Best current accounts in the UK 2021
Discover the best bank account for packaged accounts, basic accounts and cashback accounts.
Updated . What changed?
There are different types of bank account offering different benefits and features, such as an overdraft, or insurance thrown in. But how do you decide what’s the best bank account for you? There is no single “best bank account” because what’s best will depend on what you need from your account. We’ve compiled some of the best bank accounts for certain features.
What's in this guide?
- Compare the best current accounts
- Basic bank accounts
- Basic account pros and cons
- Packaged bank accounts
- Pros and cons of packaged bank accounts
- High interest current accounts
- Pros and cons of high interest accounts
- Cashback current accounts
- Pros and cons of cashback accounts
- How to choose the best current accounts
Compare the best current accounts
Basic bank accounts
A basic bank account is one that lets you hold your money and set up direct debits. These don’t have the features that standard current accounts have, like overdrafts, and are designed for people with a poor credit history.
Best basic bank accounts
For applicants under 16: Metro Bank
Metro’s “Cash Account” is designed for younger applicants (from the age of 11). You can’t set up any direct debits or standing orders with it.
Best for features: NatWest
NatWest offers the most features with its “Foundation Account”. It offers a contactless debit card, the ability to set up direct debits and standing orders, text alerts and emergency cash withdrawals.
For savers: Virgin Money
Virgin’s “M Account” lets you connect your account to an instant savings account. It offers a relatively low interest rate of 0.50%. You can set up savings pots to get started on saving.
The basic account has a contactless card, the ability to set up direct debits and standing orders and offers text alerts to let you know your balance.
Basic account pros and cons
- Let those with poor credit increase their score
- Gives youngsters a chance to manage their money
- No additional features
Packaged bank accounts
These accounts come with a fee and are only worth it if you are going to use all of the benefits. It’s always worth looking into how much it would cost you to get the benefits separately before signing up. Of course, a major benefit of one these accounts is the simplicity of it, so think about how much you value ease over cost.
For COVID-19 cover: Nationwide Flex Plus
Nationwide offers a great packaged bank account, but only if you actually use all of the benefits.
The account costs £15 per month and gets you worldwide family travel insurance, including cover if the Foreign Office warns against travel after you’ve booked the holiday and bought the travel insurance.
Also included is breakdown cover with LV and family smartphone insurance.
For home emergency cover: Halifax Ultimate Reward bank account
Halifax’s Ultimate Reward bank account comes close to Nationwide’s. It’s a bit pricier at £17 per month and you need to pay in £1,500 per month to get access to its monthly rewards. It includes worldwide family travel insurance but doesn’t cover you for cancellations due to COVID-19. However, you do get cover for your treatment if you catch coronavirus while abroad.
Also included is breakdown cover, smartphone insurance and home emergency cover with the AA.
For cashback: Co-Op Everyday Extra account
This one falls halfway between Nationwide’s and Halifax’s accounts in terms of cost at £15 per month and has plenty of benefits. There is a requirement to pay in £800 per month to get access to the rewards (nearly half of the amount required for Halifax).
Included is worldwide family travel insurance, but with no COVID-19 cover.
You also get breakdown cover with RAC, mobile phone cover and access to everyday rewards, which is its cashback feature.
Pros and cons of packaged bank accounts
- You could save money if you travel abroad often and don’t accidentally double up on breakdown cover or insurance where your bank covers you
- Bundles everything into one
- Could get you cover for coronavirus
- Check if smartphone insurance covers just the account holder or the whole family – some only cover the account holder
- Could be expensive if you’re not using the features
High interest current accounts
It’s not easy to get a good interest rate at the moment. There are a few options that have quite good rates:
Virgin Money Current Account
Virgin Money’s Current Account has a 2% interest rate without you having to pay in a certain amount to qualify for it. Included in the account is no debit card fees abroad and a rate of 0.5% for a linked savings account.
Nationwide’s Flexdirect account also offers a 2% interest rate, but you need to pay in £1,000 per month. You also get a free overdraft for a year.
TSB Classic Plus
If you don’t have £1,000 per month going into your bank account, you can get a lower interest rate of 1.5% with TSB that only requires you to pay £500 in per month. You don’t get access to any other benefits though.
Pros and cons of high interest accounts
- Interest – you’ll get some reward for putting your money in a bank account
- There are typically additional benefits like free spending abroad or a fee-free overdraft
- Some accounts require you to pay in a high amount each month
- Interest rates aren’t amazing – you may benefit better with a switch incentive, depending on how much you’ll have in your account.
Cashback current accounts
When it comes to cashback, there are three good options. Some of these have monthly fees though, so it’s worth working out how much you’d expect to get in cashback before signing up for one.
Santander 123 Lite
Santander offers one of the best cashback accounts on the market. It literally pays you to pay your bills, but not much.
The “123” aspect comes from the cashback amounts.
- 3% on phone, broadband, mobile and TV bills
- 2% on gas, electricity, Santander home insurance and life protection
- 1% on Santander mortgages, water and council tax
However, this is changing in October 2020 to:
- 3% on water
- 2% on gas, electricity, Santander home insurance and life protection
- 1% on Santander mortgages, phone, broadband, mobile, TV and council tax
Take a minute to list these bills and work out how much money that actually is. Would you need to move some household bills into your name to get the best out of it?
We did the maths with some averages based on a Finder writer’s bills for their 2-bedroom flat in London. Here are the sums:
|Bill||Reward||Monthly cost||Reward with Santander|
|Gas and Electricity||2%||£40||£0.80|
|Santander home insurance||2%||£0||£0|
|Santander life protection||2%||£0||£0|
This all comes to a reward of £4.10, which, with a monthly cost of £2 for the account works out as £2.10 better off each month.
You can get up to £5 for each tier, so if you have a Santander mortgage or life and home insurance, it could work out well for you, but definitely do the sums first.
RBS’s Reward account offers £5 in cashback for logging into online banking and paying direct debits. It’s also currently offering a £100 switch incentive. You need to pay in £1,250 per month and pay £2 per month to qualify.
Lloyds Club Lloyds account
This account doesn’t offer cashback exactly, but it does have benefits that you can choose from, including cinema tickets and magazine subscriptions. There’s also a nice little £100 switch incentive but the account costs £3 per month unless you pay in £1,500 each month.
Pros and cons of cashback accounts
- Get paid to pay your bills, or use your debit card
- Often have monthly fees
- You don’t get much in cashback in the grand scheme of things
How to choose the best current accounts
Which bank account is right for you will depend on what you’re looking for.
- Fees. Are you looking for a fee-free account or would you like to pay fees for certain benefits?
- Travel insurance. Do you travel often? Work out how much you usually spend on insurance and see if you could get it cheaper as a packaged bank account.
- Overdrafts. Are you overdrawn? If so, go for one with a free overdraft and work on paying it off.
- Savings. If you’re planning on saving, you might want to consider an account that gives you access to a higher rate savings account or that has a good interest rate.
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