4 Best Banks for Non-Residents in the UK

Last updated on June 10th, 2024 at 08:48 am

Moving to the UK is a big deal, and there will be a lot of information to digest when you delve into the local banking options. Here at Remitly, we know it can be a lot to process.  

That’s why we’ve compiled this quick, handy guide to the factors to consider when picking a bank in Britain. We’ll also introduce you to some of the top UK banks to consider.

Can non-residents open a bank account in the UK?

The answer to this question may seem like it should be a simple yes or no, but it’s actually a little complicated. Basically, it depends on how you define the term resident.

You ‌must have an established UK address to get a UK bank account. In that respect, you need to be a resident of the UK to open an account in the UK.

However, you do not need to be a permanent resident or a UK citizen to open a bank account. People taking extended vacations on a visit visa, international students studying in the UK, and others in the country for an extended period can open a local bank account—because they have a UK address.

4 banks to consider for an account in the UK

With those considerations in mind, let’s take a closer look at these well-known British banks.

1. Barclays

Why it wins?

One of the best-known banks in the UK, Barclays has a lot to offer its customers. No fees are charged for having an account, and the customer service is great, with staff always on hand by phone or live chat.

Barclays makes it particularly easy to set up an account. You can even do it through your phone by taking a video selfie and uploading a photo of your ID.

Barclays also offers the Blue Rewards scheme, with cash rewards and other perks just for using your bank account. Online banking is also easy with the Barclays mobile app.

You can check your virtual bank account and make payments on the move, and the app reveals what kinds of things you spend money on every month. 

Add to all of this Barclays’ range of savings accounts, and this bank stands out from other high street banks.

2. Lloyds Bank

Why it wins?

Another major high street bank, Lloyds Bank, also offers customers a free account with customer service always on hand, by phone, and online.

As you’d expect from a leading bank, there’s a sophisticated mobile app you can download. With the app, you can instantly see how much you have in your account and how much you’ve been spending.

It’s easy to set up an arranged overdraft limit if you need one. There is an eligibility calculator on the Lloyds website, so you can find out your chances of being accepted before going through the actual application process.

Lloyd’s gives you the flexibility to choose between multiple types of bank accounts. One offering is the Club Lloyds account, which is free as long as you pay at least £1,500 into your account every month. This account includes added perks like free cinema tickets and a free subscription to streaming services like Disney+.

Several savings accounts are also on offer, with the details clearly laid out on the website.

3. Halifax

Why it wins?

Halifax is a hugely popular financial institution in the UK, and with good reason. It prides itself on its customer service, and it’s possible to apply for a free current account online within 10 minutes.

The online bank account comes with a lucrative perk in the form of a 15% cashback scheme. By activating this and using your Halifax debit or credit card to shop at selected retailers, you’ll be given money back into your account at the end of the following month.

Of course, Halifax has a fast, user-friendly mobile app that lets you monitor your balance, pay bills, and manage your day-to-day spending. It’s also free to set up an arranged overdraft with the online eligibility calculator, making it easy to check where you stand.

Offering savings accounts, mortgages, and home insurance as well, Halifax is a one-stop shop for many financial requirements.

4. Starling Bank

Why it wins?

Starling Bank is one of the new generations of online-only banks that has risen in recent years to challenge the dominance of traditional banks like Barclays and Halifax.

Starling offers all the convenience you’d imagine from a digital company, letting you sign up for a free account in minutes through your phone. And just because it’s an online bank doesn’t mean you can’t chat with real human beings about your account. Staff is available around the clock when you need help.

A fantastic mobile app lets you keep a close eye on the in-comings and out-goings of all your current accounts. The app also provides insights into your spending habits.

Just like its rival high street banks, Starling Bank offers overdrafts and loans, and it even has great green credentials, being the first UK bank to offer debit cards made from recycled plastic.

How to send money from your UK bank account

Once you’ve set up your new bank account, you can link it to your Remitly account to send money back home. With Remitly, it’s easy to send money to loved ones.

  • Sign up at the Remitly website or through our mobile app.
  • Select the country you’d like to send money to.
  • Select how you’d like the funds to be received.
  • Enter your recipient’s details.
  • Send the money via bank transfer or by linking your bank card to your Remitly account.

What do non-residents need to do to open a bank account in the UK?

Once you have determined where to open a UK bank account, the next step is establishing one. Some UK banks will allow you to open a bank account online, while others require you to stop into a branch office to open one in person.

Before opening an account, banks in the UK must verify both your identity and your residency.

UK banks have different policies regarding what qualifies as valid documentation for opening a bank account. You may present one of the following to UK banks to verify your identity:

  • Passport: A UK or foreign passport that is valid at the time you attempt to open a bank account
  • Driving license: A UK driver’s license will generally be accepted. Whether UK banks accept driver’s licenses from the US, EU, and other countries varies.
  • Biometric residence permit: Immigrants to the UK receive this credential that includes their fingerprints and a photograph.

For proof of a UK address, one of the following may be acceptable:

  • Recent utility bill with your name and address on it
  • Current council tax bill with your name and address on it
  • Driving license for the UK with your address on it
  • Bank statement from another UK bank with your address on it
  • Credit card statement from a UK credit card company with your address on it

Because the requirements for address and identity verification vary, contacting the bank before you try to open a UK bank account with them is a good idea. If you’re going to apply for a UK bank account online, have the documentation scanned and ready to upload to save time.

Besides providing proof of address like utility bills and proof of identity like a passport, you’ll also usually need to make an opening deposit. Traditional banks may accept cash or a paycheck to open a bank account in person. Online banks typically allow you to transfer money from other banks to open a bank account.

8 key considerations when choosing a bank in the UK

When you’re weighing the banking options, it’s useful to take a practical and objective approach by applying the following checklist of key considerations. 

  1. What are the fees?

Some UK banks charge monthly fees simply for having a bank account. Others may assess fees when you use an ATM, exceed a certain number of debit card transactions per month, or fail to use your bank account for a certain number of months.

UK banks that do charge service fees may waive them if you maintain a minimum balance. Financial institutions may also waive fees if you set up direct debits or deposits or sign up for a bill pay service.

Since there’s so much variability in account fees, ask for a complete fee schedule from any UK bank you may be considering.

  1. How easy is it to set up your account?

Find out how to go about setting up an account at the UK banks you’re considering ahead of time. Do they only accept cash deposits when you first open a bank account?

Can you open the account online, or do you need to visit a branch? For joint accounts, it may be harder for you to open an account if you both need to visit a UK bank branch at the same time.

  1. How can you access your funds?

Offering a debit card is usually standard now for a bank account, but UK banks may be more or less accessible to you in other ways.

Find out if the UK banks you’re considering will allow you to access your bank account via an app or website. Mobile banking can make it easier to keep track of your balance and simplify tasks like paying bills and transferring money to a savings account.

If you frequently withdraw from ATMs, the size of UK banks’ ATM networks may be important to you.

  1. What are the interest rates for the bank accounts?

If saving money is one of your biggest goals, the rate of interest that UK banks provide may be important to you. When comparing rates for bank accounts, double-check if the rate depends on your balance, as some banks will require you to maintain a minimum amount of money in the account to get the best rate.

Also, find out whether the interest rate is fixed, meaning it stays the same, or variable, meaning it can go up or down. If you’re considering a savings account or other account with a variable interest rate, ask if the rate may change and if there is a minimum amount it can go down to.

  1. What is the currency for the bank account?

A traditional bank account in the UK will be in pounds sterling. However, other types of bank accounts are available at some UK banks. You may sometimes see them referred to as international accounts.

If you frequently travel, you may want a Euro bank account, while expats may want a US dollar bank account.

Alternatively, you can access a multi-currency account that allows you to make transactions in British pounds sterling and another currency with reduced currency exchange fees. A multi-currency account may even include free international money transfers or discounted transfer rates sometimes.

  1. What is the customer service like?

While you may not have any plans to contact customer service, you never know when you may need to contact your UK bank. For example, your debit card could get lost, or you may end up with an unauthorized charge on your bank account.

Before you open a personal or business account, find out how to get help when needed. Is there a 24-hour phone number? Can you send a secure email? Is there an online chat service?

  1. Does the bank account come with any perks?

Most UK bank accounts will allow you to conduct basic transactions like paying bills and making domestic and international transfers. To set themselves apart, many major UK banks have begun offering perks on premium accounts.

Perks of bank accounts can include everything from getting cash deposited back into your account to qualifying for discounts at restaurants and stores to earning points toward gift cards and travel.

If you’re considering a UK account with special perks, be sure to factor in any additional costs associated with them and how useful they really are. After all, a perk may mean little if you have to maintain a higher minimum balance or pay a bigger monthly fee to qualify for it.

  1. What additional services does the UK bank offer?

Doing all of your banking in one place can save you time and potentially qualify you for perks like a higher rate of interest on your savings account or reduced account fees. 

Additional services may include credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, business bank accounts and loans, investment accounts, and other banking products.

Find the right UK account for your needs

The above financial institutions are some of the best UK banks for non-residents, but they’re not the only options. Use the list as a starting point for your research and get on your way to opening a non-resident bank account in the UK.