At some point, you might want to open a UK bank account without causing yourself too much trouble. I came to the exact point myself when it appeared that my short 6 months stay in the UK, renting a flat on Airbnb(and thus not having the traditional “proof of address”) has built an unbreakable wall between me and any opening of current accounts in conventional banks of the United Kingdom. I will tell you how I found the solution.
I came across the idea of opening an account through one of the so called Digital banks. With a little googling you may find plenty: Revolut, Monese, Monzo, StarlingBank, Tide, Payoneer and others. Some of them are only currently starting up and you have to wait forever in a queue to subscribe, because they are not able to deal with a huge amount of newcomers. This huge market made me realize that I am not the only one having a problem with the banks of UK.
My goal was to open a proper current account, that would allow me to transfer and convert my EUR from another EU account to GBP with the best exchange rate and as little extra fees as possible.
I have explored and tested some of the Digital banks and given a short comparison bellow.
Revolut refused to confirm my identity because I currently have only a short term visa(you could still open it if you have a Student Type C visa). Besides, I have complained that it is not mentioned in the T&Cs on the website to the support and wanted to get a refund, however they kindly guided me to the part of the Terms&Conditions agreement, where it says that the bank may block your account “No questions asked”. Moreover, the fact that I transferred 50EUR to Revolut beforehand is my problem(which you are obliged to do btw. to order a card, only then they ask to confirm your ID). In general this subscription gave an extremely bad impression about the service – the identification is very strict, thus I imagine you are obliged to deal with the support team quite often, for which it usually takes about a day to answer(but, hey, what could you possible want from a business ruled by Russians?).
Monese and Monzo required only a photo of your identity card (passport, residence card, visa, driving license) and a short video selfie to send the card to you. No proof of address! Finaly! The process of subscription is really quick and the card is delivered to you in only a few days. Here you don’t have to wait in a queue either to get approved or contacting support.
Monese, despite the good first impression, provides you with a prepaid card, which by a BIN database is recognized as an “Unembossed prepaid student debit card” (even though it is embossed). It will allow you to do most of the stuff, you can even use the DirectDebit (e.g for paying rent), however the card appears to be a very limited version of MasterCard, however with superpowers provided by the Monese service.
Monzo, which recently changed its scheme to providing current accounts instead of simple prepaid debit cards, now provides you with practically the same service that any real world bank would. That involves issuing a standard debit card, which I appreciate most. Besides you don’t have to pay a fee for issuing the card. You can use it without any limitations compared to a standard bank. This bank is my personal favorite among all of the mentioned.
I will give a short comparison of the info which hard or impossible to extract without having subscribed to the service and receiving the card. Other information such as fees and benefits it is best to look up directly on the websites of the banks since it may be quite complex to describe. You will see which card you receive, what do you need to open the account and how this card appears to the banking systems according to the BIN of the issuing bank (you can check it yourself using the first 6 digits of your card on binlist.net). The last may be important for purposes such as subscribing to a car sharing service or renting something because it mostly depends on whether the card is prepaid, virtual or not.
After all, I would say I prefer Monese and Monzo or Payoneer over Revolut and the others as the process with them was much easier to complete in my conditions and the service in general seemed to be better. Nevertheless, Monzo provides you with a proper current account and a real Debit card, so I decided to choose it for my needs.
I hope this short article was helpful for you and that it may serve as a simple guide as for what you should have a deeper look at. Hopefully, you won’t have to surf through millions of websites to find what you need.