How to Open a Bank Account in London
If you’re making a long term or permanent move to the UK then there are a number of things that you’ll need to sort before or immediately after your arrival. Firstly, you’ll need to decide where in the UK you want to live, if you decide on London it’s a very big place, you’ll need to make a decision on exactly where to stay in London.
Your location may depend on your job, which is another thing you’ll need to sort out. After securing your job and choosing your location out of the many places to stay in London, the next most important thing is opening a UK bank account.
Fortunately, opening a bank account in the UK is now relatively simple, just as simple as setting up a bank account in most places in the world. The only thing that makes banking in London slightly more complex is the sheer number of banks to choose from!
As with setting up anything official, you’re going to need documentation. In the UK this requires two pieces of evidence, one to prove your identity and one to prove where you live (having a permanent address is usually vital to securing a UK bank account).
This should be relatively simple, if you’ve just arrived in the UK you should have your passport handy! If not then your driving licence, or for EU nationals an official identity card will be acceptable too.
Remember, even if your official identity document has your address on it, you must provide separate piece of evidence to prove your address. These can be,
- Mortgage statement or tenancy agreement
- Utilities bill from within the last three months
- Bank or credit card statement from within the last three months
- Council tax bill
If you are newly arrived in the UK and you have just moved into your address, there is a chance that you won’t have any of these to hand. Don’t worry, UK banks, especially banks in London, are used to this and have become a lot more flexible in recent years. Some banks may accept the following,
- Letter from your employer
- Letter from your university or place of study
- Letter from the UK Job Centre confirming your National Insurance Number
There is another way to get an official letter with your address on. If you have secured your London address before you leave for the UK, inform the bank in your home country to change your address to your UK one. Then ask them to send you a statement.
Opening a UK Bank Account from Abroad
This is certainly possible if your current bank has a relationship with a UK bank. Banks such as HSBC and Santander have branches in the UK and internationally so it would be simple just to carry on with your existing bank account in these cases.
Some of the larger British banks have international accounts which can be opened online. These are targeted at non-UK residents and can be set up even if you don’t have a UK address.
If this sounds like the simple option be aware, it is not always as straightforward as it sounds. International bank accounts often require large initial deposits and a guarantee that a certain amount will be deposited every month.
There may also be a monthly charge and other restrictions which make it hard to maintain if you don’t have employment until you arrive in the UK. Some of these accounts will also tie you in for a specific period of time, in other words you won’t be able to close them once you move to the UK if you find a preferable account.
Which UK Bank Should you Choose
It’s difficult to make a recommendation as there are so many to choose from. Your individual circumstances are unique and you should seek out the bank and the bank account that suits you best.
The good news is that the UK banking industry is competitive. All of the banks offer a range of products which are aimed at specific types of people. There will be something to match your needs.
The largest banks in the UK are Natwest/RBS, HSBC, Lloyds and Barclays. The advantages of choosing one of these are as follows.
- Long established and financially stable
- Experience of dealing with foreigners
- Ability to be more flexible with your situation
With that said other major UK banks have their advantages too and may appeal according to your needs.
First Direct has a reputation for offering the best online banking service in the UK, whereas Metro Bank has branches that are open late Monday to Saturday and are even open on Sundays too, unheard of for any other British bank!
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