Opening a bank account in London is easy, unless you’re an expat.
Like everything for us expats, things are a bit harder. In theory opening a bank account in London is easy, but coming to a new country with no credit, no history and no fixed address, things are a bit harder.
So how do you open a bank account in London?
Opening a bank account before you get on the plane
As I’m Australian, my experience of opening a bank account before getting on the plane was based on being in Australia.
One option is HSBC, which in June 2015 cost $200 to open. You need to have money ready in Australia to put into your new UK bank account and it also takes quite a bit of time (like a couple of months) to set up.
Using 1st Contact
Another option to open a bank account in London to go through a company called 1st Contact. They organise the paperwork and get the ball rolling for you on bank accounts (and National Insurance Numbers–or read my how to and do it yourself) without you needing a job or fixed address. NB while they’ll start the process before you leave Australia, the bank account won’t be opened until you arrive in the United Kingdom.
A friend used 1st Contact and from her experience she paid for nothing. She received a sim card with exorbitant call rates that she didn’t use, and then made her own appointment with the bank as 1st Contact couldn’t get her one for weeks. From her experience this is 100% not worth it.
Opening a bank account in London yourself
I opened a bank account in London by myself in September 2015 and I had both a difficult and an easy time. Let me explain.
Originally I wanted to go with Lloyds Bank so I popped into my local branch where the Branch Manager told me:
a) without a job, Lloyds could only offer me one account, which was a really shitty account, and to change it to something better later would be a hassle, and
b) to come back in store when I had a job and was ready to open an account. If I completed the online application incorrectly and was denied a bank account, it would be recorded against my financial score in the UK. While it may be user error, it’s still recorded as a decline and this is not good.
Taking his advice I walked into another Lloyds branch with a letter of offer for a job in my hand. This time I was told that I could not be seen without an appointment as they’re ‘very busy’—said with two people in branch.
For my third and final attempt with Lloyds, I called to book an appointment which they gave me some six weeks later.
Defeated I called HSBC.
HSBC booked me in for an appointment the following week. For the appointment I needed my passport, visa and a letter from my landlady confirming my address. For anyone in temporary accommodation this could be difficult.
After a one hour appointment during my lunch break, I walked out of HSBC with a a UK bank account that took my wages the next day.
Thanks for reading and I hope my experience and tips on how to open a bank account in London help you with your London life. Share your experience in the comments below.