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Where can you open a bank account the quickest?

Find out the banks that let you apply online and those that require a branch visit

TSB has become the latest of several banks to allow customers to open bank accounts by sending selfies. But does this actually make the process any quicker?

Opening a current account used to involve a trip down to your local branch, where you’d chat to a member of staff and prove your identity and address with a sheaf of paper documents.

But as the banking landscape is changing, so too is the application process. You can now open accounts with most banks entirely online, and increasing numbers of providers are incorporating a selfie upload into the process.

Here, Which? explores what you have to do to apply for an account with each of the major banks to reveal which provider offers the quickest and easiest route.


Opening a current account: which bank is quickest?

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) requires all banks to publish data on how long it takes customers to open current accounts with them.

Banks can prove this in a number of different ways, so we’ve picked out a few of these metrics to paint an overall picture of which bank is quickest:

  • Percentage of same-day openings – this is how many customers have an account number and the ability to pay into the account on the day they apply for it
  • Number of days it takes 99% of customers to open accounts – this will likely be the longest you’ll wait to be given an account number
  • Average number of days it takes to receive a debit card 
  • Average number of days it takes to gain access to internet banking

You can check out how nearly every UK bank performed on these metrics in our searchable table:

While Metro Bank customers usually receive their debit cards the next day, customers at most banks have to wait between three and seven days for theirs to arrive.

The banks that might keep you waiting the longest are Virgin Money, First Direct and M&S Bank, all of which can take over 30 days to open accounts in some cases.

Best banks for same-day account opening

The graphic below shows the best and worst banks for same-day openings.

However, our graph only includes providers who offer same-day account opening at all. Co-operative Bank, First Direct, Natwest, RBS, Smile, Ulster Bank, Virgin Money and Tesco Bank have all said that no one can currently open a current account on the same day.

Which? Recommended Provider Nationwide leads in the same-day stakes, with an impressive 100% record for opening customers’ accounts on the day they apply. Monzo and Lloyds follow closely.

Which current account is easiest to open?

To find out how straightforward the actual process of applying for an account is, we spoke to six of the UK’s biggest high-street banks about what’s required of customers looking to bank with them.

Barclays

To open a Barclays account in-branch you can book an appointment and bring your passport, driving licence, identity card or residence permit. Appointments can take up to an hour.

You can start the application process online, but you will need to bring one of these documents into a branch in order to finish the process.

Barclays was the only bank we spoke to that didn’t have an online-only application option, making it much less convenient for those who can’t make it to a branch, or who prefer to bank entirely online.

HSBC

HSBC advises people to book an appointment when opening an account, though this isn’t essential. An in-branch opening usually takes around 40 minutes.

Applying online takes 10 minutes. You’ll have to supply your employment and income details along with three years of addresses.

Once you’ve done that an electronic check will be carried out. If you don’t pass that check you’ll have to go into a branch with a passport, identity card or driving licence and proof of address.

Because online applications with HSBC don’t involve uploading photo ID, there’s no need to send in a selfie to verify it.

This could be slightly easier than the process for other banks – although if you’ve moved around a lot, filling out three years of address history could be more difficult than finding your passport.

The pre-selfie application screen for Bank of Scotland, part of the Lloyds Banking Group.

Lloyds

Opening an account online with Lloyds can take less than 10 minutes if all goes smoothly.

Much like HSBC, Lloyds doesn’t require photo ID from every new customer. Instead, it verifies your identity through the credit check process.

If you don’t pass this, you will need to upload photo ID and selfies. Alternatively, you can visit a branch with your ID, though this will slow things down.

Natwest

Natwest’s online application process can take as little as eight minutes. It involves uploading an image of your photo ID and a selfie. An AI will then check they match.

Applying in branch takes roughly 30 to 40 minutes, and you’ll need the same ID as you would for applying online. Since you’ll be there in person, selfies are not required.

You can also apply over the phone, which takes a similar amount of time, but you will have to use email to submit your ID.

Unlike Lloyds and HSBC, Natwest requires photo ID from every customer, not just those who fail the address/employment check.

Santander

Opening a Santander current account in-branch usually takes up to 45 minutes. You’ll need to bring ID with you.

The online application process takes approximately 10 minutes. Like HSBC and Lloyds, photo ID is not necessarily required. The bank will try to verify you with its credit check first.

If this doesn’t work, you can upload your photo ID. No selfie is needed for verification.

TSB

TSB recently announced its new selfie-based ID verification process, but not everyone will need to use it.

As with Lloyds, only some applicants will need to upload ID and selfies. This could cause a short delay, and you’ll need to download the mobile app to do this.

You can also apply in-branch if you bring your ID with you.

  • Find out more: our bank account advice guides reveal the best providers for different needs, from packaged accounts to children’s providers.
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