In these uncertain economic times, we all want to do what’s best with our cash. There are a lot of products on the market, but the best bank accountsavailable to you will depend on your own individual requirements and circumstances.
Current accounts represent the majority of our banking activity and most will offer the same basic facilities. Funds can be paid in and paid out. You can set up direct debits and standing orders to make regular payments. There will also usually be a debit card, allowing you to make one-off payments from funds in your account and withdraw cash from ATMs.
There may also be a chequebook available with your account, although these have fallen out of favour recently. Plans to scrap cheques entirely were shelved in 2011, but cheque books are not always sent out routinely and some customers have to request one. Online banking has seen a huge upsurge in recent years and most accounts can now be checked and serviced online.
Beyond these basic facilities, there are important differences between different types of current account. If you prefer to bank in a branch rather than online or over the phone, the availability of branches offered and level of service offered may have a bearing on your decision. Overdraft facilities, such as the size of any authorised overdraft offered, and any charges for going into the red, are also an important aspect to consider.
Some current accounts will pay a small amount of interest when you are in credit and some packaged or premium accounts offer additional extras, such as travel insurance or breakdown cover. You may have to pay an annual fee for these accounts and you should carefully consider whether the extras are worth the fee.
Basic bank accounts
Basic bank accounts, as the name implies, offer a basic level of services. You can pay money in and take money out and there will usually be a cash machine card, but if this also doubles up as a debit card, there may be limitations to its usage. There is usually no overdraft facility beyond a very small ‘buffer zone’ and even going into this, could result in hefty charges. These accounts are usually more suitable for people with a poor credit rating.
If you have spare cash and you want to make a return on your money, you should usually look beyond a current account. Instant access saving accounts allow you to withdraw money when you need to, but typically offer a lower rate of interest than some alternatives.
These require you to give an agreed amount of notice, otherwise penalties will be applied. There are also other saving plans available, such as cash ISAs, which allow you to save a certain amount of money tax-free.