What Do You Need To Open A Bank Account? All You Need To Know 2024

Claire Millard
Ileana Ionescu
Last updated
21 March 2023

If you’re new to the UK, or looking for better ways to manage your UK finances, getting a bank account is pretty much essential. Maybe you’re moving to the UK to work or study, opening a UK business, or a regular visitor who needs ways to hold, receive, send and spend pounds easily.

Opening a UK bank account should be pretty easy as long as you have all the right documents to hand. This guide walks through everything you normally need to open a bank account in the UK, plus we’ll look at some alternatives like Wise and Revolut which offer online accounts you can open from all over the world.

Table of Contents

What documentation do you need to open a bank account?

Exactly what’s needed to open a bank account in the UK may vary a little depending on the account type you pick, and the bank or provider you want to use. There are also some variances based on your own personal situation - for example, if you’re a US citizen or a US resident you may need some extra details and documents to get started.

All that said, as all UK banks must comply with the same local and global financial regulations, the documents required tend to be fairly similar.

Here are the documents you’ll need to be able to open a bank account:

  • Valid proof of identity - usually a government issued photo ID

  • Valid proof of address - some banks and providers require a local UK address

  • Proof of meeting any other eligibility criteria - proof of student status for a student account, for example

Identification documents usually accepted when opening a UK bank account include:

  • A full and valid UK or foreign passport

  • A full UK, EU or EEA photocard driving licence, a provisional UK photocard or paper driving licence

  • UK biometric residence permit

Depending on your circumstances, other documents may be accepted by some banks, such as correspondence in your name from the UK tax or benefits agencies, or an armed forces ID card.

Proof of address documents usually accepted when opening a UK bank account include:

  • A full UK, EU or EEA photocard driving licence, a provisional UK photocard or paper driving licence

  • A recent bank statement showing a UK address - digital bank statements are not accepted

  • A recent UK credit card statement or utility bill

    Other options can include a mortgage statement or correspondence from the UK tax authorities - and if you don’t have any of the suggested documents, some banks can consider alternatives if you call them directly.

Save the paperwork with online solutions like Wise or Revolut

As you can see, the documents required by traditional UK banks may be tricky to find if you’re new to the country or simply don’t have bills in your name. If you don’t have the standard documents suggested, the chances are that you’ll need to visit a branch to get your account opened - which can be time consuming and inconvenient.

As an alternative, check out digital providers like Wise or Revolut, which offer a fully online onboarding and verification process. All you’ll need to do is register an account online or through an app, and upload images of your documents, which can often be verified instantly - or at least pretty quickly, so you can start using your account.

Online providers like Wise and Revolut are also able to accept proof of address documents from a good range of countries, which can be easier if you’ve just arrived in the UK or if you’re trying to get your account set up before moving. Just use your normal home proof of ID and address, and access an account which can be used to hold, send, spend and exchange British pounds, even before you get settled in the UK.

Go to Wise

What do you need to open a bank account online?

Some UK banks allow customers to open a bank account online or through their apps. However, this is only usually possible if you have standard ID and address documents - and may still require you to visit a branch, make a call, or complete other checks like recording a short video to prove you’re really who you say you are.

Alternative providers like Wise and Revolut allow customers to open a bank account completely online or in an intuitive app, which can be a smooth - and sometimes even instant - process.

Here is what you’ll usually need to open an account online with a traditional UK bank:

  • Proof of ID - a passport, UK biometric residence permit or a UK, EU or EEA full driving licence

  • 3 years of address history - some banks may require proof of recent addresses

  • A UK mobile phone number

Alternative providers may have more flexible ways to apply for an account online or through an app, usually requiring customers to upload one or two documents, and take a selfie. Here are a couple to consider:

Wise Account: Open an account online or in the Wise app, to hold and exchange 50+ currencies, and get a linked payment card for spending and withdrawals in 170+ countries. Wise accounts come with local bank details for 10 currencies to receive fee free payments conveniently from 30+ countries.

Go to Wise

Revolut Account: Open a free Standard Revolut account, or upgrade to a fee paying account for up to 12.99 GBP/month, depending on your preference. All accounts can hold and exchange 30+ currencies, and depending on your account tier you may also get interest earning opportunities, cash back, travel perks and more.

Learn more about Revolut

Click here to read a complete Revolut review [2023]

Learn more about how to open a bank account online here.

How to open a bank account in the UK?

Let’s walk through the steps to open a bank account in the UK. The exact process you follow may vary a little depending on the bank and specific account you pick - but here’s a handy overview to build a picture:

  1. Choose a bank or a provider to open an account with: account features and fees vary widely, so picking the right one for you will require a bit of research. Look at a mix of big highstreet bank brands and more modern alternatives, to find the right match for you.

  2. Make sure that you’re eligible to open an account with them: different accounts have their own eligibility criteria, which may include a credit check, minimum salary or deposit requirements, or proof of student or employment status. 
  3. Choose the right account for yourself: by comparing a few different accounts you can find one which offers the services you need, conveniently - and with low fees for the transactions you make frequently.

  4. Put the required documentation together: standard bank accounts require you to have several documents to get started - make sure you know what your preferred provider needs, and have everything to hand before you start your application.

  5. Apply to open an account: finally you can make your application - online, in app, by phone or in a branch. You’ll get your account paperwork and card in person, or through the post a little later, depending on how you apply.

Current vs savings accounts

Current accounts - which are called checking accounts in the US - are normally used for day to day transactions and spending. They’re designed to make it easy to receive and spend, with linked debit cards and online and mobile banking options.

Savings accounts are usually aimed at people trying to build a nest egg - with higher interest rates, and sometimes more restrictive conditions. You may find you can only make a limited number of withdrawals - or even no withdrawals at all - if you want to continue to earn interest on your deposit.

Current Accounts might be best:Savings Accounts might be best:
  • If you want low or no monthly fees, and convenient account access

  • If you want a linked card for payment and withdrawals

  • If you want easy ways to receive your salary and set up regular bill payments

  • If you’ll be transacting regularly

  • If you want to earn interest on your deposit

  • If you don’t need to make regular account transactions

  • If you’re happy without a linked card or cheque book

It’s worth remembering that even if you can’t open a current or savings account with a regular UK bank, you can still consider online alternatives such as Wise and Revolut. Both Wise and Revolut offer flexible account options which come with easy ways to hold, spend and exchange British pounds - and a selection of other currencies - with linked payment cards and other handy features.

Click here to read a complete Wise review [2023]

What to look for when choosing a bank account

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to UK bank accounts. However, that does mean you’ll have to invest some time in picking the right one for you. Here are some pointers to consider:

  • Account fees: Lots of UK accounts have no monthly fees, but transaction and service fees will usually still apply. Compare these carefully for the transactions you make often, to keep overall costs down

  • ATM availability:If you’ll be withdrawing regularly, check where you can get local fee free ATM services, and the costs for out of network and international withdrawals too. Regular banks usually have fairly high international ATM fees - alternatives like Wise and Revolut have some fee free international withdrawals to keep costs down

  • Online banking: Most banks offer online and in-app banking - check that the service you’re looking at is intuitive and offers the transactions you need to make online

  • Debit cards: Contactless debit cards which offer mobile payments are quite standard in the UK now - make sure you get a card you can use easily for the payments you’ll need to make

  • International transactions: Finally, check the fees when you spend or send foreign currencies - these can be pretty high with traditional banks - but specialist services like Wise and Revolut can often provide better exchange rates and more transparent fees

How much does it cost to open a bank account?

Basic bank accounts in the UK are usually free to open - but some banks will ask you to make a minimum deposit amount to get started. This can be just a few pounds for simple accounts - but for premium tier accounts, you may be asked to deposit or invest anything from 50,000 GBP upwards.

Specialist account services can be a cheaper alternative:

  • Wise Account: Open your Wise account for free, with no minimum deposit and no monthly fee to pay

  • Revolut Account: Revolut accounts have no minimum deposits, with free standard plans, and higher tier accounts with a monthly fee up to 12.99 GBP

What documents do you need to open a business bank account?

Business bank accounts are essential as soon as you start to make or receive payments on behalf of your company. Even if you’re not legally obliged to have a business bank account - as a freelancer or sole trader for example, they can be a smart way to manage your personal and business finances efficiently.

To open a UK business bank account you need:

  • Proof of identity - such as a passport or driving licence

  • Proof of address - like a utilities bill or bank statement. This may need to be a UK address, depending on the bank

  • Business documentation - varied by business entity type, including Companies House registration documents or a Certificate of Incorporation for example

It’s very common to need to visit a branch of a traditional bank if you’re looking for a business account. Alternative online services like Wise and Revolut both offer business accounts to UK registered companies and freelancers - which can be opened online, with no or low fees, and great multi-currency functionality to allow you to expand your business internationally.

Can you open a business bank account online?

Some banks allow business customers to open accounts online, but this is dependent on the business entity type you have, and the bank you select. In some cases you can start your account opening application online but you’ll need to follow up with a branch visit to get everything sorted and receive your account paperwork and cards.

What documents do you need to open a business account online

You’re most likely to be able to open a business bank account with a traditional bank online if you’re a sole trader, or if you have a single director limited company. More complex business entity structures are often not offered online opening functions. Check with the bank you prefer directly before you get started.

On the other hand, specialist online providers like Wise and Revolut offer online account opening options to all business customers, and can be a handy alternative.

To open a business account online with a traditional bank, you need these documents:

  • Proof of identity

  • Proof of address

  • Business documentation - varied by business entity type

Not sure about traditional banks vs online specialist business accounts? Check out these alternatives as a comparison:

Wise Business Account: open online or in app with a one time low fee and no ongoing charges or minimum balance requirements, hold 50+ currencies, get local bank details for 10 currencies, and order debit and expense cards for you and your team. Account holders can add and manage user permissions, and access handy perks like batch payments and Xero integration

Revolut Business Account: choose a free business account, or upgrade for up to 100 GBP/month to get more features and a higher level of fee free transactions. Revolut accounts all come with linked payment cards, options to hold and exchange 30+ currencies, and receiving accounts in USD and GBP to get paid easily

What do you need to open a bank account if you are under 18

Most major UK banks - and specialist providers like Revolut - offer bank accounts for minors under the age of 18.

The basic requirements to open a bank account for a minor are similar to those for an adult - but there’s usually more flexibility in how verification processes work.

With the Revolut account, for example, a parent or guardian can add a <18 account to their own Revolut adult account easily. This means that the child can access certain account features, but the adult still has oversight - and responsibility - for the account as a whole.

To open a standard bank account as a minor you’ll need:

  • Proof of ID - a passport, driving licence or ID card for example

  • Proof of address - a driving licence, bank statement, or a letter from a parent or guardian who also has an account with the same bank for example

Conclusion

Opening a UK bank account isn’t hard as long as you have all the right paperwork to hand. However, if you don’t have the suggested documents as proof of ID and address you might find the process is harder - and you’ll often need to go to a branch to get started.

Online and digital account specialists can often provide a more intuitive account opening experience, with faster services and feature packed accounts as a bonus. Check out Wise and Revolut if you want an account you can open online or in-app, to hold and exchange dozens of currencies, with easy ways to send, spend, receive and manage your money.

FAQs - What info do you need to open a bank account?

Which banks allow you to open an account online?

If you have a full set of standard documents, including proof of ID and a UK address, you can open an account online with a major bank like Barclays or HSBC. However, you might find it’s an easier and faster process with a specialist service like Wise or Revolut.

How much money do you need to open an account?

Some traditional banks will ask you to make a minimum opening deposit, which could be a fairly low amount for a standard account - or much higher if you’re looking for a premium tier account product. Take a look at online specialists like Wise and Revolut if you want an account with no minimum deposit and an easy online onboarding.

Do I need to go to a bank to open a current account?

You might be able to open a current account with a regular bank if you have a local UK proof of address and a standard ID document. If not - or if you want an account which comes with great international features - check out digital services like Wise and Revolut for easy online and in-app application processes and smart account products which can help you to save money.

Which bank is easiest to open an account with?

There’s no single easiest or best bank - it’ll all depend on the specific account you want, and which documents you’ve got for verification. Compare a few and don’t forget to check out Wise and Revolut for accounts that can be opened online, fast, conveniently for free.

Can a minor open a bank account without a parent?

Older teens in the UK can open some bank accounts as long as they have a proof of ID and address - this may include a letter from their parent if they don’t have a bill or other official correspondence in their name. If this isn’t available, Revolut <18 accounts can be handy, and are free to open if a parent or guardian has a Revolut adult account already.