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 that is separate from the abuser can be an important step to help you regain control of your finances.

Only take the steps outlined here 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 banking provider to open an account with. Here are some things to consider to help you decide:

A different banking provider from where a joint account is held
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If you have had a joint account with the abuser, you may wish to open a new account at a different banking provider from the one where any joint accounts are held. If you have other joint financial products, such as a mortgage, loan or credit card, you may wish to open an account somewhere different. 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 banking provider from the abuser
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If you know where the abuser banks, you may wish to consider using a different banking provider. Even if you have not had a joint account with the abuser, this may help keep your account as separate as possible.

A banking provider with a commitment to vulnerable customers
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You may wish to check that the banking provider 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 financial services firms to support vulnerable customers, including customers facing economic abuse.

Remaining with the same banking provider
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You may wish to remain with the same provider where you already hold an account with the abuser. You can speak to them to ensure that your accounts are completely de-linked. Some banking providers have a specialist team that supports vulnerable customers and can support you with this.

We have more information on separating your finances from the abuser

Your banking address

If you choose to open a new bank account, you will need to think carefully about the address that you use. The banking provider may send letters, including 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 banking provider.

You may wish to use an address that will be unknown to the abuser and that will not link your details. This could be a friend’s or family member’s address for example. If you have left your home due to the risk of immediate danger, some banking providers 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 cause you to miss 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
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  • 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
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  • 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 banking provider may be able to consider alternative documents. These could include letters from a refuge, social worker, or local authority.

Financial services firms that have signed up to the 2021 Financial Abuse Code have committed to accepting alternative documents as proof of identity and address where no other documents are available as a result of the abuse.

If the banking provider refuses to consider alternative documents as proof of your identity, you may wish to make a complaint.

The right account for you 

You may wish to ask the banking provider if they offer a basic or fee-free account. They may also offer accounts with an untraceable sort code. A credit union account may also provide options that you wish to consider.

Basic or fee-free bank account
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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.

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

You may also wish to ask if the banking provider offers accounts with any other safety features that could protect your details and help prevent risk of further economic abuse.  

A credit union account
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Opening an account with a credit union is sometimes easier than opening an account with a bank or building society. For example, they may offer more flexibility in the documents they can accept when opening the account.

Some credit unions require you to live in a certain area or work in a certain type of job. The website Find Your Credit Union has more information that may be helpful.

The features of a credit union account may be more limited than those of a standard bank account. Some credit unions may offer small, interest-free loans to members.

Your bank account security 

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. 

PIN numbers and passwords

  • 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 banking provider to issue a new card or PIN at any time if you are worried that someone may have access to these details. 

Recording the abuse on your account

  • Ask the banking provider 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. 
  • If you are happy for information about the abuse to be logged on your customer record, your banking provider may be able to add additional safety measures. This could include a code word that must be given to pass security or to end the call if it is no longer safe to talk.  

Securing your devices

  • 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. This means you need to provide more than one piece of information to log in, providing an additional layer of security. Ask your banking provider 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. 
  • You can ask the banking provider to make one device your ‘trusted device’. This means that if any other device is used to attempt to access the account, verification will be needed.  

Contact with the banking provider

  • Ask your banking provider 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. 
  • You can ask your banking provider to add a code word to your account. This provides additional account security, as the banking provider will not speak to anyone unless the code word is given. You can also use the code word during a call to let the banking provider know if it is not safe for you to talk.

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

Last updated November 2023

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.