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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 a British bank account can seem next to impossible when you first arrive in the UK? If you’ve just arrived in the UK, chances are you won’t have documents like lease agreements or utility bills that are necessary to open even the most basic form of an account—one with no online banking and no ATM card. Here you’ll find out how to save yourself a headache or two. 

 

Your UK Banking Options 

 

 

Open a Bank Account from your Home Country

Sort it Out When You Get There                      

Purchase a Bank Account Set-Up Pakage Before You  Leave 

Hassle Factor: Medium     

Cost Factor: Med - High

 

 

Hassle Factor: High 

Cost Factor: Low

 

Hassle Factor: Very Low

Cost Factor: Medium

   

Go   Go  Go

 

 

Which option is best for you? 

Here are the quesitons you should ask: 

  • Can you make and maintain a deposit (at least $2000 or £1000) before arrival? (If your answer is no, read only option 2 and 3)

  • Is a cashcard only acceptable (no ATM access) or do you need online and phone banking as well as a debit card that works at ATMs in the UK? (If your answer is no to the first question and you do need access to ATMs and a debit card, option 3 is likely your only option unless you are established in the UK already)
  • Do I possibly want other services to help me settle in the UK?

 


 Explore Your UK Banking Options

Option 1:

Open a Bank Account from Your Home Country (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: 

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 

 
Required Ideal if
  • A passport
  • Potentially: 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   

 


  

What to Look for in a Bank Account Setup Package

Bank account setup packages often seem to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. That's why we've made this list of what every good bank account set-up package should absolutely include. The rest, like trial memberships at the gym, are simply icing on the cake.

 

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 February 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