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Guide to international student bank accounts in the UK

Which is the best student bank account in the UK? Compare what each bank is offering with this comprehensive table 

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Seeta Bhardwa's avatar

Seeta Bhardwa

Editor, THE Student
August 14 2023
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Studying in the UK is expensive for both domestic and international students, so it is important that you choose a good student bank account that can help you to maximise your money. 

Most major banks (and some online banks) will offer a specific student bank account that will come with perks that will help you to budget and manage your money. 

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1. Choose a bank

There are many banks in the UK, so the best way to narrow it down is to look at what the different banks are offering students (see our handy table below).

First it's worth seeing if the bank that you already have an account with operates in the UK too, as that might be easier to just open a UK-based account with your current bank. 

The other thing that is always worth looking at is which bank is available in your university campus or in your university town. That way if you run into any issues with your account, you won't have to go far to get it sorted. 

One of the biggest ways that can help you differentiate between banks is how much interest free overdraft the bank is offering. This is something that is unique to student bank accounts. It essentially means that the overdraft limit is the maximum you can spend outside of your own money, without paying interest. 

In many cases international students may not be eligible for an overdraft or may only be able to secure a small overdraft, but this is always worth discussing with your bank and exploring what your options are. 

Another important factor for international students to take into account is the international transfer fees. 

Some banks will also charge for paper statements, so make sure you are aware of this cost when applying for your account. 

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2. Choose an account

There are two different types of bank accounts in the UK: a current account and a savings account. 

Current account: a current account allows you to deposit and withdraw money as often as you like. Usually when you open a current account you receive a chequebook and a debit card. Most international students will only need to open a current account when studying in the UK. 

Savings accounts: a savings account is a place to collect money over a longer term. Some students may consider opening one of these, if they are working or want to save money for travel or emergencies. 

3. Breakdown of bank accounts

There are many banks across the UK, so it is worth doing some of your own research into the most suitable bank account for you. Here at THE Student, we've had a look around some of the major banks to see what they are offering students.

It is worth noting that many banks have specific accounts for university students, but many of those are not eligible for students who have not lived in the UK for more than three years prior to beginning study. In this instance we have tried to include the accounts that are more suited to international students, but it is always worth getting in touch with the banks to see what they can offer international students or if you are actually eligible for their student bank accounts. 

Bank Account name International transfer fees Extras
HSBC HSBC International Student Bank Account £5 to transfer money abroad, fee of 2.75 per cent on any transactions abroad Theft protection and finance guides, discounts at a range of stores online including ASOS
Lloyds Lloyds Classic Account £9.50 to transfer money abroad (free for Euros), £2 to receive under £100 from abroad, £7 for any amount over £100 a transaction fee of £2.99 when withdrawing money abroad Mobile banking app and cashback on certain purchases if signed up to the Everyday Offers system
Natwest Natwest Select Account Free to send money abroad in all currencies, free to receive money in Euros, £1 to receive under £100 and £7 for amounts £100 or greater Overdraft is available for international students but it is not interest-free, help with budgeting, mobile app
Barclays Barclays Bank Account No monthly cost and optional arranged overdrafts Access to online and mobile banking
Santander Santander Basic Current Account or Everyday Current Account £25 to transfer money abroad (free if in Euros), free to receive money Cashback of up to 15 per cent at major retailers, paper free 
Nationwide Nationwide FlexBasic or FlexStudent Free to transfer to EEA countries, £20 to transfer to countries outside of the EEA One per cent interest on balances up to £1,000, mobile banking
RBS RBS Select account Free to send money abroad in all currencies, free to receive money in Euros, £1 to receive under £100 and £7 for amounts £100 or greater  Mobile banking
Halifax Halifax Current Account Free everyday banking with no fee, applications for overdraft possible, contactless payments 15 per cent cashback, mobile banking
TSB TSB Student Account Transaction fee of 2.99 per cent when using abroad Five per cent interest up to £500 balance

There are also banks that offer online banks accounts (not necessarily student specific) such as Monzo, Revolut or Starling, which are quite good at helping you to track spending and set budgets. 

4. How to open a bank account

Although it is possible to open a bank account over the phone or online, if you are an international student it might be easier to open your account in person in case there are any complications. When you go to the bank to open your account you will need:

  • Your full name, home address, home telephone number, your campus telephone number and your college address
  • Your passport
  • Any secondary form of identification (such as your student ID card, birth certificate, driver’s license, or a letter from the international students and scholars office at your university)
  • A letter of acceptance from your university 
  • An amount of money to deposit into the account (this will vary between banks)

These requirements may be slightly different across banks, so make sure you check what your bank requires before heading over. 

Sometimes it is possible to open your account from abroad, before you arrive in the UK. 

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