Opening a bank account

Setting up a bank account is probably one of the most important things that you should do. Without a bank account you cannot sign up for a regular phone plan, you would have no internet for your home, and no way to pay for essential bills like electricity, water, and rent. Most importantly, you need a bank account for your salary.

To do this you will need the following documents;

  1. Proof of identification (preferably your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP))

  2. Proof of address

A BRP serves as your main form of identification when you are living in London as a foreign citizen. This should also be brought along as a proof of residence when you travel out of the UK. Other than the reasons above, I would highly recommend keeping your BRP safe at home as losing it would kick start quite a cumbersome process. Apply for a UK driving license instead as an alternative form of identification.

Providing a proof of address can be quite tricky for someone new to the country. If you moved as an expat, speak to your HR manager for a letter from the company which certifies that you are an employee and new to the country. This should help to temporarily waive the requirement for a proof of address.

If you're starting out without a job, the key to this is getting some sort of letter from a bank or utilities company addressed to you, with an address on it. Some banks may accept a rental agreement, but typically an estate agent may struggle to rent to you if you do not have a bank account! A temporary way around it would be to update your local (home country) bank details to reflect a UK address and generate an online statement. Viola! You now have a bank statement with a UK address. The address should be that of a trusted friend so that initial correspondences and details like your debit card and account opening packs can be sent while you set up your new home.

Also remember that some banks may have a regional or global presence. If you are moving from a country like Asia, banks like Standard Chartered or HSBC often have international teams that can help if you are an existing customer moving abroad.

London has plenty of retail banks but here are some for you to consider;

  1. HSBC

  2. Barclays

  3. Santander

  4. Lloyds

  5. Halifax

  6. TSB

If you are tech savvy, download fintech apps like Starling Bank, Monzo, and Revolut where you can quickly set up an account on your smartphone. The account opening process and is much faster than a traditional bank and you can expect to utilise your account on the app for mobile payments within a days and even before a physical card arrives!

I would highly recommend setting up an account with a fintech bank for its speed and convenience, which provides you the bank account that you need while you kick start your new life in London. Besides, once you've settled down, you can open as many accounts that you want!