Opening a bank account

Here you can find some helpful advice and tips on how to open a bank account. The page will:

  • Give advice on the types of bank accounts available

  • Explain some key things you need to know

Get started below.

It’s really important that you open a bank account as soon as you are able to. You’ll need a bank account to receive wages or benefits and to pay bills or do online shopping.


The standard bank account is called a Current Account, this will be available for most people but if you have had problems with debt and have issues with your credit score you may need a more basic account, more on this later.


There are a huge amount of banks to choose from and it's really going to be up to you which one you choose.


We’re going to look at some of the key features you should look for when opening a bank account to hopefully make the decision on which bank to choose a little easier.


Basic is probably best


Look for an account that offers basic banking, this means you can have money paid in, pay bills automatically and withdraw cash when you need to using a card.




An overdraft basically means the bank has leant you money and you will have to pay it back.


There are two types of overdrafts:


Arranged – This means you and the bank have agreed on a limit that lets you spend a bit more money than you have in your current account.


Unarranged – This means you have spent more money than you have and you haven’t previously arranged an overdraft limit with us, or you have exceeded your existing overdraft limit.


IMPORTANTOverdrafts are a form of debt and can make managing your finances harder, you will get charged interest if you use an overdraft and if you go over an overdraft limit you can be charged by the bank. You can learn more about debt in our debt section.

What should your bank account allow you to do?


Think about what you actually need your bank account to do, you should look for an account that allows you to:


  • Pay bills by Direct Debit or standing order

  • Receive automated payments such as salary, wages or benefits

  • Pay for things with a debit card and withdraw money from cashpoint machines


It can also be helpful to look for an account that can help you manage your money by offering things like:

  • A secure banking app, this allows you to check your account balance and make payments from your phone.

  • They usually also allow you to set up text alerts, to warn you of a low balance or when a payment is made to your account

We mentioned above about getting an account with a Debit Card.


To be clear this is very different to a credit card, as it only allows you to spend money on the card which you actually have in your bank account. 

As we explained in the Debt section credit cards are a form of debt and it can be easy to rack up large debts with one. 


If you get offered the chance to apply for a credit card when you open a bank account the best thing to do is say no.  


How do you open an account?


You are going to need some ID to open an account. You can usually start to open an account online but if you’re using a high street bank you usually will have to go in with your ID to complete the account opening.

Some online banks (like MONZO) allow you to open an account completely online but you will still need ID to do this.


Common ID requirements will include:

  • Full, current passport

  • Current UK photocard driving licence or UK full paper driving licence

  • Current European Union member state identity card

  • Benefit entitlement letters, including pensions, disability payments and universal credit (or benefits such as income support and jobseeker's allowance if you've not yet been moved on to universal credit)

  • HMRC tax notification or assessment letter

You will also need to prove your current address.


Can banks turn you down for an account?


Yes, they can. Different banks have different rules about who can have an account and if you have had problems with debt or have a poor credit score, they may turn down your application.

If this happens you do have options. You can apply for a more basic account but you’ll still need ID and have proof of address.

Banks that offer basic accounts include Barclays, CO-OP Bank and Virgin Money. 


HAVING A BANK ACCOUNT IS REALLY IMPORTANT – You need a bank account to be paid, it's vital you get one
AVOID ACCOUNTS WITH OVERDRAFTS – And overdraft can be another way you can end up in debt, try and avoid accounts which have an overdraft
THERE ARE LOTS OF ACCOUNTS TO CHOOSE FROM – Shop around and try and find an account that works best for you.