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Which option is best for you?
Your best option depends somewhat on your personal circumstances.
If you are a high net worth individual (as determined by the bank but usually over $1M) there are offshore services set up by the major UK banks and Option 1 may be your best option.
If you are a working traveller or in the process of moving to the UK – Option 3 is the most efficient, hassle free way. Not only do you end up with a fully operational bank account that enables you to do telephone banking, internet banking everything is made easy for you. You do need to be moving to the UK and have a passport and work visa.
If you plan to sort it out when you get there yourself. it can be done. eventually. Initally however banks in the UK are likely to only offer a restricted bank account – think 1980s passbook style. No card, no internet or telephone banking. Yes the banks want your money, but due to banking regulations in the UK and anti-money laundering laws you need to show a bank all kinds of proof that you are established in the UK (which if you just arrived you are unlikely to have). This does vary from bank to bank to some degree and even branch to branch. Fortunately Option 3 exists.
Explore Your UK Banking Options
Open a Bank Account for High Net Worth Individuals (Offshore Accounts)
- A passport
- A sizable initial deposit (minimum 1000 but often 25000 or more)
- An established account with the same bank in your home country
You may be able avoid making a high initial deposit if you’re willing to open a restricted account. Restricted accounts won’t come with basics like online banking or bank cards.
- You are a high net worth individual (Over $1M)
- Have funds to invest
- You’re likely to use other bank services like mortgages and wealth management
DIY – Sort it Out Once You Get There (Not Recommended)
- A passport
- A letter of employment
- A lease or bills in your name to a UK address
- Potentially a letter from your current bank that notes how long you’ve been a customer and states that your account is in good standing.
- Tip. If this isn’t possible, try printing a recent bank statement that includes your name and address
- You have established a lease and paid bills several weeks to a month before your arrival in the UK.
- You won t need immediate access to a bank account after arriving in the UK
Purchase a Bank Account Setup Package Before You Leave Or When You Arrive.
- A passport
- A valid working visa
For Australians: $85-$198. For Other Nationalities: 35. (No specific minimum deposit required)
These packages offer other helpful perks for newcomers ot the UK, like NI number assistance, job assistance and an included UK SIM card. Read more below
- You want a fully functioning, low or zero fee bank account with full access to online, phone and ATM services.
- You don’t won’t to make an initial deposit.
- You don’t yet have proof of UK residency, as well as bills in your name in the UK
- You don’t yet have a letter of employment
Note: Travellers companies that provide bank account services usually keep the cost of these services very low. The idea is to attract your custom for the many other services they offer. Either way we think the benefit you get from having your bank account sorted out and hassle avoided is well worth the money. Below are two companies that are well established and highly recommended for different reasons.
Other Things to Look for in a Bank Account Setup Package
Bank account setup packages often seem to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Some useful, some not.
Here is a inclusions you might find useful.
Full Access Bank Account
You ll get set up for a UK bank account with a complete set of features, unlike the accounts you would likely have to open without assistance. This means you get features like a debit card that can be used at ATMs, rather than a cash card that cannot, as well as access to online banking.
NI Number Assistance
You can organise your NI number yourself, though you may have a tough go working your way through requisite governmental bureaucracy. With NI assistance, travelers’ companies will help you streamline the process.
UK SIM Card
Getting a SIM card that s ready for use in the UK makes you ready to start your job search and contact the new friends you ll make. These SIM cards do not come with a contract, so you can often use the handset you already have from home, though it may need to be unlocked. For the long term, you may want to shop around for a contract plan and new handset that suits you better, but this SIM card gives you a way to be contacted and communicate as soon as you arrive and as you contact employers for potential jobs.
The purpose of arrival meetings is to get assistance with officially opening your bank account once you arrive and to introduce you to other services each company offers. Depending on your package provider, these services may include tax services, social events, relocation services, visa services, travel services, CV writing, job assistance and others. You should know, if you re only interested in opening your bank account, or if you re based outside of London, these meetings likely won t be very useful for you.
Money Transfer Deals
International money transfer deals come with many bank account set-up packages, but may vary quite a bit from one company to another. When packages say they provide free money transfers, this means they cover the transfer s transaction fee, which can be as high as $40 AUS or 20 when transfer your money directly through a bank.
Pro Tip: Pay attention to exchange rates. More
Before you start moving significant sums (meaning more than $2000), it pays to compare the exchange rate differences offered by various transfer services because these will potentially add up to more than the transaction cost. The transfer service you choose should be a balance between convenience and cost.
Compare Bank Account Set-Up Packages
Here are the two largest and in our opinion best bank account setup packages in the UK right now. (Updated April 2016)
Use this comparison table to decide which one is right for you.