Opening a new bank account in the UK

  • April 10, 2020

Once you've arrived in the UK, how do you set up a new bank account? 

There are many things to consider when setting up your new life in the UK, one of which is opening a new bank account. To help, we put together a few tips and suggestions to get you started, including the following topics: 

There are various different, and whilst one type of bank will suit one person, it may not suit everyone. So, it is important to shop around and find the right bank account for you. 

Options can be confusing 

When choosing a bank account, it can get confusing. There can be accounts that are simple to set up, with no fees, or accounts that require a monthly fee. Equally, you now have the option of online banking with banks that have few or no local branches at all, or you may prefer a bank that has a branch nearby so you can pop in anytime. 

We have taken a look at the easiest to set up, but as above, they may still not be the right account for you. If you want to discuss further after reading this blog, why not give us a call and one of our specialist consultants will answer any questions you may have.

Do I need a new bank account? 

Before we look at specific examples, it is important to mention why setting up a bank account is important. 

Firstly, you will need to notify your employer where to pay you! 

And secondly, a good bank account will offer ease of use, support you in building your credit score (important for your future in the UK), pay bills, and easily check your balance. 

How do you set up an account and what do you need? 

Similar to a lot of adminstrative tasks, to set up an account you will need to make an appointment with the bank and bring along the right documents.

Setting up an appointment

Most banks won’t let you drop in, so it is a good idea to call in advance and schedule in your appointment. The appointment will be focused on discussing your situation in order to open the account.  

Required documents:

Once you have booked the appointment you can then start to prepare the documents to bring with you. Basically, one document to prove your identity and one to prove your address. 

To prove your identity, you will need one of the following: 

  • Passport
  • Driver’s licence
  • EU ID Card

Every bank has its own idea of how to prove your address, the following are widely accepted: 

  • Tenancy agreement or mortgage statement
  • Electricity or gas bill, dated within the last 3 months
  • A current Council Tax bill

However, as an IMG you will be new to the UK, so you might not have any of the above as evidence of your address. The good news is that most banks will accept a letter of employment from your Trust (employer) written to the bank. 

You can request an employment letter from your Trust HR department. This must confirm: 

  • your home address
  • include your name
  • D.O.B
  • you are employed by the Trust
  • the starting date of your role
  • your salary
  • duration of the contract

It must be on letter headed paper, stamped, signed and dated. Speak to your IMG Consultant who will be happy to help you set this up. 

Once your account is open, what next? 

Once you have completed your meeting (usually around an hour), your account will be set up and ready to use.

Now that you have your new account number (8 digits) and sort code (6 digits) you can provide these to your payroll department ready for your first pay cheque!

Don’t forget you will also need your NI number! Read our blog on how to get yourself a NI number  if you haven't already. 

You will also receive your bank card and pin code in the post, these are usually delivered separately. 

If you receive one but not the other a day or so after, then contact the bank and they will reissue these. These usually arrive approximately 5 working days after setting up the account, but your bank will advise on the specific number of days so that you can keep an eye out for their arrival. 

Once arrived, you can use this to make payments everywhere, including online. If you want to change the pin, you can change this at most bank machines to something that you will remember! Be sure to choose memorably but randomly, not 1234! 

Monitoring your account

Now that you are set up, most banks will offer an online account to monitor your income.  Most have an app that you can download to your smart phone to manage outgoings and transfers. 

Which bank should I choose? 

With the banking market bringing a wide range of accounts and banks, it is hard to navigate through all of the accounts on offer. 

The most important advice we can give is to shop around. Check online and compare what is on offer across a wide range of banks. Often, it can also be easier to open an account with one of the bigger UK banks. 

Here are a few things to consider when selecting your account and discussing what is offered during your meeting with the bank: 

  • Examine digital features – online and mobile access via apps and online banking etc. It is beneficial to access your account anywhere, helping you monitor your outgoings and identify fraud.
  • Check if the account has monthly fees – most standard current accounts don’t, but premium services usually have a monthly charge.
  • No minimum balance requirement - good banks don’t have these! 
  • No limitations on the number of transactions – you want to be free to make as many, or little transactions as you want. 
  • Free ATM access, so you can withdraw money when needed.
  • Check overdrafts and associated fees, you don’t want any unwanted charges.
  • Check if the bank has several branches, including one local to you. You may however prefer to use services offered online, which would open more options up to you. 

Some banks offer specific accounts for people who have recently relocated to the UK, usually called new to the UK accounts. 

You can also chat to an advisor online to answer any questions you may have before you make the decision to arrange an appointment, check the bank websites for webchat options. 

Whatever type of banking suits you, it is always best to research extensively, especially online, which will give you a full idea of what they offer. 

The main five banks:

The five main banks in the UK are:

  • Natwest
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Barclays
  • HSBC 

Opening an account with these banks is usually easy, and they offer a range of accounts with online options. 

Another popular option is to set up a Monzo account as they are very quick, easy to set up - whilst they offer a useful mobile app platform which makes it easy to keep track of your expenses. They also offer free payments and withdrawals outside of the UK whilst are an FSCS approved bank so offer the same security as one of the main five banks.

Ethical banking: 

Ethical banks are those that invest your money transparently and only business, companies and investments that do not have a harmful impact on local communities and the environment. The following two are good options: 

Triodos Bank offer a great option for Ethical Banking. They invest their money transparently and into projects and trusts that benefit local communities and the planet we live in. They do not invest in any fossil fuel companies or any business that has a harmful impact. Our directors and our business bank with Triodos.

Co-operative Bank offers a range of accounts and can be set up online easily.

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