Bank and building society accounts – current accounts

A current account is the “standard” day-to-day bank account. Current accounts are useful if you’re regularly earning and spending a reasonable amount of money.

Earnings, cheques, and any other money you receive can all be paid into savings accounts; if you don’t need to spend this money, that’s the best place to put them.

A current account is not the best way to save money; if it pays interest at all, it is generally at a very low rate.

If you’re under 18, you can only use a limited number of banking services. The exact details will depend on your bank, but you certainly won’t be able to have overdrafts, loans or credit cards. Once you’re 18, the full range of services will be open to you – see here.

Opening a current bank account

Current accounts are offered by a large number of banks and building societies.   Choose one which works for you:

  • If you like speaking to banks in person, make sure you choose one which has a branch close to your home or school
  • Check that you’ll be able to use convenient cash machines
  • Check whether they offer a full debit card, or a cashpoint card, or both
  • Check whether you can manage your account online and/or via a mobile app
  • Compare interest rates (though these are unlikely to be very high)
  • Check any other terms and conditions

This page from consumer organisation Which? compares UK current accounts for under 18s. This Guardian article from November 2016 looks in more detail at different current accounts aimed at under 18s.

Once you have decided which current account is best for you, you normally have to go along to your local branch with some proof of identity and some money to open the account. You may need to take an adult with you.

Your account will be given an individual account number (unique to you); you will also be given a sort code number (which identifies the bank and your local branch). These will appear on your monthly statements which also show what money you have paid in and taken out, and what your current balance is – ie how much money you currently have in the account.

You can normally choose to receive statements online or in paper copies by post; choose which works best for you. Either way, you should check your bank statements carefully (to make sure that there is nothing unexpected); and then kept in a safe place (virtual or real).

You should be given a card which allows you to draw out cash from a cash machine; most cash machines now accept cards from most banks and do not charge for this service, but make sure your card is not the exception. You will be given a 4-digit PIN number, unique to you, which you have to enter on the cash machine’s keyboard in order to use your card. It is vital that you keep this number safe to protect your account; you should not have it written down anywhere, and you should cover the keyboard when you are entering the number.

You may also be given a debit card, which allows you to pay for things in person and online. It may be contactless (so you don’t have to use a PIN number), but again, if you do need  a PIN number make sure nobody can see it when you use it.

Have a look at our other money pages as well:

Current bank accounts – once you’re 18
Money advice for teenage girls
Manage your money