If you want to make the most of the British Isles, it’s important to have a bank account there. A “current account” with one of the “Big Four” banks (NatWest, Lloyds, Barclays, or HSBC) will give you the right facilities to transfer money, make payments, use a debit card, and take advantage of many other financial services.
If you're just travelling to the UK, you may not need to open an account. Read here about currency, ATMs and banks in the UK.
Unfortunately, as an Australian resident, it is very difficult to open a bank account with a British bank from Australia. You will generally need a high income and be able to deposit a large sum of money in the account if you want to setup your bank account before setting foot in that green and pleasant land.
What You Will Need to Open an Account with a UK Bank from Australia
There are two main ways to get a UK bank account.
- Arrive in the UK and open an account there.
- Open an International Account from Australia.
An Alternative to Consider
TransferWise released the Borderless Account in Australia. It is significantly easier to set-up than an account at a bank in the UK.
It allows you to have your own local bank account.
To read our full review of the TransferWise Borderless Account, click here or watch this video
Learn More About the Borderless Account
Arriving in the UK and Opening an Account
If you arrive in the UK before opening an account you will need several documents to prove your identity, name, and address. Most banks will accept the following:
- Your passport.
- Your driver’s license.
- A tenancy / rent agreement or mortgage statement.
- A recent utility bill (within the last three months).
- A bank or credit card statement.
- A payslip from your employer.
Note that typically the document will need to have a UK address on it to be accepted. If you’re not already in the UK, this can be a challenge, so here are some ideas on how to meet this requirement:
- Go to your Australian bank and before you leave to travel to the UK, ask them to change your address to your UK one, then get a bank statement.
- If you will be studying in the UK and know what your address will be, find out if your university can send you a letter confirming the address.
- If you will be in the UK to work, see if your employer will send you a letter or employment contract with your new address.
- If you have a National Insurance number (similar to the Australian Tax File Number), then Jobcentre Plus in the UK may be able to confirm your address.
In almost all cases, opening an account when you arrive in the UK will be the best option for the majority of Australians.
What You Will Get With a UK Bank Account
The UK banks provide you with several services once you have opened an account.
- A bank account that you can access online and use to make or receive payments and setup direct debits.
- A debit card for making payments directly from your bank account.
- Access to a nationwide network of ATMS and cash points — there are typically no fees for using UK ATMs.
- Specialized accounts for students and businesses.
Opening an International Account in the UK from Australia
A second option is opening an international UK bank account. These are specialized accounts offered by the big banks. You can open these from Australia, even if you do not have a UK address. The downside is that these accounts typically require you to maintain a large minimum deposit, and they charge monthly fees. You may also be required to pay in a certain amount on a monthly basis.
How to Open a Bank Account In The UK From Australia With HSBC Bank
“Whether you’re emigrating, retiring, studying or working abroad, or need an international account to help you facilitate your banking overseas, we are here to help.”
HSBC only allows you to open an international account if you are already a customer with them, and to do that, you need to be located in the UK — not an ideal combination! Additionally, if you pay tax outside the EU (which you likely do if you live in Australia), you can only open an account by visiting an HSBC UK branch.
For this reason, we don’t recommend HSBC UK for your UK bank account, as opening it will be very difficult. Find out more about HSBC International Accounts.
If you are just looking for a UK currency account with HSBC while continuing to live outside the UK, you can apply here.
When you are in the UK, you can apply for an HSBC account online.
How to Open a Bank Account In The UK From Australia With Barclays Bank
“If you are moving to the UK but have international financial needs, we can help. We offer a variety of services, whether you want to set up multi-currency accounts, make international payments, buy a UK property, or save and invest in a range of other currencies.”
Barclays provides several options for people relocating to the UK, although you need a high income to setup an account from Australia. Here’s what you will need:
- Proof of primary ID (passport, National ID card) certified by a notary — In most cases this will be your current, valid passport although some other types of ID are acceptable.
- Proof of secondary ID, with proof of overseas address also certified by a notary — Your proof of address will normally be a bank or building society statement or a utility bill.
- You must deposit and maintain a balance of at least £100,000, have an income of AUD$250,000 or assets of AUD$2,500,000.
- You can start your account application with Barclays by calling them on +44 (0)1624 684316.
Unfortunately, the high amounts needed for depositing into an account makes it very difficult for the majority of Australians to open a Barclays account before moving to the UK.
Find full details in the Barclays International Account application guide.
When you are in the UK, you can apply for a Barclays account online.
How to Open a Bank Account In The UK From Australia With Lloyds Bank
“Moving to the UK or just arrived? Lloyds Bank plc can offer a dedicated face-to-face service in central London to help guide you through the important financial decisions.”
Lloyds bank does not typically allow you to open an account from Australia. If you did wish to do so, you need to meet the following criteria:
- Have a gross annual income of £100,000 or more.
- Depositing £100,000 in your Lloyds account within a month.
- There is a monthly fee of £7.50.
If you can meet these criteria, you can apply here.
Once you are in the UK, you can apply for a current account with Lloyds bank.
How to Open a Bank Account In The UK From Australia With NatWest
“Our refreshed current account range offers you simple, flexible, everyday banking.”
You will run into similar problems opening an account with NatWest from Australia as you will with the other major UK banks. Unfortunately, NatWest’s international website provides very little information on opening an account from overseas.
They request a minimum balance of £100,000 is maintained at all times or a minimum salary of £75,000 is paid into the account.
As you can see, in most cases opening an account with a UK bank is very difficult while you are living in Australia. If you do want to open an account before you arrive in the UK, you will typically need to maintain a high balance, and be earning a large salary. In most cases we recommend waiting until you arrive in the UK from Australia to open your account, as that will make things much easier.
Here at The Currency Shop, we want to give you the right information to save you money and help you make an informed choice for all your currency exchange needs.
The next time you need to send money internationally, check how you can save money using our money transfer comparison tool. If you’ve still got questions we’re here to help, so feel free to give us a call on 1800 004 930.
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