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How to open a bank account in the UK

Thinking of migrating to the United Kingdom? If so, it will be necessary to open a bank account as part of the move. Having a local bank account will make receiving wages and making routine payments more straight-forward. The sooner it’s done, the better! This guide will take you through everything you’ll need to know about applying for a bank account in Britain.

Financial Services in the United Kingdom

Over 300 banks are in operation in Britain, meaning you’ll have plenty of choice if you plan on opening an account there. Despite the country having a strong financial sector, both locals, emigrants and immigrants now face uncertainty with a potential Brexit from the EU on the horizon. It would be beneficial to monitor political developments and consider how they may affect not only your UK funds, but also your residency requirements, ease of travel and job security.



How to Open a Bank Account in Britain

Bank accounts can be tricky to open in some countries, but thankfully the process has gotten easier in the UK. Banks will usually only require a proof of identity and address when you’re applying for an account here. If you do not yet have proof of your British address, it’s worth checking if the bank will accept any other documents, such as an acceptance letter from a university, verification of your Insurance Number, or even proof of address in your home-country.

Depending on an array of factors, including your country of origin, you may be eligible to open an international account remotely. International accounts provided by traditional banks usually come with extra monthly charges, but might pay off in the long-run, if you tend to travel a great deal or use multiple currencies on a regular basis.

InterNations also advise checking if your home bank also operates in the UK. This includes such as the Bank of America, American Express, Bank of China, State Bank of India, and ABC International Bank.

Popular Banks for Expats in the UK

The British banking industry is comprised of a number of competing brands, and this is only becoming amplified with the introduction of modern, digital challenger banks. Many banks tend to be specific in the type of customer they like to attract, offering widely varying perks. As a result, it can be difficult to determine the right one for you. Prioritising the services you would like to use and doing some quick research will help get the ball rolling.

The biggest traditional banks in Britain are:

  • Lloyds

  • Barclays

  • NatWest

  • HSBC

As mentioned above, you may also find that your home bank also operates in the UK, or that you are eligible for an international account at one of the above banks. This might ease the process of looking for an account that is the right fit. Experts for Expats recommend the global accounts with Lloyds, NatWest and Standard.

Things to Keep in Mind when opening a Bank Account in the UK

Exchange Rates

Those who have been keeping up-to-date with news on Brexit will know that foreign exchange rates on sterling have been undergoing serious fluctuation. Regardless of the bank account you choose to set up, timing will be of the essence when sending money to or from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Keeping watch on exchange rates and timing payments accordingly could avoid losses to currency conversion.


ATM Fees

It can be normal in some countries for withdrawals to be free with your bank’s ATMs, but for competitor ATMs to incur a charge. In the United Kingdom, most ATMs are free – regardless of their associated bank. However, you may come across some machines charging up to £3 for a withdrawal.

By prioritising the task of opening a bank account in the UK, expats can start off on the right foot. With a local bank account in place, it becomes easier to schedule paying bills, rent or mortgage payments and to receive wages – making it one less thing to fret about after moving there.

If you plan on moving savings from your home country into your new UK account, juggling the volatility of sterling and unfair bank rates with all that comes with moving abroad could add unnecessary cost and hinderence. Alternatively, transferring funds with an international money transfer platform like CurrencyFair could save you money.


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