How to open a British bank account as an expat

Opening a UK bank account as an expat is difficult – that’s the reality. However, it’s not impossible! Here’s how you can open a British bank account even as an expat.

What makes this so difficult?

The main issue with opening a UK bank account is that banks will need you to prove your address. If you’re a new expat, this can be extremely difficult. Oftentimes banks will require:

  • Passport or a valid photo ID
  • A recent utility bill (less than three months old) or council tax bill
  • A recent bank or credit card statement
  • Proof of studying in the UK (if applying for a student account)
  • Proof of employment (some banks may ask for this)

Say you want to rent an apartment, but you first need a bank account. How can you provide a utility bill?

Say you want to rent an apartment first, but how can you access your money to pay for rent without a bank account first?

How to Open a British Bank Account as an Expat

Option 1 – Try a Traditional “High Street” Bank

As a new expat in the UK, here’s what I did:

I went to the closest “High Street” bank, which was Lloyds, and explained my situation. I had an appointment with an advisor and I explained that I was in the UK on a Youth Mobility Scheme visa, I had my passport, my Biometrics Resident Permit, my mobile phone number and not much else. They were able to open a Personal account for me without that infamous utility bill that I didn’t have yet.

Will this work for you? It’s hard to say. But I do think it’s worth trying. Call a handful of local traditional banks and see if they’ll approve you for an account without a utility bill. If they will – great! This problem has been solved.

If not, then try Option 2.

Option 2 – Try an Online Bank

Online banks have come a long way in the last few years and they’re certainly a viable option. I know many British people who prefer online banks compared to the traditional banks.

Not all online banks are made equal – and not all will automatically approve you for an account. But overall, online banks are much more flexible when it comes to required documents needed to open an account.

Traditional Banks vs Online Banks

A few years ago, I was way too skeptical of online banks to even consider them. Nowadays, there’s very little difference (in my opinion) between a traditional “High Street” bank and an online one. Of course, make sure to do your research, but overall the only difference is that there is no option of physically “going into” an online bank, which you can do at a traditional bank.

That being said – even though I have an account with Lloyds, I’ve never needed to go into the branch after opening my account.

Many online banks can even send you a physical bank card, making it feel like any other traditional account.

Most Popular Traditional Banks in the UK

If you’re looking for a traditional UK bank, these are some of the most popular:


Most Popular Online Banks in the UK

If you’ve been rejected by a traditional UK bank (or just want to see about online banks instead) these are the most popular online banks in the UK:


Which should I pick?

What type of bank account you need is really up to you. What you could do is apply for an online bank account right away and use that for the first few months while you get settled. Afterwards, you can always switch to a traditional “High Street” bank once you have the appropriate evidence and documents needed to get approved.

Or, you might find that the online bank suits you just fine!

How to open an UK bank account as an expat

Unfortunately this process is a bit tricky, but not impossible. As a fellow expat, I would definitely recommend trying the traditional banks first, but if you aren’t approved – don’t panic. Online banks are a great option and are much more flexible.