How to Open an International Student Bank Account in the UK

If you are coming to the UK to study, life will be much easier if you have a UK bank account. In most cases, an international student bank account will end up being a standard current or savings account. Find out how to apply, and what you need to look out for.

Connor Campbell Published on 26 October 2021. Last updated on 27 October 2021.
How to Open an International Student Bank Account in the UK

Coming to the UK for university can be a thrilling experience. It is a chance to make lifelong friends, lasting memories and get a taste of a new culture, all while studying at some of the world’s finest higher education institutions.

However, it carries with it a lot of admin that goes beyond just finding a place at a university in the UK. And that includes applying for an international student bank account.

But don’t worry – below we cover everything you need to know about opening an international student bank account in the UK, including which documents you have to provide and the kind of accounts available.

International student account vs current account

Most banks do not offer dedicated student accounts for international students.

This is often because the banks require the person opening the account to have lived in the UK for at least three years. So for Brits staying in the UK for university, there are a swathe of specific student accounts to choose from.

International students are instead usually offered one of the bank’s other standard current or savings accounts. If opting for a current account, you will also receive a debit card, with which you can make payments in person and online, or make withdrawals at a cash machine.

Depending on the bank, you may also be unable to access credit facilities, such as credit cards or overdrafts, as an international student.

There are exceptions, however. As an international student you will be able to open a student account at a limited number of providers, as long as you have the right documentation. These accounts include the possibility of an interest-free arranged overdraft.

» COMPARE: Current accounts in the UK

How to open a bank account for an international student

The requirements to open a bank account as an international student will vary from provider to provider. This can even include whether or not you can apply from overseas before you come to the UK to study.

However, you will normally be asked to supply originals of some combination of the following:

  • Your passport or travel document, or National Identity Card.
  • Your student visa, or a biometric residence permit (that doesn’t expire within three months).
  • A letter from your university confirming your place on a qualifying course.
  • Bank statements showing your full name, current address and recent transactions.
  • Utility or local authority tax bills showing your full name and current address.

If you want to open a dedicated student account, meanwhile, you will need to make sure you have:

  • Your four-digit UCAS code, or, lacking that, proof of your student status delivered in branch.
  • Proof of a UK residential address, either from your university if you are staying in uni accommodation, or your tenancy agreement if you are staying in a rented property.
  • Photo ID, such as a passport.
  • A UK mobile phone number.

Once you have your documents to hand, you can either follow the steps to apply online, or, if you need help, visit a branch to go through your application face to face.

It could take up to two weeks for your application to be processed, though this will again vary from bank to bank.

How to choose your international student bank account

Before opening a bank account as an international student, you should weigh up what exactly you want from your account, and which features are most important to you.

International transfer fees

One of the biggest services to look into is international transfer fees. If you will be receiving money from abroad, or sending it back home, then you should compare the commission rates and exchange fees of each bank.

And if you intend to visit home, and use your card there, it is worth checking how much it costs to use your UK debit card abroad.

Overdraft

If you think you will need an arranged overdraft, then you will have to apply to one of the few providers that offers them to international students. This can be a useful tool when trying to stick to a student budget.

» MORE: How to create your student budget

Location

You may also want to make sure that your chosen bank has a branch near where you are living or going to university. This is in case you need to sort anything out in relation to your account in person.

Other than that, you should bear in mind all the usual things you would need to consider when opening a bank account. This could be whether it has easy online banking and a mobile app, or if any rewards come with opening or using the account.

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

Connor is a writer and spokesperson for NerdWallet. Previously at Spreadex, his market commentary has been quoted in the likes of the BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Reuters and The Independent. Read more

If you have any feedback on this article please contact us at [email protected]