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United Kingdom (UK) - Banking

There is a wide variety of banking firms in the UK, and each bank offers different things to their clients, but when it comes to best and biggest banks in the country, these five come out on the top of every list.

- HSBC Holdings
- Barclays PLC
- Royal Bank of Scotland Group
- Lloyds Banking Group
- Standard Chartered PLC

Expat Bank Accounts

All those moving to the UK from overseas must be aware that opening a UK bank account is necessary. Due to many banking issues for migrants, over recent years, many banks had to change their procedures to make the process easier. The most common difficulties when opening a bank account as an expat are mot having credit history in UK, or not having a valid proof of address, which is often an issue for those who have just landed.

However, many large banks designed some bank accounts to overcome these specific problems. Regarding these issues, the best UK banks accounts for expats are offered by Barclays, HSBC, Halifax, First Direct, Santander, Lloyds Bank and Nationwide.

Barclays "New to the UK" account

Barclays has an offer specifically designed for those who are new to the UK. It has a full range of banking services, including a contactless debit card, the ability to withdraw up to £300 a day, as well as online, telephone and mobile banking. Standing orders and direct debits can also be set up. The required documentation to open this account is: one form of ID, such as a passport, and proof of address, which can be a bank statement from the expat's country of origin. This kind of account can be opened in any country where Barclays has a branch, if people want to open it before they leave home and arrive in the UK.

HSBC Basic Account

HSBC, as a bank with a global presence, also allows their clients to open an account before they leave their home country. The HSBC Basic Account includes a Visa Debit card, from which up to £300 a day can be withdrawn from ATMs; internet banking; mobile banking; and telephone banking. Direct debits and standing orders for bill payments can be also set up. Required documentation includes proof of ID and address in the UK. Those who have no permanent residence yet can open this account in two ways. One is to use a contract of employment or a house rental agreement. The other is to open the account with an address in the home country and then later change it to a UK address.

Halifax Current Account

Halifax customers can open a bank account that provides everything for general banking needs. For those who pay in more than £750 per month, the bank will give them £5 a month too. This offer includes all day to day banking needs, such as debit card, online and telephone banking, direct debits and standing orders. The advantage of using this bank is that it has a presence on every high street in the country, so the branches can be easily visited.

First Direct 1st Account

First Direct has slightly different offers from all the banks mentioned above, because it doesn’t actually have any branches, but it offers is 24/7/365 internet and telephone banking. This means that costumers can make a call and discuss their banking even at 1am during the holidays. The 1st Account offers a £250 free overdraft, as well as all the usual products. Customers can also deposit money at any of the many HSBC banks in the country, because HSBC is the parent company of First Direct.

Santander Bank Account

The Spanish owned Santander bank offers the 1|2|3 Current Account that provides 3% interest on balance as well as paying cashback on household bills. This account has the usual range of products. There is a charge for this account of £2 per month. Customers need to pay a minimum of £500 per month into the account and have at least 2 active direct debits to get the monthly cashback. The other offer is the Everyday Current Account that charges no fee. This one is a simpler account, which doesn’t pay interest on the balance or give cashback on bills.

Lloyds Bank Account

Lloyds offers the Club Lloyds Account that pays a 4% interest on balances between £4,000 and £5,000, for those who can pay in at least £1,500 every month. There are lower balances that also attract interest, but at a lesser value, such as 2% for £2,000 to £3,999 and 1% for £1 to £1,999. For those who can’t pay in £1,500 per month, there's a Lloyds Classic Account that is free for all. It includes all the usual products and is available to anyone over the age of 18.

Nationwide Bank Account

One of the best Nationwide current accounts is the Flex Direct, which provides clients with 5% interest on credit balances up to £2,500. This offer also includes the usual products, such as debit card, internet banking, and the use of the many Nationwide branches that can be found all over the UK.

Account Choices For Expats

In general, expats have a choice of a current account or savings account. A current account is the equivalent of a checking account with overdraft, while the savings account is specific to expats, mainly with lower interest rates than the standard bank account. The typical expat current account comes with a debit card. Most shops around the country accept credit cards as well. Northern Ireland is the only country in the UK that still relies more on cash rather than cards, but cards are still accepted at larger shops and corporations.

Questions And Documentation

In order to open a bank account in the UK as an expat, all applicants need to supply their documentation including passport, visa or work permit, salary, and UK address confirmation. The banker usually asks why the person is in the country and why they are looking to open a bank account instead of using an international account. Expats must be aware that there's a difference between a residency permit held by an expat versus someone who holds a temporary visa or work permit. Non-residents usually find it more difficult to open a bank account. The other difficulties for expats are the rules of deposit before opening the UK bank account. Generally, the full process takes two to three weeks before the account is open and ready to use.

Banking Details

When it comes to working hours, most UK banks are open from 09:00 to 16:30 Monday-Friday. There are a few branches that are only open from 09:30 to 12:00 and some branches are now open even on Saturdays. Major UK banks are stronger than the smaller business societies available to UK citizens, in terms of stability. If clients want to apply for a loan or overdraft, additional information is usually required, such as the reason for the loan or overdraft and a credit check. Banks also take up to two weeks longer to set up the overdraft or loan for an expat than for a citizen of the UK.

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