Access to money
Being able to gain easy access to funds whilst in the UK is essential for your daily life. You should endeavour to set up a bank account or plan for a means of access to funds before you move to the UK. Setting up a new bank account in the UK is often the easiest and fastest method to gain access to money.
What sorts of accounts are available?
There are several types of bank account available. The most basic will simply allow you to deposit and withdraw money. But the most common type of account:
- allows you to receive money and pay bills
- allows you a cash card for taking money out of a cash machine
- allows you to set up direct debits
- provide you with a cheque book or credit card
- may have an overdraft facility
- allows you to pay in shops with your credit or debit card
- may allow 'contactless' payment.
Most bank accounts are free but many banks offer additional services such as insurance packages, for which you will have to pay a monthly fee. Think carefully about whether these are useful for you.
Some banks offer special accounts for people coming to the UK, which can be opened either before you arrive in the UK, or up to four months after you arrive. Unlike regular bank accounts, you will have to pay a subscription charge to open this account, but they often include additional services such as discount offers.
What is the difference between a bank and a building society?
Building societies are mutual institutions which operate similar services to banks, but allow individuals with building society accounts to cast votes on decisions that affect the institution.
Banks do not offer this voting privilege, they instead operate for their shareholders to make a profit.
Opening a bank account
In the past few years it has become more complicated to open a bank account in the UK, owing to the tight laws designed to prevent money laundering or terrorist activity.
You will only be able to open a bank account close to where you live or work. Most banks require proof of identity and proof of your UK address (often two different proofs of address), and for certain accounts you may also need proof of income.
You will need a form of verified photograph.
The best option for this is your passport, although some banks may also accept an ID card or driving license, provided it is valid and not expired.
You should try to arrange your accommodation before coming to the UK, and get some official documentation sent to you there.
Examples of proof of address:
- Bank statement from the past three months
- Tenancy agreement
- Utility bills from the past three months
- Council Tax bill from the past three months
This is usually required if you are opening a bank account with credit facilities. Ask your UK employer for an official letter or contract showing your UK address and the dates and terms of your employment, including how much income you will receive.