It is natural to want to arrange everything you will need in the UK before you move over including a UK bank account and a National Insurance Number (NINO). But to get a UK bank account or NINO in the UK you are expected to be living in the UK with a residential address. It never occurred to me just how difficult it could be for a bank to give you an account until I tried to get one in the UK.
I thought a bank account would be a simple process! I just grew up with one, it was part of life in Australia and if I wanted to get one with another bank then I could just do that.
It is possible to get a bank account before moving to the UK. Here are the options you can opt for before you move to the UK. The first option is to set-up an HSBC Overseas account (country dependent) or alternatively with one with a non-traditional bank like Monese, Transferwise (again country dependent) or Monzo.
To get an account with one of the big banks like Lloyds, Santander, Barclays or NatWest you will need to do this in person. HSBC does fall within the big bank realm but as above you can create an overseas account.
What Evidence do I need to Set-up a UK Bank Account?
To set up a bank with one of the big banks in the UK you will need to bring:
- Your passport (mandatory)
- Biometric Residence Permit (mandatory if you are on a UK visa)
- A letter of employment (bank-dependent), proof of address which can be a rental contract or bills in your name to a UK address (mandatory) and potentially a letter from your current bank advocating you as a customer (bank-dependent).
The list above sounds overwhelming, when I opened an account all I had to show was my passport and visa details so it is possible to present very little evidence and still got an account. I would always you check the terms and condition before choosing a bank.
What Documents can I use as Proof of Address in the UK?
These are the most common forms of proof of address:
- UK Driving License
- UK or foreign bank/credit card statement printed by the bank and less than 3 months old (no statements from store cards). Read more about how to get a foreign statement here
- UK mortgage statement printed by your mortgage provider and less than 1 year old (although unlikely to have if you have just moved here)
- Council related documents like a tax bill, payment book, exemption certificate, tenancy agreement (less than a year old and again unlikely to have if you have just moved here)
- Jobcentre Plus letter confirming your NINO as proof of address. (To use this as proof of address it needs to be less than 3 months old).
Being fresh off the boat means that you probably don’t have any of the above document just like I didn’t. Keep reading to see how you can get a bank account without these documents.
How do I Open a UK Bank Account without a Proof of Address?
As a general rule, you can’t open a bank account in the UK and this is the hardest part of the process! Setting up an account with one of the big banks do require you to have an address. Occasionally some banks will take your word for it but your application is at risk of being rejected.
You can set-up a UK bank account without a UK proof of address. Monese and Transferwise do not require you to have a UK address to apply for their current accounts. Monzo does require you to have a UK address although they do not validate the address. If you don’t feel comfortable using a non-traditional bank you can use a company to do this.
What Banks can I Set-up an Account with before I Move to the UK?
Let’s start with Monese Current Account
You can open a Current Account with Monese even if you are new to the country, don’t have a credit history, or don’t have a regular fixed income.
It takes about five minutes to set up through their app, then a 10-second video call to prove your identity and you just need to provide your passport. Which is great as you don’t need to provide local proof-of-address which is what all the big banks ask you to prove.
Transferwise Borderless Bank Accounts
It’s not a usual bank account, you don’t have to fill in any forms or have a foreign proof of address. Transferwise Borederless Accounts give you a unique account number and bank code so if you meet the criteria it is a great way to start out before you open with one of the bigger banks.
Transferwise does also come with a debit card to use.
It’s great as a multi-currency account that lets you keep money in 28 currencies and convert between them at the real exchange rate whenever you need. I don’t have a Borderless Account but I do use their service frequently for transferring money to and from Australia.
Monzo Current Account
Monzo does require you to have a UK address, however, they do not currently validate the UK address. Like Monese you need to do a 10-second video call to prove your identity and you just need to provide your passport.
Currently, Monzo does not validate against a UK address and you could potentially do this off an Airbnb, hostel or hotel. Monzo only previously gave you debit MasterCard which you basically used a prepaid cart but it now gives you a bank account and bank codes to get paid for a job.
I do now have a current account with Monzo but I only use the card to travel overseas with as they give great exchange rates and it is easy to track my holiday spending.
Monzo does tend to have a long waiting list and the only way around this long wait is to get a golden ticket from a current Monzo user.
HSBC Overseas Account
HBSC offers an overseas account and allows you to open an account in 37 different countries including Australia, France, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the UK.
If you are a person that prefers traditional banks and in a country, they offer this in then this is the best option or already bank with HSBC they can get your accounts up and running before you arrive.
Simply get the below documents ready as evidence for your application and apply on online.
- Proof of income
- Source of income
- Other documentation such a visa’s may be required Subject to qualifications, status and local country laws and regulations.
Once the application is completed one of their International Banking Specialist will get in touch with you to arrange a meeting to verify your documentation, alongside your application form
Use a Company to Set-up your Bank Account like Britbound
I recommend using a company to do it for you such as Britbound. The package is called ‘The Basic One’ which will set you back £55 but will cover all the essentials you need. (I am not affiliated with Britbound, they were just awesome when I moved to the UK.)
BritBound will provide you with a UK address and help you set up your bank account and NINO. They will contact you when you have mail. You can either collect your mail in person or ask them to forward it (tracked) to an address of your choice.
Let me know in the comments if there are any other methods you’ve used that have worked or how you got on with the process.