How to find the best current account in the UK?

Gert Svaiko

Looking for a new current account? If you’re thinking of making a switch from your current bank, there are lots of others to choose from.

But with so many current accounts available in the UK, how do you find the best one for you?

In this guide, we’ll run through some of the key things to look for. This includes account features, fees, interest rates and other benefits. This should help you compare what’s out there and pick a great current account for your needs.

And remember that you don’t necessarily have to go with a bank. If you send and receive money internationally, a money services provider like Wise and its Wise account could be a perfect fit. You can manage your money in 40+ currencies, spend using a linked Wise card, and get the mid-market exchange rate on all your foreign currency transactions.

Learn more about the Wise account

What is a current account in a bank?

A current account is a type of everyday bank account. It’s used for managing your everyday income and outgoings, such as receiving your salary and paying your bills.

Current accounts often come with a linked debit card, used for spending your balance.

Current account benefits

There are many reasons to have a current account. To start with, you’ll need one if you work and receive a salary - along with other income. It’s also useful to have one for paying utility bills, rent and other everyday expenses. You can even set up standing orders and direct debits for recurring and regular payments.

Other benefits of having a current account include:

  • Instant and convenient access to your money
  • Managing your account through online, mobile and phone banking (depending on the bank)
  • Make payments whenever you need to, including moving money to savings accounts
  • The option to apply for an overdraft.

How to pick the best current account in the UK?

Choosing and opening a UK current account will all come down to what you need. You can be confident that most current accounts will offer the basics, such as online banking and access to a debit card.

But you might be looking for more, such as interest on your money, low or no account fees, or reward incentives for switching bank.

To help you compare accounts, here are just a few of the most important things to look for.

Current account fees

The first thing to check is how much it’ll cost you to have a particular current account. Carefully read through the account details and/or small print to check for:

  • Monthly fees - most basic accounts don’t have a monthly charge, but some packaged accounts (which offer other benefits and services) do.
  • ATM withdrawal fees - it’s often free to withdraw cash from ATMs owned by your bank, but there may be charges for using other bank’s ATMs.
  • Overdraft fees - if you go over your agreed overdraft limit (if you have one), you’re likely to be charged.

It’s also worth looking into the fees and exchange rates for making international transfers, if this is a service you’ll use.

Interest rate on current account balance

Some current accounts offer interest on your balance, which could be a helpful way to top up your earnings.

However, current account interest rates aren’t usually as good as those offered by savings accounts. So, when comparing accounts, it could be worth focusing on fees and charges rather than credit interest.

Cashback with current accounts

There are current accounts out there that offer cashback on everyday spending. This could be for bills, or when you spend at certain retailers.

This can be an attractive incentive, but only if the cashback you earn is higher than any monthly fees.

Rewards for opening a current account

Another incentive banks use to attract new customers are rewards. Some reward current accounts come with a cash incentive (i.e. £100) when you switch, while others offer high interest for a certain period. There may even be other perks up for grabs.

Which providers offer current accounts in the UK?

To help you start your search, here’s the list of current account providers in the UK:¹

  • AIB
  • Bank of Ireland UK
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Barclays Bank
  • Cahoot
  • Chelsea Building Society
  • The Co-operative Bank
  • Coventry Building Society
  • Danske Bank
  • First Direct
  • Halifax
  • Intelligent Finance
  • Lloyds Bank
  • M&S Bank
  • Monzo Bank
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • NatWest
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Santander
  • Smile
  • Starling Bank
  • Tesco Bank
  • TSB
  • Ulster Bank
  • Virgin Money
  • Yorkshire Building Society.

You can also get a current account at a digital bank, such as Revolut, Monese and Curve.

And a fantastic option for anyone with international links is Wise. The Wise account lets you manage your money in 40+ currencies, including GBP, and send money worldwide for low fees* and a fair exchange rate. You can receive money from abroad, spend in 150+ countries on your Wise card and manage everything online or in the handy Wise app.

Register with Wise today

How much money do you need to open a current account?

Many UK banks will let you open a current account without needing to make an initial deposit.

However, some accounts do have minimum pay-in requirements. This means that once the account is open, you’ll need to pay in a certain amount each month. For example, you’ll need to receive a minimum of £1,000 a month in wages, other income or other deposits within a month.

This may be alongside requirements, such as setting up a minimum number of monthly direct debits.

Is there a free current account?

Many banks offer standard current accounts that are free to open and provide everyday banking services without any monthly charge. This is of course unless you exceed your overdraft limit or carry out a chargeable transaction like an overseas payment.

If you don’t qualify for a standard account (for example, if you have a poor credit rating), there are also fee-free basic accounts. These let you receive a salary, pay bills and spend using a debit card. But you may not get all the services offered by standard current accounts, such as access to an overdraft or a chequebook.

After reading this, you should have a handy checklist of things to look out for when comparing UK current accounts.

Fees and features are right there at the top of the priorities list. But it’s also worth looking at rewards and incentives to get yourself the best possible deal.

Sources used:

  1. FCA - Current Account Services Providers

Sources last checked on date: 18-Nov-2022

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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