How to set up a bank account in the UK

Magda Budzynska·8 September 2021·4 min read
How to set up a bank account in the UK

Are you an international student trying to figure out how to set up your first bank account in the UK? Follow these few tips to manage your finances stress-free.

Why should you open a bank account?

All students who study at universities for at least one year are eligible to set up a student bank account. It is not compulsory to open one, however, it is highly recommended and will make your life much easier. Managing finances using your home country bank can be very impractical and increase your spending by additional currency conversion fees. Moreover, settling up with your friends won’t be so complicated once you use a UK-based bank. As a student, you will also need to make regular payments such as covering tuition fees or paying rent and monthly bills. Additionally, a bank account comes in handy when you receive any support funds or a salary.

What documents are required to open the bank account?

Students from outside the UK will have to provide more evidence that they are eligible to open a bank account compared to those already resident in the UK. The required minimum documentation usually includes:

  • Valid passport,
  • Biometric Residence Permit (for Tier 4 students only),

· Proof of your student status such as student ID or an acceptance letter from your university.

You will be also obligated to prove your address. Some banks might accept Bank Introduction Letter to prove both your student status and your address. This will be provided by your university.

Can you open a bank account before entering the UK?

Due to Covid-19, many services were forced to move online including the finance sector. Some banks allow their potential clients to open an account without going to the local branch once they are in the UK. A few offer even the opportunity for students to set up an account before they enter the UK. For example, if you are an existing HSBC client you can easily have an account set up before you leave your home country. Another option is to choose an alternative and use a digital app-based bank such as Revolut or Monese. The perks of picking this option include the speed of account setup and easy currency conversion.

What should you consider when opening the account?

If you plan to receive or send money from your home country make sure to check for the international transfer fees. Some banks may charge you for sending the money and additionally take a commission fee for currency conversion.

International students are usually offered only small overdrafts. However, if that’s an important factor for you make sure to check the full bank offer, not only accounts created purposefully for students.

The location of the branch is another important thing worth considering. Try to pick a bank that has its branch located fairly close to your accommodation. This will be useful in case of emergency.

The most important thing when setting up a bank account is to do proper research and not to be afraid to ask questions. And don’t worry, banking in the UK is usually simple!