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How to beat ID issues when opening a bank account

For many, a bank account is essential. Yet 4% of UK households - roughly 1.3 million adults – are what’s called “unbanked”, meaning they don’t have a bank account. And part of the problem for those without an account is being unable to open one.

Of course, not all of those people want an account, but the “Access to Financial Services in the UK” report by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) shows three-quarters of a million people do want one, but can’t get one. But why is this?

Identifying the problem

Anti-fraud and anti-money laundering procedures mean you need to prove your identity when you apply for a bank account – and since some just don’t have the right documents, it’s thought ID issues account for a large number of times people’s applications are rejected.

Most people will be able to apply using their passport, bills or credit checks acting as ID. But those who don’t have these can sometimes be put off from applying, or even turned away.

Benefits of having a bank account

You might need a bank account to:

  • receive your wages or Universal Credit
  • manage and save money on bills through Direct Debits
  • use it to rent a flat or get a mobile phone contract
  • get a debit card to withdraw cash or pay for items
  • have somewhere to securely put your cash

Evidence you need to open a bank account

For those without a passport or driving licence, there are other forms of identification that should be accepted.

The banks are allowed to interpret the rules for ID as they wish, which means each will have different criteria, so it’s best to check their websites for a full list. However, they should all accept the following, or a mix of the following:

Option 1 - Government issued photo ID with name and either address or date of birth (eg passport or driving licence)

A passport costs £75.50, while a provisional driving licence costs £34 online (£43 by post) – large amounts for anyone struggling financially. The PASS photo IDs cost around £15, but the FCA found not all banks accept them.

Option 2 - Government issued document with full name but no photo (eg old driving licence) AND an official document, statement or bill with name and either address or date of birth (eg Council Tax bill, credit card statement, utility bill)

The easiest option if you don’t have photo ID. But getting hold of these can be a problem for people who aren’t named on tenancy agreements or bills, or don’t have a permanent address.

Option 3 - Electronic checks via a credit reference agency

This kind of check is regularly used if the account has any kind of credit attached, such as an overdraft. If a credit score isn’t good enough, it can mean the application will be rejected – however, basic bank accounts don’t require these checks.

Option 4 – Alternatives depending on circumstances

If you don’t have any of the official documents, banks should accept alternatives such as a benefits letter; immigration status document; or a letter from a prison governor, care-home manager, homeless shelter or place of study.

Unfortunately, FCA evidence seems to suggest some bank staff and customers aren’t aware of these options. If you face problems, ask them to check their web pages which should detail what is and what isn’t accepted. 


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  • Zukiswa Ncamile / 28 June 2018

    Please help me I really need to open a bank account so that I can save money I don't have a I'd but I do have my I'd copies pls and for my salary to be paid in it

  • Zukiswa Ncamile / 28 June 2018

    Am desperately need for a bank account I do have a copies of my I'd and proof of address

  • Susie. / 19 June 2018

    I am typing this on behalf of my boyfriend Paul. Since his Mum died last year, losing his job and being in debt, he had to use his Mums inheritance money to pay off his debt and he has had problems trying to open another bank account ever since his debt was paid and his bank account he had in Santander was closed. He is unable to open another account in that bank He has tried to open a bank account with another bank with no success as they won't except his proof of address letters as he has no photo id yet. He doesn't know what to do? Susie.

  • Paul Whiteman / 4 June 2018

    Big brother or what ??
    We tried to open a joint account BUT as I have always paid the utilities and tax's my Wife doesn't have any bills in her name.. Lot's of old bank account statements BUT they are over 6 months out of date. I have three accounts with this bank and so do both our kids .. But passport ect is not enough ? Freedom !

  • Owusu Franklin / 19 April 2018

    Please can a person be able to register a bank account by changing the name on the ID card?

  • ann / 11 April 2018

    I dont have any id only picture bus pass and letters about pension credit

  • Gordon Macdonad / 1 April 2018

    I am struggling to identify myself to make a withdrawal from an online account with Sainsburys bank. I am epileptic so do not hold a valid driving licence, it is risk to travel out of the country when epileptic so do not hold a valid passport. I work full time so do not receive benefits. The only think they say they will accept in an introductory letter signed by a Doctor. They would not accept a copy of a national entitlement card issued by Edinburgh Council with my picture. How close is this to discrimination against epilepsy and how can i complain?

  • happiness / 18 March 2018

    I dnt have an ID but I have a utility bill and the two passport

  • Jake / 27 February 2018

    Elissa...that does surprise me! i had read they force you to open bank accounts in there....and i've been planning on GETTING INTO ONE just so i can get bank account :-(

  • Jake / 26 February 2018

    doesn't help censoring people either :-(

  • Alistair Cameron / 10 February 2018

    Frankly I think these identity checks are a waste of time and money. I have twice in the last month been asked for identity documents and struggled to provide them. Passports and driving licences cannot be sent by post safely and require certification, which in my case requires a 20 mile round trip every time. Utility bills, bank statements and government correspondence are all sent electronically in the 21st century and therefore are (paradoxically) unacceptable to the banks.
    Why is 100% of the population being put through this mill when the problem only occurs in 1%?

  • Elissa beynon / 8 February 2018

    I got out of prison after doing 21 years, to come out with only £47.00.I am a British citizen of the message United Kingdom and I cannot gain an I.D. Nor can I open a bank account. Further to this, I came out of a d-catagory prison which is there to help prisoners resettle back into the community, is it not surprising why so many prisoners Reiff end, as their better off in prison.

  • Mira / 26 January 2018

    An easy way to get id if you have nothing is to get your birth certificate and your national insurance card, use both of these to apply for a Provisional Driving Licence -even if you don't plan on driving). You can use this photo id to apply for anything.

  • Amanda Nye / 11 January 2018

    I have no passport not do I have a driving license the only i do have is from the council and the benefits letters and a old student card. Can I open a bank account with the id I do have

  • Ryan / 21 December 2017

    I have no ID/photo ID at all, I am joint tenancy with my father and could get verification via letter and I have my national insurance number, but that is all, I was getting my benefits through a simple payment card but I got a letter recently saying I need to make a bank because they aren't paying people through simple payment in future, and it is close to Christmas and I promised I would buy the food, but my money is due Friday the 22nd and I know it won't be in the simple payment card

    So could you please give me advise of the best thing to do so I can get my benefit money before Christmas day,

  • Sebastian Ayala / 26 October 2017

    i want to either open a bank account or cash a check but don't have a state ID. Can i use my job corp government ID if i bring my social security card and my birth certificate to do either of those actions?

  • Gaynor Cooke / 23 October 2017

    I am having trouble with getting my money because nationwide keep telling me i need ID because i was frauded by someone because of this i have not got enough money to live on and they refused me to my own money.

  • Gemma Louise Palmer / 24 September 2017

    My step father is now deceased, but he have left my brother (his birth son) money. But the problem is he cant go into a bank to open up account due 2 health issues (adhd, autisim, learning difficulties, doesnt understand things plus he dont like going out in public) so how do i go about opening him up a bank account without him being there? I have got identification for him. But he honestly cant go into a bank so how can he open up a bank account? As hes given me his identification and permission can i do it for him without him being there in person.

  • Juliet Davies / 22 September 2017

    My brother has been in a Care Home for many years & he has no photo ID. I tried to open a Halifax Savings Account for him, provided DLA letter which had both our names as I am his appointee - his benefit goes into a separate a/c in my name. They refused an account even with just a savings book and told me to get him a passport. Why should I spend £92 for a document he will never use as he is too mentally unwell to travel?

  • Calvin J Rodgers Jr / 12 September 2017

    Can I open a bank account with a state prison id ?

  • john preston. / 18 August 2017

    This is one good reason for having i.d. cards,shame the government scrapped them,people all over Europe have them with no problems why not here.?

  • sajjad / 31 July 2017

    am really confused and cant open my bank account infact am living in uk at asylum seekers status so my passport in the ukborder agency but thy gave me one photo id which called arc card can you pls repy me and guide me how I open my bank acc thx

  • Stella / 14 July 2017

    hi is it possible to open a bank account with an endorsed birth certificate and certificate of live birth accompanied by a witnessed solemn declaration and biological markers like hand prints footprints etc also witnessed and which are owned by someone whop is the only living agent for its security interest by claim and reservation, with no contractual obligations, and who does not wish to use state issued ID. What would be the best path to follow in such case, thank you kindly, Sirely yours truly, Stella

  • james jones / 14 July 2017

    im 29 all i have is a birth cert and soon to be claiminin jsa how do i go about settinf up a bank account

  • Jade warrior / 8 July 2017

    Hello the only proof i have of me is my birth certificut and a contract letter sent to my adress but i still cant open a bank account can anyone help me as im in need of a bank account asap.

  • Darryll / 28 June 2017

    Tryed every bank possible no I'd need help someppl arnt helpful and I'm starting to get really depressing over this matter

  • michael / 24 June 2017

    need to make a banks account but anit got no id with pic need help with it

  • Sarah Sibley / 25 May 2017

    Hi I am trying to request a pension company that pay me once a month now pay me at a different bank in the same name been opened years, They are demanding I provide 6 month statements or ask the bank to certify a statement for me why? All I am doing is changing banks.

  • Jake Maverick / 14 May 2017

    paypal and ebay to now? f*** that is beyond disgusting....I'm only surviving on others' charity now but when that happens to me I won't be able to do a single thing....:-(

  • P.Jenkins / 10 May 2017

    Beware Paypal!!! They have started to ask for photo ID in addition to address ID, When they ask you to renew your details,(as happens at least every year or so). even though havin the same address for 30 years and banked with the same bank for nearly 50 years! even the same account number!, and also being using ebay since it started in the U.K.! NEVER HAD ANY PROBLEMS, BUT SUDDENLY FOUND I COULD NOT PAY FOR ANYTHING! OR GET MY!! MONEY OUT OF MY PAYPAL ACCOUNT!!! been 2 days so far and i still cant get at MY money!!

  • Darren couzens / 28 April 2017

    I wanted to open a Santander savings account and had all the documents and they wouldn't let me and the same with Lloyd's and I have never had debt problems ever I have carers allowance and am being treated arfull because I am on benifits all I wanted was to save some money for a emergency even Halifax a couple of years ago would not do it either and I had all the documents there as well all I keep getting from the staff in the banks or phone is a list of excuses every time and I have never had a bad credit ratings it's ridiculous this country has gone terrible since the conservatives have got and this prime minister is worse than Cameron.

  • Darren couzens / 28 April 2017

    I wanted to open a Santander savings account and I had all the documents and they would not let me and the same with Lloyd's I have never had any debt problems ever I have carers allowance and am being treated arfull because I am
    on benifits that's what it is.

  • Maureen Burton / 28 April 2017

    I work on a government training scheme. the majority of clients being 16 -19. To receive their bursary payments they must have a bank account in their own name.
    Some of them do not have required ID to open an account. This means these clients often leave us as they cannot get paid
    I see this is as a gap in the banking market where these potential customers could be with a a bank for life
    Help and advice would be appreciated

  • Jake Maverick / 18 March 2017

    coming up 12 years for me now.....can anybody help? happy to publish this email address....

  • Jake Maverick / 26 February 2017

    thank you for your article here

    but you're having a laugh aren't you? i know you probably trying to be helpful, but it's totally useless...I've been homeless since 6th January 2006 after very nearly getting murdered...lot worse since then, pigyobs won't help and they're the worst perps....but regardless, you can't find employment, get a home, bank account, employ a solicitor without multiple forms of state sanctioned photo ID and utility bills....just not possible, you can't get any of them without the other...and i have been in this situation for over a decade now! if state knows where u live not safe to live there anymore....and trying to trade in cash just leads to further violence and end up working for less than 50p an hour and then it gets stolen anyway.....and they claim it's all a you know any proper journalists? really am beyond desperate here...

    bank staff refuse to confirm or even deny if they know who they are and they dnt have a 'choice' as far as the law is's a criminal offence supposedly for me to instigate them into committing a criminal offence!
    they won't give me benefits for over a decade now...reason to believe they're being fraudulently claimed in my name....tied taking the to court and got fined 2K for the privelege! although it has been more than six years now....dunno if still enforceable or not!

  • asiya / 25 February 2017

    I just move from Ireland to UK.i have my Ireland GniB card but they are not accepted what should I do.

  • Diane Wallace / 2 January 2017

    i want to add my son on to my bank account he has a paper driving licence not a photo one and his passport has run out,he is not working and is on job seekers my bank Barclays say he has to have photo ID even though he lives with me and has a birth certificate and a letter from the council offices saying he lives at the same address please help getting desperate. thankyou.

  • Kevin Harrison / 2 December 2016

    My wife and I do not have photo ID and have just moved to a new address Nationwide have refused point blank to accept anything else even though we have banked with Santander for years

  • rita pocock / 14 November 2016

    With the exception of my Council Tax bill, all others are on line, e.g. I do have a bank account, and Statements are online as are Water, Electricity, Gas, Credit Cards, Monthly dental up-front payments, etc.... I am trying to invest some money in another Bank and my problem is finding someone: Councillor, GP, etc to sign the forms as I live in a village. Considering that the cheque I hope to send to the bank I'm trying to invest in will be a Nationwide cheque made payable to me, I don't think they (the new bank solely for investment) know what they are doing.

  • wayne / 5 August 2016

    my brother has been trying to reactivate his old Lloyds bank account, they told him what paperwork was needed to open a new one. But when he got it together, they told him to get something else. He then lost interest.

    he has no passport or drivers license and still living at home, he doesn't pay any bills, but he still gets letters from his bank, he get letters from the Job Centre and DWP and the post office, where he has an account.

    any advice would be good.


    admin: I am afraid we cannot give out advice here. However, if you call our helpline on 0800 138 7777 we will be able to give you the advice you need. Thanks

  • Adriana Iovita / 10 June 2016

    I have bank acont in uk