This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 21 September 2021
As an international student one of the most important things you will need to sort out is opening a UK bank account. This can sometimes be a lengthy and complicated process so here are the things you will need to understand to get this off your “to do list” fast!
Why can’t I continue using my bank account from home?
You can use your bank account from home but you will face some limitations and extra costs because all your purchases will be seen as international transactions. You will also not be able to get your salary paid into that account if you choose to work part time, and you will not be able to set up things like direct debits if you take out a phone contract in the UK.
However, your bank may have an international arm or a partnership with a UK bank, so its worth asking your current bank what options are open to you.
Why should I open a UK bank account?
There are many benefits to opening a UK bank account, including:
- You won’t be charged currency conversion fees every time you withdraw money
- You’ll be issued with a debit card, which you can use everywhere instead of cash
- You can withdraw money 24/7 from any ATM machine in the UK
- You’ll be able to set up direct debits and standing orders
- You can register for telephone and internet banking
- If you need help – for example, if you forget your PIN – it will be far easier to sort things out with a local bank
- If you work part-time your employer will probably want to pay your wages into a UK bank account
- A bank statement is commonly accepted as proof of address
Do UK banks offer accounts specifically for international students?
Yes, some banks do offer accounts especially designed for the needs of international students. For example, you can open an account without having a credit rating in the UK, but these accounts normally come with a monthly operating fee and few perks. Furthermore, you cannot open the account until you arrive in the UK and they can take a couple of weeks to arrange.
Can I receive money from home into my UK account?
Yes, you can but you need to be aware of a couple of things. Firstly, it can take several days to get money into your account and secondly you will be charged a fee at both ends of the transaction which can often be much higher than using a money transfer service which is a better way of bringing money into the UK.
Therefore, when choosing a bank account – find out specifically what the charges are to send and receive money internationally and what other costs you will incur.
Can I get a debit card and current account without opening a bank account?
The benefits of these bank providers include:
- You can open the account in minutes before you arrive in the UK
- You will be issued with a contactless debit card within 2-5 days of your arrival in the UK and it will be posted to you
- The account is a simple current account that allows you to deposit money, use ATMs and make purchases, set up direct debits and standing orders.
How do I open a UK bank account?
Remember, the exact documents required may vary from bank to bank so look on their website or read anything you have been sent before you visit the branch to open the account.
In most cases you will need the following paperwork and its worth taking duplicate copies.
- Your passport
- Your student visa
- Proof of address – a letter from your university’s admissions office confirming your address, or your tenancy agreement are the best things to take
- A letter from your university/college/school called ‘Letter of Introduction for UK Banking Facilities’ to show your UK study details
Do any UK banks observe Sharia law?
Many banks in the UK offer accounts that are run according to Sharia principles. Check your preferred bank’s website to find out if they offer this service.
What can you do via online and telephone banking?
All UK banks offer telephone and online banking which will allow you to check your balance, print off bank statements, transfer money, set-up direct debits and standing debits, report your card lost or stolen and get your questions answered.