How To Open A Bank Account in UK


At some point during your stay, you’re going to need a bank account in UK. Paying the rent for your apartment, utility bills, and receiving your salary are among the thing you can do with ease using a British bank account.

With that said, there are many other reasons why you should consider getting a bank account instead of using the personal account you have in your home country.

As you would expect, while operating a foreign bank account in UK certain charges will be applied to every withdrawal and transaction you make. On top of that, opening a bank account in UK will help you to have better control of your personal funds as there won’t be any necessity to mind the currency exchange rate.

For most foreigners in the UK, we’ve found the best and most convenient way is if you use a borderless bank account with Transferwise. Not to mention it’s up to 8 times cheaper to transfer money because they do not profit from currency exchange rates as normal banks do.

Now that we agree that opening a bank account in UK is important for you as an international student, you’re probably asking:

Not surprisingly, many of you may feel intimidated from banking especially when landing in a foreign country where the banking system and the terms are different from what you’re used to. However, this is more of a false impression rather than a fact and that is true even for the banking system in UK.

These days, banks in UK have simplified formalities, thus opening a bank account is much easier than it has been in the old days. Couldn’t get any better: Fewer documents required, simple procedures and ability to apply online.

Below we provide you with a sequential explanation and associated details about opening a bank account in UK for international students.

But, before moving to that, here’s a short introduction to the British bank system.

There are a lot of banks located in UK each offering different services and for various purposes. Some may be specialized in offering a broad set of banking services and to different categories of clients, while some others may only be limited to specific clients.

Their network of cooperation stretches beyond national borders as many of them maintain strong links with foreign partners. Aside from national banks, the country is home to numerous foreign banks, especially from the US.

The following are three main regulatory bodies that survey the work of banks in UK

  • Bank of England (BoE)
  • Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), a branch of BoE
  • Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

There are several types of banks in UK designed to suit different customers and their financial needs.

  • High Street Banks
  • Business Banking
  • Investment Banking
  • Central Banking

Some types of bank accounts in UK are

  • Current Accounts
  • Basic Accounts
  • Saving Accounts
  • Saving Accounts
  • Post Office Card account

You can open a borderless bank account with Transferwise in minutes and benefit from using over 50 currencies for free and transfers 8x cheaper than normal banks.

Learn more about Transferwise borderless account

Note that there also other types of bank accounts that are typical for a particular bank. An example of this is the Student Additional Account provided by the Barclays bank.

So the very first thing you must do to open your bank account in UK is to decide which one suits your needs. Regarding that, there are a lot of banks the options are plenty, and at this point, you must take into consideration several things to make sure you’re picking up the best option.

For an expat like you it is surely a bit hard to think of these things and for that  given below are some of the factors you must consider when deciding at which bank you want to set up an account

There is a large variety of banks in terms of the range of services they offer, making them more suitable for a particular category than another one.

Typically, you must look for their transaction and maintenance policies, types of cards, the network of branches and ATMs, online banking, overdraft limits and currency exchanges.

You must give the advantage to those banks whose administration costs are attractive to your budget as a foreign student and the network of its branches and ATMs is extensive so you can reach one at any time at any place.

Also, you must look for banks whose student accounts enable you to withdraw more money than you actually have in a condition you pay for it later.

Usually, banks set a fixed limit on how much you can get in a specific period of time. For example, some banks may allow you to withdraw up to £3,000 in the period of three years while not having a single cent in your account.

Thus, we recommend you to read carefully banks’ guidelines about accounts on offer to be able to make informed decisions.

After you have made up your mind about where to open your bank account it is time you complete the documents required and make an appointment at the bank of your choice.

Apart from minor variations, the followings are the documents required to open a bank account in UK:

  • An ID card or Passport (your driving license is also accepted)
  • The Proof of address in UK (a recent utility bill)
  • The proof you’re a student (the admission letter from your university, the UCAS confirmation or your student visa)

Note that you have to submit original documents and not copies. Also, keep in mind that despite that you can apply for opening a bank account in UK entirely online you will need to submit the documents in person at a local branch.

The process of opening a bank account may take a few days and on some occasions a few weeks. Making the appointment counts for the most part of this timeline required to initiate the opening of your account.

There is less you can do about this as it entirely depends on the bank’s agenda and their management flexibility. Just be patient and within a short period of time, you’ll be confirmed an appointment.

The other part of the process takes less time and luckily there are not too many documents and formalities required. Normally, your account will be activated from the moment you fill the application form at the bank, but it will take a few days to issue your card and the PIN code. Don’t forget to regularly check your post because the bank will send your card to you through it.

Once you open your bank account in UK, you’ll be charged a monthly fee. The maintenance fees are different among banks in UK.

Its cost varies according to the type of your card. Normally, as a student, you will be charged lower maintenance fees. Moreover, in some small banks, there may not be such fee applied to you.

Overall maintenance fees for student bank accounts in the UK range somewhere between £3 and £6. Note that however, these costs may vary according to the bank’s internal policies.

Take your time to make a decision

Deciding at which bank you want to open a bank account in UK is an important decision. You’re going to use it for a long time, possibly for the complete duration of your studies. Therefore, we recommend you to pay to take enough time before making a decision.

This is not any rocket-science itself, because all you need to do is a little online research. Start by sorting out the banks whose services which are particularly important for you as a student like the extension of their network and overdraft opportunities and then make a closer look to decide.

Open your account early

As a student, time is everything for you. To make your first few days in UK less overwhelming it is highly recommended you initiate the opening of your bank account in UK once you receive the admission letter.

In this way, you will have more time to concentrate on other important issues related to your studies. Open your bank account from home and once you land in UK you can send off the documents in person as required.

Master online means

Banking has changed a lot with the introduction of modern technologies and in this era, you can complete a transaction with a click. Usually, banks in UK run personal mobile-friendly applications to offer you effective, fast and flexible banking services at any time you want. We recommend you to learn to use these applications to save time and even money for yourself. There’s no need to worry because banks’ officers can help you learn it if you find difficulties using them.

Get into the banking system

Last but not least important, we highly recommend gaining a little knowledge in the banking system. Commonly, banking policies may change due to numerous factors and clients may be burdened with additional costs for covering maintenance fees, transactions and so on.

Therefore, having a basic understanding of these trends helps you to easily navigate in the pool of banks and pick up the one which has more cost-effective services to offer you.


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