How Can I Open a Free Bank Account Online?

Discover the best bank accounts online with minimum requirements.

Updated: May 18, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

|
Rebecca Goodman

Edited By

Rebecca Goodman

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How Can I Open a Free Bank Account Online?

There are many forms of photo identification, or ID, in the UK but the most common are a driving licence or a passport but lots of people don't have either of these.

This can cause problems when applying for a basic bank account as most banks require ID from new customers, along with other documents such as proof of address.

Unfortunately, all banks or financial providers require some form of ID to open a bank account but the type of document needed varies between companies.

There are also multiple ways to open a current account. Some firms insist you visit a bank but with an increasing number of branches closing (one in eight shut its doors last year) many people are turning to online and app-only current accounts.

In this article, you'll learn all about the documents you need to open a bank account, and we'll tell you all about how you can start online banking with digital-only banks.

We have also included some of our top picks for the banks that require the least amount of documents.

ProviderScoreDetails
1. Starling Bank★★★★★Learn more
2. Monese★★★★★Learn more
3. Revolut★★★★★Learn more
4. Monzo★★★★★Learn more
5. Chase★★★★Learn more
6. Suits Me★★★★Learn more

Why do you need ID for a UK bank account?

The main reason you need a form of ID to open a bank account is to prevent someone else opening one in your name and committing fraud.

If a person were to fraudulently open an account under your name, they could get you into financial trouble by building up debt or by making suspicious or illegal purchases.

An ID, especially a photo ID, helps tie bank accounts to the right individual. Aside from a passport or driving licence, the following are usually accepted:

  • Government-issued photo ID: A photo ID is an ideal document to prove who you are, as they usually have your face, full name, address, and date of birth.
  • Government-issued document: A document with no photo but shows your full name, address or date of birth. This could be a council tax bill, utility bill, or credit card statement, for example.
  • Other documentation: a travel visa, immigration status documents, a disabled person's blue badge with a photo, a UK armed forces ID card, or a benefits letter could be used.
  • A letter of character: Some places will accept a letter of character from the care home manager, prison governor, homeless shelter, or place of study.

If you're looking to apply for a current account at a bank but you're unsure of what documents will be accepted, visit the website, a branch (if there is one) or call the bank to check what you need for opening a bank account.

If you plan to open a bank account online, there will still be documents you need to send, but you can usually do this with a photograph or video.

If you have no fixed address, it may still be possible to open a bank account. The charity Shelter has full details of how to do this on its website.

What documents do you need to open a bank account?

The documents you need for opening a new current account, or any kind of financial product, will depend on the bank or financial institution you've chosen but usually include the following:

  • ID: you’ll need either a passport or a driving licence. You can use a full driving licence or a provisional one. You may also use other forms of ID that we’ve suggested in the previous section.
  • Proof of address: you can't use the same document for proof of address and proof of identity, but to prove your address, you can use records dated within the last three months, such as council or utility bills, and Universal Credit statements.

Some banks will accept documents dated within the last 12 months. You can also use the following documents as proof of address: an HMRC letter, a government benefits entitlement letter (excluding Universal Credit), or a housing tenancy agreement or mortgage statement.

If you don't have proof of address, or you don't have a permanent address right now, consider using a virtual address service provider to help you with a proxy address.

However, if proof of address is a big concern for you, don't worry too much, as the primary document you'll need to open an online-only bank account is proof of ID. Some online banks are happy for you to open a current account online without proof of address.

Can I open a bank account online without ID?

You can open a free bank account online and in some cases via an app on your smartphone. There has been a rise in online-only banks, allowing you to open a bank account with little documentation.

If you use a virtual bank, the application process is usually relatively quick if you have the correct documents prepared.

Before you open an account with a virtual bank, it's worth checking out what protection is on offer.

If it has signed up to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) this means up to £85,000 of your money is protected if the bank were to go bust. If the bank doesn't have FSCS protection, you should check what is on offer and always make sure you're comfortable with this before going ahead.

Here are some of the main pros and cons of virtual banks:

Pros

✔️ Less documentation: some online banks only require a photo ID to open a current account

✔️ Quick process: applying for an online bank account takes up 15 minutes. You fill out an application form and add the necessary documents. Online banks usually ask you for a live picture or video to see if your ID matches, and once verified, you can start using your online current account.

✔️ Easy access: you can apply online and control your finances from your smartphone anytime. Online-only banks also tend to offer 24/7 support for their customers.

✔️ Lower fees: online-only banks typically have lower fees than traditional banks, and some allow you to earn interest on your current account balance

✔️ Current Account Switching Service: some online bank accounts have signed up for the Current Account Switching Service (CASS) and will automatically switch your current account over

✔️ Debit card: Most online bank accounts come with a direct debit card, which you can use to purchase things or withdraw money, like a traditional bank account

Cons

❌️ Limited accessibility: you can only use online banks online or via an app. You can't visit a branch like you can with high street banks.

❌️ ATM fees: online banks don't have their own ATMs, so you may face additional costs when you withdraw cash.

❌️ Less protection: the Financial Services Compensation Scheme only covers some online banks. However, there will usually be security measures in place to protect you and your accounts.

❌️ Limited features: with an online-only bank, you may not get access to all the features you may do with a traditional bank, like fewer lending options or a chequebook

Best online bank accounts that require the least amount of ID

If you're looking for a new bank account with a quick sign-up process, then these are the best options. They are quick to open and require just the basic ID requirements.

But as always, there are lots of factors to consider with a new current account so always read through the details carefully – including any charges or fees – before you open one.

1. Starling Bank: multiple money management features

  • Requires ID: government-issued photo ID
  • Proof of address: not needed
  • Monthly Fee: no fees

With Starling Bank, you can open various online accounts, from a joint account, a teen account, and your regular current account. It is an app-based bank (with a debit card) and it has a variety of money management features. You can also earn interest on your current account balance and make overseas purchases and international transfers.

To apply for an online account, you must download the bank's app to your iOS or Android device. You'll need your photo ID, and a video selfie to match your face with your ID.

Starling says it may also do a soft credit check, but it will only stay on your credit file for a short while.

It is also signed up to the Current Account Switching Service so everything can be moved over to the new account automatically. If you want to make cash deposits into your Starling account, you must do it via the Post Office.

2. Monese: no proof of address documents needed

  • Requires ID: yes, your passport
  • Proof of address: not needed
  • Account fees: none

To open a Monese bank account, you don't need proof of address, just a phone number, an email address, and photo ID. You can get joint accounts and make international money transfers, and it also sells insurance. There are no fees for a Monese account. but you'll have to pay a £4.95 delivery fee for your bank card.

Setting up a Monese account is quick and straightforward but there are monthly limits on ATM withdrawals, top-ups, and spending. However, you can get reduced exchange rates and ATM fees if you pay for their membership.

You can top up via a debit card, bank transfer, or cash via a Post Office branch and PayPoint location. You can also set aside savings to be stored separately in pots and make a monthly budget.

As with most other virtual banks, you can connect your account to Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal but it doesn't have an overdraft facility.

3. Revolut: send money quickly to more than 160 countries

  • Requires ID: yes
  • Proof of address: no
  • Monthly fees: none

With a Revolut account, you can exchange currency using real-time rates, and you have the option to store your money as cryptocurrencies.

It's great if you travel a lot, of have family or friends abroad, as you can send and receive money in more than 70 currencies to over 160 countries with no hidden fees. Transfers between Revolut customers are always instant and free too.

With Revolut, you can't pay cash or cheques into your account but you can add money via a bank transfer or with a debit card. There are also several features to help manage your spending and in-app discounts and cashback offers.

You'll also have a disposable virtual card for online spending, or you can choose to have a physical debit card too, and you can use vaults to help earn interest on savings.

4. Monzo: digital bank with a full banking licence

  • Requires ID: yes
  • Proof of address: no
  • Monthly fees: none

Banking is easy with Monzo, and you have the added protection of it having a UK banking licence and being covered by the FSCS.

Its account offers most of the features available with traditional banks including setting up direct debits, and standing orders. The application process takes roughly 15 minutes and you'll only need your photo ID and smartphone.

Withdrawing cash from any ATM is free without a limit but if you're abroad it's only free up to £200 a month and then there will be a 3% charge.

It also has several money management tools including watching your spending habits with the ‘trends' feature. There is no IBAN number, so you can't receive international payments, and Monzo is only available to UK residents.

5. Chase: earn interest on your current account balance

  • Requires ID: yes
  • Proof of address: yes
  • Monthly Fee: none

With Chase, new customers can get 1% cashback on debit card spending for the first 12 months (to a maximum of £15 per month). It also allows customers to have multiple accounts to help with budgeting and spending.

It also offers a savings account and a numberless debit card for added security, so information can't be stolen even if you lose your card. You can freeze and unfreeze your card via the mobile app.

6. Suits Me: no credit checks needed

  • Requires ID: yes
  • Proof of address: no, you'll be asked for an address, but you don't need proof
  • Monthly Fee: the essential account comes with no fees

You can apply for a Suits Me personal account within three minutes. You'll get a contactless Mastercard debit card and it allows you to make money transfers, set up direct debits and standing orders, and many other features.

There's also cashback available, of up to 15%, when you shop at a partner of Suits Me. If you need help, there is a multi-lingual customer care team, and you'll have your dedicated Customer Account manager.

Final Thoughts

Getting an online current account can be quicker than opening an account in a branch and you may only need one proof of identity. There are multiple perks of online-only banks and many have extra features such as cashback on spending or low overseas fees.

However, it's important to choose a bank that suits you, so one that works via an app will only be suitable if that's what you're after. If you prefer to speak to someone face-to-face, a branch-based bank would be more suitable.

It's also important to keep an eye on the financial protection. There's nothing wrong with choosing a bank without a full UK banking licence as long as you're aware of what protection is in place, and you're comfortable with this.

FAQs

Can You Set Up a Bank Account Without an ID?

Can I Open a New Bank Account If I've Got a Poor Credit Record?

How Do I Get a Photo ID?

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