If you need a UK bank account as soon as possible, opening an account with a challenger/digital bank usually takes just a few minutes. You’ll still usually need proof of identity (such as a passport or driving licence) to open a bank account, but some challenger banks don’t require proof of address.
Banks that don’t (normally) ask for a proof of address
- Starling Bank. A UK-based digital bank that lets you set up an account from your phone.
- Revolut. A UK current account set up on your phone that allows you to hold multiple currencies.
- Monese. A digital-only account in the UK that you can set up on your phone and comes with a euro account included.
- Monzo. The UK’s most popular digital bank, where you can set up an account from your phone.
The banks in this list are all challenger/digital banks. You can read more about challenger banks like the ones above in our in-depth article, but basically a challenger bank is a recently born bank, which usually only operates digitally. They try to make banking easier and cheaper for customers, thus “challenging” the market dominance of traditional UK high-street banks.
- Challengers are digital and mobile only.
- They don’t have any physical branches and you do everything from an app.
- Challenger banks are usually free.
- You’ll get a UK bank account complete with account number and sort code, which allows you to have your salary paid into it.
The most popular challenger banks in the UK are Starling and Monzo, both of which have a full UK banking licence. Your money with them will be protected up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), just like with any traditional bank.
What counts as proof of address?
Some banks will need a proof of address.
If you’re asked for proof of address, here’s what will count:
- Utility bills. If you have one of these (telephone, water or electricity, but usually not internet or mobile phone), then you’re sorted as any bank will take them. The same applies to this year’s council tax bill. If you live in a house share, ask your housemate to get one of these bills put in your name, as it may be the fastest way to get yourself a reliable proof of address.
- EU driving licence. Many banks will take an EU driving licence as proof of address, but if you’ve just arrived in the UK then you won’t have your new British address on your existing European licence, so it might not be that useful. Cheer up though, you can still use it to drive around.
- HMRC tax notification letter. Not a straightforward solution, but again, most banks will take it. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is the government department that collects taxes. If you already have a payslip and a National Insurance Number (NIN), you may be able to register for a personal tax account and print a certificate of the taxes you’ve paid in the UK for the current year. However, if you’re looking at opening a bank account to get your first salary paid in, you’ve lived in the UK for less than 12 months and you don’t have a British passport, you’ll usually get a depressing message from HMRC saying it’s unable to verify your identity and get you an HMRC tax account.
- Bank or credit card statement. Not much help if you’re trying to open your first UK account, but banks will accept other bank statements as proof of address.
- Tenancy agreement. Some banks accept it, others will only take it if it’s issued by a housing association or by the local council.
- University acceptance letter/enrolment certificate. If you’re a student, you can print one directly from your university’s online portal. Again, some banks will accept it, some won’t.
Criteria can vary from bank to bank, and some branches (and even some employees!) can be stricter than others. All of the above documentation will have to be recent and display both your name and the exact same address you’re using for your application. Traditional banks usually publish a list of the documents they’ll take as proof of identity and address on their websites. Checking it before starting your application will save you from wasting time.
How to open a bank account without proof of address
1. Look at the list of banks we’ve outlined above that don’t normally require a proof of address (these are all digital/challenger banks).
2. Research the different account features on offer with these banking providers.
3. Once you’ve decided which provider you want to go with, download its app from the App Store or the Google Store.
4. Sign up via the app – this usually only take a few minutes.
5. Your account is open! You can use the digital features right away, while you wait for your bank card to arrive in the post.
Challenger banks are also good for moving country
Aside from being quick and easy to sign up to, challenger banks have a series of features that appeal to people who travel or work across different countries:
- Low fees for using the card abroad. With most challenger banks, transactions abroad come for free, and so does withdrawing cash from ATMs, at least up to a certain limit. If you travel quite a lot or are planning to spend your holidays back home, you could save a nice amount of money in fees.
- Multi-currency accounts. Both Revolut and Monese already come with free EU accounts alongside their UK ones, and Starling has rolled out the same feature. With Revolut, you’re covered even if the euro isn’t the currency you need, as you can exchange money in 30 different currencies without paying any fee up to £5,000 a month, at the interbank exchange rate.
- Budgeting features. Most challengers offer a smart digital banking app that includes detailed data reports on how you spend your money, plus ways to put some savings aside for a specific goal, which can be helpful if you’ve just moved to the UK and are struggling to figure out what kind of lifestyle you can afford with your current salary. There are even dedicated budgeting appsavailable now.
The bottom line
Finding the right documentation can seem like a bit of nightmare if you’ve just arrived in the UK or have just moved to a brand new address where you have no utility bill or ID linked to it. But it is possible to open a bank account in the UK without a proof of address, if you’re willing to sign up to an account with one of the new digital-only banking providers.
Frequently asked questions
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