Open a UK bank account
All students who are studying at the University for one year or longer are eligible to open a UK bank account. For shorter visits the choice is more limited, and we recommend that you seek more information from banks directly. This process may take up to two weeks if you have all the required documentation ready to go beforehand.
Many aspects of opening a student bank account will vary from bank to bank. These aspects include details such as:
- the type of bank account available to you in terms of an overdraft, fees, charges and additional perks
- the type of documentation required to present in the branch (for example, passport, letter of study offer from the University, proof of address)
- the length of time expected to get the bank account fully set up
- the minimum expected length of stay in the UK
Many UK websites compare different student bank accounts, including:
Why should I open a UK bank account?
Whether you are looking at digital-only banking account or a traditional bank account (with the option to bank digitally and go into a bank) opening a UK bank account has several benefits, including:
- fraud protection
- safety and security of your money
- you can use it to pay your rent
- you can use it to manage and pay your tuition fees (Pay your fees)
- you can use it to manage other daily expenses without incurring any extra charges
What will I need to open a UK bank account?
Many banks require you to complete an online application form to open a UK bank account. To open a UK bank account you will need:
- a local semester address recorded on your student record
- your passport - banks will not accept your University card as proof of identification
- a University Bank Introduction Letter - this will be accepted by a selection of local banks as proof of student status and proof of semester-time address
- Student Visa students only: your Biometric Residence permit (BRP)
If you are already resident in the UK, you are eligible to open a student bank account. These can come with a number of additional benefits such as an interest-free overdraft.
In the context of student bank accounts, the term 'UK resident' usually refers to someone who has been living in the UK for at least three years prior to opening the bank account.
However, this may vary from bank to bank, so if you've only moved to the UK in the last couple of years, it is worth checking which bank accounts you are eligible for. This information should be available on the website of each bank in the section discussing the conditions of the student bank account.
Please be mindful to never let someone else store money in your bank account, even friends - this could be considered money laundering and could be considered a criminal offence.
If you are not already resident in the UK, you will have fewer options as to the range of UK bank accounts you can open, but you should still open an account as soon as possible to be able to pay expenses.
International visiting and exchange students will have limited bank account options depending on the duration of their stay in the UK.
We recommend comparing different student bank accounts, including:
Important points to remember
- Don't bring large amounts of cash to the UK. Most banks will query large deposits of cash and may even freeze your account. Check before you arrive how you will transfer money to the UK - in some cases you may need to fill out paperwork or nominate someone to do this for you.
- Don’t store cash in your room. We strongly recommend that you arrange a digital or international bank solution and just bring enough amount of cash for your first few days, to cover transport from the airport, food and other general expenses.
- It is a good idea to bring some travellers’ cheques with you which you can easily cash in at any bank in order to ensure that you have sufficient funds available for the first five weeks after arriving in the UK.
- You may be required to provide proof of your home country address, in addition to the proof of the address of where you will be staying in Edinburgh, 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.
- Look at the websites of some of the main banks to see what documentation they require before leaving your home country, as banks differ in what they require from international students.
- Your account will not normally offer an overdraft facility. You will only be able to withdraw the amount of money you have deposited in your bank account.
- Never let someone else store money in your bank account, even friends - this could be considered money laundering and could by considered a criminal offence.
- Do not hesitate to seek help if you find yourself in financial difficulty.
Overdrafts are only really applicable to UK resident students.
The main difference between student accounts and normal or, 'current' accounts is the overdraft facility. An overdraft works like a 0% interest loan and allows you to withdraw more money from your bank account than you actually have, without being charged (interest) for doing so.
An overdraft can be useful for when finances might be tight between payments (whether payments from a loan, grant or wages). Most banks will offer overdrafts with a pre-agreed limit. Some student bank accounts offer tiered overdraft amounts, which increase with each year of study, so you could end up with a bigger overdraft limit after your first year.[MK1]
Important points to remember
- An overdraft is not free money: once you graduate or otherwise stop being a student, the overdraft facility will stop and you will have to repay any negative balance on your account.
- If you go over your agreed overdraft you will be charged a fee. The resulting charges can build up very quickly - avoid this at all costs.
- If you find yourself in financial difficulty, do not hesitate to seek help as soon as you can.
Banks can often offer additional perks attached to a student bank account, such as a free Railcard or National Union of Students card.Banks will advertise the perks and details of their student bank accounts on their websites.
The overdraft facility and fees for overdrawing your account are the most important aspects of a student bank account to pay attention to. Choose wisely even if the other freebies are attractive.
One day to two weeks.
Some accounts can be opened during just one appointment in the bank branch; others take longer, varying from bank to bank and the type of account you open.
Remember to enquire with each bank how long it normally takes, but be prepared for the process to take up to two weeks. Preparing all the necessary documentation will help things proceed as quickly as possible.
- It is important to plan your finances in case there is a delay in accessing your new bank account.
- Setting up online banking on your new account can take longer than expected, as you will likely have to wait to receive an activation code through the post.
Find what works for you
- The bank branches near the University are very used to dealing with students, so these are probably a good place to start looking for where to set up your new account.
- You will probably receive a lot of paperwork documenting the terms and conditions of your new account - ask a staff member in the bank to go through these with you, especially if English is not your first language.
- If you set up a new bank account and find that you are not happy with it, don't be afraid to switch to a different type of account or a different bank. You will spend a reasonable amount of time over the course of your studies using your bank account, so it's important to find one you are happy with.
Charges to keep in mind
- There may be some small charges on transactions like international bank transfers that could become expensive over time.
There are many resources at the University available to help.
The University Scholarships and Student Funding
This website has useful information on short-term financial assistance available to students in exceptional circumstances.
The Advice Place
The Advice Place also has information on dealing with debt.
Discretionary and Hardship Funding
Find out whether you are eligible for Discretionary and Hardship Funding, how to apply and what happens after you apply.
If you are looking for information on how to find work while you are studying, the Careers Service can offer support and advise. Use MyCareerHub to book appointments, find part-time jobs and internships and connect with employers.
Watch our short 'How to...' video on opening a bank account in the UK
This short video will cover the benefits of opening a UK bank account, what you’ll need in order to open an account and the types of bank account that may be available to you.
- Video: How to... Open a bank account in the UK (UG/PGT/PGR)
- This short video will cover what types of UK bank accounts are available to students, the benefits of opening a UK bank account, common issues and how the Advice Place can help. This video is part of the 'How to...' 2023 series.