Opening A Bank Account

MoneyHelper

With so many different bank accounts available, it’s worth checking you have the best one for you. You could save hundreds of pounds with an account that better suits your needs. 

How to open a bank account

When you know what bank account you want, it’s time to speak to the bank. You can do this in branch, over the phone or online.

The bank will run a credit check to find out your credit history. This will tell them if you’ve had problems with paying back money in the past. If you have, you might not be able to open some types of account. You’ll also be asked to provide proof of identity and address.

How do you prove your address or identity? Here are some of the documents banks and building societies will usually be looking for:

  • driving licence
  • Council Tax bill
  • UK utility bill, such as gas or electricity
  • bank or building society statement
  • credit card statement
  • HMRC letter or tax statement
  • mortgage statement
  • tenancy agreement
  • benefits statement.

Different banks will ask for different forms of ID. You can check online what ID you’ll need, so you’re prepared when you open your new account.

Fee-free basic bank accounts

If banks turn you down for a standard account, you can always apply for a fee-free basic bank account. These accounts don’t charge fees or offer overdrafts. They also won’t charge you if a Direct Debit fails.

How to switch bank accounts

Almost all banks and building societies now offer a free seven-day Current Account Switch Service.

It’s backed by a guarantee that means you’ll be refunded any interest and charges on your old and new accounts if anything goes wrong.

During the switch process, you’ll be asked about your current overdraft. As long as you can prove your overdraft limit, for example with a bank statement, your new account might match your current limit.

How to choose a current account

Comparison websites are a good starting point for finding a current account that gives you everything you need.

You can start by thinking about some basics:

  • If you’ve often got money in your account, look for one with a high interest rate to increase your savings.
  • If you’re often using your overdraft, look for one with lower overdraft rates.

You can then look at other features of accounts. For example, do they offer linked higher interest savings accounts, cashback or switching bonuses?

Here are a few websites that compare current accounts:

In Northern Ireland, you can also try the Consumer Council Comparison Tool

How to close a bank account

You can close most bank accounts whenever you like without being charged. It’s usually just a case of getting in touch with your bank. But if you’re overdrawn, you’ll have to pay off what you owe.

If you’re not using the Current Account Switch Service to shut your account, make sure you transfer any Direct Debits or payments to your new account.

If your bank decides to close your account

If your bank decides to close your current or instant access savings account, you’ll usually be given two months’ notice.

For other accounts, they must give you ‘reasonable notice’. This is so you can make other arrangements. This should be at least 14 days.

The bank can delay the closure if you’ve made payments that haven’t left your account yet. For example, a cheque or card payment.

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