How to open a bank account in the UK

How to open a bank account in the UK

by Laura Jones

Updated November 8, 2022

Are you thinking of moving to the UK? Or maybe you’re there already? Either way, you need a bank account. 

Having a UK bank account means you won’t be charged fees every time you spend or take out money, or for any direct debits you set up to pay for your accommodation or bills. Employers also prefer to, or sometimes have to, pay their workers into UK bank accounts. Plus, if you lose your card or forget your PIN, it’s much easier to deal with it if you’re in the same country as your bank. 

Can non-British citizens open a bank account in the UK?

First things first, yes! You do not have to be a British citizen to open a bank account in the UK. However, you do have to be a UK resident. That means that you live there, or you will live there, long-term. 

How to choose a bank in the UK

Walk down any high street in the UK, and you’ll see that there are banks left, right and centre. If you’re just a regular person looking for a regular bank account, then honestly, it won’t matter much which you choose. If you’re Jeff Bezos-style rich, then… well, this blog probably isn’t for you. A “regular” bank account in the UK is called a current account; this is an account your employer will pay into, and you will use to pay for all of your everyday things.

But there are some things to think about before you walk into the first bank you see. First, look out for extra charges they might take, especially if you go over your overdraft. These charges can really add up. You can also look at which banks pay better interest rates, if they have any incentives to make you open an account there and how good their customer service is. 

What you need to open a bank account in the UK

The short answer to this is that you need two things: proof of identity and proof of address in the UK. Your proof of identity will usually be your passport or EU identity card.

The proof of address can be: 

  • A recent utility bill (gas, electricity, etc. but not a mobile phone bill)
  • A rental contract for a house or flat
  • A council tax bill
  • A recent bank statement (not printed off the internet)

You might be thinking, but I just moved to the UK and I don’t have any of these things yet! British banks are surprisingly helpful with this kind of thing (they’re pretty used to it and, honestly, they want your money). So the best thing to do is go into a branch and talk to them. They might let you use a letter from your employer confirming your address or even a hotel or hostel address temporarily. 

How to open a bank account

Walk into a branch of your chosen bank or go to their website. The bank will either give you an application form or tell you that you can apply via their website or app, so follow the instructions on there. You will be given a reference number and then you need to make an appointment to show the bank your original documents. When you have done this, sit back and wait for your debit card and PIN to arrive by post. This can take up to seven days but you will be able to use your online banking features before they arrive. 

Opening a bank account as a student in the UK

Good news for students! Most banks offer special incentives to students to open accounts with them. The biggest benefit they offer to UK students is a big, interest-free overdraft. However, they might not offer this to overseas students. But they do offer other goodies like free railcards, Amazon vouchers and cashback. 

Can I open a bank account from overseas in the UK?

Yes, you can, but you might not want to bother. If you’re an EU citizen, a few banks offer basic account options. With this, you can get a debit card, bank online and pay direct debits. Basic accounts are not bad options, but people often switch from a basic account to a current account as soon as they can. The second option is to start the application process for a normal current account from overseas online and then complete it when you arrive in the UK. 

What does it cost to open a bank account?

Nothing! Opening a bank account is free. Banks don’t charge a monthly fee for your debit card and they don’t charge you for withdrawing money from ATMs. If anyone tries to charge you for these things, walk away. However, “packaged” accounts with benefits like travel insurance or car breakdown cover do come with charges.  

Choose a well-known bank in the UK and opening your account should be easy as pie. 

Being confident in English will really help when you need to set up your new bank account. Visit the Lingoda website and sign up for your free 7-day trial with our English native speaking teachers today! You could even book a private class on the topic of finance. 

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