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Minimum standards for basic bank accounts essential for consumers

2 November 2012

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive at national charity Citizens Advice said:

"Citizens Advice has long called for a minimum standard for basic bank accounts so Consumer Focus is right to urge the industry to provide this.

"Basic bank accounts are a vital product for the poorest – opening the door for financial inclusion and giving them a safe way to manage their money and get wages from their employer.

"As it stands, these accounts are on a slippery slope.  Recently some banks have eroded what they offer and who they offer it to.  We believe all banks should offer a basic bank account that provide essential services – like a debit card, using the counters at banks and access to the LINK cash machine network - to help people get on with their daily lives and manage their money sensibly."

In the Citizens Advice report ‘Access to cash – don’t bank on it’ (July 2012), we called for basic bank accounts to provide the following minimum standards:

  • access to the entire LINK cash machine network
  • unrestricted bank branch counter access
  • the ability to deposit and withdraw money from the Post Office network, as well as to check account balances
  • a debit card to give greater sense of inclusion, enable use of cashback and allow account customers to make purchases on the internet or phone
  • a buffer zone*
  • limits on level and incidence of charges, including some form of overall cap
  • assistance when opening the account about ‘making the most of the account’ (for example, considering whether to set up direct debits and how to time the payment of these)
  • eligibility criteria with minimal exclusions.

*A buffer zone is essentially a very small temporary overdraft of around £10 or so. The idea is to ensure account customers still have access to their cash via a cash machine which dispenses £10 notes if they only have, say, £6 in their account.

Citizens Advice report ‘Called to account’ (July 2010) exposed the experiences of undischarged bankrupts who are explicitly excluded as customers by almost all banks, also noting a worrying move to exclude people with DROs as well, with banks simply treating these people as if they were undischarged bankrupts.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.