How to open a bank account in the UK

Moving to the United Kingdom? One of the first tasks on your immigration to do list will be to open a bank account. This will help when you are making purchases, as well as give your employer a place to deposit your payslips.

Types of bank accounts in the UK

Basic bank account

A basic bank account is an everyday bank account that allows you to access it without having to pay any monthly fees. It’s often the easiest bank account to open when you don’t qualify for any of the other bank account types. However, it does have some limitations, as this simple account type might not have the same products and features offered by other bank accounts, such as savings, international payments, etc.

Current account

A current account is the most common bank account opened by people in the United Kingdom. It’s used for everyday banking, payments, deposits, withdrawals and will come with a debit card that you can use to access it.

Savings account

Savings accounts offer you the opportunity to earn interest on your deposits within this account. You can transfer money from these types of accounts into a current account, as you won’t be able to connect this type of account with your debit card. It’s strictly for saving money and transferring money in and out of.

International account

Some UK banks will offer an international service or accounts to help people who are traveling a lot, or who are looking to move abroad. International bank accounts can offer you flexibility in terms of payment overseas, meaning no fees or less fees on payments or cashpoint withdrawals.

This can be helpful if you plan to spend extended time in your home country, or if you’re looking to leave the UK to study, move or retire. Rand4dollar can also assist you with any international payments you might want to make during this time.

Student accounts

UK banks may also offer specific accounts for students to help them with their studies. These types of accounts come with some added flexibility around fees and overdrafts to make things easier for the student.

Joint accounts

A joint account is a single account that is shared between two or more people. This can be helpful for married or committed couples who want to share their financial burdens between each other. The good news is that Rand4dollar, has no problem facilitating money transfers from joint accounts as well, just in case you need to send money abroad from a shared account.

Choosing the right bank for your needs

You might be wondering how you choose the right bank account for your needs when there are so many options available. We’ll get into the different banking institutions available in the UK in a second, but for now, we’ll focus on the main considerations you might have when picking one out:

  • Fees – what does the bank charge for setting up an account?
  • Services and products – does the bank offer you everything you need?
  • Registration offers – can you get cashback for setting up a new account?
  • International accounts and transfers – does your bank facilitate global transfers? If not, we do!
  • Flexibility – do you have the freedom to change the type of account or services you’d like to use?

Traditional banks

There are quite a few major banks to choose from in the United Kingdom. Here are the names of a few of the top players in the finance space. They will have brick-and-mortar branches in addition to online services.

These banks offer a range of account types from checking, to student-friendly to savings accounts. If you open a checking account with them, they’ll issue you a debit card for you to use for daily spending. You can also apply to see if you qualify for a credit card with these banks, so that you can make larger purchases to be paid off in installments.

Plus, traditional banks have a worldwide network of accounts to choose from – in case you need to use their services abroad.

Online banks

There are also a range of challenger banks that have popped up in recent years. These banks offer purely online services, but their interfaces can be very user-friendly and they often offer interesting product features. They are particularly helpful for tracking your spending and maintaining a budget.

Challenger banks like these are particularly helpful for spending money abroad as some don’t charge fees on overseas spending. You can use their personalised savings pots features to keep track of your savings. Some also allow for business banking and cryptocurrency trading as well.

How much does it cost to open a bank account in the UK?

Of course, it’s not just flashy product features that you might be concerned about. When it comes down to it, you have to think about what opening an account with different providers might actually cost you.

This table compares some of the major providers with some of popular online banks and reveals that most allow free transactions for opening a current, or basic account.

Bank Current account cost
Barclays Free
HSBC Free
NatWest Free
Monzo Free
Starling Bank Free

Debit card fees

Most of the major banks won’t charge you for domestic use of your debit card. Where you may incur some fees is for international withdrawals. You may also need to pay money when dipping into your overdraft, or if you need a replacement card.

International transfer fees

There may be an international transfer fee if you choose to send money abroad. The fee your bank will charge will depend on the country you are sending to – these fees differ on sending within Europe versus other countries worldwide.  The following information was found through a comparison site called moneyhelper.org.uk.

Bank European transfer fee (GBP) Worldwide transfer fee (GBP)
Barclays £0-£6 £0-£6
HSBC £0-£5 £5
NatWest £0-£7 £1-£7
Santander £0-25 £15-25
Starling Bank 0.4% transfer fee + £5.50 delivery fee 0.4% transfer fee + £5.50 delivery fee

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What do I need to open a bank account in the UK?

To open a bank account in the UK, you will need both identification and proof of address.

Some of the identification documents that your bank will require include: one of the following:

  • A passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Identity card

A proof of address can be any legal document that contains both your name and your current address on it, such as:

  • A recent utility bill
  • A tenancy agreement or mortgage statement
  • A council tax bill
  • A bank or credit card statement from the last three months (not printed from an online statement)

Can I open a bank account in the UK without proof of address?

Some of the online banks we’ve mentioned before, such as Starling Bank and Revolut won’t require a proof of address for you to set up an account.

Alternatively, if you’re a student, you can reach out to your university’s admissions office to get a letter that confirms your address through them. You could also get a letter from your employer or Job Centre Plus that confirms your address.

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

Many international banks will have a relationship with UK banks. This may allow you to open up an account in the country before you move abroad.

Some of the traditional banks we’ve mentioned such as Barclays, HSBC and NatWest all offer international account options.

Making international transfers easy

Finally, when it comes to international money transfers, we have you covered.

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