How to Open a Bank Account Online with No Fees: A Full Guide with Options 2023
Looking to open a bank account online? Opening a bank account online might seem tricky, but now there are more options available than ever, including online accounts from traditional banks and alternatives like Wise and Revolut.
This article will help you understand how to open an account online (and for free), the documents you need, and also look at the options available from traditional banks compared to alternative solutions, such as Wise or Revolut. But more on that later, read on.
Can you open a bank account online for free?
Yes, in the UK it’s perfectly possible to open an online account for free.
Some accounts need a minimum deposit amount, but you’ll also usually be able to choose from a selection of standard account products which don’t have any ongoing maintenance fees.
However, while opening your online account may well be free, the chances are that you’ll run into fees somewhere down the line. Charges do vary widely between account types - but almost all accounts will have some transaction fees for services like exchanging funds, sending transfers, or making international ATM withdrawals.
Generally if you’re looking for a free online bank account you’ll have a couple of distinct options:
Traditional banks - most traditional banks offer one or more accounts you can open online which don’t have any ongoing maintenance fees. If you pick a traditional bank you’ll always be able to pop into a branch if you need to transact in person for any reason, but the fees associated with these accounts may be relatively high.
Online services and neobanks - online services and challenger banks have been built for a seamless online and mobile experience. You won’t usually be able to visit a physical location to transact, but because specialist services like these have lower overheads, you’ll often find lower fees and more unique features, too.
This guide looks at some options from both traditional banks and online services so you can see which suits you best.
What do I need to open a bank account online?
All regulated banks and financial service providers in the UK are obliged to carry out verification checks before opening a customer account. That usually means they request to see copies of:
Proof of identity - a valid passport, national identity card or driver’s licence for example
Proof of UK residential address - a bank or credit card statement, utility bill or tax return in your name
Different banks and providers do have their own policies of course, but in most cases traditional banks prefer to offer accounts to UK residents only. Online specialist services which have been built with a greater range of international features may be more flexible. Providers like Wise or Revolut, for example, can accept a broad range of documents for verification purposes, including proof of address from outside of the UK.
Online account with zero fees: Characteristics
Different online bank accounts will have their own features - traditional banks may offer fairly basic account options for customers looking to transact primarily online and with no ongoing charges. For more features, you may find you need to pay a monthly fee.
Specialist services like Wise and Revolut have often got a broader range of account options and features, all of which have been designed to be used via an app or desktop site. Wise and Revolut for example, offer the option to hold and exchange a range of currencies within their accounts - this service is not usually available with no-fee accounts from traditional banks.
How to open a bank account online
If you’re sticking with a high street bank you’ll often be able to open your account online if you have all the required paperwork. Specialist services also offer smooth online and in-app onboarding.
Here’s how to open a bank account online, step-by step:
Pick the provider and account you prefer. Compare a few options, including looking at the features and fees, before you get started
Download the provider app, or head to the desktop site. Some banks will allow you to open an account in their mobile banking app - if not, you’ll need to apply via the website
Navigate to the account you want and click Open account. You’ll then be prompted to enter your personal details
Upload your documents. Follow the instructions to upload images of the documents needed by the bank or provider - if you’re applying in app you’ll just be able to snap a photo with your phone
Once verification is complete you’re ready to go. Some banks will require you to pay a minimum deposit to get started, and most will send you your account card in the post a few days later
While different banks and providers have their own processes, you’ll usually find it’s pretty simple to get your new online account set up. Verification may be completed instantly, or may take a day or two. Some providers will also issue you a virtual payment card instantly so you don’t need to wait for your physical card to arrive.
Which provider is best for online accounts?
Let’s work through the key account options and fees for a couple of traditional banks with free online account options, in comparison to specialists Wise and Revolut.
|Debit Cards||Available||Available||£7 one time fee||Available, free to receive|
|Foreign Currency Accounts||GBP only||GBP only||Hold 50+ currencies||Hold 30+ currencies|
|Fall below fee||£0||£0||£0||£0|
|Maintenance fee||£0||£0||£0||Standard plans are free, or upgrade to a fee paying option for more features|
|International money transfers|
Often no fee online, 25 GBP by phone or in branch
Exchange rate markups and third party costs apply
Most SEPA payments are free. Online transfers anywhere else have a 5 GBP fee
Exchange rate markups and third party costs apply
|From 0.41%||0.3% - 2% depending on currency|
|Close account fee||£0||£0||£0||£0|
|Business accounts Online||Available||Available||Available for a low one time fee||Both free and fee paying options available|
|Is it safe to use?||Yes - FCA regulated, and overseen by other bodies globally||Yes - FCA regulated, and overseen by other bodies globally||Yes - FCA regulated, and overseen by other bodies globally||Yes - FCA regulated, and overseen by other bodies globally|
As you can see, the features available from different providers will vary significantly, with traditional banks often charging more for international transactions in particular. If you’re planning on managing your money entirely online or via your phone anyway, and don’t need a physical branch network, choosing a specialist online account may actually mean you pay less and get a more feature packed account.
Wise is not a bank, it’s a financial technology company which specialises in low cost international payments, as well as personal and business accounts. Open your Wise account online or in the Wise app, to hold 50+ currencies and exchange between them using the mid-market exchange rate with no markup. You can also send payments to 80+ countries and spend using your Wise international debit card all over the world.
Hold 50+ currencies, send to 80+ countries
No maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements
Low, transparent fees for the services you use
Revolut calls itself a financial super app, with account services including multi-currency functionality for 30 fiat currencies, budgeting and saving tools, and opportunities to invest. All accounts have great features like a linked debit card and some fee free currency exchange which uses the mid-market exchange rate. If you use your account a lot you may also choose to upgrade to a paid account plan to get other perks like higher fee free transaction limits, lounge passes and travel benefits.
Free standard account plans for both individual and business customers
Hold and exchange 30+ currencies, with some options to earn interest on balances
Transaction fees apply to some services - or you can upgrade to pay a monthly charge which covers more free transactions instead
Barclays is a popular UK bank with a strong highstreet presence - which also offers accounts you can open and manage entirely online or in the Barclays banking app. With the standard Barclays current account you can hold GBP only, but can access services like international payments online, by phone or in a branch. To open this account you’ll need to have a UK address and phone number.
No ongoing fees to maintain standard Barclays current accounts
Apply in app by uploading ID and a video selfie
Money management tools and optional arranged overdrafts available
Another globally recognised bank, HSBC has a range of account options, including some which are intended to be used primarily online. The standard HSBC current account has no ongoing maintenance fee, and the account can be opened by anyone aged over 18, although you may be subject to a credit check. In some cases it’s possible to apply for an HSBC online account when you don’t live in the UK, but this can vary depending on where you are, and may mean some features aren’t available to you. Accounts can hold GBP only.
Open an HSBC current account online or in app
Manage your money online, in app or in a branch if you need to
Some rewards and discounts are available when you spend with partner merchants
Things to consider when choosing an online current account with zero fees
You’ll have a pretty good selection of options when you select an online account in the UK, so here are a few things to check before you decide which is right for you:
ATM availability and fees - almost all online accounts will come with a linked payment card which you can also use for ATM withdrawals. However, you’ll want to check which ATMs you can use in the UK and abroad, and whether there are fees to pay. ATM charges - particularly internationally - can be pretty steep.
Customer support - online accounts are helpful for 24/7 account access - but what about when something goes wrong. Pick a provider which has trusted customer support options, including in-app chat features or phone service. That should mean you can always get hold of someone if you have a question.
Other costs and commissions - your account may not have any monthly fee, but that doesn’t mean it’s free. Check the fee information documents carefully, looking particularly at ATM and international charges, overdraft fees and any penalties which may apply.
Security - finally, make sure you’re picking a reputable provider which has invested in helping customers keep their accounts safe. Most UK account providers should be FCA regulated, and you’ll also need to make sure online and in-app security features are available.
What are the other costs?
Opening your account may not involve paying any fees - but there are likely to be some costs involved in transacting with your new account. Keep an eye out especially for:
ATM withdrawal fees
Charges for sending payments in the UK
Charges for international transfers
Foreign transaction and foreign cash fees
Fees to receive an international payment
Arranged and unarranged overdraft fees
Can I open an online bank account in the UK from abroad?
If you want to stick with a highstreet bank you may struggle to open an online account from abroad. That’s because most traditional banks need you to be able to show a UK issued proof of address. If you’re not in the UK you’ll probably be limited to some large global banking brands which may offer account opening online for non-UK resident customers, which could also mean higher fees and more limited features.
If you want to get your GBP bank account from abroad you’ll probably be better off with a specialist service like Wise which lets you open an account with a proof of address from a broad range of countries. Open your Wise account online or in the Wise app, upload an image of your ID and your regular proof of address documents, and you’ll get GBP bank details, even without a UK residence.
Opening a UK bank account online and with no fees is possible, both with traditional banks and newer specialist services and neobanks. You’ll be able to find accounts from traditional and specialist services which have no monthly maintenance fees, and no account opening charge. However, where these options tend to differ is in the range of features on offer, and the transaction fees you’ll pay for different services.
Specialist services like Wise and Revolut were built for digital and mobile first use, so they’re intuitive to use, and often have far lower fees compared to regular banks. Both Wise and Revolut also have a great suite of international services which don’t usually come along with the free accounts from mainstream banks. That can make it easier whenever you need to send, spend, hold or receive foreign currencies.
FAQ - How to open a bank account online with no fees
Most UK banks have some accounts which you can open online or via a mobile banking app. You can also pick accounts from non-bank providers like Wise and Revolut, with a broad range of features and a sleek customer interface.
If you have a proof of ID document and a local UK address and phone number you’ll usually be able to open a bank account online or via an app with no need to visit the branch in person. If you don’t have the right documents to hand you might find it easier to pop into a branch to get face to face help - or choose an alternative provider like Wise which can accept proof of ID from many different countries, instead.
The easiest bank account to open online will depend a lot on your personal preferences and the documents you have available. In most cases it’s pretty simple to set up an account with any provider which offers an in-app application process.
Yes. You can open a bank account, or a specialist account, with no minimum deposit and no account opening fee. Different accounts have their own features and fees but most UK banks and providers have at least one product which can be opened with no initial investment.
Most UK banks have at least one account with no monthly fee. This may be described as a basic bank account, and may not offer full feature access, though. See what your preferred UK banks have on offer, and check out some online providers like Wise and Revolut as a comparison.