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Virgin Money owner Sir Richard Branson has said that the bank will offer current accounts with free banking, as he visited Newcastle's flagship Northern Rock branch to celebrate his £747 million buy-out of the bank, the Financial Times reports.

But the CEO said that the phrase 'free' banking should come with quotations marks around it - and banking customers would pay less overall by paying a 'small upfront fee', instead of the 'hidden charges' many banks levy on accounts.

Sir Richard visited the branch, along with chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia, to mark the start of his rebranding of Northern Rock, which nearly collapsed in September 2007 as a result of the banking crisis.

The boss vowed that, with Northern Rock's 75 branches, 2,100 employees and million-strong customer base, Virgin Money's takeover - with its existing 3 million customers - will aim to expand to 200 branches and 8 million customers, in an effort to 'take on the big banks and give them a run for their money'.

The bank has said it will add full current accounts to its range of products in 2013.

A spokesperson for thinkmoney said: "If you're looking for a bank account, it's important to research what options are available.

"If you're worried about any hidden or unforeseen costs, there are accounts out there, that don't come with hidden charges for bounced payments or overdrafts - such as the thinkmoney Current Account, for an upfront monthly fee of £14.50 for a single account, or £21.25 for a joint account."

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