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Basic bank accounts can be difficult to access, research claims

By Vicky Shaw, Press Association Personal Finance Correspondent
Concerns have been raised that people may find it difficult to access 'no frills' accounts which help them to avoid running up charges.

High street banks are not always making “no frills” accounts, which prevent people running up charges, easily available to customers, it has been claimed.

Digital current account provider Pockit said online research suggests some are making it difficult for customers to apply directly for basic bank accounts.

It said banks’ use of their own set of criteria to test customers’ eligibility for a basic bank account leaves people uncertain as to how they qualify.

It also suggested that other current accounts are being promoted more heavily than basic bank accounts.

Pockit founder and chief executive Virraj Jatania said people head towards standard current accounts “even if they’re not the most appropriate for their financial circumstances”.

Some banks hit back at Pockit’s claims about the major providers.

HSBC said its basic bank account is “clearly listed” on its website alongside all current accounts and customers can apply directly online, by phone or in branch.

And a TSB spokeswoman said: “Basic bank accounts are an important product which help ensure people have access to the right banking product for their needs.

“We clearly and transparently communicate the benefits of these types of accounts and our branch partners are always available to help any customers who may need more information about them.”

Basic bank accounts help people who may have struggled with money in the past to have somewhere where they can pay in and withdraw cash without worrying about running up big charges. They do not tend to come with an overdraft, meaning customers do not face charges for sinking into the red.

The Payment Accounts Regulations 2015 require the UK’s biggest personal current account providers to offer basic bank accounts that are fee-free for standard operations.

Customers with a basic bank account are still able to use services such as withdrawing money from an ATM.

A spokeswoman for trade association UK Finance said: “The industry is committed to ensuring banking is accessible to all and takes its financial inclusion responsibilities extremely seriously.

“There are almost eight million basic bank accounts in the UK, helping customers across the country access vital banking services.

“Basic bank accounts are designed for people who are financially excluded and don’t qualify for other types of current account, and each bank will have their own criteria to check whether someone is eligible.

“We will continue to work closely with the Government, regulators and wider stakeholders to deliver better access and outcomes for all our customers.”