Opening a UK Bank Account

17 Feb 09

UK Bank Logos

Before I headed over to the UK, I had many conversations with people on various aspects of moving to the UK, setting up a UK bank account always prop up, it seemed not to be a straight forward task. Since I wanted to come over and work straight away I did some research. I found quite a number out dated  forum posts of people dealing with UK banks, some had countless problems while other didn’t have any hassles.

Proving who you are to open a UK bank account is easy; as a passport is sufficient, the second and most difficult part is proving your UK address. Since I just arrived I only had my rental agreement which apparently wasn’t good enough, I needed to produce a utility bill or a UK bank statement from any British bank to open an account. Here are few of my experiences with the banks over here:

  • HSBC & Citibank – Before heading off to the UK I inquired at HSBC & Citibank branches in Sydney to if they could help me setup a UK bank account. Unfortunately they don’t provide this service, as their ‘officers around the world don’t communicate with each other’. However, both banks did notify me if I had a cool $500,00.00+ lazying around  they could help me sort out an account. So its true, money does talk.
  • Lloyds TSB – I wanted to come over already prepared with a UK bank account, I used a third party company, FastTrack UK to open an offshore bank account on my behalf with Lloyds TSB Offshore located in the Isle of Man. FastTrack UK charges around AUD$200 (Nov 08) to open the account on your behalf and include a few extras, the only useful item was a Gold Membership to hostelworld.com.  I was setup with an account & visa debit card which I collected from the branch once I arrived in London. The only downside is after 3 months  a hefty monthly account fee of £7.50 kicks in. Even though this was an expensive option I am glad I went through with it.
  • Abbey – Went into my local branch on a Saturday and they where unable to help me, so that was the start and end of them.
  • Barclays – They made a great first impression, don’t think I have even been into a more helpful bank in my life, this happened on multiple occasions too, which is rare in my experience as a customer of any bank. Somehow  they could open a bank account without proving my address (have no idea how they got around this), a passport was sufficient. It seemed too good to be true, but 30mins later I had all my account details and it was already to use. Almost 3 months down the track I still haven’t received my debit card with enables me to withdraw fund & use internet banking, but they where able to send me a cheque book without a hitch. So im still waiting for this account to be fully setup. Ill keep you updated on this one.
  • Nationwide – These guys are the world largest building society with over 15 million customers. One of the main features of there account were transaction abroad didn’t incur any fees (the standard rate is around 3% for each transaction). Since I was planning to travel this was ideal. I handed over my £100 pounds (which was required) to open the account and used my statement from my offshore account to prove my address. A week later my card arrived and my account was open. To my surprise they didn’t issue me with visa debit card to use aboard, instead it was a connect card (similar to an EFTPOS card in Australia) which can only be used in the UK and doesn’t allow any internet purchases. I have to meet their list of requirements for the next 7 months before I can apply for visa debit card. Not sure if I will jump through all their hoops to get there fee free visa debit card.

Nationwide were the clear winners, but without a visa debit card the account is useless to me. Looks like ill be keeping my Lloyds offshore account until things get sorted out with Barclays. I could have tried more banks but as you see from my experince things do take time. Ill keep you posted on any updates.

Comments

Hey Hey!

How are you?

Are you saying its that simple to open a bank account with Barclays? Or was it just luck? lol

All you need is your passport is that correct?

I dont come on here much so can you please email me your reply..

Thanks mate!

Em

Em | 12:26 am on 13 Mar 09

Hi Em,

I’m going well. I do know of another person who recently opened a Barclays account with only a passport. So I would try them first, but at the end of the day its up to their discretion, so I suppose some luck is required. Yes a passport was the only piece of documentation I provided.

If you need an account & a UK debit card on the day you arrived I strongly suggest you spending the extra money and use a 3rd party company to set up an account on your behalf. FastTrackUK or 1st Contact should be able to help you out.

Best of luck, let me know how you go.

Isaac | 12:53 am on 13 Mar 09

Thanks for replying Issac.

Are there any account keeping fees and did you receive your account details straight away?

I’m planning to do a contiki tour than work so I ‘mjust sussing out my options..

I don’t wanna fork out any extra money if not required with 1st
Contact etc. lol

Em | 1:15 am on 13 Mar 09

Each UK bank has a variety of transaction accounts they are usually known as ‘Current Accounts’. Majority of the bank offer a fee free account.

Barclays offer free account, it includes a debit card, cheque book, online banking and online transfers; everything you need. I would suggest you opt out of the overdraft which comes standard with the account; this if save you from the hefty fees incase your balance goes into negative territory. In addition the debit card does attract fees if used aboard.

The only problem I can see is that you need an address when you open the account so they can send your debit card & other important letters. Maybe a friend or family member in the UK can collect your mail.

Isaac | 1:18 am on 15 Mar 09

Do you NEED to have a debit card to be able to withdraw funds? Are you allowed to withdraw funds over the counter over there?

Thanks Issac

Em | 3:39 am on 16 Mar 09

I think you can make withdrawal over the counter using your passport, but they must have you signature on file, there is a special form to fill out.

Isaac | 10:53 pm on 30 Mar 09

What’s the process with applying for a NIN no. in the UK? Is it compulsory? (I’ve heard ppl can work without it and not be taxed a higher rate) I’ve heard it takes a while to get one..

Thanks Issac

Em | 3:59 am on 04 Apr 09

Obtaining my National Insurance number was quite easy. Just ring up and make an appointment at a Job Centre Plus branch. They usually quote around 6-8 weeks for your number to be sent out to you (letter), but I only waited 4 weeks. HM Revenue & Customs will sent out a card with you number on it as well which usually takes an additional 4 weeks.

You can work without a NI, are you are correct, you do get taxed at a higher rate its known as ‘Emergency tax‘. I am not sure of the exact rate but I think it is around 40%.

The tax system over here is quite smart, once you give your employer your NI number it will automatically adjust your tax and provide you with a rebate if it deems you have been paying to much tax usually in your next pay packet. This should eliminated having to fill out a tax return – which is great 🙂

This is my experience so far, it did get very frustrating at times being taxed quite high as I was living pay packet to pay packet just to cover my rent, but im glad it now all worked out.

Isaac | 7:54 pm on 06 Apr 09

Dear,
My capital in escrow as a deposit in my name Vojislav Gligorijević in Insurance company is in Citi Bank UK, London. How can I open a deposit account in my name and my deposit capital in your bank in the long time.Have personal property to the capital.
Best regards,
Prof. Dr. Vojislav Gligorijević

Vojislav Gligorijević | 5:29 pm on 17 Jul 09

Hello,
On several occasions I have written personally by mail Citi Bank UK in London on my capital, and release the same with the opening of an account in that bank, because I am not a resident of the country.Capital is deposited as a deposit on the property in my name with all the necessary documents that in Citi Bank. Why does not match the bank, what is the middle, if capital is not in their bank to a bank denies. Who here when lying. in my bank is dishonest activities, which in several cases and proved. Why state authorities look through your fingers when the banks know that banks do many tasks outside of the law. Do I need to run a process through an international court, if it should, then I will uraditi.Then and it will all be to the detriment of the reputation of Citi Bank.
Best regards,
Vojislav Gligorijevic

Vojislav Gligorijevic | 5:05 pm on 28 Dec 09

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