How to Open a Bank Account in the UK: A Full Guide 
If you’re an expat planning your relocation – or even if you’ve moved to the UK already – you might be wondering how best to get a UK bank account to hold and spend in British pounds (GBP).
While it’s possible to get a British bank account before you get to the UK it can be expensive and complex to get set up with a mainstream bank. This guide runs through the options for GBP accounts for a non-UK resident, including the documents you need and the likely costs. Because traditional banks aren’t always the best option we’ll also introduce some more user friendly solutions, such as Wise or Revolut. Let’s dive right in.
What documents do I need?
UK banks need to complete KYC (Know Your Customer) verification checks – much like banks all around the world. That means most British banks will ask customers for the following:
- Proof of identity – a valid passport, national identity card or driver’s licence for example
- Proof of UK residential address – a bank or credit card statement, utility bill or tax return in your name
KYC checks are designed to stop fraud, money laundering and illegal account use. However, if you don’t have a UK proof of address yet it can make it harder to get your GBP account set up with a regular British bank.
Some specialist providers and expat services from major UK banks are able to help non-residents to legally get a UK account, by accepting a broader range of documents for verification checks. Expat banking services often target high wealth individuals, and have high minimum balance requirements. Specialist online services may be more flexible – more on that coming right up.
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
UK banks usually require customers to provide a proof of residence document showing a local UK address. That can make it tricky if you’re not a resident yet – or even if you’ve just moved to the country and don’t yet have bills and household paperwork in your name.
Specialist services like Wise or Revolut can help. These alternatives to regular banks have been built with international customers in mind, and can accept a proof of address from the UK or a range of other countries. Verification is done by uploading images of your paperwork online or in the provider app. Just use your proof of address from your country of residence, to open a Wise or Revolut account online, and open up a GBP balance.
Once you’re all set up you can receive, hold, and spend GBP easily before you even arrive in the UK – a perfect solution for expats, non-residents and digital nomads who want to hit the ground running.
How to open a bank account in the UK
The standard requirements to open a bank account with a highstreet bank in the UK include:
- Proof of identity
- Proof of UK residential address
- A completed application with all your personal details
- Opening deposit – there may be a minimum deposit requirement
If you have all of these documents already you’ll find it relatively easy to open a UK bank account. Some banks let you upload your paperwork online, but others prefer you to visit a branch to hand over your documents in person.
The tricky bit often comes if you don’t have a proof of UK address. Opening an account with a proof of address from overseas is perfectly legal, but because it’s harder for the bank to verify, many regular banks just don’t allow it. Instead, major UK banks may refer you to their expat division, which is set up to offer accounts to non-residents. However, the accounts on offer are often packaged as exclusive options for high wealth individuals – and typically come with high fees.
If you’re not getting what you need from a regular UK bank it might be time to look at alternatives – more on that later.
Can I open a bank account in the UK before arrival?
To open a bank account in the UK prior to arriving in the country you’ll need to find a provider which will let you use an international proof of address for KYC purposes. That may mean picking:
- An account from a British highstreet bank’s expat services division
- Accounts from digital only banks which operate in the UK
- A specialist provider which offers multi-currency accounts
As we mentioned, expat banking services can be pricey. Digital banks are an option, and some – like Monese – do let you get an account to handle GBP with a non-UK address. However, restrictions can still apply – Monese needs a residential address from the UK or the European Economic Area for example, which isn’t much use if you’re still in Australia.
If you want to get ahead of the game and get your GBP bank account set up before you arrive you’ll probably be better off with a specialist service designed for international use – like Wise or Revolut.
What do I need to know before opening a bank account in the UK?
To open a UK bank account you’ll usually be asked to prove your ID and your UK address, and you may also need to provide documents showing you’ve got the legal right to reside in the UK if you’re asked. Check with your preferred bank to see if you can open an account online or through an app – while this is usually available to UK residents with standard paperwork, it may not be an option if you don’t have UK issued documents.
It’s also helpful to check if the account you’ve picked needs a minimum opening deposit amount. In this case you’ll have to take along cash to deposit, or make a bank transfer to your new account, to activate it.
Can I open a bank account in the UK only with my passport?
You’re unlikely to be able to open a UK bank account with just a passport. Opening an account with a UK bank usually means you need to be a UK resident – and you’ll often be asked to provide a proof of address to back this up.
Which account is best in the UK for foreigners?
Let’s walk through the features and fees for some UK and GBP accounts you can open, to hold or spend in British pounds. We’ve compared a couple of non bank providers – Wise and Revolut – against the options from popular UK banks Barclays and HSBC. Barclays’ international division can’t help people living in Australia to open a UK account so you’ll need to wait until you arrive – but HSBC does have expat accounts you can open to hold GBP from Australia.
|Service||Wise||Revolut||Barclays International||HSBC Expat|
|Currencies covered||54 currencies including GBP, USD and EUR||30 currencies||GBP, USD and EUR||
|Open before you arrive in the UK||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Opening fee||£0||£0||Minimum balance: £100,000||Minimum balance: £15,000 – £50,000|
|Fall below fee||£0||£0||£40||£15 – £35|
|Maintenance fee||£0||Up to £12.99/month||Waived if minimum balance is maintained||Waived if minimum balance is maintained|
|International transfers||Low fee, varies by currency||Fee varies by currency and payment value||£15 – £35 + third party charges + exchange rate markup||Online transfers up to £5 + third party charges + exchange rate markup|
As a non-resident or new arrival to the UK you do have a decent selection of options when it comes to getting a GBP account. Digital providers offering multi-currency functionality are flexible if you travel, send, spend or receive in a range of currencies.
Expat accounts may appeal if you want a more personal service or need to access a fuller suite of options including overdrafts, investments and credit.
Wise serves 11 million+ customers and offers both low cost international payments, and personal and business multi-currency accounts. The Wise multi-currency account is a good option for non-UK residents and new arrivals looking to manage their money across GBP and 50+ other currencies.
You can get up and running with an international proof of address and manage your account online or in the Wise app. All currency exchange uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, and you’ll be able to get paid like a local from 30+ countries with your own bank details, including a UK bank account number and an Australian account number and BSB code. You can also send payments to 80+ countries and spend using your Wise international debit card all over the world.
Account types: Wise personal multi-currency accounts are free to open, with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay.
Eligibility: Available to non-UK residents and new arrivals in the UK. Not all services and features are available in all locations – full details by location available on the Wise website.
Is it safe? Wise is fully FCA regulated in the UK and overseen by global bodies around the world.
How to open an account with Wise
To open a Wise account:
- Download the Wise app or open the Wise desktop site
- Click Sign up and create an account with your email, Facebook, Google or Apple ID
- Follow the prompts to enter the details needed
- Upload a snap of your ID and address documents
- Once your account has been verified you’re good to go
Revolut accounts have multi-currency functionality for 30 fiat currencies including GBP, a linked debit card for spending and withdrawals, and extra perks like budgeting and saving tools. Revolut customers can provide a proof of address from Australia, the UK or any of the other regions they operate in – making this a provider to look at if you want to set up your account before you head off to Britain.
Standard Revolut plans come with no monthly fees and an array of features including some fee free currency exchange. Or you can upgrade to a different account tier, where you’ll pay a monthly fee to get higher levels of fee free transactions and extra benefits.
Account types: Personal and business accounts available. Standard plans are free for both personal and business customers. Or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to £12.99/month as a personal customer or £100/month as a business customer.
Eligibility: Available to new UK arrivals and non-UK residents with addresses in the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.
Is it safe? In the UK Revolut is authorised by the FCA for all its activities. It also holds a European banking licence for the EU.
How to open an account with Revolut
To open an account with Revolut:
- Download the Revolut app
- Enter your phone number and set a PIN – you’ll get a verification message from Revolut
- Use the verification code to access the app and enter the details needed to create your account
- Upload the required documents for verification
- You can deposit funds and use your account once verified
Barclays can’t offer international accounts to people based in Australia, but if you’ve already arrived in the UK and hold a biometric residence permit you’ll be able to get started applying for an account in the Barclays app. You’ll be asked to upload documents and provide 3 years of address details but once your account is verified you can use it right away.
For the standard Barclays current account there’s no monthly fee and you can apply for an optional overdraft if you want one. Or check out the range of other accounts to find the best one to suit your specific needs.
Account types: Broad range of different UK bank accounts, plus mortgages, loans, credit cards and more
Eligibility: UK citizens or residents, aged over 18 can apply using the Barclays app
Is it safe? Yes. Barclays is a reputable and fully licensed UK bank
How to open an account with Barclays
To open an account with Barclays:
- Open the Barclays website or app
- Find the account you’re interested in and tap Apply
- You’ll be prompted to upload your ID documents and take a video selfie for verification
- You can deposit funds and use your account once verified
The HSBC Expat division is based offshore, and offers accounts and services for high wealth individuals and people who live and work internationally.
HSBC Expat current accounts are offered in GBP. USD and EUR, with savings accounts available in 19 currencies. However, fairly high minimum balance requirements apply which can be a barrier. To qualify for an HSBC Expat account you’ll need to maintain a minimum balance of £50,000 for an HSBC Premier account or £15,000 for the HSBC Advance.
It’s usually fairly easy to open an HSBC UK account upon arrival if you already have a relationship with the HSBC Expat service.
Account types: Current accounts can hold GBP, EUR and USD, but savings accounts are available in 19 global currencies.
Eligibility: Accounts come with minimum balance requirements of £15,000 to £50,000.
Is it safe? HSBC is one of the largest banks in the UK and a major global brand, fully regulated in the UK and around the world.
How to open an account with HSBC Expat
To open an account with HSBC Expat:
- Visit the HSBC Expat website and tap Check eligibility and apply
- Confirm you’re eligible for the account and have the paperwork needed
- Enter your personal information, following the prompts
- Upload the required documents for verification
- You can deposit funds and use your account once verified
What is a bank account in the UK needed for?
Having a GBP account can be helpful in lots of different scenarios:
- If you’re planning to travel to the UK, or if you’re moving to the UK to live or work
- If you like to shop online, and pay in GBP with UK based retailers
- If you want to convert funds to GBP for investing or to diversify your savings
- If you need to send GBP payments to others – such as paying for travel or an overseas mortgage
- If you need to receive GBP payments, as a freelancer or when working for a UK employer for example
Benefits of opening a bank account in the UK
Not sure if you need a UK bank account? Here are a few benefits you can expect:
- Cut down the costs of converting dollars to pounds
- Avoid foreign transaction fees when spending in GBP
- Receive GBP payments and hold your funds in dollars
- Send money to others in the UK with lower overall costs
Can I open a bank account online
As a foreigner, you may struggle to open a UK bank account online unless you already have proof of your UK address and a biometric residence permit. However, the good news is that there are other, non-bank, alternatives, like Wise and Revolut which can help you open an account to hold GBP.
With providers like Wise and Revolut you can apply from Australia, using your local ID and proof of address, to open a digital multi-currency account and card, which you can then use to hold, send and spend in pounds conveniently.
How long does it take to open a bank account in the UK
The amount of time it takes to open a UK bank account will depend on the provider you pick and the way you apply. Your account will need to be verified before use – which can often be done instantly, particularly if you’re applying in a branch or with a provider that offers video verification. However, for some banks, the verification process may take a day or two – or longer if you’ve got non-standard documents which need additional checks.
What are the types of bank accounts in the UK
If you’re opening a UK bank account from Australia you may be offered a non-resident or expat account, which is designed for individuals who don’t live in the UK at the time of applying. Non-resident accounts can come with limitations compared to regular bank accounts, and may also have higher fees – double check the options available to you before you choose.
If you’re eligible for a UK resident account, your options are likely to include a current account or a savings account. It’s useful to know that the account options, features and fees in the UK can be quite different to those you’ll find in Australia, so you’ll need to read over all the details carefully.
How much does it cost to open a bank account in the UK?
It’s usually free to open a bank account in the UK. However, if you’re choosing a premium tier account, or opening an account as an expat before you arrive in the UK, the chances are that you’ll need to make a pretty high initial deposit. If you don’t, fall below fees will apply which can mount up quickly. Keep an eye out for the following costs when selecting the GBP account for you:
- Monthly maintenance fees – or fall below fees
- International payment fees
- Foreign transaction fees when spending or withdrawing with your card
- Overdraft fees
- Credit card costs including cash advances and interest
- Cheque book and cheque cashing fees
- Account dormancy or early closure fees
If you’d rather an account which has no monthly fees without these eligibility requirements, you may want to take a look at alternative GBP account providers like Wise or Revolut, which both offer account plans which come without maintenance fees and with no minimum deposit required.
Is it possible to open a fee-free account in the UK?
Most UK banks have accounts which don’t charge monthly fees. However, that doesn’t mean they’re free to use as transaction and service charges will almost always apply when you use your account.
If you’re looking for a low fee account option to hold and spend GBP, it’s worth checking out providers which have accounts with no maintenance costs, no minimum balance requirements, and low service fees which you’ll only need to pay for the services you use.
Tips for transferring money between Australia and the UK
Using your normal bank isn’t always the cheapest, fastest or most convenient option to send international payments. Instead, a specialist service may help you save money on both the fees and the exchange rate markups applied. Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the mid-market exchange rate to see if a markup is being used
- Check the fees for different transfer types – arranging your transfer online is usually cheaper than doing so in a bank branch
- Ask about third party charges which can push up the overall costs significantly
Before you send money overseas, compare your own bank with a few specialist services to see if you can save.
If you’re already in the UK with a local address – and the paperwork to prove it – opening your bank account should be a breeze. Unfortunately though non-resident accounts with traditional UK banks tend to be tricky to open, expensive and inflexible.
If you want a GBP account because you’re a frequent visitor to the UK, a non-resident sending and receiving GBP payments, or a digital nomad getting paid from the UK, a specialist online service like Wise or Revolut may well be a better bet. Specialist alternatives will usually offer a better overall deal compared to non-resident accounts from big UK banks, including a more straightforward verification process, lower fees and better exchange rates.
- How to open a bank account in Australia
- Opening a bank account in Singapore
- Opening a bank account in the US
- Opening a bank account in India
FAQ – How to Open a Bank Account in the UK
Can a foreigner open an account in the UK?
You can open a UK account as a foreigner – but the process is much easier if you’re a resident of the UK with a valid proof of address. If you don’t have this paperwork available you may find it easier to get an account with a specialist online provider instead of a regular UK highstreet bank.
How much do I need to open a bank account in the UK?
Many UK banks allow customers to open accounts for free, but non-resident accounts from expat banking services will often have a minimum deposit requirement you’ll need to know about. Compare a few providers to get the best deal for your needs.
Can I open a UK bank account online?
If you have proof of a UK address you’ll probably be able to get your GBP account online through a traditional bank. If not you may be better off with a specialist online provider which allows you to open your account on your laptop or mobile device, with an international proof of address.
How to apply for a bank account online in the UK?
You can open a bank account online in the UK if you choose an expat account with a high minimum balance, or if you’re already a UK resident with a biometric residence card. If you don’t have these documents or funds to hand, you may want to look at specialist non-bank alternatives like Wise and Revolut which offer digital accounts you can open from home, which can hold and exchange Australian dollars alongside pounds.
Can I open a bank account in the UK before landing?
If you want to get all set up before you even arrive in the UK you can easily open an online GBP account from a specialist service like Wise or Revolut, to hold and manage multiple currencies all in one account.