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Bank accounts

Whatever money you have – pocket money, student loans, benefits or wages – it can sometimes be difficult to manage. No matter how much or how little money you have, you need to look after it safely, spend it carefully and make sure you get the most from it.

Most people keep their money in a bank or building society in one of two types of account. A current account lets you put money in and take it out easily and usually comes with a cheque book and a cashpoint card, or debit card if you are 16 or 18, but you get little or no interest on your money. A savings account pays more interest and is particularly good if you are trying to save up. All the different banks and building societies offer different rates and incentives so take a look at Money Facts or Money Supermarket to check out what they are offering and pick one that best meets your own needs.

How to open a basic bank account

Banks and building societies are legally required to check your identity before opening an account, so if you want to open a basic bank account you have to be able to provide proof of who you are and where you live, such as a current passport, a current driving licence, or a household bill. Staff at the bank or building society will be able to tell you the sort of proof they need.

If providing this kind of proof is difficult for you, don’t worry. Some banks/building societies will accept something else such as an original letter or statement from any responsible person who knows you, like a Youth Support worker, social worker, teacher, training provider or hostel manager.

Just take this document into your local bank or building society, explain that you want to open a basic bank account and they will discuss with you what sorts of proof you can provide. If necessary, the member of staff can refer your application to someone who can authorise accounts in exceptional circumstances.

A leaflet about opening a basic bank account is available to download below.

Debit and cash cards

Not all cards work on a "purchase now, pay later" basis - read on to find out how yours works before punching in the pin!

Different accounts offer different cards. As a rule, at 16 you can open a basic account that comes with a cash card, and then a current account at 18 that offers debit and combined cards. Each card comes with a unique, four digit PIN that allows you to use the card.

A Cash Card allows you to draw money from cash machines, although there is a limit to how much you can take out. The minimum age for this is 16.

A Debit Card allows you to pay for goods at the point of purchase providing there is money in your account. Generally you have to be 18 to be able to have one of these.

A Combined Card is a cash and debit card rolled into one - available to account-holders aged 18 or over.

Related links

Downloadable documents

Icon Name of file Size Download time
PDF document Opening a basic bank account 366 KB 1secs @ 2Mbps

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© Southampton Children and Young People's Trust 2011