How to get the right bank account when new to the UK

A UK bank account is very nearly essential to manage your money well when you are new to the UK. You can continue to use your account from back home, but you are likely to pay much more in foreign exchange fees and you might find there are not many places where you can make ATM withdrawals or pay by card.

When you set up a new bank account when new to the UK, you effectively move your money management over to the UK too, and that means you can receive payments here, transfer funds in pounds sterling (GBP) and on many accounts, you will also get a debit card to spend in GBP too.

It’s much more convenient than spending money from an account held in a foreign currency and it will often also mean that you have access to UK-based customer support if you ever have any problems.

So how do you choose the right bank account when new to the UK? Mostly it comes down to personal choice, but it will also depend on what the banks are willing to make available to you.


International bank accounts for new to UK arrivals

One of the first major problems you might encounter is a lack of UK proof of address, not only for your current address, but also going back several years.

You might think the banks would not expect this when they know you have only very recently moved into the UK, but some of them still demand just as much proof of address – if not more – as they do for a native British person who applies to open an account.

Naturally you won’t always have the paperwork they need, especially if you left proof of old former addresses back home, and it’s not always possible to go back and collect the necessary documents or even to have them sent through the post quickly.

Without proof of address – and also in cases where you cannot prove your income, credit score, employment status or enrolment on to a UK university degree – you might find you are limited to only the most basic bank accounts, or even that you cannot apply with a particular bank at all.


Should I get a basic bank account?

If a basic bank account is all that’s available to you, is it worth opening one? The answer is most likely still yes, but it can pay to compare basic bank accounts for the best features.

It would be useful to look for an account with a full debit card that can be used at any ATM, and not just a cash card that only works at a particular bank’s own branches. An Arro basic account gives you the freedom to access your account using your card 24 hours a day 7 days a week from any ATM.

You should also check for any fees on the account, as with a basic bank account you might be asked to pay certain fees depending on how you use the account, whereas the banks might not normally apply those charges to current account customers.


An alternative with no address history

If you’ve only just arrived in the UK, you can’t prove your UK address, and you didn’t bring proof of your past addresses either, don’t worry – the Arro Personal Account is an option that makes good use of online databases to verify your ID, so there’s usually no need for any paperwork.

We can do this just using a quick online check, and it is not a credit check – it does not access your credit file, it will not appear on your credit history, and it will not affect your credit score – so there’s no need to worry about whether applying for an Arro Personal Account will make it harder to get a current account with a high street bank later on.

You must be over 18 and meet our simple Fair Fit criteria, but apart from that all we need is your current UK address – it must be your current address, so please do not apply until you have arrived in the UK – and as long as you can provide all of this and are eligible for the account, we guarantee we will accept you, even with no proof of historic addresses.