Why can't my son open a bank account when he's new to the UK?

Dear James,

My son has moved to the UK from Germany to study at Bristol University. He’s never taken out credit in the UK or Germany, and now he’s unable to open a student account. It seems he’s got a negative credit report even though he’s never borrowed. How can this be possible?

Christopher, Leipzig

Dear Christopher,

We know it can be tough trying to get your first bank account, especially if you’ve moved here from another country and have no financial footprint.

Firstly, don’t panic. The fact that one lender didn’t accept him for an account doesn’t mean other lenders will do the same.

I would begin by getting back in touch with the bank to ask them to review their decision. It’s not uncommon for students to have little or no credit history and most lenders allow for this when opening student accounts. It might be worth a trip to the branch with ID documents and proof of residence to see if that helps.

It may help this and other applications if your son registers to vote in the UK (for local and European elections) as an EU citizen. This will help lenders identify him and increase the chances of being accepted for credit and other services.

He would also be sensible to use comparison sites to see if he’s eligible to apply for a ‘credit builder’ style credit card. If he does manage to get one, as long as he only spends a small amount each month and pays it in full, this will help build up a credit history over time.

Once your son starts building up some credit history, this should make life a lot easier for him in the future. (February 2019)


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