Opening an account - Financial Conduct Authority

Opening an account

Published: 03/07/2015     Last Modified: 31/12/2015
Find out what you have to do and what your rights are when opening a bank account.

Opening an account with a bank or building society should be a simple and efficient process. Banks and building societies have even agreed to make it as straightforward as possible.

But it pays to know what you have to do and what your options are, if there is a problem.

Proving your identity

When you apply to open an account you have to prove your identity so the bank can be sure you are who you say you are. You will usually also have to prove your address.

The bank should tell you what ID you need to provide, such as a passport, driving licence, statement or bill from a utility company, or document confirming rental or ownership of a property.

If you cannot provide the documents the bank requires you can ask if it will consider other documents in certain situations, such as:

  • if you are claiming benefit, an entitlement letter or Identity Confirmation issued by the government or a local authority
  • a letter from a care home manager or warden of sheltered accommodation or refuge
  • a letter from the warden of a homeless shelter
  • a letter from a probation officer or a hostel manager
  • a letter from the prison governor
  • if you are a traveller, a letter from the local authority that verifies your address
  • if you are an international student, a passport or European Economic Area National Identity Card and letter of acceptance or of introduction from a body on the Department for Education and Standards list, or
  • if you are an asylum seeker, an Application Registration Card

A bank does not have to accept these alternative forms of ID, but if it will not accept one you should ask it to explain why. You can complain to the bank if you are not happy with the way it deals with this. Find out more about how to complain.

A bank or building society will also check that you have not been refused permission to remain in the UK. If you do not have this permission you will not be able to open a new current account or add your name to an existing account.

If you think you have been wrongly refused a current account on these grounds you can check the Home Office website which has more information.  

If you are concerned that a bank or building society  is not making the checks it needs to under this Immigration legislation, you can contact us.

Checking your financial history

A bank may want to look at what other accounts you have and your record of borrowing and repaying money. This check will be done on what is known as a ‘credit report’.

While this helps a bank understand your financial history, if there are too many checks on your credit report it may affect your future applications. So ask the bank whether and how it will be checking your credit report as part of the application process.

Know your rights!

If your bank wants to make a material change to the terms and conditions on your account which would be to your disadvantage, such as a change in the interest rate, it must tell you before the change takes effect. Find out more about changes to your account.

If you are not happy with these new terms, you can move to another bank or building society. Find out more about switching your account

Bank account checklist

When you open an account the bank must give you the main details of how it will work, usually in the terms and conditions.

If you are unsure about any of these details you should ask your bank for further information.

Interest rate

A bank must tell you the rate of interest on your account, and how and when it will be calculated.

Charges and fees

All charges and fees for the normal running of the account must be clearly set out – it is not enough for your bank to refer you to a website or posters in the branch.

Details of transactions

Your bank has to give you details of each transaction to and from your account. Depending on the type of account you have, you should be able to keep an eye on it with a passbook, monthly statement, online banking, telephone banking or mobile banking.

Making and receiving payments

You may be able to make payments through a card, online banking, telephone banking and/or mobile banking. Your bank must explain how to use each of the available payment options and keep them secure. A bank must also be clear about what you have to do to authorise a payment. This might be a signature, online authorisation or PIN (personal identification number).

Making a complaint

A bank must tell you how you can complain if you have a problem and its process for dealing with complaints. But there are four simple steps you can usually follow, find out more about how to complain.

Claiming compensation

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) can pay compensation if a bank, building society or credit union is unable to pay claims against it. From 1 January 2016 the deposit protection limit is £75,000 for eligible depositors.

Depositors with some types of temporary high balances have FSCS protection up to £1m for up to six months from the date the account is first credited with the money.

You can check our tables of the main deposit-taking banking and savings brands and building society brands to see whether your money is held with a brand that shares its authorisation.

If you are not sure how your money is protected you should ask your bank for further information.

Consumer Helpline

t: 0800 111 6768

See more ways to contact us

External links

Payments Council

Further information on the current account switch guarantee

Money Advice Service

Provides information and tools to help you manage your money

Financial Ombudsman Service

Helps settle consumer complaints with financial services firms

Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)

Protects customers of authorised financial firms that go bust

Claim mis-sold PPI

See how to reclaim payment protection insurance

Read More

UK banking brands

Check whether all of your savings are protected

Read More

How to complain

Follow four simple steps to making a complaint

Read More