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How to Open a Bank Account in the UK

Image representing learning how to open a bank account in the UK

Are you moving to the UK long term, to work or study? If so, you will almost certainly need a UK bank account. In this blog post, we’ll take you through all the important things you need to know in order to make that happen.

Why Do I Need a UK Bank Account?

Firstly, if you plan to work for a UK company, it’s extremely likely that they will only be able to pay you into a local bank account. Even if they agree to pay you into a foreign bank account, there will be huge fees to pay as well as long delays until you get your money – which doesn’t sound great!

Even if you’re not planning to work for a UK company, accessing your money day-to-day can be a real pain. Typically, taking money out of a non-UK account at a UK Cashpoint (ATM) means paying lots of charges and FOREX fees, and you usually get a bad exchange rate, too.

However, unless you choose the option of keeping thousands and thousands of pounds in cash in your home or your wallet, the only way to avoid paying to get to your money every time is to open a bank account in the country.

What You Will Need

To open a bank account, you need to prove who you are and where you live in the UK.

To prove who you are, you will need one of the following:

  •         Your passport
  •         Your driving licence
  •         Your European ID card

To prove that you have an address in the UK, the bank will either want to see your tenancy agreement (the contract that you signed with your landlord when you moved into your house or flat), or some kind of official letter that has been sent to you at this address.

For example, that could be:

  •         A recent council tax, electricity or gas bill that was sent to you at your UK address;
  •         A letter from your university or employer that confirms your address, or;
  •         A letter from the JobCentre. This is where you will need to go in order to get a National Insurance number, which your employer will use to pay your wages and taxes;

Opening a Bank Account in Advance

In some situations, your bank at home might also have branches in the UK, or work in partnership with a local bank. Make sure you ask before you move to the UK, as they might be able to help you open a bank account before you leave. This makes things a lot easier!

Useful Phrases

Here are some handy words and phrases to make sure you understand the type of account you are opening as well as the rules you have to follow.


Money that you put into your account


Money that you take out of your account


An extra supply of money to the amount of money in your account, that you can automatically borrow if you run out. This is called “going overdrawn”.

For example, if you have £1000 in your account and an overdraft of £1000, that means you can actually spend up to £2000. Be careful though, as usually you have to pay interest on your overdraft – and eventually you will need to pay it back!


Extra money that you have to pay the bank, on top of the amount you borrow. For example, if you have to pay 1% interest each month on however much you are overdrawn, and you are £100 overdrawn, you would have to pay the bank £1 for this month.

PIN: This stands for “Personal Identification Number” and means the four numbers you have to type into the ATM / Cashpoint to take your money out

Debit Card: The card you use to take money out of your account and overdraft

Credit Card: A card that allows you to spend money borrowed from the bank. Unlike your overdraft, which can stay the same for a long time, you do need to pay back as least some of the money you spend on your credit card, every month.

Cashpoint / Hole in the Wall: These are common UK terms for an ATM

Moving to the UK soon for work or study? Improve your English now with our range of courses on www.Eurocentres.com