Basics of banking in the UK


Banking in the UK – ExpatFinder Articles


Opening a Bank Account in the UK 

For a foreigner, opening a bank account in the United Kingdom is certainly not easy. Even when you open an account you may find it difficult to get a debit or credit card immediately and will have to wait a few months until you have built up an account history. This is because banks in the UK are particularly cautious if you do not already have a credit history with them. Opening an account is easier for an employed person than a student. All foreigners seeking to open bank accounts in the UK will need to prove residency and furnish proof of address such as utility bills or a rental contract. If employed you will have to ask your employer for a letter of recommendation for the bank; additionally a letter of recommendation from your current bank (in English) stating how long you have held an account with them, your current balance and the average balance during the previous year is also recommended.

You may open a current account with facilities like cheque book, debit card, cheque guarantee card, and interest paid on your account when it is in credit, for little or no service charge. If you would like to have a credit card, then you may have to pay a monthly fee. Banks also provide overdraft facilities, but this is difficult in case of new customers without banking history in the UK.

Normal banking hours are from 9:00 or 9:30 until 15:30 or 16:00 (some remain open until 17:30),from Monday to Friday. Many bank branches stay open late on at least one day in a week (until 17:30 or 18:00) and are also open on Saturdays (9:00-9:30 until 12:30 or 15:30). Banks in England and Wales remain open over lunch while those in Scotland and Northern Ireland close for one-hour at lunch. 

ATM's in the UK

There is a wide network of cash machines (ATMs) that work round the clock everywhere in the UK, except for very small villages. You can use any cash machine to make a withdrawal and usually will not be charged a fee but do check with your bank first. The cash machine will warn you if a commission is going to be charged before completing the transaction and you can go to another machine without losing money.

Cheques & Cards in the UK 

Cheques are still widely used in Britain and using them costs nothing. Some shops have a minimum purchase amount that is usually around £5 before they will accept cheques. You may use cheques to make payments by mail and a number of large retailers such as supermarkets can print out a cheque for you in the cash register. However, the use of credit and debit cards is on the rise and with most establishments accepting major credit and debit cards it is a trend that is bound to continue.


Photo: Garry Knight


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