Students from outside the UK
In this section, you will find information for students from outside the UK about setting up a UK bank account.
Comparing banks, accounts and requirements
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:
Bank Introduction letter
When opening a UK bank account as an international student, most UK banks will require a 'bank introduction letter' from the University to the bank. This is just a letter confirming your residence in Edinburgh and your attendance at the University. The bottom of the letter lists the banks that accept this letter. You may be able to upload it as an electronic copy as part of your application, instead of needing to print it.
You will find your Bank Introduction Letter in MyEd under your 'My Accommodation' after you have checked in.
You will find your Bank Introduction Letter in MyEd under your 'Student Record' after you have completed matriculation.
Setting up a bank account online
Due to Covid-19, some banks are offering opportunities to open a bank account before you arrive in the UK or without going into a branch once you are in the UK.
Before you arrive in the UK
HSBC are encouraging international students who are existing HSBC clients to open accounts prior to arriving in the UK.
Key documents you will need to set up an account include:
- visa (status dependent)
- proof of home country address.
Other additional documents may be requested, subject to qualification, status, local laws and regulations.
If you are an EU resident, you can apply online for a TSB Cash Account.
Revolut is a digital-only bank that will accept customers from:
- European Economic Area (EEA)
- United States
When you arrive in the UK
You can apply online for an RBS international student account, but you must be in the UK to apply.
You will need to upload a copy of your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) (if relevant) within 28 days of starting the application process.
Important points to remember
You will not normally be allowed to open a bank account until you arrive in the UK, but some banks are providing exceptions due to Covid-19.
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.
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.
In addition to the proof of the address of where 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.
If you find yourself in financial difficulty, do not hesitate to seek help as soon as you can:
How long will it take?
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.
You should enquire with each bank how long it normally takes from application to using your account. Be prepared for the process to take up to two weeks or longer. It will help to prepare all of the necessary documentation in advance to ensure a quicker process time.
Students with a Tier 4 visa
If you extend your visa while in the UK, your application will require you to provide original bank statements in paper form. Check that your bank will be able to produce printed statements or provide a digital stamp for your online statement.
Some mainstream and specialist banks offer accounts based on Sharia principles. Check bank websites for more information.