How to open a bank account if you're homeless

Find out why you've been refused a bank account

The bank normally has to give you a reason for refusing a basic bank account. They do not have to go into detail about their reason.

If the bank has not given you a reason in writing, you can:

  • copy our template into an email to the bank manager

  • download it to take to the bank or send as a letter

Include a link to the bank's webpage in your email or letter. See our list of banks offering basic bank accounts.

Change or delete any bits of the template you need to make it relevant to your experience. Ask someone to read it through before you send it.

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: Refusal of basic bank account]

Dear bank manager

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

I hoped to be able to open an account after seeing the information on your website [include a link to the bank's website].

A staff member told me that I could not open an account and I was not given a proper reason for this.

Please can you send me a reason by email. Alternatively, I can collect a letter from the bank.

I would like to know if you have a list of acceptable documents on your website.

Let me know if I can provide any more information to support my application.

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

  • treat customers fairly

  • communicate with customers clearly

  • pay attention to the information needs of customers

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

[You can include the following information if you want. You do not have to give personal information. These are not conditions for a basic bank account.]

I believe I am at an extra disadvantage because of:

  • my health conditions or disabilities

  • my housing situation, finances or debts

  • difficulties using computers or the internet

  • difficulties understanding, speaking, reading or writing English

Please let me know how you intend to meet my needs as a customer.

Please respond as soon as possible and send me a copy of your complaints process.

Download our template as a letter

You can send the template as an email attachment if you cannot 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.

Can you be refused a basic bank account?

You can be refused a basic bank account if:

  • you do not pass an identity check or immigration check

  • the bank suspects you of fraud or financial crime

Identity checks

Registering to vote could help you pass an identity check. There is a special form if you do not have a fixed or permanent address.

You can register to vote if you're a British, Irish or EU citizen living in the UK. Some Commonwealth citizens can also register.

Contact your local electoral registration team for help getting on the voting register. They process the form and could help you fill it in.

Find the form and your electoral registration team on The Electoral Commission website.

Immigration checks

Banks are not allowed to open accounts for some people who do not have to leave to remain or a valid visa.

The bank can check a Home Office list to see if you're affected by this law.

If you're refused a bank account because of your immigration status, you need to talk to a specialist immigration adviser.

Shelter cannot give immigration advice.

Citizens Advice can help you get specialist immigration advice.

Credit file checks

You do not need to pass a credit check to get a basic bank account but you have to give permission for a 'soft search' of your credit file. This is to check your identity.

If you have had joint accounts or applied for credit with someone else in the past, for example, a former partner or flatmate you could still be financially linked.

You might need to put a correction note on your credit file or get a fraud marker removed before you apply for a new account.

A debt adviser could help. Get free regulated debt advice from:

Try another bank

Different banks accept different ID or proof of address so you could be accepted elsewhere.

Make sure you:

Credit unions

Credit unions offer accounts that can be used in the same way as those offered by banks.

Credit unions are set up to act in way that is fair and in the interests of their members.

You will probably get better service in person than online.

Money Helper has more information on credit union current accounts.

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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