bank-imageThere are many different banks in the UK, and each offers different services. Opening an account in the UK, however, can be a challenge for expats. In this article, we’ll look at the most popular banks in the UK and the services they offer, along with some tips for opening an account.

The UK Banking System.

Not every bank in the UK will suit your needs. Generally, banks in the UK specialize in services for either personal or business purposes. The British banking system is divided into three sectors, or branches:

  • High Street Banks – These banks serve the general public.
  • Business Banking – Business banking services are usually offered by high street banks. These services may require additional fees.
  • Investment Banking – Investment banking services are usually provided by financial institutions on behalf of pension funds, investment trusts, and high street banks. These institutions invest money in bonds and stock markets.
  • Central Banks – The Bank of England is the central bank of the UK. Central banks set the Monetary Policy of a country and act as a leader to ensure sufficient liquidity.

The British banking system is designed to support the country’s economy and ensure a certain amount of financial stability. Despite problems in recent years, UK banks and their financial products represent 6.8 percent of the national GDP and provide banking services to 95 percent of the British population.

Opening a Bank Account in the UK.

Once you’ve chosen the right bank for your needs, you’ll need to make an appointment to open an account. Before your appointment, gather any necessary forms and documents. You’ll save a lot of time if you have the right paperwork with you. Keep in mind that you may need to make a start-up deposit to open your new account.

Getting An Account Without a UK Address.

While banks in the UK have started to ease the account opening process for expats, opening an account when you don’t have an address in the UK is still challenging. Fortunately, certain banks offer services geared specifically toward newly-arrived expats. An example of such a service is the HSBC Passport Account, which you can open with proof of a non-UK address and some form of identification. Keep in mind that your birth certificate, passport or National Insurance Card cannot be used as proof of address. To prove your non-UK address, you’ll generally need to provide one of the following:

  • Bank or credit card statement
  • UK driving license, UK medical card or NHS card
  • Utility bill
  • Tenancy agreement
  • Council tax bill
  • Home or auto insurance certificate

The simplest way to open a bank in the UK as an expat is to do so before you move. If you prefer to open an account after your arrival, you’ll need to come prepared to submit all of the necessary documentation. Find out ahead of time which forms, proof of address, and identification you may require.

UK Banking contact numbers.

Banking contact numbers

Banking cash machine

While there are many big and small financial institutions in the UK offering a wide range of services, some banks are more popular than others. The top UK banks are:

There are, of course, many other banks that may suit your financial needs. Other good banks to consider are Tesco Bank, Halifax, Santander, and NatWest. These banks frequently offer deals on their services. Shop around and ask for recommendations from friends before opening a bank account.

Finding the right bank in the UK is a matter of “shopping around” and comparing the various services offered by different financial institutions. Don’t rule out smaller institutions; they may have deals or services which are better suited to your needs. Ask your friends which UK bank they recommend, and do your research before opening an account.