Things to know about UK Bank Accounts
Just a quick 2 min read about the most common issues we see with our readers:
How do I open a bank account in the UK?
Opening a checking account with a bank in the UK differs a lot in difficulty between banks. If you open with one of the traditional banks, you will likely have to book an appointment with one of their branches online or via call beforehand.
Once that is done, the actual appointment itself will take 20-30 minutes. The bank account can then open either within a few days or longer depending on the bank you sign up with.
Even if you try to set things up online with these banks (if they offer it), usually you will end up having to go to a local branch anyways to verify your identity before you can actually use the account.
Digital Banks like Starling Bank or Revolut offer sign-up processes that are usually much shorter. And they can be done from the comfort of your phone or laptop where you can scan your documents using your webcam or phone camera.
But usually there are some information or document requirements which may vary from bank to bank. If you follow this list, you should be pretty safe.
Usual requirements for opening checking accounts in the UK:
- Completed application form with Name, Address, Nationality, Income, etc
- Valid Passport, ID or Visa (if you are opening a joint account with another person, make sure they have their documents too)
- Proof of address or registration (like a recent utility or council tax bill less than 3 months old)
- Initial Deposit (depends on your bank how much they will require as a minimum)
- Proof of income, employment, or enrolment at a UK educational institution
Whether you are a UK resident or not will also affect what type of current account you can have (“resident” or “non-resident” account) and which banks you can sign up with.
It’s best to check out their websites or speak with them directly to find out. They’re usually very helpful in giving you the information you need.
International online banks like Revolut usually tend to be the easiest and most open to non-residents, but it’s also worth checking out local ones like Barclays or HSBC.
How to close or change bank accounts in the UK
Closing or switching bank accounts is pretty simple to do in the UK as long as you don’t owe the bank any money.
To change bank accounts, you should use the “Current Account Switch Service” which most UK banks are signed up to. This makes your switching very easy as your old bank handles the closing and transferring of all your orders and details over to your new bank.
To just close the account, for a traditional bank you normally have to just let them know you wish to close and you will be asked to fill out and sign a “closing account order” application.
If you have a joint account, make sure the names and signatures of all the account holders are contained within the application.
You can either visit a physical branch or call them and they’re usually very friendly in helping you out in closing your account.
Make sure to ask that you’re following all the correct requirements and don’t have any fees that you have not paid off yet.
Things you have to make sure to do are:
- Make sure you don’t get charged any penalty fees for closing the account before a specified “minimum” time has elapsed since you opened the account.
- Get written confirmation in the form of a letter or email that the account has officially been closed
- If you’re switching over to a new account, transfer over all future incoming and outgoing payments such as direct debits, salaries, or standing orders. Usually, either the old bank or the new bank that your switching to will take care of this if you ask.
- Make sure you’ve transferred all your money out of the old account and into the new account.
- Let your employer and, others who would transfer money to you, know that your old account will no longer work.
So overall you can see, choosing a bank account can be hard at first, but becomes easier if you know what exactly that you want. So try to make a list of the things that are important to you such as language or having physical branches, etc.
Then, try visiting their websites or even physical branches if they have any, to check out the different accounts (if they have more than one) and other products that they offer. You should be able to get a feeling for the banks pretty quickly and which one suits you.
If you feel comfortable with these banks you may even want to get more products from them like a savings account to earn interest on your money.
Once you’ve developed a relationship with your bank, later on, you might even get, business account, loan or mortgage from them once you develop a bit of credit history that they can evaluate you on.
But don’t worry too much about it if you end up opening an account with a bank which you don’t end up liking later. Banks in the UK allow you to close an account and switch over to another pretty easily and without a hassle.
Keep in mind though that I personally find it very useful to have two checking accounts instead of just one. So that in case there is ever an issue with one, you can still access your money in the other, so you’re not left stranded with no money.
Personally, I’ve become a fan of the online digital banks because of how simple and easy it is to do everything with banks like Starling Bank or Revolut from the comfort of my phone or laptop. But of course, you should only do so if you’re comfortable with doing all your banking online.
On the other hand, online banks tend to not offer more complex financial management services like loans, health insurance or mortgages that would find at a traditional bank. So if you want some of those more complex products, you might need to look at more traditional banks like Barclays or HSBC.
But don’t worry. You can easily have a checking account at an online bank and still have other more complex products from other banks.
If you’re arriving in Italy soon, make sure to sort out your bank account sooner rather than later in case there are any delays, depending on the bank you sign up with. Life will be a lot more difficult if you don’t have one.
In the end, it is up to you and what you need that will decide which is the best bank for you. Hopefully this article will have helped you with it.
Good luck with opening a bank account in the UK. If you have any questions or want us to write another post on something else too, let us know here.