How to Open a Current Account in the UK: The Easy Way 
Current accounts are designed for day to day spending, and usually offer a broad range of ways to deposit, withdraw, manage and spend your money. If you’re looking to open a current account for yourself or your business, this guide is for you.
We’ll look at some popular accounts from major UK banks, as well as from alternative providers like Wise and Revolut, and cover how you can open an account online (and for free) as well as the features and fees you can expect to encounter. Let’s get right into it.
Can you open a current account for free?
Yes, many major UK banks and alternative providers offer current accounts you can open for free. However, in some cases you’ll need to hit eligibility requirements or deposit a minimum opening amount - and transaction fees are likely to apply to some services you need to access.
Generally you’ll have a couple of clear options if you want to open a UK account to manage your money on a daily basis: traditional highstreet banks, or digital services, which can include neobanks and specialist providers.
Highstreet banks can be a good option if you prefer a face to face service, or if you need to deposit cash to your account. However, current accounts from regular banks can come with some surprisingly high transaction fees, especially when you’re sending or spending in a foreign currency.
Digital banks - also called neo banks or challenger banks - and specialist online account providers don’t have a branch network. Instead you’ll transact online or through an app, which can be convenient and mean you have an intuitive 24/7 service right from your phone. Different digital account services have their own features and fees, which can be lower than traditional banks thanks to their lower overheads.
What do I need to open a current account in the UK?
All financial service providers in the UK are obliged to complete certain verification checks before they offer an account to a new customer. One important requirement is that banks must verify customers' identity and address. While different services have their own rules, this usually means you’ll need:
Proof of address - such as a passport, driving licence or a UK biometric residence permit
Proof of address - such as a driving licence which shows your current address or a recent bank statement (digital bank statements may be rejected)
You may also need additional paperwork depending on the account type. If you’re opening a student account, you’ll have to prove your student status for example. Some other current accounts may require you to have a certain income - if you’re opting for one of these, expect to be asked for your payslips.
How to open a current account
If you’re a UK resident with a full set of ID and address documents, you’ll often be able to open your account online. Alternatively you’ll have the option of popping into a local branch if you choose an account with a traditional bank.
In most cases the process to open a current account includes the following steps:
Confirm and gather the documents needed for the specific account you’ve picked
Check if you’ll need to make a minimum deposit at the time you open your account
Complete the account application online or in branch
Show your paperwork in person, or upload images if you’re opening online
The bank or provider will complete verification - this may be instant or take a day or two
You’ll be given or posted your account materials, including a debit card if you’ve chosen to get one
Your account is ready to use
Which provider is best for opening a current account?
To help paint a picture, let’s look at how a few different current account options compare. We’ve picked Barclays as a traditional UK bank, Starling as a digital challenger bank, and Wise and Revolut - popular account services which have a focus on low costs and multi-currency features.
|Debit Cards||Available||Available||£7 fee to get a card||Basic cards are free, but delivery charges may apply|
|Fall below fee||£0||£0||£0||£0|
|Maintenance fee||£0||£0||£0||Up to £12.99/month|
|Multi-currency features||Not available with standard current accounts||Personal accounts available in GBP and EUR||Hold 50+ currencies||Hold 30+ currencies|
|International money transfers|
SEPA transfers made online are free
In branch payments may attract a fee of around £25, depending on destination
Exchange rate markups apply
0.4% currency exchange fee + delivery fee
Delivery fee from £0.30 for local network transfers, or £5.50 for SWIFT payments
|From 0.41%, with the Google exchange rate|
0.3% - 2% depending on destination
Currency exchange uses the Google exchange rate to plan limits
|Foreign transaction fee||2.99%||None||None||None|
|Close account fee||£0||£0||£0||£0|
As you can see, it’s very possible to find UK current accounts which have no maintenance fees to worry about. However, traditional bank current accounts can often have transaction fees which can be particularly high whenever you need to send or receive a payment in foreign currency, withdraw funds overseas, or spend in person or online with merchants abroad.
Digital accounts from specialists won’t necessarily be able to offer features like credit cards or overdrafts, which are usually available from highstreet banks - but they do often have solid multi-currency features, which can be handy if you love to travel.
Here’s a quick look at some key features of the account options we compared above.
Wise is a specialist in international payments, currency exchange and multi-currency accounts for individuals and businesses. A Wise Account offers options to hold, send and receive payments in 50+ currencies, with a linked card for easy spending and withdrawal. Currency exchange uses the Google exchange rate, with no markup.
Hold 50+ currencies, send to 80+ countries, spend in 170+ countries with the Wise card
No account opening charge and no maintenance fee to pay
- No minimum balance and transparent transaction charges for the services you need
- Transact online or in the Wise app for convenience
Revolut calls itself a financial super-app, with a choice of account tiers including free standard plans, and options with monthly fees - but more features available. Revolut accounts have multi-currency functionality, and linked payment cards you can use at home and abroad. Depending on your account tier, you’ll also get some mid-market currency exchange and free ATM withdrawals to set limits.
Get a free standard account or upgrade to a fee paying tier for more features
Hold and exchange 30+ currencies, and send payments around the world
Accounts for children available
Some out of hours and fair usage fees may apply, depending on the account tier you choose
As a major highstreet bank you’ll find all the money management tools you need from Barclays, including a standard and premium current account product, available for individual or joint applications. Apply online or in the Barclays app, or head to a branch if you’d prefer to get your account opened in person.
Large highstreet presence for face to face service
No salary or minimum deposit requirements for standard current accounts
Some international payments made online are free - although exchange rate markups may apply
Foreign transaction fees apply when you spend with your card overseas
Digital neobank Starling has a full UK banking licence, but no branch network. Instead services are delivered online or in the Starling app, which can be convenient if you’re happy with a self service account experience. Personal customers can choose personal or joint current accounts in pounds or euros.
Low fees for most services, with no foreign transaction fee
Overdrafts and loans available for personal and business customers
Exchange rates include a low 0.4% fee, with an additional delivery charge for sending money overseas
Savings accounts, and accounts for children and teens also available
Opening a business current account
If you’re looking for an account for your UK registered business, you’ll also be able to choose between current accounts from traditional banks, digital challenger banks, and specialist providers like Wise and Revolut.
Which suits you best will depend a lot on the transaction types you need to make. If you’ll be depositing cash, for example, a highstreet bank may be the best bet - while customers looking for extensive low cost international services may benefit from a specialist digital account instead.
If you need an account for your business, a bank isn’t your only option. If you prefer to manage your business finances digitally, a specialist service like Wise could give you all you need - plus low cost international transactions and some business friendly perks.
Wise Business accounts are opened online or in the Wise app, with a one off low fee, and no ongoing charges. You’ll be able to hold 50+ currencies and get paid from 30+ countries with local bank details. As well as all the Wise features available to personal customers, you can make batch payments, make bookkeeping easy with Xero integrations, and add team members to your account with multi-user access and permissions settings.
What are the costs for opening a current account?
In most cases you won’t pay a fee to open a UK current account. However, for some premium account packages there may be a minimum deposit amount you’ll need to pay in to open your account.
Once your account is up and running, there are usually transaction charges to pay, which can include:
Account maintenance fees
ATM withdrawal fees
International payment charges
Foreign transaction fees
Service fees for paper statements
Account closure fees
Can I open a current account in the UK from abroad?
To open a UK current account with a regular bank you’ll usually need to have a UK address - which can prove tricky if you’re not in the country yet.
However, there are alternatives. Specialist account services which offer local UK bank details, and ways to hold, send, receive and spend pounds can help. Check out the Wise Account as a good option you can open with your local address details from most countries around the world, which provides you GBP bank details and easy ways to manage your money in pounds, even if you’re not in the UK yet.
Opening a UK current account for yourself or your business shouldn’t be too tricky. However, as account features and fees vary widely, you’ll need to shop around to make sure you’re picking the account that works best for your specific needs.
Compare current accounts from traditional banks, as well as from neobanks and digital account providers, to find the UK current account which suits your needs.
FAQ - How to open a current account in the UK
If you have a UK proof of address and ID you can often open a bank account online or in the bank’s app without needing to call in. Specialist digital services like Wise, Revolut and Starling also offer ways to get GBP accounts without needing to stand in line in a physical bank branch.
You can usually open UK current accounts for free, but there may be maintenance fees and charges for the transactions you need to make.