Choosing the Right Bank in the UK in 2023

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A Comprehensive Guide About Choosing the Right Bank Mobile and Physical for International Students or IT professional in the UK

I will explain the various banks available in the UK, helping you make an informed decision on which bank suits your needs best. Drawing from my personal experience, I will provide insights into the account-opening process, the types of accounts you can open, and the advantages of both physical and mobile banks. So, let’s dive into the world of UK banking.

Choosing the Right Mobile and Physical Bank in UK

Note: This article is based on my personal experience.

The Banking Landscape in the UK

In the United Kingdom, you can choose between traditional physical banks and modern mobile banking apps. Physical banks have physical branches where you can visit for assistance, while mobile banks operate exclusively through apps. Mobile banks have been gaining popularity for their convenience and flexibility.

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Opening an Account at a Physical Bank

If you’re an international student or IT professional, opening an account at a physical bank in the UK typically requires three essential documents:

  • Passport
  • Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card
  • A letter from your university or company confirming your status

For families, the requirements may include additional documents, such as utility bills or accommodation contracts. Let’s take a look at some prominent physical banks and their offerings:

Top 15 Physical Banks in the UK

  • NatWest: “At NatWest, you have the option to select between complimentary current accounts and premium rewards accounts for a fee. NatWest’s customers have commended its reliable service and the user-friendly nature of its mobile banking application.” Offers an everyday current account with no monthly charges. You may be eligible for up to £500 in overdraft, subject to eligibility. Charges apply for international payments.
  • Royal Bank of Scotland: “The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a sister bank to NatWest, similarly provides an array of current account options that feature cashback benefits at specific retailers, mirroring the offerings of its counterpart.” It offers an everyday current account with no monthly fees. Overdraft limits are also up to £500, subject to eligibility. Charges apply for international payments.
  • Barclays: Barclays’ current accounts received a favorable recommendation from 81% of surveyed customers. Respondents specifically appreciated the bank’s excellent customer service and its user-friendly banking app. Provides both sole and joint account options. There are no monthly fees, and you may be eligible for up to £1,000 in overdraft. Charges apply for international payments.
  • HSBC: HSBC offers a selection of three standard current accounts, tailored to individual circumstances and income levels. A significant portion of HSBC’s customers are long-term account holders who expressed satisfaction with the quality of customer service. Offers a student account and a standard current account. There are no overdrafts for the student account. Charges apply for both receiving and sending money internationally.
  • Santander: Santander, a prominent high-street bank, combines the benefits associated with large financial institutions and provides a diverse array of current account options. One of its standout features is the opportunity to earn cashback on your expenditures. Offers a basic current account with no monthly fees. Receiving money from abroad is free, but sending money internationally incurs a fee.
  • Nationwide: As the last remaining building society conducting banking operations nationwide, Nationwide provides a diverse selection of current accounts, with several offering appealing incentives and advantages. These incentives can include interest earnings on your account balance and various insurance choices. They Provide the Flex account with no monthly fees. Charges apply for sending money abroad.
  • Lloyds: “Another prominent banking institution that received a five-star rating. Lloyds offers a variety of current accounts tailored to diverse needs, maintains an extensive branch network, and has made significant investments in enhancing its digital banking offerings.”Offers the Classic Current Account with no monthly fees. Charges apply for sending money abroad.
  • Halifax: Halifax, the previous year’s champion, offers a variety of current account choices, spanning from essential accounts to premium reward accounts. The Bank’s dependability and the extensive range of services it provides is very good. Has a basic current account with no monthly fees. Charges apply for both receiving and sending money internationally.
  • TSB Bank: The TSB banking brand made its comeback to the UK high street in 2013. About this bank, some customers say the bank has strong customer service, while others pointed out concerns regarding recent branch closures.” Offers the Spend and Save Current Account, which is free to use. Charges apply for both receiving and sending money internationally.
  • Revolut: Revolut’s versatile multi-currency digital account is a valuable option for travelers and international money transfers. It offers the capability to exchange and hold 29 diverse currencies without fees and can also function as a standard UK current account, with the exception that cash or cheques cannot be deposited.
  • Bank of Scotland: Operating as a subsidiary of the Lloyds banking group, primarily maintains its bank branches in Scotland. Nevertheless, individuals residing elsewhere in the UK can open accounts with them. In our survey, the majority of its customers expressed satisfaction with the amiable and supportive customer service they received.
  • Virgin Money: Virgin Money has progressively expanded its current account offerings since its introduction in 2019. Presently, it provides a free and paid-for current account option, and customers generally expressed satisfaction with the quality of customer service and the functionality of the banking app.
  • Co-operative Bank: The Co-operative Bank places a strong emphasis on its Ethical Policy, which is centered around customer values and ethics. This policy resonated with many customers in our survey, making it a key attraction. The bank offers a standard current account along with a packaged current account.
  • First Direct: First Direct, the UK’s pioneer in telephone banking and a sibling of HSBC, is renowned for its excellent 24/7 phone-based customer service. While it offers only one current account option, it proves to be a reliable banking choice, receiving recommendations from customers.
  • Metro Bank: Among the select group of challenger banks with a branch network, Metro Bank offers a single current account option. Its standout feature is the absence of charges when using the card for purchases or cash withdrawals in Europe.

Best Mobile Banks in the UK:

Mobile banks are app-based and have become increasingly popular due to their ease of use and flexibility. Here are two major mobile banks in the UK:

  1. Monzo: “Monzo, a well-known digital challenger bank, provides app-based current accounts replete with a plethora of features. Customers particularly emphasized the utility of the money management and savings tools offered by the bank.”Offers a free current account. Depositing cash may incur a small fee. International payments are available but may not be as reliable as in traditional banks.
  2. Starling Bank: Starling is known for its reliability and user-friendly app. Starling Bank’s exclusively digital current account can be swiftly opened and effectively administered, boasting a feature-rich mobile application. Customers are always happy with user-friendliness and the bank’s outstanding customer support.” It provides a free current account, and international payments are free.
  3. Monese: Monese, a digital-only banking platform, is particularly advantageous for individuals who frequently travel or work across multiple countries. Depending on the selected plan, it offers the potential for cost-free overseas purchases and ATM withdrawals, along with the option to establish a euro account without charges.”
Advantages of Mobile Banks:
  • No transaction fees for spending abroad, making them ideal for travelers.
  • Easy-to-use mobile apps for managing finances and savings.
  • High-interest rates on savings accounts (Starling Bank).
  • Reliable customer support via in-app chat.

Choosing the Right Bank:

The “best” and right bank in the UK can vary depending on your specific needs and preferences. The choice between physical and mobile banks depends on your convenience and the nature of your banking transactions. Having both types of accounts can offer flexibility.

Research and Consideration:
  • Compare rewards and benefits offered by different banks.
  • Consider your monthly income and whether you qualify for special accounts.
  • Evaluate the quality of online and mobile banking services, as well as customer support.

Choosing the right bank in the UK is a crucial decision, especially for international students or Professionals in the initial stage. It’s essential to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of physical and mobile banks and consider your individual banking requirements. Research thoroughly, seek advice from peers, and make an informed choice to ensure a smooth and hassle-free banking experience during your stay in the UK.

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