What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account?

Find out what you'll need in order to open a bank account in the UK.

Updated: June 12, 2024
Mark Tovey

Written By

Mark Tovey

|
Rebecca Goodman

Edited By

Rebecca Goodman

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Opening a bank account in the UK is a fundamental process for managing your finances, whether you're a resident or a newcomer.

If you haven’t opened a bank account yet, you’re not alone. In fact, there are 1.3 million adults in the UK who are ‘unbanked’, according to the Financial Conduct Authority.

To help you take that first step towards financial empowerment, we looked at what the five major banks in the UK (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Santander) require for you to open an account with them.

Who can open a bank account in the UK?

Age: typically, you must be at least 18 years old but all of the major banks offer accounts for children. However, be aware that each bank applies different age restrictions, with NatWest being the only option for under-7-year-olds:

Bank accountAge range
Santander’s 1|2|3 Mini Current Account13-to-17 years old
HSBC’s Children’s Account7-to-17 years old
NatWest’s Child and Teen Accounts3-to-17 years old
Barclays’ Child’s/Young Person’s Bank Account11-to-17 years old
Lloyd’s Kids/Young Person’s Bank Account11-to-17 years old

Residency: being a UK resident is usually necessary. If you’re not a UK national, you’ll usually have to show a visa or residence permit.

What documents do I need?

Proof of Identity: a valid passport, driving licence, EU identity card, or travel documents issued by the UK government. Asylum seekers have the option of using their Application Registration Card.

Proof of Address: utility bills, council tax bill, tenancy agreements, or HMRC notification of National Insurance number for people who have recently arrived in the UK to study or work.

Proof of Residency: this applies to non-UK nationals and includes a visa or residency permit.

How do I choose a bank?

Once you’ve got your documents in order, you’ll need to decide which bank to sign up with.

Lloyds is the most popular in the UK, commanding 14.7% of the entire market. In second place is NatWest with 11% followed by HSBC with 7.1%. But don’t be a sheep (baaaaaah): instead, decide for yourself after reading our guide on the Best Current Accounts.

% share of the UK market
Minor banks56.6
Llolyds Banking Group14.7
NatWest Group11
HSBC UK7.1
Barclays6.6
Santander UK4
Source: NZTE Europe Market Research, June 2023

A current account is what you’ll want if you’re in need of something you can easily pay into and spend out of. Otherwise, you might want to explore savings accounts, which offer higher interest rates.

How do I apply?

In a branch: if you don’t like faffing around with technology, you can walk into your local branch – usually without an appointment – and present your ID and proof-of-address in person.

By post: the major banks also accept applications by mail

Online: the major banks all recommend you apply using their websites or apps, saying it is the fastest option. Lloyds, for example, say they typically return a decision within minutes.

Be prepared to answer basic questions

It’s not going to be a barrage of questions or feel like a scene out of a detective show, but you should be ready to give the basics.

Questions may include how you plan to use the account, if you bank with anybody else, as well as an estimate of your salary and monthly outgoings.  

Opening a joint account

They say the best things in life are shared. So, you might want to open a bank account with a spouse, partner or even a friend. It can be easier having a joint account for paying household bills, for example.

Doing so is straightforward. However, it is important to note that both parties will need to independently provide valid proof of identification and proof of address for the application to be successful.

Opening an account with a smaller bank

All five of the major UK banks together don’t even cover half of the UK market. Over the last decade, the big five have seen challenges from new contenders that have whittled down their market share.

image
What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account? 1

Source: NZTE Europe Market Research, June 2023

The ‘minor banks' cover nearly 57% of the market, encompassing a variety of smaller institutions which collectively hold a significant market share.

These can include challenger banks like Monzo and Starling Bank, specialist banks such as The Co-operative Bank, and digital-only banks like Atom Bank and Revolut. To open an account with these banks, you typically start by downloading the bank’s app or visiting their website, following the account opening process which involves providing personal details and verifying identity, usually through uploading identification documents and a verification video or picture.

Our conclusion

Opening a bank account in the UK marks a pivotal step in managing your personal finances. Regardless of whether you opt for a major player like Barclays or Lloyds, or lean towards a nimble challenger bank, the prerequisites remain consistent: provide your ID and address proof, and if you're from abroad, your residency documentation.

The choice of bank should be tailored to your needs, considering not just the market share, but the services, fees, and convenience offered.

FAQs

Who is eligible to open a UK bank account?

Anyone 18 or older can open a bank account, with child accounts available at different age ranges depending on the bank. UK residency is generally needed, with specific documentation required for non-UK nationals.

What documents do I need for a UK bank account?

You need proof of identity (passport, driving licence) and address (utility bill, council tax bill). Non-UK residents must also provide residency proof.

How do I choose a UK bank?

Evaluate the bank's services, fees, and convenience relative to your needs. While major banks hold larger market shares, smaller banks might offer services that better fit your personal banking preferences.

How can I apply for a UK bank account?

Applications can be submitted in person, by post, or online, with online being the quickest method. Required details include personal information, identification, and address proof.

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