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Your safety
Only take the actions below if it is safe to do so. You are the best judge of whether making any changes might lead to further harm. In an emergency, call 999.

Opening a new bank account safely

If you are experiencing economic abuse, you may not have a bank account that is in your own name. Having an account which is separate from the abuser can be a really important step to help you regain control of your finances.

This information is designed to provide practical tips on opening a new bank account safely. It may help guide your interactions with the bank if you wish to open a new account.

Remember to only take any of the steps outlined in this resource if you are sure that doing so would not put you at risk of further harm from the abuser. You are the best judge of what is safe for you to do.

Choosing a bank

If you are sure that it is safe for you to open a new bank account, you will need to decide which bank to open an account with. Here are some things to consider to help you decide on the right bank for you:

A different bank from where a joint account is held

If you have had a joint account with the abuser, you may wish to open a new account at a different bank from the one where any joint accounts are held. Similarly, if you have other joint financial products, such as a mortgage, loan or credit card, you may wish to open an account at a different bank. This will avoid the risk of the abuser being able to access your new address or account details through accounts being linked accidentally.

A different bank from the abuser

If you know where the abuser banks, you may wish to consider using a different bank. Even if you have not had a joint account with the abuser, this may help keep your account as separate as possible.

A bank with a commitment to vulnerable customers

You may wish to check that the bank you are thinking of opening an account with has signed up to the UK Finance 2021 Financial Abuse Code. The Code is a voluntary commitment from banks to support vulnerable customers, including customers facing economic abuse.

A credit union

It is also possible to open a bank account with some credit unions, and opening a bank account with a credit union can sometimes be easier. For example, they may offer more flexibility in the documents they can accept when opening the account.

Some credit unions require you to have a link with the organisation, for example living in a particular area or working in a particular profession. The website Find Your Credit Union has more information that may be helpful.

Your banking address

If you choose to open a new bank account, you will need to think carefully about the address that you provide the bank with. They may send letters, including bank statements, cards and other information about your account to this address.

It is vital to use an address where the abuser will not have access to letters from your bank.

You may wish to use an address that will be unknown to the abuser and that will not link your details, for example a friend or family member’s address. If you have left your home due to the risk of immediate danger, some banks may be able to accept an address at a refuge or safe house with a PO Box. You will need to show proof of this address (see below) before you can open an account.

It is common for abusers to take post. Citizen’s Advice found that 47% of victim-survivors have had their mail hidden, opened or intercepted by the abuser. This can lead to you missing vital information about your new bank account and can put your safety at risk. We have information on steps you can take to protect your mail and address.

“He had access to all of my bank statements and accounts; I didn’t know anything about his finances. It was yet another method of control.”

Gathering documents

To open a new bank account, you will normally need to show:

  • one document to prove your identity
  • a different document to prove your address.

The following documents are usually accepted by most banks.

Proof of identity

  • UK passport or UK biometric residence permit
  • EU or EEA national identity card
  • UK, EU or EEA driving licence
  • Benefits entitlement letter issued within the last 12 months
  • HMRC tax notification dated within the last 12 months
  • Home Office immigration status document or application registration card

Proof of address

  • UK, EU or EEA driving licence 
  • Bank, building society or credit card statement issued within the last three months (including where you are a joint account holder) 
  • Benefits entitlement letter issued within the last 12 months 
  • HMRC tax notification dated within the last 12 months 
  • UK utility bill (gas, electricity, water, telephone landline) issued within the last three months 
  • UK, EU or EEA mortgage statement issued within the last 12 months 
  • Tenancy agreement from local council or housing association issued within the last 12 months 

The abuser may have hidden important documents from you. If you do not have access to the original documents or are unable to take them safely, scanned copies or a screenshot of the documents may also be useful.

If you can’t take copies, try to note down or memorise any important information, such as bank account numbers. Apps such as Bright Sky let you upload photos in a secure way, without any content being saved on the device you use.

Alternative documents

The abuse you have experienced may mean that you do not have access to the documents usually needed to prove your identity and address, or that it is not safe for you to get the documents. It may also be difficult to find proof of your address if you are using a different banking address from the address where your bills are registered.

The bank may be able to consider alternative documents. These could include letters from a refuge, social worker or local authority.

Banks and building societies who have signed up to the 2021 Financial Abuse Code have committed to considering alternative documents as proof of identity and address where no other documents are available as a result of the abuse.

If the bank is refusing to consider alternative documents as proof of your identity, you may wish to consider making a complaint.

The right account for you 

Many of the main banking providers offer a basic bank account, often called a fee-free account. This type of account is designed for people who may not be able to open a standard current account, for example, because of a low credit score. This type of account does not have an overdraft and there are no charges for using it.  

Some banks also offer accounts with an untraceable sort code. Usually, a sort code can be used to find the location of the bank branch. An untraceable sort code cannot be used in this way, so may help keep your location secure if you have moved.

You may wish to ask the bank if they offer a basic or fee-free account, and if they offer accounts with an untraceable sort code. You may also wish to ask if they provide accounts with any other safety features that could protect your details and help prevent risk of further economic abuse. 

Your bank account details 

If you open a new bank account, keeping the details safe from the abuser could help prevent the risk of further harm and limit the abuser from regaining access to your finances. 

  • Choose PIN numbers and passwords that the abuser will not know or be able to guess. Consider also using answers to bank security questions that the abuser would not know. 
  • Ask your bank to issue a new card or PIN at any time if you are worried that someone may have access to these details. 
  • Ask the bank to add a note to your account or flag your account if you are concerned about the risk of someone trying to gain access. This is an alert for any staff members so they are aware of your concerns. 
  • Ensure that access to your mobile banking app or online banking portal is secure. You may like to add two-factor authentication to the account, which means you need to provide more than one piece of information to log in. This provides an additional layer of security. Ask your bank if they offer this. 
  • If possible, use a device for online banking that the abuser does not have access to. If you have concerns about the abuser accessing the device you normally use for online banking (either in person or remotely through cloning your device), using an alternative device will help keep your account secure. 
  • Ask your bank to contact you in the way that you feel is safest. This could be requesting post only or online correspondence only. If receiving correspondence online, ensure any apps or email accounts are secure. 

Refuge’s Tech Safety website has useful information on securing your devices.

Last updated January 2021

Further support 

If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.

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