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Opening a bank account

Choosing and applying for a bank account

Once you’ve decided on the account you want to open, the bank or building society will ask you to fill in a simple application form. Someone at the bank should be able to help you with this if you need them to.

Credit and identity checks

The bank will tell you first if it’s going to run a credit check to discover your credit history. This will tell them, for example, whether you’ve had problems keeping to loan or other credit repayments in the past.

By law, all banks must ask you to provide proof of your identity and address, which could mean showing a passport, driving licence or letter from a government department together with a recent utility bill. Most banks will give you a list of the documents they will accept.

If you don’t have the exact documents the bank asks for, don’t worry – talk to someone at the bank and they will tell you what alternative letters or documents you can provide.

Switching bank accounts

Banks and building societies all now offer a free seven-day Current Account Switch Service. It’s backed by a guarantee that means you’ll be refunded any interest and charges on your old and new accounts if anything goes wrong.

Here’s how the switching service works:

  • Once you’ve chosen a new account, the new bank or building society will ask you to fill in two forms: a current account switch agreement and an instruction to close your old account
  • You pick a date when you want the switch to happen. This has to be at least seven working days after your new account is opened
  • Your new bank will arrange for all your incoming and outgoing payments to be moved to your new account
  • You can carry on using your old account up until the day of the switch. Your old account will then be closed
  • Any payments accidentally made to your old account will be redirected to your new account for 36 months, so there’s no need to worry about missing payments

Closing your bank account

You can close most bank accounts whenever you like without being charged or paying a penalty – although, if you’re overdrawn you’ll have to pay off what you owe.

If your bank imposes a penalty for closing an account – such as a savings account before a specific date – it must have made this clear to you before you opened the account.

If you close your account, make sure Direct Debits or other payments are transferred properly to your new account. If you’re switching your current account to another provider, your new bank or building society will arrange for your payments to be transferred and the process will take seven working days.

If your bank decides to close your account

If your bank decides to close your current or instant access savings account, you will generally be given two months’ notice.

For other accounts, it must give you ‘reasonable notice’, so that you can make alternative arrangements. The bank can delay the closure if you have made payments that have not yet been taken from your account, for example a cheque or card payment.

Your bank or building society should not close your account just because you make a complaint or a claim for compensation against it.

If things go wrong

If you are unhappy about something your bank has done, the first thing to do is to talk to someone at the bank about it.