If you live for any period of time in the UK, you’ll probably want to open a bank account. There are two main types of accounts: a current account and a savings account.
You can use a current account for your day-to-day banking needs. Your bank might give you a cheque book, which allows you to write cheques to pay for goods and services. You’ll probably also have a bank card which allows you to withdraw cash from cash machines (also known as atm or “hole in the wall” machines) and to pay for goods in shops. You get a secret pin number (personal identification number) that you use when you withdraw cash.
If you receive a cheque, you can pay it in or deposit it at your bank. You can also pay in cash (money). If you want to convert your cheque into cash, you can cash the cheque. Some companies can also pay money into your account via a direct bank transfer.
A savings account should pay you interest. Most banks give you a different rate of interest depending on how much you are saving, and how much notice you give before withdrawing money.
In the UK, people traditionally use banks for a range of services. As well as an overdraft facility (where you borrow money from the bank), people also get a mortgage (loan to buy a house), personal loan, and insurance from their banks. You can also arrange a standing order – regular payments made to an individual or a company supplying a service. High street banks (the sort of banks which you can find on any high street) are also good places to change money.
Many banks now offer telephone banking and internet banking. This means that you can manage your finances without going to the local branch (office) of your bank. Typically, you can make payments directly from your account, or transfer money from one account to another if you have an internet banking facility.
If you go into the branch of your bank, you’re likely to deal with a cashier, who can carry out a range of banking services for you. If you need more specialist help, you could make an appointment to see a personal adviser, business adviser, or even the bank manager.
Because there are strict anti-money laundering laws in the UK, opening a bank account is not as simple as it once was. You’ll need to provide proof of identity (such as a current passport or driving licence) and proof of address. You can do this by showing a recent utility bill (electricity, water or telephone bill), or a bank or credit card statement that has been sent to your address. (A bank statement is a list of money that has been paid in or paid out of your bank account over a period of time such as three months.)
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