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Opening a Bank Account in the UK

 

Find out how to open a UK bank account. 

 

Did you know that opening a British bank account can seem next to impossible when you first arrive in the UK?

Without one though, you cannot get paid and pay for things.

The reason banks make it difficult is due to the amount of identification they require.

If your just about to arrive or just arrived in the UK, chances are you don't have documents like lease agreements or utility bills.

Even if you do a bank may only offer the most basic form of a bank account - one with no online banking and no ATM card.

In this guide you we will show you how to open a bank account easily no matter what your circumstances. 

 

Your UK Banking Options 

 

 

Option 1

Open a Bank Account from Anywhere  - Designed for High Net Worth Individuals

 

Option 2

DIY - Sort it Out When You Get There

(OK with a bank account that has restrictions like no internet or phone banking)

 Option 3

Purchase a Bank Account Set-Up Package Before You Leave or On Arrival

(For working travellers

or expats moving to the UK who want a fully operational bank account)

Hassle Factor: Medium     

Cost Factor: High

 

 

Hassle Factor: High 

Cost Factor: Low

 

Hassle Factor: Very Low

Cost Factor: Medium

   

Go   Go  Go

 

Which option is best for you?

Your best option depends somewhat on your personal circumstances.

If you are a high net worth individual (as determined by the bank but usually over $1M) there are offshore services set up by the major UK banks and Option 1 may be your best option. 

If you are a working traveller or in the process of moving to the UK - Option 3 is the most efficient, hassle free way. Not only do you end up with a fully operational bank account that enables you to do telephone banking, internet banking everything is made easy for you. You do need to be moving to the UK and have a passport and work visa.

If you plan to sort it out when you get there yourself, it can be done... eventually. Initally however banks in the UK are likely to only offer a restricted bank account - think 1980s passbook style. No card, no internet or telephone banking. Yes the banks want your money, but due to banking regulations in the UK and anti-money laundering laws you need to show a bank all kinds of proof that you are established in the UK (which if you just arrived you are unlikely to have). This does vary from bank to bank to some degree and even branch to branch. Fortunately Option 3 exists. 


 Explore Your UK Banking Options

Option 1:

Open a Bank Account for High Net Worth Individuals (Offshore Accounts)
 
Required Ideal if
  • A passport
  • A sizable initial deposit (minimum £1000 but often £25000 or more)
  • An established account with the same bank in your home country 
  • You Should Know


    You may be able avoid making a high initial deposit if you're willing to open a restricted account. Restricted accounts won't come with basics like online banking or bank cards.

  • You are a high net worth individual (Over $1M)
  • Have funds to invest
  • You're likely to use other bank services like mortgages and wealth management 

Option 2: 

DIY - Sort it Out Once You Get There 

 
Required  Ideal if
 
  • A passport 
  • A letter of employment
  • A lease or bills in your name to a UK address
  • Potentially a letter from your current bank that notes how long you've been a customer and states that your account is in good standing. 
    • Tip: If this isn't possible, try printing a recent bank statement that includes your name and address
 
  • You have established a lease and paid bills several weeks to a month before your arrival in the UK. 
  • You won’t need immediate access to a bank account after arriving in the UK
   

 Option 3: 

Purchase a Bank Account Setup Package Before You Leave Or When You Arrive.

 
Required Ideal if
  • A passport
  • A valid working visa
  • Costs


    For Australians: $85-$198. For Other Nationalities: €35. (No specific minimum deposit required) 

  • Additional Services Included


    These packages offer other helpful perks for newcomers ot the UK, like NI number assistance, job assistance and an included UK SIM card. Read more below

  • You want a fully functioning, low or zero fee bank account with full access to online, phone and ATM services.
  • You don't won't to make an initial deposit.
  • You don't yet have proof of UK residency, as well as bills in your name in the UK
  • You don't yet have a letter of employment   

Note: Travellers companies that provide bank account services usually keep the cost of these services very low. The idea is to attract your custom for the many other services they offer. Either way we think the benefit you get from having your bank account sorted out and hassle avoided is well worth the money. Below are two companies that are well established and highly recommended for different reasons.


  

Other Things to Look for in a Bank Account Setup Package

Bank account setup packages often seem to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Some useful, some not.

Here is a inclusions you might find useful.

 

Full Access Bank Account

 

You’ll get set up for a UK bank account with a complete set of features, unlike the accounts you would likely have to open without assistance. This means you get features like a debit card that can be used at ATMs, rather than a cash card that cannot, as well as access to online banking.

NI Number Assistance          

 You can organise your NI number yourself, though you may have a tough go working your way through requisite governmental bureaucracy. With NI assistance, travelers' companies will help you streamline the process.

UK SIM Card          

Getting a SIM card that’s ready for use in the UK makes you ready to start your job search and contact the new friends you’ll make. These SIM cards do not come with a contract, so you can often use the handset you already have from home, though it may need to be unlocked. For the long term, you may want to shop around for a contract plan and new handset that suits you better, but this SIM card gives you a way to be contacted and communicate as soon as you arrive and as you contact employers for potential jobs. 

 

Arrival Meeting           

The purpose of arrival meetings is to get assistance with officially opening your bank account once you arrive and to introduce you to other services each company offers. Depending on your package provider, these services may include tax services, social events, relocation services, visa services, travel services, CV writing, job assistance and others. You should know, if you’re only interested in opening your bank account, or if you’re based outside of London, these meetings likely won’t be very useful for you.

 

Money Transfer Deals          

International money transfer deals come with many bank account set-up packages, but may vary quite a bit from one company to another. When packages say they provide ‘free’ money transfers, this means they cover the transfer’s transaction fee, which can be as high as $40 AUS or £20 when transfer your money directly through a bank. 

Pro Tip: Pay attention to exchange rates.  More


Before you start moving significant sums (meaning more than $2000), it pays to compare the exchange rate differences offered by various transfer services because these will potentially add up to more than the transaction cost. The transfer service you choose should be a balance between convenience and cost.

 


 

Compare Bank Account Set-Up Packages

Here are the two largest and in our opinion best bank account setup packages in the UK right now. (Updated June 2015)

Use this comparison table to decide which one is right for you.

 1st Contact: Kickstart PackageBritBound: The Basix
Bank Barclays, Lloyds or TSB Lloyds and Barclays
NI number assistance Yes  Yes
SIM Card Yes (Standard, Micro or Nano SIM) Receive your number before arriving in the UK  Yes (Standard, Micro SIM or Nano) Receive your number before arriving in the UK
Meeting in London Optional Arrival Phone Call & Arrival Party Info Session
Nationalities covered Aus, NZ, Can, South Africa, US, EU and Worldwide Aus, NZ, Can and EU citizens
Price £35 or $85 AUD £75 or $142 AUD
Requirements Passport and valid working visa required Passport and right to work in the UK 
Social Perks  Informative Guide  Membership to Britbound's Social Events Community
Entry to the legendary "Church" Bar 
Discounted entry to nightclubs, events and on EU/UK trips
Traditional Pub Lunch  
Other services 1st International Money Transfer free
CV and Job Assistance
5 day free Gym Voucher
Cheap Accommodation providers

First time international fee-free money transfer free
Employment assistance and resources
3-day free gym trial
Local accommodation advice and assistance
Free WiFi access at Britbound's base 

 

 

The Bottom Line (our opinion)

Half the cost of BritBound's Basix package, this one is best for those who want assistance opening a bank account but prefer to settle into life in the UK a little more independently. Also has an option to get full service assistance with obtaining your NI number at a very reasonable rate. Get Kickstart Now! More social than the Kickstart package, The Basix offers travelers a supportive community in London. This package is best for those who want personalised, well-rounded assistance and want to jump into the London social scene. Get Basix Now!

 

Learn More About Each Package

 

1st Contact         BritBound