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Banking terms you need to know

Here's a list of some of the key terms you’ll want to know when it comes to making the most of your current account.

What is an account number?

An account number is your bank account's unique number.

What is an available balance?

Your available balance is the money you have available to spend, taking into account any pending payments and excluding any cheques that haven’t yet cleared.

It doesn't include any arranged overdraft limit.

Explore: Understanding your balance

What is a balance?

Your current account balance is the amount you are either in credit, or in debit (overdrawn). This balance may include transactions that are still being processed.

It doesn't include any arranged overdraft limit.

What is a bank transfer?

A bank transfer is when you send money between your own accounts – from a current account to a savings account, for example. You can also transfer money to other people or businesses.

What is a basic bank account?

This type of account allows you to:

  • Send money
  • Withdraw cash
  • Set up standing orders
  • Set up Direct Debits

Basic bank accounts don't offer connected overdrafts.

What is a BIC?

BIC stands for Business Identifier Code and is a number that identifies your bank. It's needed if you want to send or receive money from outside the UK. If you bank with HSBC, you'll find your BIC on your bank statement.

What is a cash machine?

Cash machines are also called ATMs (automated teller machines). You can use them to:

  • Withdraw cash from your account
  • Pay in cheques
  • Pay bills
  • Get statements

Using a cash machine is usually free. Make sure you read the signs on the machine closely to check you won't be charged a fee.

What is credit?

Credit is the amount of money you have available in your bank account.

What does debit mean?

When your account is in debit, it's overdrawn. Your account is debited when money is withdrawn from it.

What is a debit card?

You can use a debit card to make withdrawals from cash machines, as well as to pay for goods and services in person, online or over the phone. When you use your debit card, the amount of the transaction is debited from your current account.

What is a deposit?

This is money paid into your account.

What is a Direct Debit?

A Direct Debit is a payment from your bank account to another account on a date, or dates, agreed by yourself and the recipient. Unlike a standing order, the amount paid by a Direct Debit can be changed by the recipient, but they have to give you notice of this.

What is EAR?

EAR stands for Equivalent Annual Rate. It's the rate you would pay on your overdraft if interest was charged annually on the amount you owe. It doesn't take into account any fees.

What are Faster Payments?

Faster Payments is a real time payment system that can transfer money within seconds, instead of days. Occasionally, they can take up to 2 hours to go through, but this is uncommon. It’s one of the ways you can send money electronically in the UK.

What is the Financial Conduct Authority?

Known as the FCA, this is the body that regulates the financial services industry in the UK, including banks and building societies. The FCA's role is to protect customers, businesses and the economy by making sure UK financial markets are honest, fair and effective.

What is an IBAN?

IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number. It identifies accounts held at any bank in any country, or region. If you're an HSBC customer, you'll find your IBAN on your bank statement.

What is a joint account?

This is an account held by more than one person. For example, you could open a joint current account or a joint savings account with someone you trust.

What is an arranged overdraft?

Most current accounts allow you to apply for an arranged overdraft. This is an agreement in advance that you may borrow money when there is no money left in your current account. The arranged overdraft limit – which is the maximum amount you can borrow – is based on your credit rating and how much you can afford. There will usually be a cost for using an arranged overdraft in the form of interest and sometimes fees.

Explore: Overdrafts explained

What is a payee?

A payee is the company, or person, you're paying.

What are pending transactions?

Pending transactions are payments or deposits you've made – for example, by cheque or debit card – that haven't yet cleared or been debited to your account.

What are recurring transactions?

Recurring transactions are payments you've agreed that a business can take from your debit or credit card when needed. They're also known as recurring payments or a continuous payment authority (CPA). Recurring payments are different from Direct Debits and standing orders because your instruction is with the business, not the bank. They can vary in amount and frequency.

What is a sort code?

A sort code is a 6-digit code that identifies your bank branch.

What is a standing order?

A standing order is a regular payment you make from your bank account. Unlike Direct Debits, the amount paid by a standing order is fixed and you're the only one who can change it.

What is a statement?

A bank statement shows all the transactions that have taken place over a set period of time. It also shows any interest and fees that have been added to, or deducted from, your account. You can access your bank statements online or have paper statements sent to you by post.

What is a withdrawal?

A withdrawal is when you take money out of your account.