As an international student, you will usually be able to open either a basic bank account or an international student bank account. However, note that as an international student, you may not be eligible for all the facilities offered to UK resident students and it may be difficult to open an account.
Advice on opening a bank account will be offered during orientation sessions, and you can also contact Student Advice for guidance.
Students on short courses: if you will be studying on a course of six months or less, you may not be able to open a bank account, or may find it very difficult to do so. Check whether your bank at home has links with any UK banks that might help you set up a UK bank account.
Basic bank accounts
A basic bank account has fewer benefits than an international student account, but is simpler to open and there are no charges.
Guidance on opening a basic bank account and a list of the banks that offer basic accounts is available on the UK Council for International Student Affairs website.
International student bank accounts
An international student bank account will have more benefits than a basic account, but often requires you to maintain a minimum balance or pay a monthly fee.
A number of banks offer international student bank accounts, including:
- Barclays Wealth
- Bank of China
- NatWest Bank
Banks on campus
Santander Bank and Barclays Wealth will be visiting the University during the International Student Welcome Programme, Freshers' Fair and student enrolment. The two banks will visit different sites on different days to help students open international student accounts.
Here are some tips for opening a bank account:
- carry your passport and visa, your address details and your offer letters during enrolment
- decide which bank stall you will be visiting
- read about the bank accounts on offer beforehand, so you know if you want to open an account with a bank that will be coming to the University
- take advantage of what is on offer at the University during enrolment, as high street banks may not be able to set up your account as quickly or may not offer international student accounts
When you go to open a bank account on the high street, you should take some documentation with you. Most banks ask you to bring:
- a valid passport
- a letter from the relevant admissions office or Faculty Registry office saying you are enrolled
- your Student ID card
- evidence of your address
- substantial evidence of funding for your studies
- a letter of introduction from your bank at home is very helpful
University bank letters
Most banks will ask for a University letter confirming your enrolment on a course and your UK address. These letters can be produced by Admissions Offices and Faculty Registry Offices - simply fill in the Official Letter Request Form and make sure you request a Bank Letter.
Bank letters may take a few days to prepare – check with the Admissions Office or Faculty Registry Office when the letter will be available for collection.
If you are opening a bank account at one of the Santander bank stalls at the University, you will not need to request a bank letter – Santander will accept your offer letter instead.
Types of bank account
The most useful type of account is a current account (a student account is a current account with special concessions for students).
You can pay money in, in any form, and then draw it out as you need it using your cheque book. Payments to other people can be made by writing cheques out in their name. If you want to draw out cash yourself, make the cheque payable in your own name or 'to cash'. If you wish to write cheques in shops, you will need a cheque card. This is really an identity card, which guarantees that correctly written cheques up to the value stated on the card will be honoured by the bank. You can also use the card with your cheque book to withdraw money from almost any bank in Britain.
An overdraft is the facility to withdraw more money from your account than you have in it. You should not do this without permission from your bank. Overdrafts usually incur charges, though some banks offer interest-free overdrafts to some students.
You can withdraw cash from a cash point machine with a cash card. They are extremely useful as they enable you to withdraw cash from your account at almost any time of the day or night. There is also a card facility called Switch or Delta, which enables you to use the card to pay for items in shops. This facility takes the money straight out of your account.
If you have more money than you need for month-to-month expenses, it is a good idea to open a savings or deposit account for some of it where it can earn interest. The interest is taxable, but if your bank knows that you are not normally resident in Britain then you do not pay tax on it. You can't pay by cheque on a savings account, but you can usually ask for a cash card on it.
Bank opening hours
Banks have traditionally been open from 9.30am to 3.30pm, from Monday to Friday. Many main branches are now open until 4.30pm or 5.30pm on weekdays.