Opening an account
So you’ve picked your account. But how do you open it?
To open a bank or building society account you’ll need to fill in an application form. Depending on the type of account, you can do this in a branch, online or over the phone. You’ll also need to prove who you are! The bank or building society will need to check your identity, or they won’t be able to continue with your application. Generally, two separate documents are needed – one to confirm your identity and one to confirm your address. Your identity may also be checked electronically using reference agencies. This search will not affect your credit rating.
Why do I need to prove my identity?
It’s to comply with UK Money Laundering Regulations 2007, which help stop criminals from using financial products or services for their own benefit.
How long will it take?
Applying can take as little as 10 minutes online, over the phone or in branch. Some accounts can be ready to use quickly (less than 48 hours). Others may take longer. It depends on the type of account, how you apply and who you apply to.
Proving your identity
You should ask what documents the bank or building society need to see, but you usually need to provide proof of:
Who you are
The usual documents used to prove your name is a UK passport or full photo-card driving licence. If you don’t have these, your bank or building society may take a letter from the Benefits Agency or from HM Revenue and Customs, or another form of ID. Always check what they can use before applying for your account.
Where you live
You can usually use a gas, electric or phone bill, bank or credit card statement, council tax bill or another acceptable document that has your home address, is dated recently (often within the last 3 months) and has your exact name on it. Again, check with the provider you’re going to open the account with to make sure.
Here’s a short film from the Money Advice Service that talks through opening an account.
You may need to make sure you have original documents, as copies of statements or bills printed from the internet may not be acceptable. So check first!
If you haven’t got the documents that the bank or building society needs, they may accept a letter from a responsible person who knows you, such as a GP, social worker or probation officer. It’s always worth checking what they will accept.