A bank account is essential today. If you work, you need a bank account for wages to be paid into and you need one to receive your benefits or pension via an electronic payment. If you have concerns about bank charges, there are many bank accounts that are free and that don't allow you to go overdrawn.
Types of accounts
Basic accounts are usually free; you tend to receive a debit card that allows you to pay for goods and services in shops, over the phone and online. The card can also be used to withdraw money from ATMs and get cashback. There is no chequebook or overdraft facility.
Current accounts are the same as basic accounts, but include a chequebook and an authorised overdraft facility, which will be charged for. If you don't keep track of your account and go into your overdraft without authorisation, the costs can be very high.
Savings accounts are good for saving money for things like holidays or Christmas, and usually earn some interest.
How do I open an account?
Most new accounts are now applied for online, with ID submitted photographically. Banks are very strict on what documents they accept, so getting this right is important. You need a document to prove who you are and another one as proof of address.
There are plenty of straightforward guides that can help you with opening a bank account. We recommend the Money Advice Service's instructional video.
Documents to prove who you are include:
- Current passport [can be used to prove identity and address
- Full photo driving licence [in date]
- Latest benefit award letter showing what benefit you're getting and how much you receive
- Disabled blue badge [with photo]
- HMRC tax notification [within 12 months]
Documents to prove your address include:
- Recent utility bill [usually less than 3 months old]
- Council Tax bill [current year]
- Water bill [current year]
- Tenancy Agreement [original document]
- Bank, credit card or Credit Union statement [dated within 3 months]
Using your bank account to pay rent and bills
Direct debits and standing orders can be useful in managing your money. Once your bills are paid, you know what you have left is yours to spend. We recommend paying your bills as soon as your money comes in. Be aware that the bank can charge if there are insufficient funds to cover payments.
These come out of the account on the same day of each month. They're ideal for paying bills that you want to pay in full but you can't predict what the amount will be along with regular bills like rent and council tax where the amount is the same every month.
This is also paid on the same day of each month, but you decide the fixed amount e.g. a £50 utility bill. This can make it easier to budget, but if your bill is higher than predicted you may need to pay more at the end of the year.
Remember to check your bank statements regularly, to ensure that you've been charged correctly for goods and services, and that all outgoing payments are yours. It's also good to check that money entering your account, such as your wages, benefits or refunds, are the right amount and received on time.
We're here to help
With Post Office accounts ending, many will need support to get a new bank account. We can advise you on opening a bank account, including checking your documents and helping you to apply online. We can also help set up direct debits, standing orders and get your benefit payments transferred to a new account.
Please contact the Customer Hub so they can refer you to our Financial Inclusion Officer.