Applying for what used to be called a 'Bank Account', but is now split up into a various classes of Current Account, is the easy part. Being accepted and given one is another story!
The Banks in England (UK) are, unfortunately, still split between the class systems; even if they say otherwise. Santander, Barclays and Llyods are for the average person in the street (Unemployed, Self-Employed and Working Class) whereas NatWest and HSBC are for the richer members of society (Middle Class, Large Ltd Company Business Owners and Rich People). There are more banks in England (UK), but these five banks are the common, 'in every high street', banks.
As someone who is just settling down in England (UK), perhaps with little savings/funds and/or no work yet, I would start by opening a Current Account simply because it is the easiest of accounts to open. The banks used to start you off with a Savings Account (now known as a Cash Account and now becoming obsolete), but now realise their customers need a Debit Card for shopping and online use.
Below is a list of basic current, no frills, Current Accounts (bank accounts) offered by the leading high street banks in England (UK) in 2017.
Although they all, more or less, offer the same features (or lack of) I would strongly suggest reading their small print and terms and conditions with regards to their individual charges and fees. I would also suggest applying for a current account inside the bank itself and NOT ONLINE simply because a human being will be able to read and understand your needs and circumstances much better.
Santander Bank WebsiteSantander offer a Basic Account, for people aged 16 and over, called the Santander Basic Current Account Web PageBasic Current Account. It comes with a Ciirus Cash Card, Top-Up Debit Card (you have to transfer money from your account onto this card before you can use it online, etc), has NO monthly fees (within the UK), has online banking, but earns no interest. So it is a straight forward bank account that you deposit money into and withdrawal money from - You can withdraw up to £300 a day.
Barclays Bank WebsiteBarclays offer a Current Account, for people aged 16 and over, called the Barclays Current Account Web PageBasic Current Account. It comes with a Visa Debit Card, has NO monthly fees (within the UK), has online banking, but has no Cheque Book and no Overdraft. So, like the Santander Bank, it is a straight forward bank account that you deposit money into and withdrawal money from - You can withdraw up to £300 a day.
NOTE: If you apply for the Classic Account, but are not eligible you will be offered a Basic Account.
NatWest Bank WebsiteNatWest offer a Current Account, for people aged 18 and over, called the NatWest Current Account Web PageSelect Account. It comes with a Visa Debit Card, has NO monthly fees (within the UK), has online banking, but has no Cheque Book and no Overdraft (you need to apply for one). So it is a straight forward bank account that you deposit money into and withdrawal money from - You can withdraw up to £300 a day.
HSBC Bank WebsiteHSBC offer a Current Account, for people aged 18 and over, called the HSBC Bank Account Web PageBasic Bank Account. It comes with a Visa Debit Card, has NO monthly fees (within the UK), has online banking, but has no Cheque Book and no Overdraft (you need to apply for one). So it is a no frills bank account that you deposit money into and withdrawal money from - You can withdraw up to £300 a day.
Banks these days only give you their regular (non-basic) current account if you pass their eligibility test (i.e. you are employed, resident in the UK for 3 years or more, and are a tenant or home owner). If you are unemployed, renting as a lodger only and have just arrived in the UK for example, you will more than likely be offered their very Basic Account instead. Otherwise known as the Paupers' Account.
NOTE: It might take a while before you can upgrade from a Basic Account to a traditional, regular, (non-basic) Current Account.
Depending on what your particular circumstances are, and more precisely whether or not you are an EU Citizen and/or have the right to live in the UK, will determine if you are eligible for a current account (or bank account) and how long it will take to process your details. You might get a current account opened on the same day or it may take a couple of weeks.
If you are Asian for example you might have to show your Work Permit or Student Visa and/or Job/Student Invitation Letter as well as your Passport before being considered for a current account or bank account.
Another aspect of credentials is your 'Proof of Address'. These days the banks require at least one utility bill, such as a Gas bill, Electricity bill, Landline (NOT Mobile Phone) bill or Water Rates bill. If you do not have a utility bill or other required 'Proof of Address', perhaps because you live in a bedsit/flat whereby the utility bills cannot be put in your name (for whatever reason/s), you normally would not get a Savings Account, Current Account or Bank Account opened.
One way around this problem would be to change your driving licence for a British driving licence, which would then become a valid proof of address. You could also get a letter of employment from your employer, sent by post to your address, which then also becomes a valid proof of address. Any government letter (hmrc, self-employment letter or benefits letter) will also clarify your proof of address.
Ironically, you could ask your landlord to put a utility bill in your name, open a current account and then have the landlord put that utility bill back in their name when you have received your first letter and/or bank statement from the bank.
The bank statement in England (UK) is VERY IMPORTANT simply because to get a job you need a current account or bank account, so your boss can deposit your wages (salary) into it, but you cannot get one opened until you have a proof of address. On top of this, there are many places, authorities and companies in England (UK) that require a bank statement before they can help you.
CASH IN HAND - Receiving Cash In Hand work/payment is NOT Allowed unless you have declared yourself as Self-Employed (i.e. you work as a mobile hairdresser or computer engineer who visits each client in their home and receives cash as payment for work carried out). With the same token: Businesses and Employers can pay workers 'Cash In Hand' if they declare it and are paying the employee's Income Tax or National Insurance. Read this HMRC web page about HMRC Cash In Hand Web PageCash In Hand. The reason I point out the above is to clarify the 'Cash In Hand' situation, so you know what to say to a bank if they ask you about your job and/or your income.
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to unemployed people, claiming benefits, living in a council flat (government housing) when it comes to applying for a mortgage, credit card and/or loan (borrowing money). On the flip side of this, you do not have a better chance when living in a wealthier area either simply because on the day it sometimes boils down to the bank assistant who is processing your application form - Do not take their bad customer service though. Insist on making your application in their branch, with their help if need be, and not online.
What the banks should realise, and be trained for in Customer Services, is the FACT that not everyone knows how to use a computer. Not everyone has friends to help them. And not everyone understands English well enough to fill out an online application form; written in 'bank' language and/or advanced English instead of simplified English.
I find it a stupid idea to force potential customers online in these situations. If the banks were running a shoe shop for example, telling potential customers to buy their shoes online only, they would be out of business straight away.
Sometimes you come across a certain bank branch with bad attitude and bad customer service whereby the cashier thinks you are dealing with their money and not yours! The banks really are becoming full of themselves. Furthermore, I would argue that certain aspects of the Credit Score system encourage discrimination and become an excuse not to give someone an account.