How to open a bank account in Northern Ireland

Gabrielle Figueiredo
05.05.22
5 minute read

Given that Northern Ireland is Ireland's closest neighbour, you may think about moving or travelling there for work, family, or simply a change.

Something to know before you go is that Northern Ireland follows the UK banking rules rather than the rules set by the Republic of Ireland.

This article covers what you need to know before opening a bank account in Northern Ireland, including eligibility, available banks, and the potential fees.

We'll also see how Wise might be a more straightforward solution for your international banking needs.

Learn more about Wise 💡

What documents do I need for opening a bank account in Northern Ireland?

To open a bank account in Northern Ireland you’ll generally need to complete an application form and provide documentation that proves your identity and address.

Here’s what might be accepted as proof of identity by a Northern Ireland bank¹:

  • Republic of Ireland driving licence or provisional licence
  • Valid passport
  • Electoral identity card with photo
  • National identity card with photo
  • Biometric residence permit
  • Birth certificate (for people under 21 years old)

Here’s what you could provide to a Northern Ireland bank as proof of address¹:

  • Bank, building society or credit union statement
  • Mortgage statement
  • Utility bill for gas, landline phone, water or electricity
  • Rates bill
  • Notice of tax coding

💡 Keep in mind: These documents generally need to be less than 6 or 12 months old.

Documents for student bank account in Northern Ireland

If you’re opening a student account you’ll likely need to prove your student status. Here’s an idea of how you could do that¹:

  • Letter of acceptance
  • Confirmation of place
  • Request for payment of student fees

There may be time limits on how old the proof can be so it’s a good idea to check with the bank you’re applying to.

When applying for a student bank account you’ll also need to prove your identity and address. If you’re under 21 you may be able to prove your address using your parents or guardians documents, provided you’re living with them.¹

Can I open a bank account online in Northern Ireland?

open bank account online northern ireland

Depending on the bank it’s possible to open a Northern Ireland bank account online.²

The best way to check is to go onto the bank's website and see if they have the option available.

Can a non-resident open a bank account in Northern Ireland?

After Brexit, it generally isn’t possible for a resident of the Republic of Ireland to open a bank account in Northern Ireland.

This happens because most banks are only allowed to offer accounts to people who reside in the UK

Wise as an alternative

If you’re looking for an account that enables you to easily spend and receive euros in Ireland and British pounds in Northern Ireland then the Wise multi-currency account might be the right solution for you.

Whether you reside in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, it isn’t an obstacle, and registering for an account can be done in minutes.

  • Register: Sign up online, or in the app with an email address, or a Google, Facebook or Apple account.
  • Verify your identity: All you need to receive money or order a card is your government ID.
  • Top up your account: You can add money using your bank account, Apple Pay, credit/debit card.

sign up Wise

Fees and charges for opening a bank account in Northern Ireland

Before you commit to opening a bank account in Northern Ireland it’s a good idea to see what the fees are. Here’s a few to look out for.

Monthly account fees

This fee is paid monthly to maintain your account. Ideally you want an account that doesn’t have a monthly fee or offers ways for you to avoid paying it such as maintaining a minimum balance.

Cash withdrawal fees

Fees for cash withdrawals are often split into local fees and foreign fees. Here’s a few things to check for.

Local Fees

  • Limits on fee free withdrawals
  • Fees for using another bank’s ATM

Foreign Fees

  • Fees for foreign currency withdrawals
  • Fees for withdrawals outside Northern Ireland
  • Limits on fee free withdrawals
  • What exchange rate is applied

Foreign transaction fees

Foreign transaction fees can be a little expensive or confusing when using some traditional banks so here’s a few that often pop up in fee schedules:

  • Fees for sending local currency overseas
  • Fees for sending foreign currency overseas
  • Fees for receiving foreign currency
  • Fees for debit card payments in a foreign currency
  • Fees for branch assistance when making foreign transactions
  • Markups on the foreign exchange rate

When it comes to foreign transactions you may find that Wise is a more cost effective solution.

With a Wise multi-currency account your money is exchanged using the real, mid market exchange rate, just like you see on Google.

Wise

Top banks in Northern Ireland

There are quite a few options when it comes to choosing a new bank in Northern Ireland. Let's take a look at Northern Ireland's Big Four banks¹³.

Bank of Ireland UK

The Bank of Ireland UK has been serving customers in Northern Ireland for around 200 years and is one of the few banks authorised to issue bank notes.⁴ Currently, they have 13 branches in Northern Ireland as well as online and phone banking services.

For personal customers the Bank of Ireland UK have a range of current accounts and savings accounts available.⁴ They also offer mortgages, credit cards and personal loans.

Businesses can open a business account or apply for a commercial loan.⁴

Ulster Bank

Ulster Bank is an award winning bank that has serviced Ireland since the 1800’s.⁶ The UK division operates in Northern Ireland serving both business and private customers.³

They have a range of products for personal customers which can be broadly categorised into the following areas⁵:

  • Bank accounts
  • Mortgages
  • Savings accounts
  • Loans
  • Credit cards
  • Overdraft

Business customers also have a range of products to choose from including business bank accounts, savings accounts, trade finance and loans.⁷ Ulster Bank also offers a section of business services.

Danske Bank

One of the leading banks in Northern Ireland, Danske Bank is the trading name of Northern Bank Ltd.⁸ It’s part of the Scandinavian Danske Bank Group and has been serving customers for over 200 years.

Their personal banking products include a range of current accounts, personal and home owner loans, mortgages and various savings accounts including an eSaver account and fixed term deposits.⁹

For businesses, Danske Bank offers Business Current Accounts that vary depending on the size of the business. They also offer various business loans and overdraft options.¹⁰

Allied Irish Banks

Allied Irish Banks (AIB) in Northern Ireland are the UK division, meaning they’re separate to AIB in the Republic of Ireland. They have 7 branches across Northern Ireland and also offer support online.¹¹

For private customers AIB has a range of current, savings and deposit accounts, some of which are tailored for certain groups such as children or students.¹¹ They also offer loans, overdrafts, mortgages, credit cards and currency accounts.

Businesses can open a Business current account, savings account or deposit account.¹² AIB offers business loans, merchant services, business debit cards and currency accounts.

Read more: Moving from Ireland to the UK

Wise: a simple alternative to traditional banks

conta-multimoeda-wise

Wise is an online account that lets you send money, get paid, and spend money internationally.

With a Wise account, you can send money abroad, convert and hold more than 50 currencies and receive payments like a local in 10 currencies. Get your own UK account number, Euro IBAN, US routing number, and more.

You can also get a Wise card and use it in more than 200 countries and spend in the local currency wherever you are.

Open your Wise
account today 🚀


Sources used:

  1. Ulster Bank UK - Documents we may need to see before opening your account
  2. Ulster Bank UK - Current Account
  3. Ulster Bank UK - Brexit: What it means for you
  4. Bank of Ireland UK - Products and Services
  5. Ulster Bank UK - Home page
  6. Nat West Group - Ulster Bank
  7. Ulster Bank UK - Business home page
  8. Danske Bank - About us
  9. Danske Bank - Personal
  10. Danske Bank - Business
  11. AIB - Home page
  12. AIB - Business
  13. Belfast Telegraph - Danske Bank to pull down shutters at four NI branches in October

Sources last checked on date: 5 May 2022


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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