Information for international students setting up a UK bank account
Comparing banks, accounts and requirements
Many aspects of opening a UK bank account as student from the EU will vary from bank to bank. These aspects include such details as:
- The type of bank account available to you
- The type of documentation required to present in the branch (e.g. visa if applicable, passport, letter of study offer from the University)
- The length of time expected to get the bank account fully set up
- Minimum expected duration of stay in the UK
A useful comparative resource for international students organising a UK bank account is the banking comparison table made by the University Edinburgh Global group (updated in May 2017). This table compares seven different banks that operate in Edinburgh, under different parameters from the type of bank accounts available for international students to what to bring to the branch when you are setting up your account.
Edinburgh Global homepage
Bank introductory letter
When opening a UK bank account as an international student most UK banks will require an 'introductory letter' from the University to the bank. This is just a letter confirming your residence in Edinburgh and your attendance at the University.
It can be printed from MyEd if you are staying in University accommodation or otherwise, Student Administration can provide a letter, depending on whether you are a fully matriculated as a University student yet or not, if you are living in private accommodation.
The Student Administration website gives lots of detailed information on how to get your bank introductory letter in all of these situations.
Bank Introductory Letter page of the Student Administration website
It is important to note that not all banks will accept an introductory letter, and some may have other specific requirements for proof of address and University attendance. The following bank chains operating in Edinburgh will accept introductory letters:
- Royal Bank of Scotland: 30 Nicolson Street, EH8 9DL [Location Map]
- Santander: Potterow, 5/2 Bristo Square, EH8 9AL [Location Map]
- Bank of Scotland: 51 South Clerk Street, EH8 9PP [Location Map]
- Barclays Bank: 10-15 Princes Street, EH2 2AN [Location Map]
- HSBC Bank: 118 Princes Street, EH2 4AA [Location Map] and 76 Hanover Street, EH2 1EL [Location Map]
- TSB: 9-11 Clerk Street, EH8 9JH [Location Map] and 16B Cameron Toll Centre, EH16 5PB [Location Map]
- Bank of China: 450 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G3 3JD [Location Map]
Important points to remember:
You will not normally be allowed to open a bank account until you arrive in the UK.
In order to ensure that you have sufficient funds available for the first five weeks after arriving in the UK, it is sensible to bring some travellers’ cheques with you which you can easily cash in at any bank.
Opening a new bank account and getting it fully set up (with internet banking etc.) may take longer than expected, particularly for students from outside the EU due to strict anti-money laundering laws.Remember to enquire from each bank the expected time to set up a new account, and be prepared for the process to take up to two weeks. Making sure you have all the necessary documentation ready for your first appointment with the bank will help the process happen as quickly as possible.
Your account will not normally offer an overdraft facility, i.e. you will only be able to withdraw the amount of money you have deposited in your bank account.
In addition to proof of the address at which you will be staying in Edinburgh, you may be required to provide proof of your home country address. The website of each bank will have information on whether this is necessary.
You may also be required to provide a reference letter from your bank in your home country, written in English, providing details on your credit status.
As banks differ in what they require from international students it is advisable before leaving your home country to look at the websites of some of the main banks to see what documentation they require.
Bringing cash into the UK
If you arrive in the UK with large amounts of cash you should open a bank account as soon as possible in order to deposit it securely. Please note If you bring €10,000 (or equivalent in other currencies) in cash or more, you will have to declare it at Customs when you arrive in the UK. Further informtion on bringing cash into the UK can be found on the UK Government website.
Taking cash in and out of the UK page of the UK Government website
Travellers' cheques may be a safer alternative than cash, as they require your matching signature to be used, and can be replaced if lost or stolen. There is further information on ordering and collecting travellers' cheques on the UK Post Office website.
Travellers' Cheques page of the UK Post Office website
Documents for visa extension
If you extend your visa in the UK you will need original bank statements on paper for of your application. Check that your bank will be able to produce printed statements or stamp your internet statements.
Some mainstream and specialist banks offer accounts based on Sharia principles. Check bank websites for more information.