It's pretty hard to function nowadays if you don't have a bank account. And why wouldn't you have one? Banks help you earn money on money that's in your account, right? But what if your bank is ripping you off? The dirty little secret that most banks don't tell you is that they may be spending more of your money than you think they are.

Free Current Accounts

If you look at comparative sites for current accounts, you'll see that the majority of big banks offer free current accounts. Ostensibly, this means that you keep money in your account and they don't charge you anything for it. At least that's what most people will think. Many banks offer free current account options and given that you're lending them your money, you'd think that banks would be trustworthy, however that's not necessarily true.

The Small Print

Hidden in the small print of your account details, you'll probably find a small disclaimer. It will say something along the lines of your current account is free of fees as long as no options are selected.

What this turns out to mean is that as long as you're not getting anything from your bank, your account is free of charges. However, if you get a bank statement, a copy of a statement, a debit card, or text messages, suddenly your account isn't as free as you thought it would be.

Choosing a free current account might seem like a sensible option. And it can be. As long as you read the small print and are careful about which options you select. But those little hidden charges really start to add up after a while.

There are banks which charge ten pounds for a copy of your statement, or two fifty for a text message. By the end of the month, all those charges may have seriously subtracted from your bank balance.

What Can You Do?

What can you do about this?

First, read the small print. Don't sign up for anything that you're not going to use. Sure, it's nice to have a text message every day telling you your bank balance, but is it really necessary? It would be cheaper in most cases to check your balance online or from a cash point once a week.

Secondly, consider going with a current account that isn't free. Accounts that have a built in monthly charge may seem initially more expensive. However, once you take into account the added extras that your monthly fee covers, you may find that you're saving more money than you're spending.

Your Decision

Nothing in life is truly free, and that goes for bank accounts too. Avoiding hidden charges can be extremely difficult. It may be better in the long run to go for a paid account, rather than a free one, since it can end up costing you a lot less.

If nothing else, at least ensure that you read the fine print in your account contract, and thoroughly check your account statements for charges that have been made by the bank on your account.