If you have a current account, how do you use it?
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Your account details
All current accounts have a sort code and account number.
- The sort code is six digits long (generally written in pairs, like 01-23-45) and identifies the bank or building society and the branch where your account is held.
- Your account number is eight digits long and is unique to you.
Where can you find your sort code and account number?
- often on your debit card – usually on the front under your name
- on your bank statements
- on your online banking page
- on the bottom of your cheques or paying in book, if you have them
You need both your sort code and account number to pay money into your account. To make payments out of your account, to other people or to businesses, you will need to know the sort code and account number of their account.
Payments into your account
Here are some ways that money can get paid into your account:
BACS direct credit
A direct credit enables other organisations to make payments by electronic transfer directly into your bank or building society account. Direct credit is mainly used for paying wages and salaries – over 90% of the UK’s workforce is paid this way. This is also the usual preferred method for paying pensions, employee expenses, benefits, insurance settlements, dividends and refunds.
Funds paid by BACS can be used by you on the day they arrive into your account.
At a branch
You can pay cash and cheques into your account at any branch of your bank or building society. Cash paid into your account will be available to withdraw instantly, however cheques paid into your account may take longer. Cheques can also be sent to your branch to pay in. To make the process quicker there may be self-service tills.
Via a cash machine
You can often pay cash and cheques into your account at your bank or building society by following the directions on the screen of the cash machine.
To put cash into an account you’ll need to hand over your bank card and the cash you want to deposit at the counter. The money will then be credited to your account immediately, as long as the cash is paid in before the post office’s own cut-off time. To pay cheques in, you’ll usually need to place the cheque in a bank deposit envelope with a credit slip from your account. Hand this to the cashier, who will send it off for processing. There will be a delay in crediting a cheque to your account.
Using the Faster Payments Service allows money paid to you electronically to be credited to your account within two hours of being received, even when the bank is closed. Not all banks and building societies are part of Faster Payments, so check if the service is available first.
CHAPS is a same-day automated payment system for processing payments between banks. You can receive funds into your account by CHAPS transfer and your account will normally be credited with the cleared funds on the same day.
A cheque is basically a written instruction to a bank or building society to debit an account. You can send cheques you have received to your bank or building society by post, or pay them in via a branch. Remember not to spend the money until the cheque has cleared.
Payments from your account
Here are some ways that money can get paid out from your account:
This is when you give authority for an organisation to claim money from your account. The amount of money they take can vary in amount and frequency. However, they should tell you beforehand how much they will take and when. It’s a convenient way for you to pay bills, by giving you added security and saving you time, which will make life easier and give you greater control over your money. You also have the benefit of the Direct Debit guarantee which provides protection against payments claimed in error. Additionally some organisations e.g. energy providers will give you a discount if you pay by regular direct debit.
A standing order is an instruction you give to your bank or building society to pay a fixed amount to another account on a regular basis. It’s different from a Direct Debit, in that you are the only person who can change the date or payment amount.
Continuous Payment Authority
When you give your debit card details to a company and authorise them to take a regular payment from your account, such as for a gym membership or magazine subscription, it is known as a ‘Continuous Payment Authority’ or a ‘recurring transaction’.
Unlike a Direct Debit, it does not offer the same guarantee if the amount or date of the payment changes. To cancel a regular payment you should contact your bank or building society. It is also recommended that you contact the company taking the payments and cancel with them directly too.
Single payments are also called money transfers or bill payments. When you setup a single payment, the details are saved for you to use again. You can also choose to make further payments at future dates.
As above with payments into your account, the Faster Payments Service also allows you to make one-off electronic payments out too.
Using CHAPS is a secure way of making same-day guaranteed payments urgently if you are buying or selling a high-value item. Great if you need a secure, urgent, guaranteed payment to be made. A charge is usually made for this service.
Your Personal Identification Number (PIN)
This is a number given to you by your bank or building society to be used with your debit card. PINs are used at cash machines and when you buy something with your card in a shop. The PIN is usually made up of four numbers. You must keep your PIN secure to protect yourself against fraud. Try to remember it and avoid writing it down or sharing it with anyone else. It’s normally possible to change the number you are given to one that’s easier for you to remember.
Spending money in your account
There are lots of ways to spend the money in your account:
Cash machine withdrawals
In the UK we use cash for more than half of all transactions. The most popular method of obtaining cash is from a cash machine otherwise known as an ATM (Automated Teller Machine). There are nearly 47 million regular users of 70,000 cash machines in the UK. When using a cash machine you’ll be asked to enter your PIN. Be careful as some cash machines may charge you when you withdraw money from them.
Using a debit card
A debit card is linked to your current account and can be used to take cash out of a cash machine and make purchases in shops, over the phone or online. To use one in a shop, you put your card into the payment machine and enter your PIN when asked to. A microchip inside the card, which holds secure data, recognises who the card is linked to and takes money out of that persons account.
You can also use your card to pay for things online or over the phone. You will be asked to give your debit card number (the long 16 digit number across the front of your card), your name as it is written on the card, the expiry date of your card and sometimes the three digit security code (called the CVV) on the back of the card. Sometimes you may be asked for other details such as the start date of the card or the issue number (if your card has one) depending on what type of card you have and who the provider is. All of these details will be shown on your card so you should be able to find them.
More and more cards with ‘contactless’ technology are becoming available. You can use them to make low value payments (currently £30 or less) without having to insert your card into the chip and PIN machine and typing in your PIN. You simply hold it against the machine to pay.
Look out for new payment methods, such as Apple Pay, which uses contactless payment technology to let you pay using your debit card via an app on your mobile phone, tablet or other linked devices.
You can also use your debit card to get ‘cashback’ from certain retailers when you’re paying. You can ask for additional money, usually up to a limit of £50, which the shop assistant will take from the till and give to you. The total amount of your purchases and the cashback are added together and taken from your account.
This is a free service that lets you send and receive money securely to and from friends and family using just a mobile phone number. No account numbers, no sort codes – and they don’t even need to have their account with the same bank or building society. Not all banks and building societies provide this service, so check with yours to find out if it’s available and how to register for this.
Paying by cheque
Although now less popular, you can still write cheques if your account comes with a cheque book. However not all retailers accept cheques now so you may want to consider other payment methods such as your Direct Debit. When you write a cheque you need to ensure funds are available in your account for when that cheque is presented. Please remember that it may take a few weeks for the person you paid to cash their cheque, so remember to keep that money in the bank until it has been cleared.
Is your card contactless-enabled? Look for the contactless icon (it looks a bit like a Wi-fi symbol) printed on the front of your card to one side. You can pay this way anywhere you see the same sign that is on your card. It is fast, easy and secure.
Here’s a quick film that shows the benefits of shopping contactless
An overdraft is a service that allows you to take money out, or make payments from your account, when you don’t have enough money in the account to cover the outgoings. It is a type of borrowing and usually best used only in the short-term.
There are two types of overdraft:
- Arranged overdraft – this is a limited amount agreed with your bank or building society in advance, which will be reviewed on a regular basis.
- Unarranged overdraft – this is when you go overdrawn by more than your arranged overdraft limit or where you haven’t agreed an overdraft limit and your balance goes below £0.00.
What can they cost?
You usually have to pay fees and interest for using an overdraft. Unarranged overdrafts may have much higher fees. You may be charged:
- a monthly fee
- for every transaction you make while you’re overdrawn
- only on the overdrawn balance.
Banks and building societies may also charge daily, monthly, quarterly or annually. But whatever method they use, they must tell you in advance.
What are they good for?
Overdrafts can be useful for short-term borrowing, for example, to tide you over until payday or as a safety net in case you have an unexpected expense.
What happens if I go in to an Unarranged Overdraft?
If you exceed your arranged overdraft limit, you may be charged additional fees or interest as set out in the terms of your account. Being over your arranged overdraft limit may affect your credit file. If you agree an arrangement to help repay your debt, this may be recorded on your credit file as an arrangement between you and your bank or building society. You should contact your bank or building society as soon as you can to discuss your situation if you are unable to make the payments as agreed. If you fail to make or keep to agreements this may negatively affect your credit file and could impact your ability to gain credit in the future. Your account may be restricted and a default recorded on your credit file if you continue to be in an unarranged overdraft.
A statement is a record of your account, showing what transactions there have been during a certain time period. It also shows any interest gained and your current balance (what you have left in your account). Additionally it should also include a summary of any charges and when these will be taken.
Statements can be posted to you or you can choose to go paperless and get account information in the following ways:
- by using a cash machine
- by using telephone banking
- by visiting a branch.
Here’s a guide to what your statement might look like.