By Niki Olymbiou
Firstly, speak to your home bank as they may have a correspondent banking relationship with a UK bank. If so, they will be able to help you set up an account with the bank they have the relationship with. This will probably save you a lot of time and make the whole process a lot simpler. But if your home bank does not have a relationship with a UK bank or you decide not to use it, the next thing is to decide on the type of bank account you would like.
Banks sometimes have incentives for new customers so it is worth looking on MoneySuperMarket.com to compare what deals banks are offering for new customers at the time you want to open a new account.
In the UK there are the high street banks, such as Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest and there are also online/mobile banks such as Monzo and Starling Bank.
High Street Banks
The four high street banks I mentioned, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest are the biggest in the UK (but by no means not the only ones) and they all have the same criteria to open a bank account with them, these are:
- you must be over 18 and
- live in the UK
It is free to open a basic current account with these banks and the application process can be done online, so there is no need to go into a branch. These banks have branches all over the country and bank ATMs are free to withdraw money from in the UK. It doesn’t matter who you bank with, you are able to withdraw money for free from any ATM. (There are some ATMs that are not free in the UK but these are generally independent and found in shops and not associated with a specific bank.)
What documentation do you need?
These banks all require the same documentation:
- Photographic ID in the form of a passport, driving licence, or ID card;
- Proof of address, for instance a utility bill, council tax bill, tenancy agreement or something equivalent;
- and if you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss national you will be required to show a valid visa for at least 12 months.
If you have all of these documents before you move to the UK it will be possible for you to open an account before you arrive, if you do not, then opening a high street bank will have to wait until you arrive in the UK.
Online only banks are becoming very popular in the UK due to their user friendly apps and the excellent customer service they boast.
The requirements for these banks are:
You must be over 16 and have a UK address.
Everything is completed through their apps. The documentation you will need is much the same as the documentation required for a high street bank.
You will need ID, proof of address and if you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss national you will be required to show a valid visa for at least 12 months.
Monzo has a very user friendly app which features tips on budgeting.
Revolut is also worth exploring although it is worth noting that it does not have a UK banking licence, but it has been granted an EU banking licence. If you are very tech-savvy then this could be the banking app for you as it has a lot of features and is aimed at young and tech-savvy users. With a standard account you get a UK account and a Euro IBAN account and there are no fees on exchanging in 24 currencies. Definitely worth exploring further.
Is it possible to open a bank account without proof of address?
If you require a bank account before you have the relevant documentation then it is possible to open an account in the UK with a provider such as Wise or Monese.
Wise is not a UK bank but has all the features of a UK bank and the account is held by Barclays so this means that you can spend money and get paid like it is a UK bank. One thing to note is that there is no overdraft available with a Wise account.
Monese is open to all EEA members so you do not need a UK address to open an account with them. It is a mobile bank and offers accounts in both GBP and EUR. You are also able to quickly send and receive money locally and internationally in 19 different currencies.
These are options to think about if you need to open a bank account without having proof of address.
Student Bank Accounts
If you are a student then you can open a student specific bank account and the majority of high street banks offer student accounts. The documents you need will be the same as above but you will also need to show your university acceptance letter as well. This could also be used as proof of residency for some banks. A lot of the banks will offer incentives to open a student account with them, so it is worth looking around and deciding on the best one for you.
Things to consider
If you plan to use your UK bank account while overseas, it is worth considering the cost that banks will charge you to withdraw money overseas. Some banks charge more than others, so if this is something that will affect you it is worth considering this when choosing a bank.
Overdrafts – some banks offer a free overdraft for a specified amount but some carry high interest rates on the amount you are overdrawn by. It is worth looking into the interest rates that banks carry if you think you may go into your overdraft often. A lot of the student bank accounts offer a larger free overdraft, so this is something worth looking into as well when choosing a student account.
Another thing to consider if you decide to open an account with a high street bank, is the bank’s physical location to where you live or work. There are so many banks in London so it is likely that you will be close to many different ones, but it is worth noting where they are in proximity to where you will be living and working in case you need to go into a branch.