Opening your first bank account

Find out how to open your first bank accounts and what documents you’ll need to do it

Key points

  • You can open your first bank account from the age of 11
  • Consider the features each bank offers and whether you’re better off with a children’s or adult’s account
  • You’ll need to provide documents to prove your identity. Although banks are sometimes flexible with this for children’s accounts

You might've held a current account since you were a child. Although it was probably opened with the help of your parent or guardian.

You don’t have to have a bank account but you might find it difficult to pay bills, receive your salary and register for services without one.

Making your first bank account application should be a straightforward process, even if you’ve never done it before.

Whether you’re applying for your first account as a young person or you’re a new resident in the UK, think about what you need from your account and gather a few documents to make the process as simple as possible.

Choosing your first bank account

When you open a bank account for the first time, you’ll have a choice of ways to apply. You can go into a branch to apply and discuss what you need from your account, or you can compare current accounts online.

What to look for

If you’re opening an account for a child, accounts might not offer facilities like debit cards or cheque books so you can simply compare how much interest the current account pays.

But if you’re an older teen, student or adult, you should check that the account has the features you need, like a debit card to withdraw cash or an overdraft facility.

You might choose your account based on it having branches close to where you live, but you don’t need to. Most accounts will also offer online banking to make your account accessible wherever you are.

The application process

Whether you choose to apply in person or online, there’ll be an application form to fill in.

You’ll also have to provide some proof of identification before the account can be opened.

How old do you have to be to open a bank account?

You can open your first current account from the age of 11. Many children’s accounts have age ranges of 11-to-16 or 11-to-18-years-old.

You’ll be able to apply for an adult bank account if you’re 18 or over, although some are available from the age of 16.

What documents do you need to open your first account?

You’ll usually need two forms of identification documents to open your first current account - one to prove your identity and the other to prove your address.

The types of identification documents you’ll need to provide will depend on whether you’re applying for a children’s account or an adult’s account.

Documents to open an adult’s bank account

You’ll need to prove your identification with a form of photo ID such as a passport, driving licence or ID card. You’ll also need a separate proof of address, which might be a utility bill or benefits document.

If you’ve recently moved to the UK you might need to provide a reference from an employer or your university.

Documents to open a children’s bank account

Banks understand that children don’t often have photographic ID so they’re more flexible on proof of identification. A birth certificate or NHS medical card are the most commonly asked for.

As a separate proof of address, sometimes letters from schools or colleges are accepted instead.

Some banks accept documents that are in the name of a parent to open children’s accounts - particularly if the parent is already a customer.

Alternatives to a first bank account

If you’re having difficulty getting accepted for your first bank account for whatever reason, there are a couple of other options.

If you have issues with your credit history that mean you’re being turned down for mainstream bank accounts, basic bank accounts will be more likely to accept your application, as will credit unions.

Both will still ask you for identity documents, although they might be more flexible in what they can accept.

By Derri Dunn