We recommend EU and international students open a bank account in the UK as soon as possible after you have arrived, as this is the safest and most effective way of managing your money during your studies.
Some international students choose not to open a UK account, and instead continue to use their overseas account or an overseas credit card. This is more expensive (as you will be charged additional fees every time you withdraw money from a cash machine) and you will not be able to set up direct debits such as regular payments for your phone bill or for your rent.
If you are planning on working during your studies then an employer will usually want to pay your salary directly into a UK bank account.
If you need to make a visa extension in the UK you will be required to send bank statements to the Home Office, and it is much easier to provide UK bank statements that meet all the visa requirements. We recommend that you opt to receive printed bank statements, as online statements do not always contain the information required by Home Office.
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 UK bank account, or you 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 easier 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 has 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:
- Bank of China
- NatWest Bank
Types of bank accounts
The most useful type of account is a current account (a student account is a current account with special concessions for students). You will receive a debit card that can be used in many places and to get cashback in some shops. Some may offer a contactless feature. It can also be used to withdraw cash at ATMs. You can normally also apply for a credit card. This account allows Direct Debits and Standing Orders to be set up which is useful for paying bills like phone bills and rent. Usually you will be given an overdraft facility (although you may have to pay interest on this). Internet banking is also offered so you can check your statements, pay bills, and transfer money using your phone or computer.
If you have more money than you need for month-to-month expenses, it is a good idea to open a separate 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.
App-based bank accounts
App-based bank accounts are becoming more popular with international students as they are easy to open and free to join. Read more about app-based bank accounts and check comparisons.
Opening a bank account
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 and your BRP card
- a bank letter from your Registry Office saying you are enrolled
- your Student ID card
- evidence of your UK address (your university letter from Registry should be accepted as long as it states your UK address)
- substantial evidence of funding for your studies
- a letter of introduction from your bank at home is very helpful but not always needed
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 the Registry Offices – you need to complete the Official Letter Request Form and make sure you request a Bank Letter.
Bank letters may take a few days to prepare – check with your Registry Office when the letter will be available for you.
If you would prefer to open an account based on Sharia principles, check different banks’ websites. Some high street banks offer Sharia-compliant accounts, and there are also a few specialist banks offering this type of account. You may find it difficult to open an account if you have only recent arrived in the UK. More information is available on the money.co.uk website.
Protecting your money
Your identity and personal information is valuable. Criminals can find out your personal details and try to steal your money or use your identity to open bank accounts, credit cards and loans. If this happens to you it can also mean that it might be difficult for you to get your money back and can affect your own applications for financial products in the future. Identity theft has become a very common problem in the UK as it becomes easier for criminals to find more ways to get hold of your personal information.
The Money Advice Service has information about banking fraud and about identity theft, and how to get your money back.
You can find out about using online banking safely, and also be aware of common fraud issues from the Financial Fraud Action website.