How Long Does It Take to Open a Bank Account?

Learn how long it takes to open a current account or a business account, and compare banks with the longest and shortest waiting times.

Updated: April 6, 2024
Mark Tovey

Written By

Mark Tovey

|
Rebecca Goodman

Edited By

Rebecca Goodman

 

In today's fast-paced world, it's possible to open a bank account in minutes – if you choose an online or app-based account. But in some cases it'll take more time, especially if you're opening up a bank account in a branch.

This guide dives into how quickly you can get your banking up and running, outlining the varying timescales across different banks and account types, and offering tips to streamline the process.

What type of account are you opening?

Understanding the different types of bank accounts available can help you gauge the time it might take to set everything up.

On the simpler end of the spectrum is the current account, often seen as the “vanilla” option due to its straightforward setup process and general lack of extensive documentation requirements.

At the other end, we find business accounts, which typically involve a more complex opening procedure due to the need for thorough scrutiny of business details and financial health.

For a business account, the documentation requirements are more extensive, reflecting the increased level of diligence banks must exercise.

How long does it take to open a current account?

When opening a current account, often considered the most straightforward type of bank account, the time it takes can vary significantly.

A current account typically offers essential banking features like deposits, withdrawals, direct debits, and debit card access, making it a go-to choice for everyday financial management.

Here's a concise summary of what we found regarding the time frames for setting up a current account at five major UK banks:

Table 1: Time taken to open a current account at a high street bank

BankApplication TimeDecision TimeframeAdditional Details
SantanderNot specifiedImmediate to several daysSpecific process details were not available. Refer to Santander's Website for more information.
HSBC10-15 minutesImmediate to several daysAccount and debit card usage details are quickly accessible post-approval. For more, visit HSBC's Website.
Lloyds10-15 minutesImmediate to several daysA more detailed breakdown for the application process is available on Lloyds' Website.
Barclays10-15 minutesImmediate to several daysInstant access to account upon approval; card and PIN sent within five working days. Details are on Barclays' Website.
NatWest10-15 minutesImmediate to several daysProvides a digital assistant for support and different timelines based on new or existing customer status. Visit NatWest's Website for comprehensive details.
Source: CompareBanks research; correct at 20 March 2024

The investigation into the major five UK banks' current account opening times reveals that application processes are generally quick, ranging from immediate to a few days for decisions.

The quickest you might expect your account to be operational is within minutes, particularly for existing customers or straightforward applications, while more complex situations or new customers could wait up to five days.

How long does it take to open a business account?

Opening a business bank account tends to be more complex than setting up a personal account due to the stringent checks and documentation required to comply with financial regulations and anti-money laundering laws.

Here's a general outline of the essential documents needed to set up a business account:

  • Proof of identity: such as a passport or driver's licence
  • Proof of trading address: documents might include a lease agreement or a recent utility bill
  • Business-specific documents: certificates for limited companies or details about key individuals
  • Financial documents: forecasts or business plans, especially if seeking credit
  • Companies House registration number

The time taken to open a business account varies significantly between banks and is influenced by the complexity of the business structure and the bank's current processing capacities:

Table 2: Time taken to open a business account at a high street bank

BankApplication TimeDecision TimeframeAdditional Details
SantanderNot specified, but need to arrange a telephone appointmentNot specifiedAs of March 2024, only existing Santander customers can set up a business account with Santander after a telephone call
HSBCNot specified, but must get in touch by phoneNot specifiedSwitching from an existing account takes 7 days, but no estimate for new accounts. Must get in touch by phone or chat to begin application process
LloydsA few minutes7 daysLloyds' website says after processing applications, which take just a few minutes to fill out, you should get a welcome pack in 7 days
BarclaysNot specifiedAt least 14 daysAim to start processing details 7 days after receiving them, and a card will be sent 7 days after approval
NatWest10 minutes5-10 daysBusinesses with 2 or more owners and with overseas trade could experience longer waiting times, according to NatWest's website
Source: CompareBanks research; correct at 20 March 2024

How long do ‘challenger banks' take?

Aside from the big five banks, there are a host of smaller players that, taken together, now control 57% of the UK banking market. The best-known are Chase, Starling Bank, Monzo, Revolut, and Wise.

Although you won’t find them on the high street, these challenger banks are shaking up the market with their digital account services that come with a range of attractive features.

So, how long does it take to set up an account with one of these digital-only banks? Check out the results of our investigation in the tables below:

Table 3: Time taken to open a current account at a digital bank

 Application TimeDecision TimeframeAdditional Details
ChaseNot specifiedNot specified, although Chase guarantees switching your current account to them will take 7 working days maximumYou have to download the app to get started, and there’s a 24-hour support team if you run into troubles.
Starling Bank5-10 minutesWithin 1 to 5 daysStarling says 96% of customers’ accounts are opened in just one day, and 99% within 5 days
Monzo10 minutesA couple of daysMonzo says they’ll usually send your new card, which you’ll have to activate, within 2 days of completing the application process successfully
RevolutA few minutesA few minutes to a maximum of 7 days 
Wise10-15 minutesA few days 
Source: CompareBanks research; correct at 20 March 2024

The waiting times are fairly similar among the digital banks when it comes to opening a current account. It's hard to determine which is the fastest, as the time ranges given by each one are wide. For example, Revolut says it could take between a few minutes to seven days, which may or may not be longer than Monzo's two-day waiting time.

Now, let’s see how long it takes to set up a business account with one of these digital banks:

Table 4: Time taken to open a business account at a digital bank

 Application TimeDecision TimeframeAdditional Details
Chase10 minutesNot specified 
Starling Bank10 minutes1 to 4 daysStarling say 94% are opened on the same day, and 99% within 4 days
Monzo10 minutesWithin 8 daysMonzo’s site says for “99% of customers” the process takes 8 days
Revolut10 minutesNot specifiedRevolut’s website says the on-boarding process “can be quick, but will depend on the complexity of your business”
WiseA few minutesNot specifiedWise says they “might need to verify your account” before letting you start transacting
Source: CompareBanks research; correct at 20 March 2024

Wise potentially offers the quickest on-boarding process, with Monzo having the slowest at eight days and Chase, Revolut, and Starling not providing the information.

How can you speed up the application process?

If you’re opening a current account, there’s not much you can do to speed up the process aside from choosing a bank that says it has a quick turnaround time. Of the major five banks in the UK, we found HSBC was the quickest. Meanwhile, among the digital banks Revolut was the fastest.

To speed up your business bank account application, NatWest offers some practical tips: be thorough in describing your business and provide a realistic turnover estimate, especially if you're just starting out.

They also stress the importance of detailed information, particularly regarding your trading activities.

If you're happy to go with a digital bank and you're eager to get going, Wise say they “might” be able to get your business account up and running almost immediately after receiving the application.

Our conclusion

For personal current accounts, the process can be relatively swift, with many banks offering near-immediate access once your application is processed.

However, when it comes to business accounts, expect a more meticulous process requiring a comprehensive suite of documents and potentially longer wait times, underscoring the importance of preparedness and thorough documentation.

Whether for personal or business banking, understanding these nuances and preparing accordingly can significantly streamline the process.

FAQs

How long does it take to open a current account?

It varies by bank but generally ranges from a few minutes to several days for approval.

What do I need to open a business bank account?

Typical requirements include ID proof, trading address evidence, business documents, financial details, and your Companies House registration number.

Why is opening a business account more time-consuming?

Due to more stringent checks for financial health and compliance, the process is thorough, involving several documents and sometimes additional verifications.

Can I speed up my business account opening?

Yes, by providing detailed, accurate information from the start and responding promptly to any bank queries.

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