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How do current accounts work?

You can do your day-to-day banking in one place with a current account. Your earnings go straight into this account, and you can pay your bills out of it. You can organise direct debits and standing orders, send payments to others and keep track of your spending through statements.

Not all current accounts are the same, some offer overdrafts, higher interest rates or free usage abroad. Some may also offer add-on benefits for a fee.

Anyone in the UK has the right to at least a basic free current account.

What are the different types of current accounts?

Here are some of the main types of current accounts:

Standard current accounts are for your day-to-day banking. You can use your standard current account to pay household bills, set up Direct Debits or standing orders. You can receive or withdraw money from cash machines and pay for your shopping with a debit card. Some may also offer an overdraft, which you are typically charged for using.

Basic bank accounts are usually for people who have poor credit histories or have struggled to open a current account before. Because of this, they don’t have features such as an overdraft. They come with a debit card, but some have a daily limit on how much you can withdraw from an ATM. 

Student accounts are, as the name suggests, for full-time students. They typically offer an interest-free overdraft to help you manage your finances while at university. You may also find they offer additional perks, such as railcards or retail discounts. You need to prove you're a student to open this type of account. After you graduate the account is usually changed to a graduate account or a standard current account.

Joint current accounts are like a standard current account, only you can open one with someone else like a family member, friend or housemate. It’s worth remembering that everyone who's named on the account can withdraw money and see transactions.

High interest current accounts offer a higher rate of interest than standard accounts. They're usually dependant on your balance or the amount you pay in each month.

Packaged bank accounts offer additional benefits for a monthly fee. They may provide features such as mobile phone insurance, travel insurance or breakdown cover. Check that you don’t already have these benefits elsewhere, otherwise you might end up paying twice.

Before you choose a current account, it’s important to know what you need before selecting one or switching to a new one. That way you can make sure your account can do what you need it to.

How to compare current accounts with Confused.com

  • Browse different current accounts available to you
  • Compare incentives and account types to discover market-leading offers
  • See how to apply for your chosen current account

Pros and cons of current accounts

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Pros

  • Manage your income and expenditure
  • Easily set up Direct Debits and standing orders so you never miss a bill
  • Shop in store and online using your debit card
  • Track spending and set spending limits with your bank's app
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Cons

  • Typically have a low interest rate
  • Some accounts, such as packaged bank accounts, may charge a monthly or annual fee for additional benefits
  • Daily transfer limits may not suit everyone

How can I switch my current account?

Some current account providers offer a cash incentive to switch, usually they pay this into your new account. Switching accounts is easier than ever with the Current Account Switch Service (CASS). But it’s still important to think about why you want to switch to make sure it’s the right decision.

You might want to change your current account because:

  • you’re unhappy with the service your current bank offers
  • you're tempted by the switch incentive that a new bank offers
  • you want a more competitive overdraft rate
  • you want a higher interest rate

When you switch, your new bank might ask for your ID and contact information, but that's usually the whole process. CASS makes sure the process of switching is simple by completing the transfer within seven days. The new bank lets your previous bank know you’re switching and then arranges the transfer of your balance, Direct Debits and salary for free.

Need more help?

How do I choose the best current account?

Choosing the best current account depends on your circumstances and what you need from the account. For example, if you’re often in credit, you might want to consider a high interest account. Or if you use your overdraft, you might want to consider an account that charges less for using it.

Do I have to pay for a current account?

No, you don’t have to pay for a standard or basic current account. There are some accounts available that offer different benefits for a charge - but it’s up to you to decide if that’s the best option.

How do overdrafts work?

An overdraft facility allows you to keep spending even when your balance reaches zero. The bank assesses your circumstances and authorises a pre-approved amount which means you don’t need to ask each time you need to use it. The bank charges interest, usually daily, for any amount used. You have the flexibility to pay back what you can when you can but they can be expensive if not paid off in full each month. Most overdrafts are the same, but some banks may offer varying interest rates. Others might even offer fee-free overdrafts up to a certain amount.

Does switching my current account affect my credit score?

Switching your current account shouldn’t affect your credit score directly. But if the account comes with an overdraft facility then it shows on your credit report, as an overdraft is a type of credit. This means your circumstances are assessed prior to approval. If you mismanage your account, such as by going over your authorised overdraft limit, then it could affect your score.

Can I get a current account with bad credit?

Yes you can usually get a current account with bad credit. You may be offered a Basic Account for day-to-day banking. These accounts don't come with any additional features.

Are there any penalties if I switch my current account?

No, there are no penalties for switching accounts and you can do so as often as you like. 

Can I have more than one current account?

Yes, you can have more than one account. But if you apply for multiple accounts in a short period of time then it may harm your credit score.

How can I see my transactions?

You can usually see your transactions online or via your bank’s app. You can also request paper statements to be sent via post if you prefer.
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