We aim to make our website as accessible as possible. However if you use a screen reader and require debt advice you may find it easier to phone us instead. Our phone number is 0 8 0 0 1 3 8 1 1 1 1. Freephone (including all mobiles).
worried woman reading paperwork

Worried about money?

Use our online tool to get free debt advice tailored to your situation.

Get help now

i This advice applies across the UK

Banking and borrowing

Where to get a basic bank account

If you have a debt with the same bank that your current account is with, you should talk to your bank as soon as possible.

They may be able to:

  • Separate any overdrafts from your existing account
  • Set up a new 'clean' basic bank account for you
  • Help you to reduce your overdraft at an affordable rate and in line with your other debts

If your bank cannot help you, you should set up a new basic bank account with a bank you do not have any debts with. If you don't do this, there is a small chance of your money being taken from your account by your bank to pay your debts off. This could affect your ability to pay for your essential household and living costs.

A few things to remember about bank accounts

Banks can use the right of set off to take money you owe them

This is also known as 'right of offset' or 'combination of accounts'.

If you have a personal loan or credit card with the same bank as your current account, they could take money from your bank account to pay your loan or credit card if you have fallen behind with your payments.

It is extremely rare that this would happen.

An overdraft is a debt

Many people don't see their overdraft as a debt. Do not fall into this trap. An overdraft is just like any other debt. In very rare cases, if the bank wants their money back, they can wait until money goes into your account and then take this to repay the overdraft.

Opening a bank account when you are in debt

We get asked a lot about how to set up a new bank account. If you need to change your bank account you need to find a bank that:

  • You are not currently banking with
  • Offers a basic bank account. These work the same way as a standard current account but you do not have access to an overdraft.

Do you need help with your debts?

Money worries?

Find out how we can help you.

Get help now

Questions about basic bank accounts

What do I need to open a basic bank account?

You will 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 do not have a passport or photocard driving licence you should ask the bank what forms of ID they will accept before you try and open an account with them.

What if the bank will not let me open an account?

Banks cannot use the rating on your credit file as a reason not to give you a basic account. But they are not under any legal obligation to give you one.

They will normally stop you having an account if:

  • You are an undischarged bankrupt (in other words, you have only just made yourself bankrupt), or
  • There is a record of fraud on your credit file

If you have 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 is a lot of hassle
  • The bank I am with now is good to me
  • I have had this account for many years
  • I could not live without my overdraft

Who you bank with is up to you. But, if you are in financial difficulty, you should try talking with your bank to resolve any issues as soon as possible.

If they cannot help you, there is a small chance your bank will take money from your account to repay any debts you have with them, such as:

  • Overdrafts
  • Credit cards
  • Loans

If they take the money, they do not have to return it. Even if that means you cannot pay your bills. They are within their rights to do this, but it is extremely rare that they exercise this right. If you are worried, changing banks will avoid this risk altogether.

Do not deal with bank account problems alone

If you have debt with your bank or you have had money taken from your account to cover a debt, we can help.

Our online debt advice tool can help you put together a personal action plan, at any time of day that suits you.