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What is an Overdraft?

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

An overdraft is a financial service provided by banks that allows individuals to spend more money than they have in their bank account. It can be a useful tool for covering unexpected expenses, but it's important to understand how overdrafts work and the potential risks involved. In this article, we will explore the concept of overdrafts, the two main types available in the UK, and how to use them responsibly.


Learn more by watching the video and reading the blog post below:


What is an Overdraft?


When someone has an overdraft, they are borrowing money from the bank, enabling them to make payments or withdraw cash from their current account even if the balance is zero. Essentially, an overdraft allows you to spend money you don't currently have in your account. This temporary borrowing can help you manage financial emergencies or bridge the gap between pay checks.

Using an Overdraft: An Example


Let's illustrate the concept with an example. Imagine you have no money in your account, and your car suddenly breaks down, requiring £250 for repairs. Using your debit card, you pay for the repairs, resulting in your account balance showing -£250, indicating the use of your overdraft. Essentially, you have borrowed £250 from the bank to cover the expenses.


The idea behind an overdraft is that you will repay the borrowed amount when you receive your next income, thereby restoring a positive balance in your bank account. If you were to get paid £1,500, you would go from having a negative balance of -£250 to having a positive balance of £1,250. By repaying the £250 borrowed through the overdraft, you would still have £1,250 available in your account.


Types of Overdrafts: Arranged and Unarranged


In the UK, there are two main types of overdrafts: arranged and unarranged overdrafts.


1. Arranged Overdraft


An arranged overdraft is one that you have agreed upon with the bank in advance. The terms of the arranged overdraft, such as the limit and fees, are negotiated between you and the bank. Before approving the overdraft, the bank will assess your financial situation and creditworthiness. The overdraft limit available to you depends on factors like your income and credit score. Those with a higher income and good credit are likely to have a higher overdraft limit, such as £10,000, while those with a lower income and poor credit may have a limit of £500.


2. Unarranged Overdraft


An unarranged overdraft occurs when you spend more money than is available in your account without having an arranged overdraft in place or when you exceed your arranged overdraft limit. It's important to note that unarranged overdrafts often come with significantly higher fees and interest rates compared to arranged overdrafts. To avoid these additional costs, it's advisable to plan ahead and arrange an overdraft with your bank if you anticipate needing one.


Using Overdrafts Responsibly


While overdrafts can provide short-term financial flexibility, it's essential to use them responsibly. They should not be relied upon as a long-term solution for ongoing financial difficulties. Overuse or dependence on overdrafts can lead to a cycle of debt and financial strain, as individuals continuously bounce in and out of their overdraft. If you find yourself frequently relying on overdrafts to cover essential expenses, it may be wise to seek financial advice and explore alternative solutions.



In summary, an overdraft allows you to spend more money than what is currently available in your bank account. It can be a helpful tool for managing unexpected expenses, but it's important to understand the different types of overdrafts, their limits, and associated fees. Using overdrafts responsibly means using them as a short-term borrowing option and ensuring you have a plan to repay the borrowed amount. By managing your finances wisely and seeking professional advice when needed, you can avoid the pitfalls of excessive overdraft usage and work towards long-term financial stability.

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