Studying abroad in the United Kingdom can be a thrilling and transformative experience, but it often comes with a host of logistical challenges. One crucial task for international students is managing their finances effectively and navigating the world of student bank accounts.
Opening a UK student bank account is a key step in this process. Our comprehensive guide will explain why it’s essential and what to consider when opening an international student bank account. It also contains a list of some of the best UK bank accounts tailored to international students:
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Why open a student bank account as a UK international student
Opening a UK bank account as an international student offers several advantages:
1. Safety and security: Keeping your money in a local bank account provides a secure way to manage your finances, reducing the risk of theft or loss compared to carrying large sums of cash.
2. Convenience: Having a UK account makes it easier to pay for tuition, accommodation and everyday expenses. It also simplifies receiving funds from family or scholarships.
3. Building credit history: Opening a bank account in the UK allows you to start building a credit history, which can be useful for future financial transactions such as renting a flat or obtaining a credit card.
4. Access to student discounts: Many providers offer special accounts for students that come with various perks, including discounts on shopping, travel and entertainment.
Types of student bank accounts available for international students
In the UK, international students have access to various types of bank accounts, each designed to cater to specific needs and circumstances. Understanding the different types of bank accounts available can help you make an informed decision and choose the one that best aligns with your financial requirements.
Here are the most common types of bank accounts that international students can consider:
Student bank accounts
Student bank accounts are specifically designed for individuals pursuing higher education. They often come with features such as interest-free overdrafts, discounts and incentives for students. These accounts are ideal for managing day-to-day finances while studying.
Basic current accounts
Basic current accounts are simple, no-frills bank accounts that offer essential banking services. They are suitable for international students who may not be eligible for student accounts or prefer a straightforward banking experience without additional perks.
Savings accounts are designed for accumulating funds over time. They typically offer higher interest rates than current accounts, making them an excellent choice for international students looking to save money during their studies.
International student accounts
Some British banks offer specialised international student accounts tailored to the needs of students studying abroad. These accounts often come with features like low foreign transaction fees and multilingual customer support.
Online-only or digital banks provide banking services exclusively through mobile apps or websites. They are convenient for international students who prefer checking their bank statements and managing their finances digitally.
Joint accounts allow two or more individuals to share an account, therefore suitable for international students who plan to live with roommates or family members while studying in the UK. Joint accounts facilitate shared expenses and financial management.
Some banks offer multi-currency accounts that allow international students to hold and manage multiple currencies within a single account. This can be beneficial for students receiving funds from abroad or dealing with international transactions.
After completing their studies, international students may transition to graduate accounts, which are tailored for recent graduates. These accounts often come with extended interest-free overdrafts and other perks to help graduates manage their finances as they start their careers.
Premium or premium student accounts
Premium accounts offer enhanced features, such as travel insurance, extended overdrafts and exclusive discounts. Premium student accounts may be suitable for international students seeking additional benefits and services.
Considerations when choosing a UK student bank account
Before opening a bank account in the UK, consider the following factors:
- Student visa requirements: Ensure you have the necessary visa and documents to open a bank account. Different banks may have varying requirements.
- Account types: Research the types of accounts available, including basic accounts with no fees, student accounts and international student accounts. Choose one that suits your needs and financial situation.
- Fees and charges: Be aware of any account fees, such as monthly maintenance charges, or ATM withdrawal fees. For example, a good bank for international students should allow you to transfer money to your home country without any additional fees.
- Branch locations: Consider the bank’s branch and ATM network, especially if they have a convenient presence near your university or accommodation.
- Online banking: Check if the bank offers robust online and mobile banking services, as this can make managing your finances more convenient.
- Overdraft facilities: If you anticipate needing an overdraft facility, compare the terms and limits offered by different banks.
- Additional perks: Some banks offer extras like free railcards, discounts, special deals on phone contracts, or cashback rewards, so explore the benefits of each account.
How to open a student bank account
Opening an international student bank account in the UK typically involves these steps:
- Choose a bank: Research and compare the various banks and account types available to find the one that best fits your needs.
- Gather required documents: Prepare the necessary documentation, which may include your passport, visa, proof of address (e.g. a tenancy agreement or university acceptance letter stating your UK address) and proof of student status.
- Visit a branch: Make an appointment or visit a local branch of the chosen bank. Bring your documentation and any required initial deposit.
- Complete application: Fill out the bank’s application form and provide the requested information. You may also need to attend an interview.
- Verification: The bank will verify your documents and, upon approval, issue you a bank account and debit card.
- Activate online banking: Set up and activate your online banking account to access your funds and manage your finances remotely.
The best student bank accounts in the UK for international students
Barclays Student Additions Account
The Barclays Student Additions Account is designed to simplify financial management for students, providing a range of features and benefits. You can apply for it through the Barclays app, which makes the process efficient and accessible.
- Interest-free overdraft: The account allows students to apply for an interest-free overdraft of up to £1,500 over the duration of their studies, providing a financial safety net.
- No hidden charges: The Barclays Student Additions Account is promoted as a fee-free student banking option, meaning students do not incur charges for opening or using the account.
- Mobile banking: The account includes access to the Barclays app, which offers a convenient way to track spending and manage bills.
- Accessibility: Barclays provides multiple ways to access account services, including online, phone, or in-branch, ensuring students can choose the method that suits them best.
- Academic programmes: The Barclays Student Additions Account caters to various academic programmes, including undergraduate degrees (minimum two years), postgraduate degrees (minimum one year) and higher apprenticeships (Level 4+).
- Free access to Perlego: One notable feature is the free 12-month subscription to Perlego’s extensive online library of books and academic resources. This subscription can potentially save students up to £653, offering a valuable resource for their studies. It’s worth noting that this offer has a specific end date (18 December 2023) and terms and conditions apply.
- Application process: The application process is straightforward and can be initiated even if students haven’t received an unconditional or confirmed offer from their university. The Barclays app facilitates the application process, allowing students to provide identity verification and course details.
- Eligibility: To be eligible for this account, students must meet specific criteria. They need to be 18 years or older, studying full-time in the UK and must have been UK residents for at least 3 years.
HSBC International Student Account
The HSBC International Student Account is tailored to meet the unique financial needs of international students studying in the UK. This specialised account offers an array of features and benefits to ensure seamless banking while pursuing academic goals in a foreign country.
- No monthly fees: A standout feature of the HSBC International Student Account is its lack of monthly account fees, making it an affordable choice for international students managing their finances during their studies in the UK.
- Dedicated relationship manager: Account holders have access to a dedicated relationship manager who can provide personalised financial advice and support, catering to the specific needs of international students.
- Global ATM Access: HSBC’s extensive global network ensures that international students can withdraw cash and access banking services conveniently both in the UK and abroad, facilitating hassle-free transactions.
- Eligibility: International students pursuing their education in the UK typically qualify for the HSBC International Student Account. However, specific eligibility criteria may apply, including proof of student status and immigration status.
- Multilingual support: HSBC provides multilingual customer support, ensuring that international students can seek assistance and communicate comfortably in their preferred language.
- International recognition: HSBC is a globally recognised bank, which can be beneficial for international students seeking to establish a banking relationship that extends beyond their time in the UK.
- Mobile and online banking: The HSBC International Student Account provides access to user-friendly mobile and online banking platforms, empowering account holders to manage their finances digitally and securely.
- Exclusive offers: HSBC may offer exclusive deals and promotions tailored to international students, enhancing their overall banking experience and helping them save on various expenses.
- Overseas usage: Account holders should be aware of potential fees or charges when using the account for international transactions or ATM withdrawals outside the UK.
Lloyds Bank Classic Account
The Lloyds Classic Account is a versatile banking option designed to cater to the financial needs of students and individuals alike. It offers a range of features and benefits to simplify day-to-day banking while ensuring accessibility and convenience.
- No monthly fees: One of the standout features of the Lloyds Classic Account is its absence of monthly account fees, making it an attractive choice for students and those looking to manage their finances without incurring additional costs.
- Contactless debit card: Account holders receive a contactless debit card, providing a convenient way to make payments and transactions both online and in person, simplifying everyday expenses.
- Mobile and online banking: The account provides access to mobile and online banking, offering customers the flexibility to manage their accounts, track spending and pay bills from the convenience of their devices.
- Branch and ATM network: Lloyds Bank boasts an extensive branch and ATM network across the UK, ensuring that customers can access services in person and withdraw cash conveniently, no matter where they are.
- Budgeting tools: The mobile and online banking platforms provide budgeting tools that assist account holders in managing their finances effectively. These tools can help individuals keep track of their spending and make informed financial decisions.
- Eligibility: Lloyds Bank’s Classic Account could benefit international students who haven’t resided in the UK for three years. As long as your current place of residence is in the UK, you are eligible to open this account. However, if you have resided in the UK for more than three years, you may be entitled to open their Student Current Account.
- Overdraft: The Lloyds Classic Account is intended for day-to-day banking and does not offer specific overdraft facilities as part of the standard package. However, you can apply for overdrafts separately, with the process being subject to specific arrangements and terms.
- Online and mobile banking limits: While mobile and online banking offer convenient features, account holders should be aware of transaction limits and payment thresholds that may apply. These limits may vary depending on the type of transaction and account status.
Natwest International Select Account
The NatWest International Select Account is a specialised banking solution designed for the unique financial needs of individuals residing in specific countries. This account offers a range of features and benefits, ensuring seamless banking services for international residents.
- International focus: The NatWest International Select Account is tailored to address the banking requirements of individuals residing in eligible countries.
- Mobile and online banking: Account holders can enjoy the convenience of user-friendly mobile and online banking platforms, making it easy to manage their finances from anywhere.
- Multilingual support: NatWest provides multilingual customer support, ensuring that account holders can communicate their banking needs and inquiries comfortably.
- Specialised support: NatWest’s International Select Account caters to individuals residing in specific countries, offering them a tailored banking experience with specialised resources and guidance.
- Financial guides: To assist international residents in managing their finances effectively, NatWest provides a range of financial guides and educational resources.
- Mobile app with multilingual support: The NatWest International Select Account extends mobile and online banking with multilingual support, ensuring that account holders can manage their finances confidently.
- Branch and ATM access: NatWest boasts a widespread branch and ATM network in select countries, ensuring that international residents have convenient access to services in person and cash withdrawals.
- Eligibility: The NatWest International Select Account is typically available to individuals who are residents in specific eligible countries. Customers must meet the residency criteria based on their country of residence, as defined by NatWest.
- Online and mobile banking limits: It’s advisable to familiarise yourself with any transaction limits and payment thresholds that may apply to online and mobile banking, as these limits can differ depending on the type of transaction and account status.
Santander 1|2|3 Student Current Account
The Santander 1|2|3 Student Current Account is a versatile and student-focused banking solution designed to cater to the unique financial needs of students in the United Kingdom. This account offers a wide range of features and benefits, ensuring that students can effectively manage their finances during their academic journey.
- Tailored for students: The Santander 1|2|3 Student Current Account is specifically designed to meet the banking requirements of students, offering them a comprehensive and flexible financial solution.
- Cashback on eligible household bills: Account holders can earn cashback on eligible household bills, including utility bills and council tax payments, helping students save on essential expenses.
- Interest-free overdraft: The account offers an interest-free arranged overdraft, providing students with a financial safety net for managing short-term expenses.
- Contactless Visa debit card: Account holders receive a contactless Visa debit card, simplifying transactions both online and in person, making everyday payments hassle-free.
- Mobile and online banking: Accessible through the Santander mobile app and online banking, this account empowers students to manage their finances efficiently, including tracking spending and setting up bill payments.
- Exclusive 1|2|3 world offers: Account holders gain access to exclusive offers and discounts through the 1|2|3 World Offers programme, enhancing the overall value of their banking experience.
- Extensive branch and ATM network: Santander boasts a widespread branch and ATM network across the UK, ensuring that account holders have convenient access to services in person and cash withdrawals.
- Dedicated student support: The 1|2|3 Student Current Account provides specialised support for students, including resources to navigate the banking system and access to knowledgeable staff.
- Financial education resources: Santander offers a range of financial education resources, including budgeting tools and financial guides, to help students manage their finances effectively.
- Eligibility: To be eligible for the Santander 1|2|3 Student Current Account, several criteria need to be met. If you are in the process of embarking on your university journey, you must possess either a ‘confirmed conditional’ offer (typically received once you have your academic results) or an ‘unconditional’ offer for a university place. In the case of a conditional offer, it’s advisable to wait until your place is officially confirmed following the receipt of your results before submitting your application. This ensures that you meet the necessary academic criteria to qualify for the account.
- International transactions: Fees apply to some international money transfers, namely when sending money outside the UK or when receiving money from outside the UK.
TSB Spend & Save Account
The TSB Spend & Save Account is a versatile banking option tailored to the financial needs of UK residents aged 18 or over. This account comes with several appealing features designed to help individuals effectively manage their finances and save money.
- Age and residency requirement: To open a TSB Spend & Save Account, applicants must be UK residents aged 18 or older. This means that if you are an international student, you need to have already relocated to the UK to be eligible for this account.
- Cashback rewards: A notable perk of this account is the opportunity to earn £5 cashback for the first six months if 20 or more payments are made using the debit card each month. This incentive encourages active use of the account.
- Savings pots: The account offers a ‘Savings Pots’ feature, allowing account holders to set aside funds for specific savings goals. This feature promotes disciplined saving and budgeting.
- Mobile banking app: To access and utilise the features of this account effectively, account holders will need to utilise TSB’s mobile banking app, ensuring convenient and secure account management from their mobile phone.
- Save the pennies: Account holders can opt for the ‘Save the Pennies’ feature, which rounds up payments to the nearest pound and automatically transfers the spare change into a designated savings pot or a TSB savings account. This helps individuals save effortlessly.
- Auto balancer: The Auto Balancer feature enables users to set a minimum balance on their account. If the account balance falls below the specified minimum, funds are automatically transferred from a savings pot to prevent overdraft usage (if applicable).
- International transfer fees: Receiving money from abroad in Euros is free, and so is sending money abroad in Euros to an EEA (European Economic Area). However, for sending money abroad in all other currencies to all countries, there’s a fee of £10 for amounts up to £5,000 and £17.50 for amounts exceeding £5,000. Likewise, receiving money from abroad in all other currencies incurs a fee of £2 for amounts up to £100 and £7 for amounts exceeding £100.
While having a UK bank account is undoubtedly crucial for international students studying in the United Kingdom, it’s essential to be aware that many of the options covered in the list may charge significant fees for international money transfers (on top of currency conversion charges).
Luckily, there are alternative solutions that can help students save money when sending or receiving funds internationally, such as TransferGo.
At TransferGo, we specialise in providing cost-effective and efficient transfer services, ensuring that UK immigrants, including international students, can send or receive money from abroad at lower costs compared to traditional banks.
With our platform, you can enjoy competitive exchange rates, transparent fees and a seamless transfer experience, making it an excellent choice for managing your international financial transactions while studying in the UK.