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People like the word 'free' - but the idea of free bank accounts is a "dangerous myth" that needs to be addressed. So says an executive director in the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, who's Head of the Bank's Prudential Business Unit.

Mr Bailey's thoughts about free banking have made the news, with quotes like this one: "It is a myth because nothing in life is free; rather, it means that we pay for our banking services in ways that are hard to link to the costs of the products we receive. This can distort the supply of banking services."

However, it would be hard for a bank to start charging for all its accounts, he warned, as they might lose customers.

Virgin Money, for example, is expected to launch free-charging current accounts next year, but free basic services as well.

So a story in the Financial Times yesterday might have surprised a few people. Marks and Spencer will be the first UK bank to 'shun' free current accounts.

When it launches in autumn, the M&S Bank website tells us, it'll provide 'straightforward financial products' - and a choice between an M&S Premium Current Account and an M&S Premium Current Account with insurance. The first one charges £15 a month and the second costs £20 a month.

Apparently, the bank's targeting regular M&S shoppers, who've said they'd pay for accounts if they came with in-store rewards. It says the benefits would be worth up to £658 per year.

A spokesperson for thinkbanking commented: "There's a lot of choice out there when it comes to finding a bank account and the way you pay for it isn't the only factor. So it pays to shop around, check out the providers' websites to find out what kind of benefits they're really offering - and figure out how likely you are to take advantage of them.

"Take the thinkmoney Current Account, for instance. There's a monthly fee of £10 for a single account, but no unexpected charges for missed payments - and the account comes with an innovative budgeting service that's designed to get the bills paid on time, every time."

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