Great Britain

Need expat info for Great Britain?

Connect with fellow expats in the UK
Join exciting events and groups
Get information in our UK guides
Exchange tips about expat life in the UK

Banks in the UK

There are lots of different banks in the UK offering lots of different services. Yet, opening an account in the UK can be challenging for expats. We provide you with an overview of the most popular banks, the services they offer, as well as tips on how to open a bank account.
Many major banks are located in London’s business district.
  • The UK banking system consists of different branches for personal and business purposes alike.
  • To open a bank account in the UK, you need proof of identity and proof of address. The latter is quite difficult to show for newly arrived expats. However, there are several documents that count as proof of address.
  • There are many different ways to transfer money to the UK, such as FX companies or transfer services of your bank.

All You Need to Know about the British Banking System  

Banks in the UK specialize in different services for both personal and business purposes. Thus, not all banks may suit your needs. The different branches of the British banking system include:

  • High Street Banks that offer services to the general public.
  • Business Banking services that are offered by high street banks in addition to ordinary accounts. They often include additional services and fees.
  • Investment Banking services that are usually offered by financial institutions on behalf of high street banks, investment trusts, and pension funds. They invest money in stock and bond markets.
  • Central Banks which are setting the Monetary Policy of the country in some cases, and ensure sufficient liquidity or act as a lender. The central bank in the UK is the Bank of England.

The banking system is supposed to support the economy of the country and ensure a certain amount of stability. Despite the financial crisis in recent years, over one million people are employed in financial services. Banks and their financial and related professional services contribute 11.8% of the national GDP.

The Big Five: Top UK Banks

Although there are a lot of big and small banks offering all kinds of financial services, some of them are more popular than others. The top banks in the UK are:

  • HSBC
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Barclays
  • NatWest

This does not mean, of course, that one of these is necessarily the best choice for you. Other banks include Santander, Halifax, Standard Chartered, and Tesco Bank. They may very well offer services and deals which are more suited to your needs. Before opening a bank account, it makes sense to “shop around” and ask your friends which banks they recommend.


How to Open a Bank Account in the UK

While opening a bank account in the UK used to be a rather complicated endeavor, banks have started to simplify the process for expats. The most convenient way to do it is by opening a bank account before your move. Your bank at home might be able to set up an account for you, if it has the correspondent banking relationship with a British one. Many banks also offer international accounts which are especially designed for non-residents. Please note that you might be asked to make a big initial deposit or pay a monthly fee for the latter.

However, if you prefer to take care of it after your arrival, you should make sure to come prepared. Once you have chosen a bank for yourself, you should make sure to make an appointment with the staff there. Find out ahead of time which forms and which types of identification you may need. It will save you a lot of time if you have the right forms with you and don’t have to go back again with the correct paperwork. Keep in mind that some banks may require you to deposit a start-up amount on your new account.

Opening an Account without a UK Address

Please remember that even though the process of opening a bank account has been simplified for expats, opening an account without any proof of address in the UK can be quite difficult. Luckily, some banks are offering services specifically suited for newly arrived expats. One such service is the HSBC Basic Account which only requires some form of identification and proof of a EU address. If this is not the bank of your choice, don’t forget that passports, birth certificates, or National Insurance Cards do not count as proof of address. Instead, try to submit one of the following:

  • recent utility bill (less than three months old)
  • council tax bills
  • recent bank or credit card statements (less than three months old; not printed off the internet)
  • tenancy agreement or mortgage statement
  • UK medical card, NHS card, or UK driver’s license
  • motor or home insurances certificates


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 



Need a European bank account? N26 offers you free mobile banking that's simple, secure and gives you full control in an app. Open your account in only 8 minutes!

Jan-Peter van Tijk

"I wish I'd found InterNations sooner: It would have made my first few month as an expat in London much less overwhelming."

Therese Yeboah

"For me, the InterNations events are the best part. I attend almost every get-together and always get to know lots of friendly fellow expats."

Expat Guide Great Britain

Global Expat Guide