Bank account

The rules and regulations for opening a bank account in the UK are very strict and you may find opening an account a challenge.

Please do take as much documentation with you as you can and check with your institution to see if they have set up an agreement with a specific bank which may make the process easier and quicker. If they have, you may be required to visit a certain branch at a certain time.

If you experience problems please visit your institution’s Human Resources or Personnel department and they will be able to advise you. 


You’ll find information on the following topics below:

1. Before leaving home.
2. What documents will I need to open an account in the UK?
3. Cheque books.
4. Bank statements.
5. Overdraft facility.
6. Standing Order facilities.
7. Debit card.
8. Getting a UK credit card.
9. Current account.
10. Safety advice.
11. Opening times and more information.

 

1. Before leaving home

 

  • The bank in your home country may have a special relationship with a bank in the UK. Speak to your bank before you leave for the UK.
  • Ask your bank if can use your cash card in UK bank machines.
  • Find out how you can transfer money to and from the UK and how much this costs.
  • You may need to bring UK currency with you to pay for a deposit on a house. Do avoid carrying large sums of cash with you. The safest and most popular way of bringing money abroad is by traveller’s cheques purchased before you leave home. It is easy to cash these at airports and bureaux de change. Don’t forget to keep a note of the cheque numbers separate from your hand luggage.

 

2. What documents will I need to open an account in the UK?

This will depend on which bank you choose and what type of account you open. You will need to confirm your identity before you can open an account. Please take as many of the following with you when you open an account:

  • Passport.
  • National identity card.
  • Residence permit issued by the Home Office to EU nationals.
  • National driving licence.
  • Tenancy agreement.
  • A letter from your employer in the UK confirming your address (and if you have pay slips from your employer it may help to show those too).
  • The bank may also want to see proof of your previous or permanent address in the country that you come from.

(Please remember that banks require original documents and not copies.)

 

Running a bank account

 

3. Cheque books

Cheque books are not available for all types of account. Cheques allow you to pay for goods and services without having to use cash. You can also take money out of your account (a withdrawal) using a cheque. When you open your account ask the bank to show you how cheques should be completed as this may differ from your home country. Unlike in some countries, banks in the UK do not send cheques back to the customer once they have been processed, but you will be sent regular statements of the transactions in your account.

 

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4. Bank statements

A bank statement is a record, produced for you by the bank, of all the transactions on your bank account over a specific period of time. It includes details of money paid into the account, money taken out of the account, cheque and debit card payments that have been processed, direct debit and standing order payments, and any bank charges that have been made. It is sent to you regularly, normally once each month. With some bank machines, it is possible to request that a statement is printed while you wait. You should read each bank statement that you receive to check that all your transactions have been recorded accurately, and to help you to manage your money. You should keep all of your bank statements because you may have to send them to the Home Office if you apply to extend your permission to remain in the UK. Banks charge for duplicate statements and may take several weeks to produce the documents.

 

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5. Overdraft facility

An overdraft is a method of borrowing money from your bank when you do not have enough money to cover your expenditure. An overdraft allows you to spend more money than you have in your account, up to a fixed limit. Use of an overdraft facility must be agreed with your bank before you use it. You may have to pay charges to use this service as well as interest on the amount you borrow. If you have an overdraft, you will need to agree with your bank how you are going to pay it back.

 

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6. Standing order facilities

You may set up a standing order with your bank directly, allowing you to pay for goods and services regularly from your bank account. For example, you might pay for electricity by a payment being made from your bank account automatically at the same time each month. This can help you to manage your money effectively.

 

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7. Debit card

This is a plastic card which allows you to spend money from your account without having to use cash or write a cheque. If you pay with a debit card at certain shops you can also use it to take an additional sum from your account at no extra charge. This is often called ‘cashback’. If you lose your debit card contact your bank immediately. You will be given a personal identification number (PIN) with the card. Do not tell anyone this number and do NOT write it down and keep it with the card.

 

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8. Getting a UK credit card

Like debit cards, credit cards allow you to make purchases for most things that you cannot buy with cash or cheques. However, this method of payment may turn into a very expensive option, if you are not able to pay the balance on the account within the specified period – this is usually between 20 and 30 days. If you do decide to obtain a credit card be careful to read all the terms and conditions relating to the card before committing to it; some companies offer a special low introductory interest rate (perhaps even 0%), but then increase it dramatically after that introductory period. You should also check to see if the credit card company charges an annual fee for the card and when this is likely to happen.

Some companies are reluctant to issue credit cards to international staff due to the lack of a UK credit history. If you already have a major credit card from your home country (like Eurocard, Access, Chargex, Barclaycard, Carte Bleue, American Express, Visa or MasterCard), bring it with you to the UK. Once the UK credit card company reviews your credit limit on the foreign card, they may be more likely to offer you a UK credit card. In short, the longer you are in the UK (and are using a UK debit card for example) the bigger credit history you can build up and the more likely you are to be offered a UK credit card.

More information about UK credit cards (including the best current rates) can be found on Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert website.

 

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9. Current account

A current account may offer a cheque book, cheque guarantee card, cash card, debit card, overdraft facility, and direct debit and standing order facilities. Some accounts pay interest, although this is usually at a lower rate than a deposit account. You should ask the bank which services will be available. You may only be allowed to open a ‘basic bank account’. It may be possible to change your account to a current account after a period of time.

Remember:-

  • Only use a bank account for which you are a named holder.
  • You should not allow others to use your account to do their banking.
  • Keep your personal details and account details secure to prevent someone from stealing your identity.
  • If you pay bills by direct debit you must have the money in your account the day before the direct debit is due to go out of your account. If not, you will be charged penalty fees by the bank and often also by the organisation that is expecting to receive the direct debit payment.
  • Do not go into debt on your account unless you have a pre-agreed overdraft facility with the bank.

 

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10. Safety advice

 

  • Keep your personal identification number (PIN) secret.
  • Never tell anyone your PIN, even if they claim to be from a bank or the police.
  • Never write down your PIN and keep it with your card.
  • If you think someone has discovered your PIN you can change it at a cash machine. You should also notify your card issuer immediately.
  • Always put your own safety first. Don’t use a cash machine if you notice anyone behaving suspiciously around it or you spot anything suspicious on the cash machine itself – and report your suspicions to the bank concerned or the police.
  • If your card is retained by the cash machine contact your card issuer immediately.
  • Report lost or stolen cards or suspected fraud to your card issuer immediately. The 24-hour emergency number will be on your statement or call directory enquiries.
  • If you are the victim of card fraud the most you will ever have to pay is £50. However, if you have acted fraudulently or without reasonable care, for example, by keeping your PIN written down with your card, you will be liable for all the losses.

 

11. Opening times and more information

Most banks in the UK are open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday and many are open on Saturdays.

The British Bankers’ Association also has a downloadable leaflet (PDF document) with information on how to open a bank account if you are new or are returning to the UK.

 

Branches of most of the major banks are found in and around Leicester city centre.

 
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