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Best UK Bank Accounts for International Students 2022

As international students outside of Europe, it might feel overwhelming having to deal with looking for accommodation and sorting out paperwork in the UK. Good news! We will help you go through the steps of opening a bank account in the UK. In this post, we will discuss:

  • Things to consider
  • How to open a bank account
  • Best accounts for international students
  • Alternatives to traditional banks

 

Things You Need To Consider Before Signing Up For A Bank



Does your current bank operate in the UK?

The easiest banking solution for international students is often sticking to their banking provider if they have branches in the UK. In general, it’s easier to open an account abroad if you already have a track record with your bank, and it will save you from unnecessary administrative stuff. For example, Standard Chartered Bank, United Overseas Bank (UOB), and HSBC often operate worldwide, and they are also located all over the UK.

International transfer fee

If you’re going to receive or send money back and forth to your home bank, it’s important to know the exact transfer fee. Do your research on how much percentage the bank takes a commission from international transfers and if the bank offers a good exchange rate.

Promo and other perks

A lot of banks offer promos and perks for young people — students and young professionals included. Check with the bank if they offer discounts on selected brands, supermarkets or restaurants. Some banks also offer a cashback program. Ask what the requirements are and be aware of all the pros and cons. Good perks or bonuses won’t make up for crazy high international transfer fees and minimum balance charges.

Bank overdraft and minimum balance charges

A bank overdraft lets you withdraw more money than you have in your current account with a fee. You can ask how much the bank charges for this and consider if you need one. Do note that usually the overdraft for international students is relatively small as the bank assumes you won’t stay in the UK for long. In addition, ask what is the minimum balance charge. Normally, the bank will set a minimum balance that you must have to avoid the maintenance fee. If you fall below the minimum, you will have to pay a maintenance fee for that month.

Location of branches and ATM

Check if your bank has atm located all over or if it lets you withdraw money from other banks free of charge or commission fee. It is also good to know where your bank branches and their operating hours are in case you need to go there in person. Usually, banks in the UK close at 4 pm on weekdays and the whole day on the weekends.

 

How To Open A Bank Account As An International Student


A lot of banks offer a dedicated student account with perks and cheaper bank fees. However, it may be difficult to open one for international students as you need to prove your residential address and that you have already stayed some time in the UK. Therefore, most international students open a current account instead. But just for your information, here are the documents required for both the current account and the student account.

Documents you will need to open a current account:

  • a valid passport and national ID card
  • a student visa or a biometric residence permit (that doesn’t expire within three months)
  • bank statement from your home country or your previous bank for the past three months
  • proof of address in the UK (can be phone bills, electricity bills, house or accommodation contracts. Do check with the respective banks)
  • Student ID and acceptance letter from your university

Documents you will need to open a dedicated student account:

  • Four-digit UCAS code or proof of student status, printed and delivered in person to the bank branch
  • Photo ID
  • UK mobile number
  • Proof of UK residential address (tenancy agreement or letter from university accommodation)

Best Accounts For International Students


We've rounded up a few banking options for you to consider below:

Bank

Sending Money Abroad (all currency)

Receiving Money

Eligibility

NatWest Select

Free

Euros: Free

All other currencies: £1 to receive under £100 and £7 for amounts £100 or greater

 

Age 18 or over

UK Resident

RBS Select

Free

Euros: Free

All other currencies: £1 to receive under £100 and £7 for amounts £100 or greater

 

Age 18 and above

UK Resident

Barclays

Free

Euros: free
All other currencies: free to receive under £100 and £6 for amounts over £100.

Age 18 or over

Be in full-time higher education (your four-digit UCAS code or other proof of student status is required)

UK mobile number

A valid photo ID

UK residential address.

HSBC

Free (to EEA countries, in euro or other currency), except sending money to non-HSBC accounts in all other countries and currencies: £4

From EEA countries in euros: free

From non-EEA countries in pounds: free to receive under £100, £6 to receive £100 or more

 

Age 18 or over

Proof of address in the UK

Proof you’ve been accepted onto a qualifying course at a UK university or college (a letter confirming this can also act as your proof of address).

Lloyds

In Euros: free

In other currencies £9.50

In Euros: free

In all other currencies: £2 to receive under £100 and £7 for amounts over £100

 

Age 18 or over

A UK address

Be an EU national, or have the right to stay in the UK for at least 12 months.

Santander

SEPA in Euro: Free

All other currencies: £25

In all currencies: free

Age 18 or over

A UK residential address

Have been staying in the UK within the last 12 months

Have proof of studying in the UK

TSB

In Euro to EEA countries: free

To all countries in any currency: £10 to send £5,000 or less and £17.50 to send over £5,000

 

In Euros: Free

in all other currencies: £2 to receive £100 or less and £7 for amounts over £100

 

Age 18 or Over

A UK Resident

Al Rayan

€40 / Up to approx. £30, depending on countries and currencies

In all currencies: free

Age 16 or over

 

Alternatives To Traditional Banks


Besides the big-name banks, we also recommend you to consider opening either Wise, Revolut or N26. The reason being is that they generally have a better currency exchange. It is also important to know that Revolut and Wise operate under an e-money institution license and N26 is a fully licensed German bank with a European banking license. One advantage of these banking options is that receiving money from overseas and converting it to Pound sterling is easier and probably cheaper than regular banks.

Here’s a comparison between the three banking options:

Banks

Licensed Bank

Currencies

Card Delivery

ATM withdrawal

N26

Yes, German license

Euro

€10, up to 3 business days

Free up to 3 withdrawals per month in the Eurozone

Wise

Not a bank but an e-money institution

Euro and 150+ other currencies

£5, up to 9 business days

Free up to 2 withdrawals  less than £200 per month otherwise £0.5 per withdrawal

Revolut

Yes, Lithuanian license

Euro and 150+ other currencies

€5, up to 9 business days

Withdrawals over £200 (or equivalent) per month come at the cost of 2%

 
We hope this information will be of use for you. To further prepare for your first year at university, do check out our ultimate packing list for Uni and Uni Starter Pack here.

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