Market News & Insights
19 March 2018

How to Open a Bank Account in the UK

In September 2017, it was estimated that 220,000 citizens from other EU countries immigrated to the UK and about 130,000 emigrated abroad. 47% of citizens from other EU countries said that they came to the UK with a definite job lined up, which has been the highest year since 2012 (Full Fact).

There are many reasons as to why you may want to move to the UK. Whether it is for a job, retirement or a better quality of life, one thing is for sure – you will need to open a UK bank account. Historically, opening a bank account was very difficult for those migrating to the UK but, thankfully, it has become much easier to do. Check out our guide on how to open a bank account in the UK.

 

What to consider when choosing a UK bank

First things first, it’s important to remember that because you’re new to the UK, your credit history will be fairly limited because you won’t have much documentation. There are certain banks that are notoriously strict with their requirements, so you may find that opening a bank account with them will be difficult. This is why you should consider opening a bank account with one of the UK’s larger banks (we’ll go through this later). This is because these banks have been in business for decades and are in a financially strong position. Another added benefit of going to a bigger bank is that they have experience in opening bank accounts for migrants, and are more understanding of your situation and flexible with their requirements. Many of the larger banks will have bilingual advisers too, which helps a lot.

We recommend getting in touch with customer service support for the bank you want to open an account with before opening said account, so that you can get as much information as you need, This is because it is usually easier to open a bank account if you are an EU national than when you’re from a country outside the EU.

 

Main banks in the UK

There are a plethora of retail banks in the UK for you to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The biggest four UK banks are Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and RBS/NatWest.

Barclays

Barclays Bank has over 1,500 branches across the UK, and is one of the oldest banks in Britain. It’s also probably one of the easiest banks to open an account with if you’re new to the UK, as you can pre-apply for a free basic account online before you arrive in Britain. The account comes with a contactless visa debit card, but you won’t be able to use your account immediately. To activate the account, you simply need to visit a branch with your reference number, passport and proof of address when you’re in the UK. A Barclays business account is free for the first year and has an array of financing options, including a planned overdraft and credit cards.

Lloyds Banking Group Ltd

The largest provider of current accounts in the UK, Lloyds has 1,300 branches throughout the country. Even if you have literally just arrived in the UK, opening a free bank account with Lloyds very easy. This is because they have a new to the UK account that usually requires just your passport or identity card (if you’re an EU citizen). The account comes with a contactless visa debit card as standard.

Lloyds also offers a business account that is free for the first 18 months. Depending on the size of your business, there are three accounts to choose from. These business accounts also come with a range of business tools, including accounting software and legal assistance at a reduced price – handy for any company.

HSBC UK

One of HSBC’s biggest advantages is that it operates in more than 80 countries worldwide, and has over 1,100 branches around England and Wales. If you’ve already got a HSBC bank account in your home country, you can get help setting up an account in the UK before you arrive.

A basic current account includes free internet banking and comes with a visa debit card (depending on your individual circumstance it may be contactless). In some cases, HSBC may credit check you before opening your account.

HSBC offer a range of business bank accounts that are free for the first 18 months and include perks such as a dedicated relationship manager to help you build your business and a knowledge centre with training articles and videos.

RBS/NatWest

The RBS Group owns the Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest, and because of this they have broadly similar products. NatWest has over 1,400 branches all over the UK, and RBS has 700 branches mainly in Scotland. NatWest offer a free Select current account that comes with a contactless visa debit card as standard, as well as access to an emergency cash service (this means that you can withdraw money from your account via a security code if your card is lost or stolen).

NatWest has 4 business accounts that are free for two years. They also come with a free business credit card for the first 12 months and a free £500 overdraft for the first year.

You should shop around before you choose which bank you want to go with, as each one has its pros and cons.

 

What documents do I need to open a UK bank account?

If you want to open a bank account in the UK, you will need the following two documents:

  • A passport/citizenship card or driving license proving your identity
  • A tenancy agreement/mortgage statement/current council tax bill or statement/bill proving your address.

You may find that because you are new to the UK, you don’t actually have any of the above documents on this list (aside from a passport). Thankfully, banks have become much more flexible in terms of what documents they accept as proof of address. Another way around this is going to your bank before you leave for the UK, and asking them to change your correspondence address to your UK address. Once you’ve changed your address, get your bank to send a bank statement to your new address by post, and you’ll have a document that proves your UK address.

It’s likely that you’ll need to transfer money from your native country to your new home. That’s where Clear Treasury comes in; we combine our foreign exchange expertise with a proactive approach to be our clients eyes and ears in the market, therefore removing the stress of international money transfers for our clients. If you are a private individual looking to make move funds to or from the UK and the rest of the world, we’re here to help – get in touch to find out more.

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