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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Getting a current account

If you're earning a wage or claiming benefits, you'll probably need a bank account. There's a range of current accounts available, but shopping around to find out which one suits you best is vital.

What are current accounts?

If you've grown out of putting money in a piggy bank, it's likely that you're ready to open a current account. Current accounts are just another name for a simple bank account, and they allow you to withdraw money from a cash machine, transfer money to other accounts and earn interest on your cash.

Although you may already have a savings account set up in your name, current accounts allow you to control what goes in and out of your own account more closely.

You can also set up standing orders and Direct Debits from a current account for the regular payments that you have to make, like your mobile phone bill. This means that you won't have to worry about missing any payment deadlines as your bills are paid automatically.

Things you should look for

There are hundreds of accounts to choose from, but to find out which is the best for you, think about the things you'll be using the account for:

  • do you want easy access to your money 24 hours a day?
  • do you want to save money for the future?
  • do you want to be able to pay for your shopping by using a card?

Whatever you want to do, the first thing you should check is how old you have to be to open the account. You should be allowed to open an account from the age of 11, but you may not get certain benefits, like a cheque book, until you're older.

Banks also offer free gifts and discounts to make their accounts sound the most appealing. Although the idea of a new MP3 player or money off vouchers at high street stores can seem like a great idea, you shouldn't choose an account on the amount of freebies you get. Make sure that the account is convenient for you.

You should also check whether your account can be managed on the telephone and whether it has a 24 hour customer service line.

What you'll get from your bank

It all depends on how old you are. Most accounts will give you a card that you can use to withdraw money through a cash machine, but you may not receive a debit card or a cheque book that you can use to pay for goods until you reach 16.

Certain internet banks don't allow under-18s to open an account through them, and you won't be able to get an overdraft until you're 18.

You'll also be paid interest on your money, depending on how much money you put into your account and how long it stays there. When you're choosing your account, the rate of interest is an important factor to consider, but if you do want to save your money, you'd be better off looking at savings accounts instead of current accounts.

Student accounts

If you're studying at university, you'll find that lots of banks offer accounts that are tailored to the needs of students. They often offer low-interest overdrafts and discounts on contents insurance and transport.

As with any other account, the best account for you will depend on your personal circumstances. If you find a better account with a different bank to the one you're using at the moment, move it over as soon as possible.

Starting a current account

To apply for a current account, you'll need to go to your local branch and speak to a customer adviser. If you're under 16, you may need parental permission, so go with one of your parents.

You may also need some form of identification, so remember to bring your passport, birth certificate or proof of address with you. If you're under 16 and you don't have any of these, you may be able to use your parents' details - as long as they go with you.

Online banking

You may also be able to apply for high street accounts online, but if banking is new to you and it's your first account, it's better to go into your branch and get your questions answered.

You may want to open an account with an internet only bank. You probably need to be over 18 to apply for one, but the convenience of being able to do the vast majority of your banking through your computer might be really convenient.

You'll still be issued with a card to withdraw cash, but you'll be able to check your balance and statements online 24 hours a day, and you'll be issued with a password or unique code that keeps your details secure.

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