Finder may earn compensation from partners, but editorial opinions are our own. Advertiser Disclosure

Opening a UK bank account from the US

Start holding pounds before you move to the UK, whether or not you have a UK address yet.

Choosing the right type of bank account can help make conducting finances in the UK easier. But which account you need depends on your financial and residency situation.

You have three main options:

1. UK bank account

You’ll need to have proof of your UK address, which can be difficult if you haven’t moved or haven’t received any UK utility bills yet.

2. International bank account

These accounts are designed for those without a UK address yet. They require a large deposit, usually around $25,000, and you may need to apply in person.

3. Foreign currency account

You can use a foreign currency account if you don’t have a UK address, and you can use it for currencies beyond just USD and GBP.

1. Setting up a bank account if you have a UK address

If you’ve already got a place to live in the UK, you’ll need to show two types of proof — one document to prove your identity and the other to prove your address. You’ll need to check with the bank you choose, but some examples of the documents you’ll need include:

Proof of identity

  • US Passport
  • US Driver’s license – may not be accepted
  • US Government-issued identity card – may not be accepted

Proof of address

  • Electricity or gas bill
  • Mortgage statement or rent agreement
  • Bank or credit card statement – may not be accepted
  • Pay stub from your employer – may not be accepted

However, it can be hard to get these documents if you’re newly arrived in the UK or haven’t left the US yet. In this case, you may be better off choosing a different option until you are more established in the UK.


2. Setting up an international bank account

If you don’t have a UK address, you still have options. Most of the major banks in the UK will let you set up an international account, but it’s not for everyone. You’ll need to have quite a large opening deposit and some contracts will lock you in for a certain amount of time.

The logo for Lloyd's Bank

Lloyds

To be able to get an international account with Lloyds, the requirements are:

  • Income of £50,000 or equivalent. If it’s a joint account, it’s OK if only one income matches that amount.
  • Or have £25,000 (or equivalent) to add to the account.
  • Be able to make the first deposit within 30 days of opening the account.

While Lloyds does have specific bank accounts for international students, you’ll need to already be living in the UK to take advantage of it.

HSBC's logo

HSBC

Unfortunately, to open a UK bank account with HSBC, you’ll need to go to a branch in the UK. You won’t be able to complete the process online.

Royal Bank of Scotland logo

Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest

You’ll be able to open an international account with NatWest from the US, but the requirements are still very high. To be eligible, you’ll need:

  • Minimum balance of £25,000 at all times
  • Or an income of £75,000 or more paid directly into the account.

Another option you can look into is a digital bank, also known as a challenger bank. A lot of these allow you to set up a bank account with them if you can give them a copy of your passport and a UK address, with no need for proof that the address is yours.
You can read more about digital banks on the Finder UK website, which will let you compare some of the most popular options.


3. Foreign currency accounts

Foreign currency accounts, also known as multi-currency accounts, let you hold several different currencies in the one account. They’re mostly used for sending and receiving funds in foreign currencies. So if you’re moving to the UK but still have transactions you need to make in US dollars, this could be an option for you.

Quite a few global banks offer foreign currency accounts. Another option is the Wise borderless account, which gives you UK bank details, as well as US, EU and Australian ones.

How to transfer your money to your new UK bank account

Your US bank can help you transfer your funds to the UK, but it won’t be the most cost-effective option. Banks not only charge higher fees, but also add a larger margin to the exchange rate than other money transfer options. Instead, check out what your transfer could look like with one of these other money transfer services below.

Our table lets you compare the services you can use to send money abroad. Compare services on transfer speeds and fees, then click Go to site when you're ready to send.
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer) Learn More
OFX
24 hours
$0

View details
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
Dunbridge Financial
Dunbridge Financial
24 hours
$0

View details
Dunbridge Financial offers competitive exchange rates and zero fees on transfers to more than 120 countries.
CurrencyTransfer
24 hours
$0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally £5,000)

View details
Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
CurrencyTransfer lets you shop around for the best exchange rate on its online marketplace.
XE
Within minutes
$3

View details
XE has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
WorldRemit
Within an hour
From $1.99

View details
New customers send USD 20 to Lebanon and use code ADD10 for a USD 10 discount. Valid till 7 November 2021. T&Cs apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Wise (TransferWise)
Within an hour
From $2.26

View details
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
Instarem
Within an hour
$1

View details
Exclusive: Use code GET60 to save 30 USD on each transaction over 200 USD. Valid for the first two transactions and till 30 November 2021. T&Cs apply.
Instarem offers zero transfer fees on all transfers.
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
SPECIAL OFFER ✓ Free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers

View details
Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Western Union
Within an hour
From $0

View details
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
MoneyGram
Within an hour
From $0

View details
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

What should I watch out for?

While bank accounts in the UK work similarly to US accounts, the jargon used by banks is a bit different. For example, while we use checking accounts to pay for everyday purchases in the US, the UK refers to them as current accounts.

And while deposits of up to $250,000 at FDIC-insured banks are backed by the US government, the UK only guarantees deposits of up to £85,000 pounds at PRA-authorised firms — which means that if you have a lot of money to tuck away, you may want to use multiple banks.

Bottom line

If you need a bank account that holds pounds, you have options. Consider opening a UK account if you’re planning a move or using a foreign currency or international account if you travel regularly or conduct international business. And no matter which type of account you choose, consider using an international money transfer provider to send money to your new account so you can save on fees and exchange rates.

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site