How to open a bank account if you're homeless

Complain about unfair treatment

You could complain if the bank has:

  • been unclear or misleading

  • not supported you to follow their processes

  • treated you badly because of your disability, gender, race or other aspects of your identity

You should complain to the bank directly first.

You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman if you do not hear back from the bank within 8 weeks or are unhappy with their final response.

Unfair treatment and discrimination

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rules say that banks must treat customers fairly and communicate in a way that is clear, fair and not misleading.

Banks should also follow FCA guidance on the treatment of vulnerable customers.

This means staff must think carefully about how they treat you based on things like your:

  • digital skills

  • physical and mental health

  • ability to read, write and understand English

  • life experiences, such as relationship breakdown and domestic abuse

All banks must act follow the Equality Act 2010.

This means it is against the law for them to discriminate against you based on age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

Complain to the bank directly

Do this as soon as you can and explain:

  • that you are complaining

  • what you are complaining about

  • how the bank's actions have affected you

  • what you want the bank to do to put things right

  • you will complain to the Financial Ombudsman as a next step

Complain in writing if you can so you have a record of what has been said.

Include a copy of your documents and any other evidence.

Copy our template into an email

You should ask the bank for the best email address to use.

Ask for a customer services email address if you're not given a particular staff email. You can still address the email to the bank manager.

[Use the subject: Complaint about unfair treatment]

Dear bank manager

I am writing to complain about unfair treatment from your bank. 

I came into your branch today to ask about a basic bank account. 

Your bank treated me unfairly by not giving me help to follow the right process to open a basic bank account.

I think the bank might have treated me differently because [for example: I’m homeless, I was born outside of the UK, I have a history of financial problems, I have communication needs, I identify as non-binary]

This has meant I have not been able to open a bank account. I have also experienced inconvenience and emotional distress. 

Under the FCA Principles for Business (FCA Handbook, PRIN 2.1) you must: 

  • treat customers fairly 

  • communicate with customers clearly 

  • pay due regard to the information needs of customers 

You must also follow FCA guidance on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. 

I would like you to give me the help I need. 

I would also like you to improve your customer service so that no one else has to experience this kind of unfair treatment.

I expect to receive your final response on this issue within 8 weeks. 

If I do not receive a satisfactory response, I will take my complaint to the Financial Ombudsman.

Download our template

You can send the template as an email attachment or print it out:

You could ask a friend, relative, advice service or day centre to print it out for you. Then you can take it into the bank or post it.

Complain to the Financial Ombudsman

The Financial Ombudsman helps with complaints about banks and other financial providers.

You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman if either:

  • you've not heard back from the bank 8 weeks after you complained

  • you're not happy with the bank's final response

You must complain to the Financial Ombudsman within 6 months of the bank's response.

It is a free and independent process.

The Financial Ombudsman can tell the bank to resolve your complaint. This could mean you get compensation.

Use the form on the Financial Ombudsman website

You can make your complaint online. You cannot save the online form so make sure you have enough time to complete it in one go.

If you're complaining about a basic bank account, you will need to choose the online complaint form for a 'financial business or product'.

Before you start, make sure you have:

  • the name of the bank

  • dates for letters, emails or messages from the bank, including their final response

  • details of the account you applied for

  • any documents to support your complaint

You can use the address of somewhere you spend a large amount of your time, such as a day centre or the home of a friend or family member, when completing your personal details.

Complain to the Financial Ombudsman by phone or post

You can:

Find a local charity to help

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.

Last updated: 19 April 2023

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