Questions about basic bank accounts
What do I need to open a basic bank account?
You'll normally need a proof of identification and proof of your address.
Proof of ID includes:
- A passport
- A driving licence (one of the newer photocard ones)
- A letter confirming your benefit entitlement
- A HMRC tax notification letter
You could use one of the following for proof of your address:
- A driving licence (a newer photocard one or a full old style one)
- A recent council tax bill
- A recent letter about your benefits
- A recent letter or statement from another bank
- A recent utility bill
- Your TV licence
If you don't have a passport or photocard driving licence you should ask the bank what forms of ID they'll accept before you try and open an account with them.
What if the bank won't let me open an account?
Banks can't use the rating on your credit file as a reason not to give you a basic account, but they aren't under any legal obligation to give you one. They'll normally stop you having an account if you're an undischarged bankrupt (in other words, you've only just made yourself bankrupt) or there's a record of fraud on your credit file.
If you've applied for an account and a bank has turned you down, make sure they were assessing you for a basic account rather than a current account.
Do I have to change banks?
We hear lots of reasons why people don’t want to change banks, such as:
- "It's a lot of hassle."
- "The bank I'm with now is good to me."
- "I've had this account for many years."
- "I couldn't live without my overdraft."
Who you bank with is entirely up to you. However, if you’re in financial difficulty, you should try talking with your bank to resolve any issues as soon as possible. If they’re unable to provide any help, there’s a very small chance your bank will take money from your account to repay any debts you have with them, such as overdrafts, credit cards or loans.
If they take the money they aren’t obligated to return it, even if that means you can’t pay your bills. Although they’re within their rights to do this, it’s extremely rare that banks exercise this right. However, if you’re worried, changing banks will avoid this risk altogether.