When moving to the UK for work, studies or just for long holidays, it is highly recommended to open a bank account there for transfers, withdrawals and to receive your wages easily. Now, this can be difficult if you are new to the UK bank account process, so here is everything you need to know.

Why should you consider setting up a UK bank account?

If you go to the UK to study or to find a job, then you will probably need to open a bank account there.

If you find a job while being in the UK, you will need to create a UK bank account to receive your salary because British companies won't transfer money to your home country bank account.

What do I need to open a bank account in the UK?

Usually, traditional banks ask for these documents:

  • Proof of identity: Passport, ID card, Visa (if you are not from the EEA).
  • Proof of address: Annual council tax bill, valid (not expired) UK/EEA driving licence, Bank Introduction Letter (document provided by the University, which proves your student status and address).

It can be difficult to provide a proof of address if you are new to the UK because many people decide to stay in a hostel or in a flat share without a contract. Other options are available to you in that situation. You can:

  • Provide your National Insurance Number (NINo) along with a letter of your employer confirming your address. See how to Get a NINo following this link.
  • In some countries, you can change your address on your home country bank account to your UK address, then ask your bank to write a statement confirming your address. But you may need to do this one month in advance and you might need to pay for this.

Remember that some UK banks are more flexible than others (and some Bank Assistants are more flexible than others). If one bank does not accept you, try another one. Opening your bank account online may also be easier than going to the physical bank. You can try asking your English School or others for advice.

Can I open a UK bank account from overseas?

It is also possible to open a British bank account before moving to the UK. To find out if you can, you should go and ask to your local bank, at least one month before leaving. The process length and cost may vary between the banks.

What is the best bank in the UK for foreigners?

There is no bank that is better than the others, you should check the location, information and policy of the different banks in Edinburgh and find out which one of them suits you best.

Listed below are the biggest banks in the UK:

  • HSBC
  • RBS (The Royal Bank Scotland)
  • Barclay's
  • Lloyds
  • NatWest
HSBC bank building Barclais Bank Building

If you are a university student, there are bank accounts specific to those students and offer unique benefits. Click here to learn more about it.

Those links will help you to decide which is the best and easiest UK bank account to open, according to your needs.

Are there other alternatives to create a UK bank account easily?

TransferWise logo Revolut logo

Yes! Some apps allow you to set up a bank account online very easily, two of them are Revolut and Transferwise. They are apps that you can get on both Android and Apple. It allows you to spend abroad with no fees and send money globally for free, in a secure way.

You can also receive your wage directly on those apps, with no need to go to a bank and ask for a bank account. On top of that, both of those apps offer free transfers and cheaper exchange rates.

You only need to download the app and provide some information like your name and address. It depends on the country, but the only evidence we provided was a photo of our National ID card.

It only takes a few minutes (we tried it and it took less than 10 minutes) and then your non-resident online UK bank account will be set up! Additionally, you don't have to transfer all of your saving to the app, you can get started with just a little amount and then put whatever you need, whenever you want.

How to choose between a physical and an online UK bank account and why?

Well, if you are not really into technology or if you trust more traditional methods, opening a bank account in a physical bank may be the best option for you, especially if you do it before coming to the UK. There are also other advantages like having a Bank Assistant. Indeed, when using a banking app, you can't talk to a real person, face to face. Another plus is the feeling of security that a physical bank provides.

Whereas if you are willing to discover new ways of opening a bank account, you should definitely try one of the two above-mentioned banking apps. There are few drawbacks, in fact, it is much easier and faster to open an account with them than it is with regular banks. On top of that, you can make transfers at reduced fees and convert your currencies in a much cheaper way.

Finally, an interesting thing to clarify is that banking apps won't allow you to have an overdraft, but neither will the other banks if you are a newcomer. So whatever type of bank you choose, always try to spend your money carefully!


Some interesting vocabulary:

clarify (V)

= To make something clear. He wanted to make sure that all the conditions had been clarified.

drawbacks (N)

= A disadvantage. There are many drawbacks to living an unhealthy lifestyle

overdrafts (N)

= When banks allow you to go below £0 on your bank account. Your overdraft limit is £100

status (N)

= Social or professional position. The company's legal status has changed.

withdrawals (N)

= Taking money out of your bank account. He made a withdrawal of £500. It was going to be a wild night.


N = noun, V = verb, Adj. = adjective, Adv. = adverb, I = idiom