What is a current account?

A bank account that lets you receive money from anyone, including your wages from your employer. You can also use it to pay bills, withdraw cash, spend on a card or make payments to other people. Here is how they work and how to get one.

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What can you use current accounts for?

You can get one from a bank or building society to look after your incoming and outgoing money.

You can pay money into them by:

    You can take money out by:

      *Many employers only pay wages by bank transfer, meaning you need a bank account to receive your salary, benefits or state pension

      Your account has a balance, which is the amount of money in it. When you pay money in, your balance increases; if you spend money, it decreases.

      Many accounts have an overdraft, which is a feature that lets you spend more than you have in your account, although they are often expensive.

      How overdrafts work and how much they cost

      Each current account is identified by an account number, which is usually eight digits. It also has a six digit sort code to identify your bank and sometimes the branch you use. The combination of the sort code and account number is unique to your account.

      How to open a current account

      You can open a current account:

        You need to complete an application form with your name, address and other personal details. You may also need to provide documents to prove your identity. You bank may ask for:

          You can get current accounts from banks, some building societies and other companies like prepaid card providers. You can find one using our current account comparison.

          If you already have a bank account and want to move to a new one, here is how to switch accounts quickly and easily.

          Is a current account a debit card?

          Not quite. Current accounts are bank accounts, but come with a debit card, which lets you withdraw money from a cash machine and make purchases:

            If you pay online, by phone or by mail order, you need to provide your 16 digit card number and other details like your card's expiry date or security number.

            If you pay in person, you can verify the transaction with your PIN or signature, but the majority of cards now offer faster contactless payments.

            Your debit card spending comes with some protection if things go wrong. Here is how the Chargeback scheme works.

            How does internet banking work?

            Most bank accounts let you access them online by signing in using a browser or an app for your tablet or smartphone. You can use this to:

              Here is everything you need to know about online banking

              What types of account are there?

              You can choose from a range of different types, including:

              Accounts with benefits and features

                Accounts for your circumstances

                  How to work out which current account is right for you

                  What they cost

                  Bank accounts can be free if you use them carefully and avoid using your overdraft or exceeding its limit.

                  However, they can come with several costs, including:

                    You may also be charged if you request the following from your bank:

                      Who can get a bank account?

                      They are usually only available if you live in the UK and have a permanent address. Some bank accounts are only available if you are over 18, but some accounts are available if you are aged 11 to 17.

                      Some only accept you if you can pay in at least their minimum amount each month, so you would need to earn enough money for these accounts.

                      Most banks run a credit check when you apply, which means they look at your financial situation before they decide if they can accept your application.

                      However, banks also offer basic bank accounts, which have no overdraft but do not require a credit check.

                      How to use your new bank account

                      Once you have opened a current account, here is how to manage and use it so you make the most of its features and avoid having to pay fees.

                      You can make your account as secure as possible when you send payments, use internet banking, withdraw cash or spend on your debit card. Here is how to keep your banking safe.

                      New bank accounts are offered all the time, so compare all of the best options to make sure you get the right one for you.