Access to money

Living in Europe | Banking | United Kingdom

Easy access to your funds whilst in the UK is, of course, essential for your daily life. You should set up a bank account or plan for a way to access or transfer your funds before moving 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 accounts available - basic, current and savings. There are also business accounts and joint accounts you could set up. The basic account will allow you to deposit and withdraw money, but the most widely used account is a current account, which allows you to:

  • receive money and pay bills
  • issues a card so you can withdraw money from a cash machine (ATM)
  • allows you to set up direct debits
  • provides 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

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 charge a small monthly fee to maintain current accounts for international students.

Savings accounts

If you wish to put some money aside for emergencies or to save money for the future, it is a good idea to get a savings account. These can usually be set up alongside your current account at the same bank. The conditions would vary as to whether you are able to withdraw money directly from your savings account at a cash point (ATM), whether there is a charge for maintaining it, or whether there is interest on any funds deposited in that account.

Special accounts

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.

Business accounts

These are for business owners who need to receive payments for clients or make business expenses. The requirements for setting up an account of this kind are again proof of identity, proof of address and here the bank may require proof of income or proof of business ownership.

Joint accounts

You can get a joint account to manage your finances with other people, for example a business partner or a spouse. 

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 need to apply for a bank account in your chosen bank branch, and you the bank will require proof of identity and proof of your UK address (often two different proofs of address), and for certain account types you may also need proof of income.

The best option for proof of identity is your passport, although some banks may also accept an ID card or driving license, provided it is valid and not expired.

Examples of proof of address:

  • Bank statement from the past three months
  • Tenancy agreement
  • Utility bills from the past three months addressed to you 
  • Council Tax bill from the past three months
  • Employer letter or student letter issued by your institution showing your names and address 

If you are setting up an account with credit facilities there are additional requirements for proof of income and credit background check. 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.

Useful links

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Find out about costs associated with moving your money