regardless of your credit rating or residency status. Accessibility to these accounts should never be a concern. In fact, it’s a governmental policy that every person should have access to basic banking services. So, don’t for a second believe you can’t have a bank account. You absolutely can.

Now, in terms of the small print, you might be concerned about hidden fees. I get that. But, you also have the right to clear information about your account. The banks ought to provide you with easy-to-understand information on any associated charges.

And if you ever face a problem, remember, you have the right to complain to the bank and escalate it to the Financial Ombudsman if necessary. The banks are required to deal with complaints promptly and fairly, within a reasonable time.


#What is a basic bank account?

A basic bank account is designed for people who may not be eligible for a standard current account. This is often due to financial difficulties or unique life circumstances

#Which banks offer basic bank accounts?

Consensus has been reached by the nine primary banking titans in the UK to make basic bank accounts available. The list includes household names like Barclays, Co-operative Bank, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, Nationwide, NatWest, Santander and TSB. Not to be left behind, several building societies have also made the decision to offer these accounts.

#How to open a basic bank account?

Arrange an appointment with your chosen bank or apply online. You'll need to provide evidence of your identity and address.

#Which banks allow bankrupts a basic account?

Several UK banks, including but not limited to HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group (inclusive of Halifax and Bank of Scotland), and Barclays, willingly open basic account services for individuals who have previously faced bankruptcy.

#How to get a bank account with bad credit?

Securing a bank account with bad credit is possible by applying for a Basic Bank Account, as these accounts are designed for individuals with low credit ratings or court judgements.

#How to open a bank account without ID?

One option to open a bank account without traditional ID in the UK is to seek support from a local homeless charity or relevant organisation that can vouch for your identity, as this can be accepted by certain banks that offer basic accounts.

#What is the best basic bank account?

I wholeheartedly endorse the Nationwide FlexBasic Account, establishing itself as the premier choice for people dealing with poor credit or financial hardship.

#Can non-UK residents open a basic bank account?

Yes, non-UK residents can open a basic bank account, provided they fulfil the banks' requirements for proof of identity and address.

#How can a basic bank account help improve my credit score?

You can gradually improve your credit score by maintaining a positive balance and diligently paying your bills through a basic bank account to showcase responsible financial behavior.

#Can I open a basic bank account online in the UK?

Yes, in the UK, most high street banks and some building societies allow you to apply online for a basic bank account.

#Are there any UK banks that offer basic bank accounts with overdrafts?

No, there are no UK banks that offer basic bank accounts with overdrafts. These accounts are primarily designed for individuals in financial difficulties and do not have these facilities to avoid further complications.

#Can I have more than one basic bank account in the UK?

Yes, you can have more than one basic bank account in the UK, as long as you meet the respective eligibility requirements of the different banks.

#Are there any UK bank accounts available for bankrupts?

Yes, bankrupt individuals in the UK can open a basic bank account with several banking groups, including but not limited to Barclays, Co-operative Bank, HSBC, Lloyds, Nationwide and Santander.

#Which UK banks offer accounts with no credit check?

Several UK banks, such as Barclays, the Co-operative Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, and Nationwide offer basic bank accounts that do not require a credit check, making them accessible to individuals with low or poor credit history.

#How to deal with debt?

I recommend getting advice from more than one source. Only get advice from FCA authorised and registered debt advisers.

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