Open a Bank Account in the UK (for Non-Residents and New Arrivals)

Open a UK bank account

As a non-resident or new arrival to the UK it can be frustrating opening a UK bank account – usually documents are needed to prove your residency in the UK.

Fortunately:

There are some banks who can make it easier and great online alternatives that can be opened without the need for documents which prove your address. We will show you the minimum requirements for many of traditional “high street” banks.

But there are pros and cons to both options.

First we will explain the difference between traditional high street bank accounts and digital (or neo) banking alternatives. Then we will discuss the documentation needed for the different options and finally the pros and cons of each option.

Let’s dive in.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and savings on transfers if you use some of the links! For more information, see my disclosures here.

Difference Between Traditional and Online Banking

Traditional banks have a wide range of bank accounts and offer lots of other services like loans, mortgages, insurance and wealth management services. Also UK banks have deposit protection through the (FSCA) Financial Services Compensation Scheme which means that even if the bank goes bust, your money is safe up to £85,000.

However these banks are subject to more regulation and as a result they also generally require proof of identity and proof of a UK address to open them. However there are some banks that offer slightly easier ways (we will show you in a moment).

This can be a problem if you are not yet in the UK or have just arrived.

Fortunately you can open a bank-like account without proof of a UK address.

These online accounts from companies like Wise, Revolut, Monzo, Starling, Monese and others have limitations but tend to be very user friendly with great apps, multi-currency accounts and international prepaid debit cards.

Most importantly they enable you to to get paid by your employer in British pounds, pay bills and pay others.

Skip down to 4 Best Online Banking of Alternatives Below.

Common Types of Bank Accounts in the UK (and why you might want them)

Here are the most common types of bank accounts in the UK.

Current Account (also called a Checking Account in the US): This is the most common type of bank account used for receiving wages and managing everyday expenses like grocery shopping, paying bills, etc. These accounts come with debit cards as well as overdraft facilities. Some banks also offer low-cost current accounts for expat students. 

Savings Account: These accounts are for exactly what the name suggests – building your savings and they come with a variety of investment options and interest rates. Every bank has their own terms and conditions about how they help their users grow their money. For example, you may need to have a certain amount or keep the money in the account for a predefined period before it can start accruing interest. 

Offshore accounts: These savings bank accounts are a great option for expats who have a high net worth. They also come with multi-currency options – usually EUR, GBP, and USD. You can open and operate an offshore UK account whether you live in the UK or overseas. However, these accounts have a high barrier to entry – you need to maintain a balance of £50,000 GBP – £100,000 GBP to get the account. 

Other Types of Bank Accounts in the UK

Basic accounts: These are bank accounts for individuals with low credit score and usually come with limitations like no overdraft or low ATM withdrawal limits. 

Joint accounts: You can also open a bank account jointly with a family member or a partner. 

Apart from high street banks, there are financial institutions in the UK called building societies who provide banking services like savings accounts and mortgages. 

While building societies can sometimes get you a better deal – lower mortgage rates or higher savings rates – they’re not as secure as they used to be and often have a limited choice of accounts (no current accounts).

Documents Needed for Traditional Banks

As licensed financial institutions, banks in the UK (and everywhere!) need current ID and address proof to make sure the accounts can’t be used for illegal purposes like money laundering. 

UK Banks usually accept the following as address proof:

  • Utility bills (gas, water, electricity, etc.) – no older than 3-4 months
  • Council tax bill 
  • Valid UK driving license 
  • Tenancy agreement
  • Credit card or bank statement (no older than 2-3 months)

Some things to keep in mind:

  • All documents for proof of address need to show your full name and current address
  • They must be recent
  • Council or tax bill can’t have validity of more than 12 months
  • Submit separate documents if a bank asks for both ID proof and address proof

We get that most of these can be difficult to get your hands on if you just moved or are planning to move to the UK.

The good news is that there are alternatives.

Opening a UK Bank Account with a High Street Bank (+ 3 Best)

There are a few expat-friendly banks in the UK including HSBC, Barclays, and Lloyds Banking Group.

These banks offer both free and paid bank accounts and let you manage your account offline (at a branch) and online (website and mobile app). They also offer deposit protection up to £85,000 GBP. 

Every bank has a different sign up process, and a handful of banks also let users open an account from overseas before moving to the UK – more on that in a moment.

1.3 How to get address proof in the UK as a non-resident/expat

UK banks accept the following alternatives as address proof for expats and non-residents:

  • Salaried individuals: A letter from the employer confirming an applicant’s address
  • International Student: Passport and a letter from the educational institution confirming the applicants acceptance and current address
  • Frequent traveler/digital nomad: A letter from a local authority verifying the current address
  • Asylum seekers: Application registration card 

The preference may vary from bank to bank and it’s best to ask what you can submit to make the account opening process go smoothly.

1.4 UK bank options

1.4.1 HSBC Overseas Account (for existing customers)

Account type:
Overseas Account

Who is it for?
Existing HSBC One, Jade or Premier customer in 30 countries

Monthly fee:
£0

International transfers?
Yes

Proof of UK residence required?
No (but must show probable cause to move to the UK)

If you are not an existing HSBC customer you may find that only Council tax bills are accepted for proof of address.

1.4.2 HSBC for international Students

Account type:
UK Current Account for International Students

Who is it for?
Students living in the live in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man

Monthly fee:
£0

International transfers?
Yes

Proof of UK residence required?
Yes

1.4.3 Barclays International Bank Account

Account type:
Global Bank Account (Savings and Current)

Who is it for?
Non-residents living in 70 eligible countries

Monthly fee:
NA – but must maintain £100,000 balance

International transfers?
Yes

Proof of UK residence required?
No (but proof of residence in eligible country overseas required)

1.4.4 Barclays Current Account

Account type:
Regular and Premier Current Account

Who is it for?
Anyone with a UK biometric residence permit

Monthly fee:
£4 monthly fee

International transfers?
Yes

Proof of UK residence required?
Yes

1.4.5 Lloyd’s Classic or Basic Account

Account type:
Current Account 

Who is it for?
Anyone with a UK biometric residence permit

Monthly fee:
£0

International transfers?
Yes

Proof of UK residence required?
Yes

1.5 International Alternatives

Although a bit of a long shot, over 250 foreign banks operate in the UK and it may be possible to set up a UK bank account if you have a corresponding account in your home country. 

Some of these banks include:

1.6 How to Choose the Best Bank Account

With so many options, it can be hard to zero in on the best UK bank account for you as an expat. To make things easier, consider the following. 

Ease of signup and covers basic needs: If your goal is simply to get established in the UK (get paid and pay others) an online bank-like alternative may be the best way to get started. After you are more established opening a high street bank will be easier and you can benefit by having both.

Specific products and services: Ask yourself how you plan to use the bank account – do you plan to use it only for receiving your salary or expenses? Do you need savings or investment options? Do you want to manage multiple currencies? What kind of debit or credit card do you need?

Costs: Most UK bank accounts are free, but some premium accounts may have monthly or annual fees. If the perks offset the features, sometimes having a paid account can be worthwhile.

User friendliness: Ultimately, the experience you have with the bank will help you can get out of your account. Dig deeper into customer service, flexibility of usage across mediums (offline and online), 24×7 banking, etc.

Opening an Digital Account Online (+ 4 Best)

New age digital services (also known as challenger banks or neo banks) operate fully online and offer many helpful features that make managing your money easier. 

Opening an account with them is a smooth and fast process and some do not even need a UK proof of address (you will need to provide a valid ID and proof of address from your home country though. 

Most of them have free accounts, but the paid options do come with some cool features, expand the capacity of the account (ATM withdrawal limits, deposit limits, etc.), and help to save money in the long run. 

Here are our tried and tested recommendations:

1. Wise – Best Multi-Currency Account (for frequent travellers and digital nomads)

Wise is not a bank but they offer many banking-like features with their multi-currency account (and they’re a regulated financial institution in the UK by the FCA). If you’re a frequent traveler, expat or digital nomad, Wise can work really well.

For example, regardless of where you open your Wise account you can get paid like a local through unique UK account details. The Wise debit card (review) is also a winner, enabling you to then spend in British Pounds wherever Visa is accepted (everywhere). Once signed up their App pulls everything together.

The best thing about them is their radical transparency and low fees. Check out Wise service and fees here.

With Wise, you can hold, manage, and convert between 50+ currencies, use their debit card to withdraw money in the UK (and anywhere in the world), and even get a spending account in GBP which can make you instantly fee like a local.

Account Fees:
Free to open and hold an account (other fees applicable)

Interest on savings: No

International transfers: Yes – at very affordable rates in 70+ currencies

Learn more about the Wise Multi-currency Account here.

2. Revolut – Overall best online UK account for new Arrivals (no UK address proof to sign up)

Revolut (founded in 2015) has a EU banking license and offers fully digital checking and savings bank accounts.

Users love their all-in-one money management features and the fact that they don’t need a UK ID address proof to sign up makes them a go-to option for new expats. (However you do need a mobile phone, which can be tricky in itself)

Click here to see the options and pricing available in your country (opens a new tab so you can keep reading).

Note: Revolut and other online banks are great as current accounts because they make day-to-day money management easier. We recommend opening a high street bank account for your savings for higher interest rates and deposit guarantee.

FeaturesCostSafetyLimitations
Has a banking license

Integrate all UK bank accounts with Revolut and track your balance

Available for both business and personal

Free and instant transfers between Revolut users

Cool budgeting features

Get paid with QR codes and links

Send and receive money in 30+ currencies with no hidden fees

Use the Revolut card while traveling abroad (supports 150+ currencies)

Integrate with Apple Pay and Google Pay

Invest in Crypto
Four tiers of personal accounts (if you have a UK mobile to sign up)c:
– Standard (Free)
– Plus (£2.99/Month)
– Premium (£6.99/Month)
– Metal (£12.99/Month)

All accounts come with 
– an IBAN number (for sending and receiving international – payments)
– Ability to spend in 150+ currencies while traveling abroad (limits apply) 
– Revout Junior accounts for kids 
– Debit card with fee-free international spending
– Virtual cards for online shopping 
– Daily interest on savings 

Premium accounts come with all of the features above, plus
– 24×7 priority customer support 
– Higher ATM withdrawal limits 
– Online purchase protection 
– Crypto currency withdrawal 
– Lounge access 
– Baggage insurance 
– Overseas medical insurance
Revolut says, has “partnered solely with banks that are part of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
This means that, if you are eligible,
your Savings Vaults deposits are protected up to £85,000 per person, per bank, by the FSCS”
No deposit protection. Not a full bank in the UK.

Revolut Bank UAB is
licensed by the European Central Bank and regulated by the
Bank of Lithuania

3. Monzo – Best Online Current Account in the UK

Monzo has a UK banking license and offers deposit protection up to £85,000 GBP.

This means you you’ll need a UK mobile phone and a valid ID.

They accept:

  • Passport
  • Driving licence (your provisional is fine)
  • National ID card
  • Biometric residency permit 

They will also need a residential address in the UK where they can send your card.

They specialize in digital current accounts with fee-free overdrafts up to £1,000 GBP and loans up to £15,000 GBP. 

The account also comes with a debit card, lets you set up direct deposits for bills, and integrates with both Apple Pay and Google Pay

Account Fees:
Monzo Free
Monzo Plus (£5/month)
Monzo Premium (£15/month)

Learn more about what you get with each tier in our Monzo review

Interest on savings: Yes (AER/Gross fixed)

International transfers: Yes – via Wise

4. Starling – Most cost effective online bank in the UK

Starling is a regulated online bank in the UK that offers fee-free current accounts with overdraft features. 

The account also comes with a debit card, dedicated savings spaces, and the ability to set up direct debits. 

Starling also has the option to get an EUR account as an add on so you can move money between the two accounts easily. 

You will need a UK address proof to open an account, but the application process is completely online. 

Account Fees:
Free to open and hold an account (other fees applicable)

Interest on savings: Yes – on balances up to £85,000

International transfers: Yes – to 35+ countries

Note: Revolut and other online banks are great as current accounts because they are often easier to open and make day-to-day money management better. We suggest opening a high street bank account eventually for higher interest rates on savings, deposit guarantee and other financial services like credit cards, loans etc.

Bottom Line

There are a few good ways to open a UK bank account from overseas or as a new arrival.

We think, if you are a non-resident the easiest way to open an account is through an online bank-like service (not a real bank).

For our money, Wise is the best option if you are still overseas because of their ability to get paid like a local (in the UK) before you even arrive.

Revolut on the other hand requires to local phone number, but has great app based service and card which can be super handy for travellers.

Ultimately you will likely want to open a real bank account eventually and real banks like HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds have relatively user friendly sign up options (above) which can save you a lot of time and hassle.

Happy Money!

FAQs

It can take anywhere between a couple days to a week to open a bank account with a high street bank in the UK. 

For online banks, the sign up process is often instant and you can start setting up your account. However the verification process can take up to a week.

Yes – you can get a EUR account when you open an offshore account with a high street bank. Monzo offers a more affordable alternative with their add-on EUR accounts. 

If you’re only traveling to the UK, we recommend checking out Wise. They let you set up local spending accounts in 10 currencies (including GBP) so you can handle your money like a local.

Yes, online banks like Revolut and Monzo make it easy to open a bank account for your business. Wise also has a business option for their multi-currency account. 

These accounts let you receive money from businesses in the UK and abroad with low fees, pay vendors and suppliers overseas, connect with accounting software, etc. 

You can also open a business account with any of the high street banks if your business is local. 

All banks (high street and online) will need your address proof, company registration details, and other documentation to open the account.

If you’re planning to send small amounts below $7000 USD/£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD/AU, we recommend Wise for their affordable and transparent rates. 

If you’re sending large amounts above $7000 USD/£4000 GBP/€4500 EU/$9500 CAD/AU like your savings or proceeds from a property sale, etc. we recommend OFX (review), TorFx (review), or Currencies Direct (review) for their fee structure for large amounts and personalized phone support.

How Do I Open a UK Bank Account from Overseas?

The majority of UK banks require that have proof of a UK address. Fortunately some high street UK banks are making it a bit easier but regulations in the UK can still make it a challenge. In practice though, digital bank-like services can do many things real banks do and at least one offers a way to get paid and pay others and they don’t require proof of a UK address.

What are the Main Differences between Real Banks and Online Accounts?

Digital bank-like accounts are generally very user friendly and have great Apps which make it easy to be paid and pay others. Real banks on the other hand tend to have additional fees but they also pay interest and have more services like credit cards, loans and a deposit guarantee.

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