How To Open a Bank Account Online in the UK (Even Without Proof of Residency)

May 31, 2021

Have you just arrived in the UK, or planning to move there soon? Whether you are moving as a student to attend university, for a new job or to look for work, you may want a local bank account in order to get yourself set up. And in case you've heard horror stories about setting up a UK bank account, don’t worry too much. 

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Open a Wise Multi-Currency Account which gives you UK bank details, among others, and a debit card to spend in multiple currencies (including British pounds.) You can even open the account before arriving in the UK, but you'll need to verify your address before receiving your debit card.

High-Street Banks vs Online Banks in the UK

The biggest traditional banks in the UK are HSBC, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland (often referred to as simply RBS), Barclays, NatWest, Santander and Nationwide. By traditional, we mean banks with actual physical branches across the country (versus, say, online banks which provide a UK bank account with a UK account). 

Online bank accounts are great if you need to have an account in Pound Sterling with a UK account number and sort code, and many, such as Wise's Multi-Currency Account and Revolut, also offer debit cards. But if you want or need a bank where you can actually walk into a branch, then you’ll want to consider a traditional bank.

Types of Bank Accounts in the UK

There are numerous types of accounts in the UK, but a standard current account or bank account is what most people want for basic everyday use, such as paying bills and receiving a salary. These accounts generally come with a debit card and overdraft. Chequebooks are no longer automatically issued to new customers, but you may be able to opt for one if you wish.

Savings accounts have traditionally yielded a higher interest rate and are meant for what their name implies—saving money. However, a number of current accounts also pay interest on balances up to a set amount.

There are also basic accounts, which are generally on offer for people with a poor credit history.

Documents Needed To Open a UK Bank Account

To open a UK bank account, you generally need the following two things:

  1. Proof of your identity: This can take the form of a passport, driving licence, or national identity card. In general, if you are a foreign national, your best bet is to use your passport — EU national identity cards are usually accepted, but if you are from, say, Australia, your home driving licence may not be accepted.
  2. Proof of address: This is generally a recent utility bill, rental contract, council tax bill. Mobile phone bills are generally not accepted.

How To Open a UK Account Without Proof of Residency

The proof of address detail is where people moving to the UK from abroad often hit a wall. It’s also tough if you’ve landed in the UK and live with relatives and don’t have any bills in your name or a rental contract.

If you want to open a bank-like UK account without proof of address, WiseMoneseRevolut and Monzo are a few online services that will set up a UK account without residency. All offer UK account numbers and sort codes and debits cards you can use in retailers or pay for items online. Each service has different rules, so read the detail section for each provider to make sure you find the best service for your needs.

Note that even though you don’t have to submit proof of address, you’ll still need to supply a UK address–this is also where your debit card will be delivered.

Option 1 — Wise Multi-Currency Account

With a Wise Multi-Currency Account and its accompanying debit card, you'll be able to pay and get paid like a local in the UK. After opening your account online, you'll need to verify your identity through their interface.

If you don't have a proof of address yet, here's what Wise says: "You can then choose to either supply proof of address from a standard list of documents, or to send in a selfie, in which you’re holding your proof of ID. This can be a great alternative if you’re still waiting to move to the UK or haven’t yet got bills and other paperwork registered in your name."

Once done, here's what you'll get with a Wise Multi-Currency Account:

  • Local bank details in the US, Eurozone, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Romania, Canada, Hungary, and Turkey;
  • An account to hold up to 56 currencies;
  • A multi-currency Mastercard debit card that's handy for paying in foreign currencies without the hidden fees;
  • Access to Wise's powerful international money transfer service right from your account balance.

Let's say that you've just moved from France to the UK and you need British pounds. With a Wise Multi-Currency Account, you'll be able to:

  1. Send Euros from your regular account to your Wise Euro account;
  2. Convert all or part of it to British pounds for a low fee (0.41% or €4.45 to convert 1,000.00 EUR to GBP);
  3. Pay with your Wise debit card, set up a direct debit with a UK provider to pay your bills or make a local transfer for free (to pay rent, for example).

You'll also have UK bank details to share with an employer. Note that this account does not offer an overdraft and you won’t earn interest on any in-credit balances.

Option 2 — Monese

Monese is an entirely mobile bank, enabling you to do everything from the Monese app. You can also transfer money into 19 different currencies (including Euros and US Dollars) at the standard mid-market exchange rate. It’s a handy feature if you need to send money overseas or pay bills (say a mortgage) abroad.

With Monese, you can open an account in minutes with just a photo of your ID and a selfie, plus an email address and phone number. You won't need proof of a UK address if you live in any one of the 30 countries in the European Economic Area. Monese offers three types of current accounts:

  • Simple: If you want to limit the up-front costs, go for the Simple account. It’s a full UK current account with no monthly costs and includes a free debit card. However, you will be charged 2.00% on ATM withdrawals after the £200.00 free monthly allowance and a 2.00% fee on foreign currency card spending after the £2,000.00 monthly allowance. There is also a 2.00% fee for foreign exchange transfers when sending to non-Monese accounts. 
  • Classic: Classic accounts cost £5.95 per month and offer free ATM withdrawals up to £900.00 a month. After this, a 2.00% fee applies. The first £9,000.00 of foreign currency card spending each month is free, followed by a 2.00% fee. Foreign currency exchange transfers to non-Monese accounts incur a 0.50% fee. As with the Simple account, it’s a full UK account with a free debit card.
  • Premium: Premium accounts cost £14.95 per month and offer unlimited UK ATM withdrawals, free foreign currency card spending and free foreign currency exchange transfers. Again, it’s a full UK account with a free debit card.

Option 3 — Monzo

Monzo is also a mobile bank that includes a full UK current account and debit card, with everything controlled via its app. Because of this, your money is also protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) up to a value of £85,000.00 per person. 

Paying with your debit card is free, though, including when you are abroad, which is a great perk. ATM withdrawal fees vary depending on the account you have.

Monzo offers three different types of accounts:

  • Monzo: The simple Monzo account has no monthly fee. ATM withdrawals are free up to £250.00 a month in EEA countries and the UK, and up to £200.00 a month in countries outside the EEA. After that, you’ll be charged 3.00%.
  • Monzo Plus: This account costs £5.00 per month and offers interest of 1.00% AER on balances up to £2,000.00. You’ll get fee-free ATM withdrawals in EEA countries and the UK, but they are limited to £400.00 per month in non-EEA countries. Anything over is charged at 3.00%.
  • Monzo Premium: This account costs £15.00 per month and pays interest of 1.50% AER on balances up to £2,000.00. ATM withdrawals in EEA countries and the UK are free, while withdrawals outside the EEA are free up to £600.00 each month. Anything over your allowance is charged at 3.00%.

Option 4 — Revolut

Revolut is a digital banking alternative that enables opening a UK current account without proof of residency plus a debit card. You can also transfer at the standard mid-market exchange rate and hold money in over 20 currencies. They offer several types of accounts:

  • Standard: With zero up-front costs, the Standard option offers a full UK current (plus an IBAN) account with no monthly fee and a free debit card. ATM withdrawals are free up to five withdrawals or £200.00 per month (whichever comes first). After that, it costs 2.00% of the value of the ATM withdrawal.
  • Plus: Plus accounts cost £2.99 per month including a debit card. ATM withdrawals are free of charge up to £200.00 per month, after which a 2.00% fee applies. 
  • Premium: Premium accounts cost £6.99 per month including a debit card and there are no fees for ATM withdrawals up to £400.00 per month. After that, it costs 2.00% of the value of the ATM withdrawal.
  • Metal: Metal accounts cost £12.99 per month including a debit card. ATM withdrawals up to £800.00 per month are free and after that, it costs 2.00% of the value of the ATM withdrawal.

Option 5 — Pay Someone to Sort Out All the Details

If merely thinking about all of the above options makes you lose your marbles, check out 1st Contact (which is rebranding to Sable International). The company has relationships with several traditional banks, including Lloyds and HSBC. It facilitates an introduction to the banks, enabling you to open a UK bank account without the usual proof of residency documents like a utility bill. 

1stContact/Sable International offers several packages which include:

  • UK bank account only: If you just want to open a UK bank account, you can get one without proof of residency. You just have to provide a valid passport, proof of permission to live and work in the UK, a residential address where you can receive post (this can be a friend or relative you are staying with, you don’t need a utility bill), be 18 or older and able to attend an appointment in London with one of their banking affiliates.
  • UK Relocation package: if you would like a UK bank account plus various bells and whistles, go for the UK Relocation package which costs £55. It provides assistance with setting up a UK bank account, assistance obtaining a National Insurance (NI) number, one free international money transfer, pay as you go UK SIM card for your mobile phone, and a guidebook covering all you need to know about living and working in the UK. 
  • Tier5 Visa Kickstart package: If you want all of the above (including a UK bank account) PLUS help to apply for a Tier 5 youth mobility scheme visa (which replaced the previous UK working holvisa programme), go for this one, which according to 1stContact “allows people between the ages of 18 and 30, from participating countries, to live and work in the UK for up to two years.” It’s only available to citizens of certain countries (including Australia, New Zealand and Canada).

But if you really need proof of address...

How To Get Proof of Address in the UK

Banks and financial institutions, according to the Money Laundering Regulations 2017, are required to ask for appropriate Identity Evidence when certain financial transactions take place. Source: By checking your ID (name) and a proof of address at your name, this minimizes the chance that the account is opened under a false identity.

What Document Count as Proof of Identity?

Banks and other financial institutions will require proof of name in the form of a current signed passport, original birth certificate, EEA member state identity card, current UK or EEA driving licence, registration card for self-employed individuals, Resident Permit issued by the Home office to EEA nationals, National Identity card or Firearms certificate.

What Document Count as Proof of Address?

Then, you might be required to provide 1 or 2 original documents to prove that you live where you claim to live (i.e. your residential address):

  • Utility bills, such as electric and gas, satellite, television, or landline bills that have been issued in the last three months. Note that a mobile phone bill will not be accepted;
  • Local authority council tax bill for the current council tax year;
  • Current UK driving licence;
  • Bank, Building Society or Credit Union statement or passbook dated within the last three months;
  • Mortgage statement (issued for the last full year);
  • Solicitors letter within the last three months confirming the property purchase (or the land registry confirmation of address);
  • Council or housing association rent card or tenancy agreement for the current year;
  • HMRC self-assessment letters or tax demand dated within the current financial year;
  • Electoral Register entry;
  • NHS Medical card or letter of confirmation from GP’s practice of registration with the surgery.

Note that credit card statements or provisional driving licenses will not be accepted.

According to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), if you're unable to provide these documents, you can ask if they accept the following documents:

  • A letter from a care home manager or warden of sheltered accommodation or a refuge;
  • A letter from the warden of a homeless shelter;
  • A letter from a probation officer or a hostel manager;
  • A letter from a prison governor;
  • If you are a traveller, a letter from the local authority that verifies your address;
  • If you are an international student, a passport or European Economic Area National Identity Card and letter of acceptance or introduction from a body on the Department for Education list;
  • If you are an asylum seeker, an application registration card.

Frequently Asked Questions About Opening a Bank Account Online in the UK

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Image credit: David Dibert on Unsplash

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