Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

How to open a bank account if you're homeless

Video: Open a bank account if you're homeless

Video transcript

If you're sofa surfing or staying in a hostel or refuge, you might not have things like a passport, driving licence or bills in your name.

It's still worth going into a high street bank to ask about a basic bank account.

Take a friend, relative or support worker with you to help explain your situation.

Ask the bank what ID and proof of address they accept.

Getting universal credit can help as you'll already have passed the DWP identity checks.

If you don't have photo ID, the bank might accept a letter from a college, hostel or refuge that confirms who you are.

If you have no proof of where you live, you could use a temporary address.

You could provide a letter from a hostel, refuge or the council.

Ask the bank if they can be more flexible with their checks and try another bank if the staff aren't very helpful.

All banks should treat customers fairly and you can complain if they don't.

Our video explains how you can get a bank account if you're homeless.

What you need to open a bank account

Banks usually ask for:

  • ID documents, such as a passport or driving licence

  • proof of address, such as a council tax or energy bill

They ask for these to confirm your identity. There are different ways to do this. For example, some banks will not ask for proof of address.

You have options if you do not have ID documents or proof of address.

What to expect from the bank

Most banks are signed up to customer service standards and must follow guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

This means you should expect staff to be understanding and treat you fairly.

You can use our template to complain if you've been treated unfairly.

Immigration checks

You can usually open a bank account if you have leave to remain or a valid visa. For example:

  • refugee status

  • EU settled or pre-settled status

  • a current work or student visa

If you do not have leave to remain, the bank cannot give you an account. The bank checks a list at the Home Office.

Get immigration advice if you think you might not have leave to remain in the UK. For example, if you've overstayed your visa or do not have documents that show your status.

Shelter cannot give immigration advice.

Citizens Advice can help you get specialist immigration advice.

You can search for a regulated immigration adviser on GOV.UK

Help to open a bank account

Some banks have schemes for people with no fixed address.

Banks offering this type of account ask a local homeless charity or other organisation to confirm your identity.

A local Shelter service could help if you already get advice or support from them.

Our national helpline and webchat cannot help with this as they do not meet you in person.

Information for professionals

Use our resources on Shelter Legal to support someone who is homeless to open a basic bank account.

Where to open a bank account

Most people who are homeless should be able to get a basic bank account.

You can find some information about basic bank accounts from the main high street banks on their websites:

Most banks let you choose to apply in person or online.

You can usually manage your account with a banking app even if you apply in person.

Most banks have a branch locator on their website where you can find the nearest place to go in person.

You could go with a friend or relative to help you explain the type of account you need.

Ask the bank which documents you need to apply for a basic bank account.

If you've experienced domestic or financial abuse

TSB let people open a bank account without the usual ID in these areas: Alloa, Dundee, Galashiels, Norwich, Swindon, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

They also offer an emergency payment of up to £500 to existing customers who need to leave an abusive relationship. This is available in all TSB branches.

Find out more about these schemes on the TSB website.

Online banks

Some online banks offer a current account where you do not need proof of address.

You could look for a free account from an online bank such as:

You may have to pass a credit check as they do not offer basic bank accounts.

All banking is done through the app and you cannot go into a branch to speak to someone.

Last updated: 22 November 2023

If you need to talk to someone, we'll do our best to help

Get help