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Opening a UK Bank Account

by the FindAMasters Team

How do I choose an account?

You should start looking for a UK bank before you leave your home country. Bank accounts typically take 7-10 working days to setup, and you can usually apply online. Also bear in mind that most UK universities will not allow you to complete your registration without a UK bank account (unless you have a bankers draft for the full amount of your fees).

In most UK banks you should be eligible for a 'basic bank account'. A basic bank account will give you a cash machine card and facilities to transfer money in to your account. If you need other services such as a cheque book, debit card or access to credit then you will need a current account or an account specifically designed for international students.

Use the internet to shop around for the account which suits you best It can sometimes be hard to find the relevant information on many banking websites. It is advisable to contact banks directly to find out if they offer all of the facilities you need. View the site’s ‘Contact Us’ pages to find their contact details.

UK banks offering basic accounts

The following banks offer basic accounts, suitable for students:

Bank of Ireland 3rd Level Student Account
Bank of Scotland Classic Account
Barclays Student Additions Account (International)
Clydesdale Readycash Bank Account
Co-operative Bank Cashminder
Danske Bank Danske Freedom
First Trust Bank Basic Bank Account
Halifax Easycash Current Account
HSBC Basic Bank Account
Lloyds Classic Account
Nationwide Building Society Flex Account
NatWest Student Account
Royal Bank of Scotland Student Account
Santander International Student Account
TSB Classic Account
Ulster Bank Step Account
Yorkshire Bank Readycash

How do I open an account?

As you may have already discovered studying in a foreign country means lots and lots of paperwork and banks are no exception. The more you sort out before you arrive in the UK the easier it will be. Find out what documents your chosen bank wants you to bring and if possible, start opening your bank account over the internet before you arrive.

To open a UK bank account you will require the following documentation:

  • Your passport and a valid visa
    EU citizens can use their National Identity Card instead of a passport
  • Your acceptance letter from your UK University
    This must be an unconditional offer of a place on your course
  • Proof of your address in the UK and probably in your home country as well.
    Proof of your UK address will probably be your accommodation contract, but check with the bank beforehand

The process of opening a bank account in the UK should take no longer than two weeks as long as you have all the required documents.

Bringing money to the UK

When you first arrive in the UK it is advisable to bring a small amount of money in Sterling (maybe £200). A credit card and/or additional traveller's cheques may also be advisable to tide you over whilst waiting for your bank account to be set up. Euros and US Dollars can be easily exchanged at high street banks and post offices at 0% commission, but are not generally accepted in shops outside of London 's tourist hot spots.

For larger sums of money, The British Banking Association recommends asking your bank abroad to issue a cheque, drawn in sterling, on a London bank. You will need your passport and proof of address with you to bank or cash this cheque.

How much does it cost?

Some banks may charge a fee when setting up your account, but this is usually rare. You should not be charged for using most cash machines or services such as direct debits, standing orders and paying in cheques issued by other UK banks.

However, you may be charged if money is paid in from abroad (e.g. by your family or employer). And, if the payment isn't in Sterling, there will be an exchange charge. Some banks do offer a certain monthly limit of international payments free of charge, so it’s worth hunting around for the right service for you.

And remember, you will also usually be charged if you don't have enough money in your account when a payment is due to be debited. In most cases, international students are not eligible for overdrafts at UK banks. As a result, it’s really important to budget throughout your studies.

This article is meant as an informal guide to opening a UK Bank Account, it is correct at time of writing (March, 2017), but you should always check requirements with both your selected bank and with the University in which you wish to study. Much of the information in this article is derived from the British Banking Association's guide to opening a UK bank account [PDF].

Last updated - 16/03/2017

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