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Opening a bank account in the UK

Most international students choose to open a bank account in the UK. You won’t be able to do this immediately, so you should think about how much money you will need for the first couple of weeks. Most shops in the UK accept Visa and Mastercard, so you may be able to use your bank cards from your home country until you have set up your UK account, although you should check what the charges and exchange rates are.

Follow this step-by-step guide to opening a UK bank account:

Most banks will want confirmation that you are enrolled on your course BEFORE they will allow you to open an account. For this reason, you can complete steps 1, 2 and 3 of the list below before you arrive in the UK, but you will need to wait until you have completed your course enrolment before you continue with step 4 and request your bank letter from AskBU.

  1. Read the useful information about opening UK bank accounts on the UKCISA website
  2. Do some research into the different types of account available to you from each of the main high-street banks:
    • Barclays
    • HSBC
    • NatWest
    • Santander
    • TSB

(The International Student Calculator website has useful information to help with this and lots of other tips about budgeting and banking in the UK)

  1. Decide which bank and branch you want to open an account with
  2. Request a bank letter from AskBU
  3. Make an appointment with the bank (allow at least 3 days after submitting your bank letter request form).
  4. Collect your bank letter from AskBU
  5. Take the letter and your passport with you to your bank appointment.

More information

You may also find some useful information about opening a UK bank account on the UKCISA student banking blog and Save the Student: Top UK bank accounts for international students.

Keeping your bank account safe

If you think that your bank account may have been misused you should report this to your bank or to the police. You can also let us know as we can provide support and advice. There are organised crime groups who may try to use frauds and scams to target international or UK students' bank accounts. The best way to keep your bank account safe is to remain vigilant and question anything that seems unusual. Please ensure that you:

  • do not engage with suspicious activities
  • are being cautious
  • talk to your bank if you are concerned about activity linked to your bank account(s)
  • are aware of the serious consequences of involvement in criminal activity.

The British Council’s Creating Confidence guidance and the UKCISA website both contain helpful information for students.