New to the UK? Top tips for navigating the UK financial system

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Welcome to the UK! Starting a new life in a different country can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to managing your money. Don’t worry—this guide will help you understand the basics of the UK financial system and give you some handy tips to get started.

Three top tips

Opening a bank account

Opening a bank account in the UK will help you pay your rent, start a mobile phone contract or get a job. To open one, it’s simply a matter of filling in a form and providing proof of your ID and your address.

Typically, a bank will accept the following proofs of ID: 

  • Current Passport 
  • Current UK driving license or provisional license 
  • Biometric Residency Permit (BRP) 
  • Department for Work and Pensions letter confirming right/entitlement to benefits 
  • UK Home Office travel document 
  • UK Home Office application registration card 
  • UK Home Office immigration status with right to reside 
  • Notification of other government/local authority grant 

And the following proofs of address: 

  • Council tax bill 
  • Tenancy Agreement (including from the Council) 
  • Electricity, Gas or Water bill from the last 3-4 months 
  • Current EU/EEA driver’s license or provisional license
  • HMRC Tax Notification
  • Department for Work and Pensions letter confirming right to benefits 

Each bank will have slightly different rules, so if one bank doesn’t accept your proof of ID or address, don’t worry, just try a different bank. They should list the forms of ID and address that they accept on their websites.

Once your account is open, you can set up online banking to make it easy to check your balance, pay bills and generally manage your money.

If you’d like to change your bank in the future, it should be easy to do by using the UK’s Current Account Switch Service

Using cash in the UK

After you have opened a bank account, you’ll usually get a debit card that will let you spend the money in your account directly, so you might not need to use cash that often.

But when you do, you can take out cash from your bank account at any ATM/cash machine.

You can take out cash from any ATM cash machine, not just your own bank’s machines. Some will charge a fee, but they will warn you clearly on the screen beforehand.

If you are waiting for someone to finish using an ATM, in the UK it is polite to queue at least a metre behind the person to give them privacy.

Most supermarket checkouts will also act like an ATM and allow you to take out cash, if you ask for “cash back” when you pay by debit card.

For safety, it might not be a good idea to carry lots of cash on you. You can take out cash as and when you need it and otherwise consider keeping most of your money in your bank account.

To put cash into your bank account, visit your bank in person and a staff member will help you.

Finding help and advice

If you’re unsure about any money-related decisions, don’t hesitate to seek advice. Many organisations offer free money advice to help you understand your rights and options, such as Money Saving Expert or MoneyHelper.org.uk or Citizens Advice.

If you’d like to speak to someone in person, Citizens Advice might be a good place to start. You can visit their website or search ‘Citizens Advice locations’ to find your local hub.

They can help you with all sorts of challenges for living in the UK that aren’t money-related too.

Summary

Adjusting to a new financial system takes time, but with these basics and tips, you’ll be well on your way to managing your money confidently in the UK.

Remember, there are plenty of resources and people ready to help you along the way. Stay positive, be patient, and you’ll soon feel at home in the UK financial system.

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