Opening a Bank Account in the UK

You will probably find out that you need to have your own UK bank account if you are planing to live, work and study in the UK for a short period..

Opening a bank account in the UK

This Guidance Note gives information about the services offered by UK banks, and how to open and operate a bank account while you are in the UK.

Before you leave home
Speak to your bank in your home country before you leave. Ask their advice about running a bank account in the UK. Find out what methods of transferring money are available, including the security of each method and the cost involved.

Ask if your country bank has a special relationship with a bank in the UK, and whether this can help you with setting up an account or in any other way.

Also, find out if you can use a cash card (see below) from your home country bank in UK bank machines, to take money out of your account in your home country.

Check with your educational institution about the various methods of paying your tuition fees. For example, it may be possible to pay by credit card or by electronic transfer of money from your home country bank.

International students do not always find it straightforward to open a bank account in the UK as different banks have different policies and apply different conditions.

So you must assume it will take at least 2-3 weeks to open a bank account and make sure you have access to the money that you will need during this period by making financial arrangements similar to those you might make if you were a tourist.

Bring travellers cheques with you, and possibly a credit card and a cash card. Do not carry large amounts of cash or keep large amounts of cash in your accommodation.

On arrival in the UK
There are many banks in the UK and they offer different arrangements and levels of service. You should spend some time finding the bank, which offers the best service for you.

Ask other international students which banks they have found most helpful. When choosing a bank, you need to consider the following:

  • The services the bank will offer you and what charges it will make;
  • What arrangements there are for transferring money from your home country, and the costs involved;
  • What documents are required by the bank in order to open an account. Many UK banks will ask to see your passport, a letter from the institution confirming that you are a student, and a document confirming your address in the UK (for example a contract for accommodation).
  • The bank may also require information about your bank account in your home country;
  • How easy it is for you to visit or contact the bank.

Your institution's welfare officer or students' union may be able to give you information about the service offered by the banks in the area.


Deposit account or 'basic account
International students may find that some banks will offer them only one of these types of account.

A deposit account, sometimes called a savings account of a 'basic bank account', may offer a cash card and will pay additional money to you ('interest') based on the balance in your account.

When opening an account check the procedure for taking money out of the account. There may be restrictions.

Information about rates of interest is published regularly in the business section of newspapers. You may be able to prevent any tax being deducted from your interest - ask your bank or building society for form R105 which you can complete when you open your bank account.

Current account
A current account may offer a cheque book, cheque guarantee card, cash card, debit card, overdraft facility, and direct debit and standing order facilities.

Some accounts pay interest, although this is usually at a lower rate than a deposit account. You should ask the bank which services would be available.

Some banks will not allow international students to open a current account and you may only be allowed to open a 'basic bank account'. It may be possible to change your account to a current account after a period of time.

Some students find it useful, if they can, to operate both a current account and a deposit account. The current account is used to meet monthly expenses, whilst money that is not yet needed is kept in a deposit account to earn interest.

Student account
These accounts are special current accounts only offered to students. A free overdraft facility may be available. However, some banks may not offer student accounts to international students.

Transferring money to the UK
The easiest way to send money is by electronic transfer of funds from a bank in your home country into your UK account. To do this the bank in your home country will need:

  • Your UK bank's name and full address

  • Your name as given on your UK bank account

  • Your UK bank account number

  • Your UK bank's sort code

Money can also be transferred using a banker's draft. This is a document drawn up by the bank in your home country and sent to you by post. You present the banker's draft to your bank in the UK.

Before you transfer money, ask what charges will be made by the banks and how long it will take. Try to plan your finances so that the time taken to transfer money and the charges involved do not lead to you experiencing financial problems.

If someone transfers money to your account they should keep a copy of the relevant documents in case there is any dispute with the bank in the future.

Getting money quickly
There are several reliable and established companies that provide very quick money transfer service. Transfer time is normally 10-15 minutes. However, there is usually a higher charge for this kind of service.

Running your account
Once you have opened an account keep a record of the money that you pay into the account ('deposit'), and of the money that you take out of the account ('withdrawals').

This includes recording money you take out from bank machines, cheques that you write, purchases you make with a debit card, and standing orders and direct debits.

Check your records against each bank statement you receive. This will help prevent problems arising with the bank. It will also help avoid experiencing financial difficulties.

If you experience problems
If you experience problems opening a bank account contact the student welfare adviser or your Student Services department in your institution or your students' union. They may be able to help you find a bank, which will open an account for you.

If you are unhappy with the service you receive from a bank you can contact the bank itself and explain that you want to make a complaint.

Banks will normally have a complaints procedure that you can use. Many banks are covered by the Banking Code, which sets standard of good banking practice. You can obtain a copy of the code from the bank.

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