Opening a UK Bank Account
You may have heard that it's not as easy to open a bank account in the UK. Unfortunately, that is true.
A common question we get asked is, How do you open a bank account from Australia in the UK? (Kiwis, Canucks and even Brits returning to the UK have the same problems and also ask!) In this page we compare the best known services that offer competing services and also show you how to DIY.
Your UK banking options:
Open a UK bank Account from your home country
[Hassle Factor = Medium] [Cost Factor = Medium to High]
Purchase a 'bank account set-up' package from a travellers' company before you leave.
[Hassle Factor = Very Low] [Cost Factor = Medium]
Don’t do anything and sort it out when you get there.
[Hassle Factor = High] [Cost Factor = Low]
Some banks (like HSBC or NAB affiliated banks) enable you to open a British bank account in the UK from your home country. Generally they will require you to make a sizable initial deposit in the account or attach restrictions like not supplying a bank card. You will often also need an account established with them in your country. These services seem to be aimed at wealthy invididuals where other lucrative business (such as mortgages and wealth management) will result.
Here are some recommended options for help opening a UK bank account:
All are excellent options run by well known UK based traveler companies with offices in both Britain and Australia. They cost between $85 and $198 in Australia or €35 for all other nationalities. None require a minimum amount for a deposit and all use major high street banks so you get a bank card, internet banking and all the other things you would expect.
Quick Comparison of Packages Available
|1st Contact||Visa First|
|Name of Product||Kickstart||Quickstart UK|
|Bank||HSBC, Barclays or Lloyds TSB||Lloyds TSB, Natwest, Barclays|
|NI number assistance||Yes||Yes|
|SIM Card||Yes (Standard/Micro SIM) Receive your number before arriving in the UK||Yes
|Meeting in London||Optional||Yes
|Nationalities covered||Aus, NZ, Can, South Africa, US, EU and Worldwide||Aus, NZ, Can, South Africa, US and EU|
|Price||£35 or $85 AUD||€35 or $85 AUD|
|Requirements||Passport and valid working visa required||Passport required|
|Best for||Option to open a fee-free account on arrival or have a fully operational account before departure.||Many nationalities covered|
|Other services||1st International Money Transfer free
CV and Job Assistance
5 day free Gym Voucher
Cheap Accommodation providers
|International phone card|
|To learn more and purchase||Learn and apply »
|Purchase Visa First »|
Important Considerations When Opening a Bank Account in the UK
Ultimately, all of the packages listed here are going to give you what you need — getting a UK bank account with a large UK based bank. The packages also include a number of other services that may be very useful to you (or not, depending on your situation).
In our opinion, each package is designed to provide everything you need to get started in the UK, which is great.
In addition to opening your UK Bank Account, which is essential, getting NI assistance is also very useful and is required if you are going to work in the UK.
The value of the other parts of the various packages really comes down to your personal preferences.
Typical Package Inclusions
All the packages offered include lots of potentially very useful things but the bank account is the main draw and in our opinion worth the price of admission alone.
In theory you can organise your NI number yourself, but in reality it can be quite tedious to sift through the requisite governmental bureaucracy so this is actually quite a useful part of these packages.
The SIM Card can be very useful, especially because it helps get you started with your job search! (Remember to update your CV with your new phone number.) Longer term, you may want to shop around for a contract plan thats suits you better and a new handset, but initially just having a number for people to contact you on when you arrive is really important. Since these SIM cards do not come with a contract, you can often use your existing handset from home, however this may need to be unlocked before you leave home or upon arrival in the UK. Standard cost for unlocking a handset is £10.
Many of these packages include international money transfers. Costs to use these transfer services vary significantly. Some packages indicate that transfers are free. The ‘free’ part is the transaction cost, which can be as high as $40 or £20 if you were to transfer your money directly through a bank.
Before you start moving significant sums (more than $2000) it pays to compare the exchange rate differences offered by various transfer services because these will potentially add up to more than the transaction cost. The transfer service you choose should be a balance between convenience and cost.
- Compare the rate you are being offered with and get your first money transfer FREE 1st Contact Forex
- Compare the rate you are being offered with Tranzfers
- Learn more about International Money Transfers
International Phone Cards and Skype
Phone cards or Skype can save you a lot money for international calls. In general, cards are pretty easy to pick up - shops sell them on every corner. Some of these cards have a certain amount of credit included to get you started. To use them you simply call a number on the card and enter a PIN number to access your credit. However, if you need to make lots of calls overseas and you have access to a computer, there is no substitute for a web-based phone service like Skype. The downside is you need to be at a computer to make calls and this can be a little tricky in public places like an internet cafe or at work. If however you have a smart phone that supports Skype you can use your iphone, Blackberry phone or Android phone simply connect to a wifi network.
The meeting offered by many of these companies can be useful to help you get your bearings upon arrival, but if your main purpose is just to establish a bank account or if you are based outside of London it may not be that useful for you. Attending a meeting is easy, you just book in to one before or after you arrive (they are held fairly frequently). Meetings are designed to:
- Get your bank account opened with a bank representative present; and
- Introduce you to some of the other services the traveler company offers. Some offer tax services, relocation services, visa services, travel services, CV writing, job assistance and other related services.
Each package has slightly different requirements to conform to each bank’s rules however all of them will require your passport. In addition, Fastrack UK requires a copy of your home bank account statement or a utility bill, but considering you have full access to the account before you leave home this is understandable.
Should you choose to wait until after your arrival in the UK to get a UK bank account, be prepared for delays and the potential for a lot of annoying difficulties. In order to open a bank account in the UK, you will often first need to get a job and a lease (with bills in your name to verify you are who you say you are).
It may aid the process if you were to bring a letter to the UK from your current bank branch in your home country stating how long you have been a customer and that your account is in good standing. If a letter of that type cannot be obtained, bring a recent and original banking statement ensuring that both your name and home address are shown on it.
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