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People who have difficulty managing a bank account

A person with a bank account could have difficulty managing their finances due to vulnerability, abuse, homelessness, or imprisonment.

This content applies to England

People experiencing financial abuse

Financial abuse is when someone takes control of another person's finances. It can be a form of domestic abuse. The abuser could be doing this to:

  • take the person's money

  • take advantage of the person

  • reduce the person's independence and make the person reliant on them

The abuser might be someone the person is in a relationship with, for example, a family member or carer.

Surviving Economic Abuse has advice and resources for people experiencing financial abuse from a current or former partner.

Someone who is experiencing domestic abuse could be entitled to homelessness assistance from a local authority.

Find out more about the housing options for people experiencing domestic abuse.

Spot financial abuse

Financial abuse takes many forms. You might notice:

  • a partner or family member restricting access to money or cards

  • all financial paperwork is in one person's name

  • the person pays their benefits into an account they don't have access to

Support with financial abuse

The high street banks have signed up to UK Finance's Financial Abuse Code of Practice. Banks can support anyone they think might be a victim of financial abuse, to help them regain control of their finances. Some banks offer a 'safe space' interview room.

The person's local authority might offer welfare assistance. The police could investigate financial abuse as coercive or controlling behaviour, which is a criminal offence.

The Rail to Refuge Scheme can pay for travel costs to a refuge. The person should get in touch with one of the domestic abuse agencies in the Women's Aid network.

Refuge offers a national domestic abuse helpline.

Benefits advice

People escaping financial abuse might need advice about claiming benefits.

A benefits adviser can help someone check their entitlement to benefits and grants, get help to claim benefits, and challenge DWP decisions.

Find out more about where to get advice about benefits and grants.

People with no fixed address

A person who is homeless or in insecure or temporary housing can have difficulty receiving post and dealing with paper documentation. They might not have access to online or telephone services.

It could be more secure for the person to ask for digital-only letters, and access them online when they are able to. This prevents letters being picked up by the wrong person, which can lead to identity theft and fraud.

Read more about how people with no fixed address can apply for a basic bank account without proof of identity or address.

Hostels, shelters, and refuges

Hostels, shelters, and refuges can provide an address for letters and statements.

Someone in a hostel, shelter, or refuge should include their room number on their correspondence address.

Homeless day centres and charities

Someone with no fixed address could use the address of a charity to receive their post. Some day centres provide a service for homeless people to collect their post.

Family or friends

The person might know someone who would be willing to accept post for them.

Having a bank account registered at the person's address is not recorded on their credit reference file. That means it cannot affect future applications for credit and mortgages.

People in prison

People in prison are responsible for controlling and managing their bank account.

Prisoners are not allowed to use telephone or internet banking so have to conduct all banking activities by post. This might limit the services they can access.

Using a prison address

A person is not legally required to notify a bank they are in prison, but it will help them manage their account and protect it from dormancy.

People can change their address by contacting their bank, and they should include their prison number. Banks might ask for proof of identity.

A prison has a right to open and examine incoming and outgoing post for security purposes so communication between a prisoner and their bank might not be confidential.

Authorising someone else to manage an account

A third-party mandate allows someone to operate an account from outside of the prison on behalf of the prisoner.

A prisoner should write to their bank to set up a mandate. Some banks require the account holder and the third party to visit a branch to set up a mandate, which can make it difficult for people in prison.

Restrictions on banking

People on remand have no restrictions on their banking.

People who have been convicted and are in prison cannot conduct banking transactions. They are restricted to personal transactions that help them maintain their affairs while in prison or help them resume a regular lifestyle on release. For example, paying rent.

Account frozen due to convictions

A prisoner's bank could be frozen if it is subject to a:

  • restraint order

  • confiscation order

  • third party debt order

A bank might make an account dormant if it is inactive for a set amount of time and the bank cannot contact the account holder. For some banks, the inactive period could be as little as a year.

Prisoners should try to actively use the account and make sure their bank has their current prison address.

To reactivate a dormant account, a prisoner can contact their bank. Some banks require the account holder to visit a branch with identification to reactivate a dormant account, which can make it difficult for prisoners.

People who lack mental capacity

A person lacks mental capacity if they have an impairment or dysfunction of their mind or brain which means they are unable to make a decision for themselves.

A person who lacks, or is losing, the capacity to manage their financial affairs could have help through a Power of Attorney, Court of Protection Order, or Appointeeship.[1] has guidance covering how to manage a bank account for someone else.

Applying for a bank account

A bank might refuse an application for an account if the applicant lacks mental capacity to manage their affairs.

Find out more about basic bank account applications.

FCA rules on fair treatment of customers

Banks are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The FCA publishes its rules and guidance online, including its Principles for Business and the Banking Conduct of Business Sourcebook.

The FCA does not deal with consumer complaints about banks. Bank account holders can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. The Financial Ombudsman can deal with any complaint about any FCA authorised firm and issue a decision that is binding on the firm.

Find out more about how to complain about a bank.

Principles the bank must follow

The bank must treat its customers fairly. It must pay attention to the information needs of its customers, and communicate information to them in a way that is clear, fair, and not misleading.[2]

A bank account holder can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service about unfair treatment and other breaches of the principles.

Banking conduct of business

The Banking Conduct of Business Sourcebook contains the rules for how banks can operate. It restricts marketing of financial products and sets out strict rules for banks to enable customers to make informed decisions.[3]

A bank account holder can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service about breaches of the Banking Conduct of Business rules.

Fair treatment of vulnerable customers

The FCA defines a vulnerable customer as someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to harm, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.[4]

The FCA guidance on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers is intended to supplement the principles for business. A bank account holder can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service about unfair treatment and other breaches of the principles.

The FCA has identified four drivers of vulnerability. They are health, life events, resilience, and capability.


A bank account holder could be a vulnerable customer on health grounds for reasons including:

  • a physical impairment or illness

  • a mental health or mental capacity impairment

  • an addiction

Life events

A life event could result in a bank account holder being a vulnerable customer for reasons including:

  • bereavement

  • domestic abuse

  • relationship breakdown

  • migration, seeking asylum, and human trafficking


A bank account holder could be a vulnerable customer for reasons of lowered resilience including:

  • inadequate or erratic income

  • over-indebtedness

  • low emotional resilience


A bank account holder could be a vulnerable customer for reasons of reduced capability including:

  • poor literacy or numeracy

  • inability to read, write or understand English

  • poor or non-existent digital skills

  • low financial literacy

Debt and budgeting advice

A specialist debt adviser could help someone with budgeting and financial advice. Online tools include budget planners and template letters.

Find out more about where to get debt and money advice.

Last updated: 10 January 2023


  • [1]

    JMLSG guidance, July 2022, Part I, 5.3.97 - 5.3.101 and 5.3.116.

  • [2]

    PRIN 2.1, FCA Handbook.

  • [3]

    BCOBS 4.1, FCA Handbook.

  • [4]

    FG/21 FCA guidance on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, February 2021.