How to open a UK bank account | finder.com

Opening a bank account in the UK

You don't need a UK address to hold pounds, but it can give you more options.

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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 utility bills there yet.

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

  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Government-issued identity card

Proof of address

  • Electricity or gas bill
  • Bank or credit card statement
  • Mortgage statement or rent agreement
  • Pay stub from your employer

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 which case you may be better off choosing a different option.


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 is that much.
  • 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 latest ones.


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 of the global banks offer foreign currency accounts. Another option is the TransferWise 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.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 0 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 0.805 GBP 4,024 Offering no maximum and no minimum limit transfers with $0 fees. Go to site Show details
USD 1 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 0.811 GBP
4,056
Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks. Go to site Show details
USD 1 Within an hour USD 0.00 0.808 GBP 4,040 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
USD 1,000 1 day USD 0.00 0.803 GBP 4,016 No-maximum limit transfers with competitive exchange rates for 100+ currencies. Go to site Show details
GBP 1,000 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 0.806 GBP 4,032 Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
For larger transfers, get no transaction fees and no maximum send limits.
Go to site Show details
USD 5,000 1 day USD 0.00 0.797 GBP 3,987 Venstar will support you through the entire process of your international transactions, from start to finish. Go to site Show details
USD 50 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 0.797 GBP 3,987 Simple, zero-margin exchange rates, plus earn loyalty points on sign up, referral and every transaction. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

The exchange rates in the table are not locked in. Confirm your final rate on the provider’s site before completing any transaction.

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.

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US International Money Transfer Offers

Important Information*
Logo for XE Money Transfer
XE Money Transfer

Offering no maximum and no minimum limit transfers with $0 fees.

Logo for WorldRemit International Money Transfers
WorldRemit International Money Transfers

Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up.

Logo for TransferWise
TransferWise

Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks.

Logo for CurrencyTransfer
CurrencyTransfer

Exclusive: Minimum transfer of $1,000 for Finder readers (normally $5,000).
For larger transfers, get no transaction fees and no maximum send limits.

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