How to Open a Bank Account in the UK?
When moving to Great Britain as a student or relocating for a job, you will need to open a local bank account. The UK is associated with quite conservative traditions and, to some extent, this also applies to the banking sector. But today everything is not as difficult as it used to be. You can choose any of the high-street or digital-based banks. It is also possible to open a bank account online in the UK with no fuss or applying online beforehand.
What Documents are Required to Open a Bank Account in the UK?
It does not matter whether you open an account in-branch or online, the requirements for the list of documents are the same. Basically, you will need only two documents for opening a bank account in the UK: one certifying your identity, another one proving your place of residence. A passport, driving license or ID card (for EU residents) is enough for the identification. To prove your address according to AML (anti-money laundering) regulations you should present a rental agreement, utility bills, etc. (but not older than three months). Depending on a bank additional documents can be required (recent bank or credit card statement, proof of employment or studying in the UK).
Types of Bank Accounts in the UK
A current account is the most common for basic everyday needs: paying bills, receiving a salary, shopping. It is free and comes with a debit card, a credit card and overdraft options. There are also premium current accounts with additional services that cost a monthly fee.
Basic accounts are offered by some British banks for people with a poor credit history. Basic banking services include a debit card and direct debit payment options. It doesn’t offer credit cards, loans, and overdrafts, but can be upgraded to a current one if the credit check is passed.
A savings account, according to the name, is made to accumulate and save funds. It offers a higher interest rate. But a minimum deposit is required, and it must be kept in a bank during the minimum determined period.
A mobile or digital account is offered by almost all the major banks in the UK. This option lets you manage funds distantly. There are also plenty of ‘online only’ banks without physical branches.
A Joint account is a solution for families, couples. It can be opened jointly for several people.
Some banks propose a non-resident (international) account. You can also open it online and run it from overseas.
Offshore accounts are mostly used by expats living in Great Britain. It can be opened in different currencies in the UK (GBP, EUR, USD). Compared to standard bank accounts bigger deposits are required here. Favorable tax rates are a definite advantage over local banking institutions.
Business accounts are required to run various forms of business activity (limited companies, sole traders, freelancers, etc.).
How to Open a UK Bank Account from Abroad?
You can open a GBP foreign currency / multi-currency account at your home country bank. It is also possible to open an international account in the UK in advance of moving to Great Britain. If your domestic bank has a correspondent banking relationship with a British bank it can set an account for you. It will take a bit more time compared to opening one in the UK, about 7-15 days. You must be ready for some additional requirements like a big initial deposit, a monthly fee, and a minimal period to close your account. So, it is more expensive to run it.
How to Open a Bank Account in the UK for a Non-Resident?
No matter if it is an in-branch or online procedure, you will need 2 documents: a proof of identity and a proof of address. The list of additional requirements can vary from bank to bank. A major stumbling block, most people face, is to prove the place of residence. But, in recent years, some British banks have relaxed the requirements for a proof of address. A letter from Jobcentre Plus with the National Insurance number, or a letter from the employer (not older than 3 months) can be accepted by some banks. It is easier to open a non-resident account for EU residents. Learn more about how to open European bank account for non-residents.
How to Open a Student Bank Account in the UK?
Being a student in the UK, you can do it both at a bank branch or online. Proving your place of residence is essential. For an international student it can also be a letter of acceptance from a university, or introduction from a body on the Department for Education list. Some high-street banks offer international student accounts with £1,000 – £3,000 free overdraft (Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, NatWest).
How to Open a Business Bank Account in the UK?
Any major bank in Great Britain provides the option of opening a business account. To open a business bank account in the UK for a limited company one must provide a Companies House registration number, directors / founders details, annual turnover plans. Sole traders, freelancers and partnerships are required to present an ID / passport, a proof of business and personal address. A credit check is mostly obligatory for managers running the business. Usually, a dedicated business manager at a bank asks for a personal meeting to clarify your business plans and expectations and tell you general details of the account opening. The bank can offer you help in business plan writing, and total budget forecasting. It is also a necessary condition for a loan.
How to Open a Bank Account in the UK Online?
You can apply for an international account online. You must fill in an application form providing a proof of identity including your full name, date of birth, current address, and other standard details. A bank’s support team will give feedback and may ask for additional information, like a proof of address, employment, or income details. Major banks have convenient websites. You can manage your personal funds and apply for products from a website personal page or a smartphone app.
What Else Can I Do?
If applying for the UK account seems too difficult for you, there is an alternative and simpler way. You can open a European account with a unique IBAN online at Satchel.eu. Just fill in an application form: only 2 documents are needed. You can get a virtual or a physical Mastercard for any purchases. International transfers come with low fees and SEPA incoming transfers are free. All transactions can be managed on the go from the app on your smartphone or desktop device. Personal, business, merchant and even freelancer accounts are available. You can open a multi-currency account with the most competitive exchange rate for 37 currencies including GBP at Satchel. So, this option gives the opportunity to run a business with the whole world from one account.
Can I Open a UK Bank Account without Proof of Address?
Some challenger banks (recently born banks, mainly digital-based) don’t require a proof of address. Monzo, Starling, Monese offer UK bank accounts even without proving of place of residence. But a proof of identity is still needed. High-street banks require a place of residence proof too.
Tips to Consider when Choosing a Bank
There is no straightforward answer what particular bank, type of account or option (at a branch or online) is the best. It depends on your needs and lifestyle. A current account is enough for basic everyday use to pay the bills, receive payments, do shopping, and withdraw cash. It is a fee-free bank account. A special student account is the best solution being a student. Major banks offer several types of business accounts. All high-street and challenger banks have handy website user accounts, or mobile apps to manage your funds.
Compare bank accounts’ features and commission rates
There are plenty of comparison sites (Compare the Market, Money Advice Service, etc.) to make a ’cons and pros’ research. It will let you unwrap the differences in charges and fees. Prioritize the list of your needs. E.g., if an overdraft option is important for you, pay attention to the overdraft terms of conditions and the rates. Many banks offer special deals to attract new clients. But be attentive and look beyond any short-term offer. Make sure the account will still be the best option when the term ends.
Get in touch with customer support
We recommend contacting several banks’ customer support in advance not to face difficulties in future. Ask the questions about rates, specific terms etc. You can email, use live chat, or call the bank. Having clarified all the pitfalls, you will be able to choose the bank account solution that will meet your expectations.
Pre-apply for an account online
Having chosen a bank and type of an account, save your time and pre-apply by filling in the registration form. If you have decided on an online-only bank or a bank offering opening an account in the UK online – use this option.
Manage your funds via mobile app or website user account
This will help you have your finger on the pulse, control and be aware of all the transactions, commissions, additional expenses. Most apps have advanced security tools to keep your money and personal data safe.
Which Bank is the Best?
The banking industry in Great Britain is very competitive. But traditional UK high-street banks still have market dominance. It is easier to open a bank account if you’re an EU national. If you are a non-resident and have a limited credit history the easiest way is to choose one of the UK’s largest banks – Lloyds, HSBC, Barclays, NatWest. These banks have been dealing with foreigners for a long time. Getting a basic current account at no monthly cost should be more than enough for your everyday banking needs. They are quite strict with their requirements.
Lloyds, Barclays, NatWest Group, and HSBC offer a free account, it comes with a contactless Visa debit card. They have special accounts for students and businesses. Barclays has a free international account with cashback from shopping and up to £3,000 overdraft for 3 years. There is a possibility to pre-apply for an account online before you move to the UK at Barclays. Lloyds’ business account for the £0-£3M turnover is free for the 1st year. HSBC and NatWest offer a free business account for the first 18 months. All the details concerning application and documents can be clarified in real time by live chat.