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8 Best Banks in the UK: A Guide to Top Financial Institutions

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Choosing the best bank in the UK can indeed be an overwhelming task. With various institutions offering various banking services, identifying the perfect fit for your financial needs is crucial but can become a labyrinth of choices.

A list of the best banks in the UK

Quick look

  • Lloyds Bank
  • Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)
  • HSBC Holdings
  • Barclays Bank
  • Santander UK
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • NatWest Group
  • Metro Bank

Opening a new bank account is not only about choosing a financial institution but also about partnering with an organisation that understands your financial goals and can provide reliable support on your financial journey.

This comprehensive guide has curated a list of the best banks in the UK, analysing their unique features, advantages and disadvantages, customer service, and more.

Whether you are an individual seeking personal banking solutions or a business seeking commercial banking partnerships, this guide will provide insights into the top UK banks that have continued to shape the sector with their remarkable services.

A city street.

An overview of banking in the UK

The banking sector in the UK is steeped in rich history and traditions, tracing its origins back to the 17th century when goldsmith-bankers first began to issue receipts for deposits and loans.

Modern banking

The banking landscape has significantly evolved since then, transforming from a system primarily based on credit and loans into a more complex, multifaceted industry with various services.

The sector combines established multinational banking conglomerates, traditional high-street banks, and innovative app-based financial institutions, each offering unique customer advantages.

A wider range of services

UK banks provide many services, catering to a broad demographic and satisfying various financial needs. To name a few:

  • Retail banking,
  • Business banking
  • Commercial banking
  • Private banking

Moreover, in line with global banking trends, UK banks have expanded their services to encompass investment banking services. 

These services range from assisting individuals and corporations with raising financial capital to acting as clients’ agents in issuing securities.

UK banking system today

Over the years, UK banks have built an international reputation for being resilient, reliable, and responsive to market changes. 

The robust regulatory environment provided by the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority has also contributed to their strength and stability.

Today, with the rise of digital banking, UK banks are seeking banking innovation, bridging the gap between traditional banking and technology.

As they adapt to the shifting financial landscape, the future of UK banking seems poised for continued growth and transformation.

What are the requirements to open an account with the best banks in the UK?

To open an account with top UK banks, you usually need to provide proof of identity and address.

Proof of identity

Proof of identity includes documents that validate an individual’s identification. They include:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid UK driving license (or paper driving license with current address, possibly needing additional proof like a council tax bill or utility statement)
  • Provisional driving license
  • UK biometric residence permit

These are the main forms of identification usually accepted by banks for opening new accounts. However, some banks may also accept other documents as proof of identity, like:

  • Benefit entitlement letter issued within the last 12 months
  • UK Armed Forces ID card
  • HMRC tax notification from the previous 12 months
  • Home Office immigration status document or registration card
  • Birth certificate

Proof of address

Proof of address is a document verifying an individual’s current residence, commonly needed by banks for security. It confirms address accuracy, prevents fraud, and complies with anti-money laundering laws.

Here are the documents typically accepted as proof of address by most banks:

  • Tenancy agreement or mortgage statement
  • Recent electricity or gas bill (less than 3 months old)
  • Recent bank or credit card statement (less than 3 months old)
  • Council tax bills or statements
  • Official government letters

Sometimes, you may need to show your income and discuss expenses. Banks check your credit history before offering you an account. If you’re under 18, you could qualify for a children’s account.

💡Note: Specific requirements may differ among banks.

Looking for an alternative? Discover swissmoney

As traditional banking grows increasingly stringent and limited in scope, you may seek an alternative that provides similar services but with greater flexibility. 

This is where swissmoney steps in.

swissmoney crypto wallet

Developed by Swiss experts in blockchain and cybersecurity, the platform seamlessly integrates traditional financial services with the crypto realm to meet the needs of modern individuals and businesses.

With swissmoney, you get:

  • Fast and uncomplicated onboarding only requires complete KYC.
  • Dedicated IBAN accounts
  • Multiple cards with no hard spending limits
  • Ability to buy, sell, and spend crypto, even using a card
  • Multiple wallets for BTC, ETH, USDC, USDT, and TRX
  • User-friendly app for your daily financial needs.
  • Swiss-level security and user privacy.

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8 best banks in the UK

This section presents our selection of the 8 best banks in the UK. These banks have been chosen based on various factors, including customer satisfaction ratings, range of services, adaptability to digital trends, and overall reputation in the sector.

Lloyds Bank

Lloyds Bank logo

Lloyds Bank, a component of the Lloyds Banking Group, is one of the UK’s most longstanding and extensive banks. Specialising in retail and personal banking services, Lloyds Bank excels in providing a broad range of savings and current accounts to meet diverse customer needs.

In keeping with the digital age, Lloyds Bank offers an online banking feature, adding to the convenience of its customers. Further enhancing the banking experience, Lloyds Bank’s mobile banking app is secured, highly user-friendly, and ensures smooth and effortless transactions.

Key features:

📌Various types of bank accounts

📌Efficient online and mobile banking

📌An extensive network of physical branches and ATMs

Pros:

✅A mobile app with great reviews

✅Wide range of financial services

Cons:

❎Some services have higher fees

❎Customer satisfaction varies

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)

Royal Bank of Scotland

A subsidiary of the NatWest Group, the Royal Bank of Scotland offers extensive retail and commercial banking services. Royal Bank has a strong presence in Scotland and is one of the top banks in the UK banking system.

It provides technologically advanced banking infrastructure, including app-based current accounts and a convenient mobile banking app. 

However, the bank has a relatively low customer satisfaction rating, which is something to consider.

Key features:

📌Current and savings accounts for personal customers

📌Technologically advanced banking infrastructure

📌Contactless Mastercard debit card

📌Many services like insurance, mortgages, loans, credit cards, etc.

📌Coprehensive mobile app

Pros:

✅Comprehensive financial services

✅A wide choice of account types

✅Technologically advanced banking options

Cons:

❎Lower customer satisfaction rating

❎Monthly fees can be high for some services

HSBC Holdings

HSBC Holdings logo

HSBC Holdings is one of the largest banks in the UK and offers a wide array of services, including retail, commercial, and global banking.

Its extensive private banking services and investment banking operations make it a top choice for those seeking comprehensive financial services.

Key features:

📌Personal, business, corporate and institutional, and private banking

📌Global banking and investment banking services

📌Online and mobile banking platforms

Pros:

✅Wide variety of services

✅Strong international presence

Cons:

❎Some complaints about customer service

❎Higher fees for certain services

❎A lower customer satisfaction rating

Barclays Bank

Barclays

Barclays, a pillar in the UK banking industry since 1690, provides various bank accounts, including current, savings, and specialised accounts. Besides offering retail and commercial banking services, it extends its wealth management and investment expertise.

Notable for its robust online and mobile banking platforms, Barclays has also earned a reputation for its customer-centric approach, holding high ratings in customer satisfaction.

Key features:

📌Personal, business, and corporate banking services

📌Wealth management services

📌Mobile and online banking

📌Various financial services, including credit cards, loans, insurance

Pros:

✅Excellent customer service

✅Comprehensive banking service collection

Cons:

❎Occasional complaints about the mobile app

❎Some fees are higher than average

📚Related: Barclays Travel Wallet

Santander UK

Santander

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Spanish Santander Group, Santander UK has firmly rooted itself in the UK banking landscape. 

It offers various personal and business banking services. Santander UK prides itself on providing comprehensive banking solutions, including savings and current accounts, mortgages, and insurance services.

The bank’s customer-focused approach has won praise for its helpful customer service, resulting in high customer satisfaction. A standout feature of Santander UK is its innovative banking app, enhancing convenience for its users.

Key features:

📌Current and savings accounts

📌Business and corporate banking services

📌Online and mobile banking

Pros:

✅Helpful customer service

✅Competitive rates on some products

Cons:

❎Limited physical branch network

❎Some complaints about online banking

Nationwide Building Society

Nationwide

The Nationwide Building Society is the largest building society in the UK, providing comprehensive financial solutions. Its competitive current and savings accounts are highly sought after, with attractive interest rates and benefits.

Additionally, it delivers excellent personal banking services, emphasising a customer-centric approach. Nationwide Building Society stands out for its commitment to meeting individual financial needs.

Its digital banking platform further simplifies banking processes, making it a top choice among customers seeking convenience and efficiency.

Key features:

📌Competitive savings and current accounts

📌Loans, mortgages, insurance, credit cards, overdrafts

📌Helpful customer service

📌Online and mobile banking

Pros:

✅Higher customer satisfaction compared to other banks

✅Wade range of banking products

Cons:

❎Limited business banking services

❎Fewer physical branches

NatWest Group

NatWest Group logo

As part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, NatWest is renowned for its extensive banking and insurance services. It offers personal and business banking options catering to a diverse client base.

Its strength lies in its efficient mobile and online banking services, which bring banking convenience to your fingertips. With an emphasis on customer satisfaction, NatWest combines modern banking methods with traditional customer service values, making it a reliable choice in UK banking.

Key features:

📌Personal and business banking services

📌Efficient online and mobile banking

📌Wealth management services

Pros:

✅Excellent digital banking services

✅Good customer service

Cons:

❎Monthly fees on certain accounts

❎Limited branches in certain areas

Metro Bank

Metro Bank logo

Its innovative approach to banking shows that it is committed to making banking more straightforward and convenient for its customers. 

As a relatively new entrant among the high street banks, Metro Bank has rapidly gained popularity for its extended branch opening hours, making it accessible for customers with varied schedules.

The bank’s great customer service underscores its commitment to customer satisfaction. Additionally, Metro Bank offers an impressive range of current and savings accounts designed to cater to diverse financial needs, making it a strong competitor.

Key features:

📌Personal and business banking services

📌Convenient branch opening hours

📌Efficient online and mobile banking

Pros:

✅Great customer service

✅Convenient opening hours

✅More positive customer reviews

Cons:

❎Smaller network of branches

❎Some fees are higher than the average

Note:

  • All information provided is dated 09 April 2024 and may have been updated since. Please check each platform’s official website for the latest information.

Alternatives to traditional banking

In recent years, financial services providers have emerged as strong competitors to traditional banks in the UK. They offer an innovative approach to managing finances. 

These providers are not bound by the banking system’s norms and protocols; as a result, they can offer a more tailored, flexible service to their customers.

A list of alternative platforms

  • swissmoney
  • Monzo
  • Wirex
  • Revolut
  • Bitstamp

Now, let’s delve deeper into each of them.

swissmoney

swissmoney homepage

swissmoney, a Swiss fintech, blends traditional finance with crypto solutions smoothly. You can easily open personal and business accounts.

Besides traditional services like payment cards and dedicated IBANs, swissmoney offers access to the crypto world. Using the app, you can open multiple wallets and buy, sell, exchange, and sell your crypto assets.

Moreover, swissmoney allows easy currency conversions, instant SEPA payments, and no hard spending limits.

Key features:

📌Fiat-to-crypto exchange

📌Support for trading and liquidity API

📌Works with TRX, BTC, ETH, USDT, and USDC

📌Access to EUR, USD, GBP, and CHF, with more currencies later

📌Detailed transaction history

📌Mastercard payment cards for fiat and crypto

Pros:

All-in-one solution: IBAN accounts, crypto and fiat wallets, and payment cards.

Quick onboarding

Easy-to-use platform offering flexibility

Compatible with Apple Pay and Google Pay

Cons:

Limited currency options

No physical branches

An Easier Way: swissmoney App
An Easier Way: swissmoney App
Fiat or crypto, Android or iOS we promise you the best Swiss quality experience.
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Monzo

Monzo's business current account

Monzo, a well-known UK digital bank, is praised for its easy-to-use mobile app with excellent budgeting and expense-tracking features. It also helps manage recurring payments and offers borrowing options when needed.

Key features:

📌Easy-to-use mobile app with budgeting and expense tracking

📌Use Monzo worldwide with no foreign transaction fees

📌Offers overdrafts, loans, and quick money transfers

📌Protection up to £85,000 per person by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)

Pros:

No fees for using Monzo abroad

Access to overdrafts, loans, and fast transfers

Budgeting tools, direct debit payments, and interest on savings

Ability to organize money into different pots

Cons:

Fees and limits on cash deposits and withdrawals.

No physical branches

Limited features on free account

📚Read: In Search for the Best Monzo Alternative

Wirex

wirex-card-homepage

Wirex is a crypto neobank that offers a wide range of services. It serves as a trading platform for over 37 digital currencies and includes a cross-chain bridge for seamless token transfers.

Additionally, it provides staking services, supports a crypto wallet compatible with NFTs, and allows interaction with DeFi dApps.

Key features:

📌Manage crypto (BTC, LTC, XRP) and traditional money (GBP, USD, EUR)

📌Add funds via credit card, debit card, or bank transfer

📌Crypto exchange at live rates

📌Wirex crypto debit card

Pros:

Supports twenty-one currencies

Offers an interest-bearing X-Account for earning interest on cryptocurrency holdings

Provides 24/7 customer support via email, phone, and live chat

Cons:

Low ATM withdrawal limit: 200 EUR monthly

2% fee after exceeding the ATM withdrawal limit

Card delivery is fee-free only in the US

Revolut

Revolut website

Revolut, a UK-based FinTech company, is known for its innovative services available in 33 countries. Established in 2015 to tackle traditional banking issues, Revolut has since transformed global financial dynamics.

Key features:

📌Up to 10% cashback on various brands

📌P2P payments

📌Personal loans

📌eMoney accounts

📌Travel insurance

Pros:

Available in many countries

User-friendly debit card and intuitive app

Wide range of financial services

Diverse investment options

Cons:

Lacks overdrafts

Most features are only available with paid plans.

Bitstamp

Bitstamp web

Bitstamp, one of Europe’s oldest and most esteemed cryptocurrency exchanges, facilitates trading between multiple fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies.

The platform functions as an exchange with a user-friendly interface and fair trading fees. It provides various order types and accepts a range of payment methods.

Key features:

📌Fiat-to-crypto exchange

📌Mobile wallets for Apple and Android smartphones

📌Over-the-counter (OTC) trading

📌Trading options for over 80 cryptocurrencies

📌Compliance with Luxembourgish and EU regulations

Pros:

High-security measures, including 98% use of cold storage and active crime insurance policy

User-friendly platform

Competitive trading fees

Cons:

Limited choice of fiat currencies: USD, EUR, and GBP

Lack of advanced trading features

Note:

  • All information provided is dated 09 April 2024 and may have been updated since. Please check each platform’s official website for the latest information.

What to consider when choosing a bank in the UK

Before committing to the bank, it’s crucial to consider and compare some main aspects:

Account types

Decide, whether you need a basic checking account for daily transactions or a a high-interest savings account. Maybe you want to open an account for your child or have a business with more advanced financial service needs.

Banks offer various accounts, so choose one that aligns with your goals.

Financial services

Some banks offer loans, mortgages, or even insurance. Evaluate what you need. Think about your financial needs and plans for the future. Sometimes, selecting a bank with multiple products can make managing your finances easier.

Costs and fees

Fees and additional costs can visibly add to your spending. Therefore, watch for monthly maintenance fees, overdraft charges, and ATM withdrawal fees. 

Certain banks provide accounts without fees if you fulfil specific criteria, such as maintaining a minimum balance.

Mobile and online banking

Today, most banks have made a crucial step and created their mobile app already. Many people like using mobile and online banking for its convenience. 

Therefore, check if the bank has an easy-to-use platform with the features you need.

Branch and ATM network

Think about how often you go to a bank branch and how much you value convenient ATMs. 

Traditional banks usually have more branches, while online banks might offer fee-free ATM access.

Conclusion

While traditional banks continue to serve a large customer base in the UK, it’s clear that alternative financial service providers like swissmoney are disrupting the market. By offering a different approach to financial management, they are meeting the needs of the digitally savvy customer base.

The customer-focused services, seamless digital experience, and innovative approach to financial management make these providers an excellent choice for those looking for alternatives to traditional banking.

FAQs

Which is the safest bank in the UK?

Banks such as HSBC, Lloyds Bank, NatWest, and Barclays are solid and have a strong financial position. 

Although deposits are protected by FSCS only up to £85,000, these banks are unlikely to fail because of their size and resources.

Which bank is best for foreigners in the UK?

The best banks for foreigners in the UK are:

  • HSBC
  • NatWest
  • Barclays
  • Lloyds
  • Royal Bank

However, if you want to open a bank account in the UK, you still need to provide proof of identity and address in the UK.

Which bank is best for saving money in the UK?

Many banks offer saving accounts with different conditions and benefits. However, here are some of the best banks for saving money in the UK:

  • Nationwide: Up to 6.5% variable interest rate with conditions
  • NatWest: Up to 5.38% variable interest rate on up to £5,000
  • Lloyds Bank: 2.00% interest rate on £4,000 to £5,000

When selecting a savings account, consider the interest rate, minimum and maximum deposit amounts, and the account’s terms and conditions.

Renata Pacheco

Renata is a seasoned financial market expert with over 30 years of experience in journalism and content creation, primarily focusing on the financial market. Throughout her extensive career, she has worked with leading financial institutions such as Citibank Brasil, Fiserv in Latin America, and other notable financial entities, further honing her expertise and credibility in the sector.

For more than six years, Renata has also been writing for the crypto market, collaborating with financial publications in Brazil, the US, and Europe. Her deep understanding and extensive knowledge make her a respected voice in the industry, appreciated for her ability to demystify complex financial concepts and market trends. This skill enables her to make financial insights accessible to a wide audience, from novice investors to seasoned professionals.

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Disclaimer

Please be advised that the information presented in this article is intended for general informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice from swissmoney. It is important to note that swissmoney does not act as a financial adviser, and individuals are strongly encouraged to seek independent advice from qualified legal, financial, or accounting professionals before making any decisions related to cryptocurrency investments. Furthermore, investing in cryptocurrency assets carries inherent risks, and individuals should be aware that they may potentially lose all of their invested capital.
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