How to open a UK bank account

Wondering about how to open a bank account in the UK? We’ve gotcha covered.

The most important step after you’ve landed in the UK and secured your job is making sure you have a bank account to store all your hard earned cash. It’s also essential that you pick a bank that fulfills all the criteria you wish in order to build a good credit history, easily transfer funds home, pay bills, and conveniently check your balance.

Once you’ve settled in, start to look around and see what banks are nearby. Even in this day and age of technological ease, it does no good to have a bank that’s too far away.  Let’s now discuss some of the more popular banks with their respective basic accounts:

Banks in the UK

Banks can have many different accounts for different people and their needs. There can be simple and straightforward accounts with no strings attached, or accounts that require a monthly/yearly fee. Below we’ve listed the most basic and easiest accounts you can open as a first-timer, but don’t feel that you must restrict yourselves to these types of bank accounts only if you think you may need something more.

First Direct

They have an online only First Direct 1st Account which boasts no monthly fees so long as you

  • pay at least £1,000 into the account every month
  • maintain an average monthly balance of £1,000

They also have

  • an offer of at least a £500 arranged overdraft
  • no interest charges on the first £250 of your arranged overdraft and 15.9% EAR variable on anything above £250

HSBC

They have the straightforward HSBC Bank Account for which you’ll need to pay at least £500 a month into the account, or a minimum of £3,000 every 6 months. There is no monthly account fee, and overdraft service is available, but at a charged rate.

Nationwide

The Nationwide FlexAccount has 3 months of interest-free overdraft as well as no monthly account fee. After 3 months you will be charged a 18.9% EAR interest rate. You must pay in a minimum of £750 per month.

NatWest

The NatWest Select Account is also free of any monthly payments, has an arranged overdraft setup and calculator, and charges 19.89% EAR along with £6 each month.

Monzo

Monzo is an online only bank wherein you can manage all your bank needs from your phone. They offer cash withdrawals in the UK and payments abroad free, with no added fees. If you’re withdrawing cash abroad, you can withdraw up to £200/month for free, after which you’ll be charged a 3% fee. You can still make payments in shops, restaurants and online for free though, even when abroad. You will be sent a debit card that you can use as and when you need it, or you can opt to use Apple Pay.

It’s always best to visit these banks personally or extensively research them online to get a full idea of what they offer. I’ve just mentioned cursory details regarding their services.

Now let’s discuss what you’ll need to open the accounts.

How to open a UK Bank Account

Most banks don’t typically offer walk-in appointments, so it would be wise to schedule a sit-down so that you can explain your situation and open the bank account. You will need the following

  1. Passport

    If you have multiple passports use the one where you have either stayed longer or have a tax ID.

  2. Biometric Resident Permit (BRP)

    You need to have picked this up before you can open a bank account in the UK. What’s a BRP? We’ve discussed about the Biometric Resident Permit here.

  3. A letter from your trust/job

    The letter should clearly mention your starting date, salary, and duration of the contract. It has to be signed and dated. Your name and date of birth will also be on it, so ensure that spelling is correct and that there are no other mistakes on it as the information will be checked against your passport and BRP.

  4. Proof of accommodation / Tenancy agreement

    This letter should clearly state the address you are staying, your name, DOB, passport no. It can come from your landlord, letting agency, or this information can be included in the above letter from your job if you are staying at the hospital accommodation.

How long does it take?

The actual meeting itself can take up to an hour and at the end of the of it, your account will be set up and ready to use. The UK bank accounts have an 8-digit account number with a 6 digit sort code. You need that information to set-up your payroll and also any transfers you wish to do in and out of your account.

Managing your bank account

After opening a bank account, within a few days you will receive a debit card. You can use that card to make payments everywhere. Almost all banks have  apps with which you can control your account, check your balance, send money, and pay bills.


At the end of the day, choose the bank that does most for you. Don’t settle on what others say until you’ve ensure that it is what you want. Good luck!

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