If you’ve been offered a place at university and you’re moving to the UK to study, you’ll have a lot of different things to arrange before you arrive.
Figuring out which is the best student bank account for you can be a difficult task, and moving to the UK from a different country can make this process a little more complicated. There’s lots of small print to read through and complicated things to think about: interest free overdraft limits, charges and rewards.
We put together our picks of the best bank accounts for international students, and everything you need to think about when considering which bank account to choose.
While many banks have specific accounts for university students, lots of these accounts don’t allow applications for those who have not lived in the UK for more than three years prior to beginning their studies.
In the comparison below, we have included international student bank accounts as well as other more general bank accounts which are still well suited to international students, although many of them are not student specific. We always recommend getting in touch with your chosen bank to see what they can offer you as an international student.
Revolut, Monzo, Starling, Chase & Monese… they’ve been around for a while and loads of students are opening accounts with them. Should you do the same? What’s so special about them These new digital banks don’t normally offer specific student bank accounts, but you shouldn’t necessarily right them off for that reason. Their standard current accounts come with various features that will benefit a lot of students. We’ve written more about this below, but for now you can check out the best digital bank accounts for students here.
If you are an international student moving to the UK, having a British bank account gives you various benefits. It allows you to securely hold your funds, make payments without any fees and withdraw money without any fees.
Simply put, it makes life so much easier for you, as you can conveniently spend your money when you need it, without the hassle of relying on an overseas bank account. It also gives you the chance to save money in the account that you might earn in a job while at uni.
Managing your finances from a bank account in your home country can give you some headaches, and cost you more money than if you had a British bank account. Opening a British bank account for your time at university will save you a lot of hassle.
Some benefits include:
Save Yourself Fees
: You will save all sorts of fees involved with currency conversions and withdrawals when spending or withdrawing your money in the UK.
Currency Exchange Rates
: You will be able to forget about fluctuating exchange rates, keeping things simple while you spend and transfer your money.
Paying Bills & Direct Debits
: Using your overseas bank account can cause pretty big complications when trying to set up payments for your
, and all other kinds of direct debits. Most UK providers prefer you to use a UK bank account for paying these bills and direct debits. If you do find providers that allow international accounts for their setup, you might incur fees for these, whereas with a UK account you would avoid these fees.
Simplify Employment & Wages
: most UK employers will want to pay your wages into a UK bank account. If you don’t have one, it might cause complications for you when looking to find a job during your time at university.
: if you need to settle up some money with your friends, owing them for shared bills they have paid for, or cover part of a meal you ate together for example, transferring money to your friends can get kind of expensive due to the fees incurred, and a little complicated.
International students are eligible to apply for many standard current accounts available with UK banks. It can get a little complicated though, and you need to see if you are eligible.
The good news is that you do not need to be a UK citizen to apply for a UK student bank account. As long as you provide the documentation banks ask for during your application, there shouldn’t be any problems for you.
For most applications, you will need:
To be 18 years old or older
Proof of your identity, most often your passport
Proof of address in the UK or abroad, translated to English
A qualified visa for your time in the UK
A student ID or letter of acceptance from your university
Opening a bank account can get pretty complicated, so there are some pretty important factors to consider before you sign up for anything. Getting a grasp on the following points will give you the best understanding of making the best choice for you when opening your account.
One of the core features of a student bank account is the overdraft. Sadly, not all UK banks will offer an overdraft to international students. There are some banks that provide a small overdraft, and every little helps when paying your way through uni. It’s useful to bear in mind, the longer you are staying in the UK, the more likely it is you’ll receive a larger overdraft. An overdraft isn’t right for everyone though, and will depend on your individual circumstances as to if you want one or not, so consider your options and go for what fits best for you.
Fees & Costs
For those of you who will be sending and receiving money from your home country, you should find out exactly how much each money transfer will cost you. Banks will often charge an international transfer fee, as well as a currency conversion fee from your home currency to GBP. These charges do vary between banks, so look around for the best value. It’ll save you a fair bit of money in the long run.
If your bank is a global bank, with branches around the world, and you have an account with them in your home country, it can often be easier to open and cheaper to use an account with the same bank in the UK. Some banks will reduce fees if you have both your home and UK bank account with them.
With the complications that can arise with applying for a student bank account as an international student, it can be really useful to have a branch local to where you study or live. Having a face to face conversation will help make the process so much easier when you open the account, or if any issues come up in the future. You don’t need to worry too much about ATM locations, as you can withdraw cash from any bank’s ATM, completely free of charge.
Digital banks, often referred to as challenger banks, have the main goal of transforming the banking industry from the ground up. They are challenging the way traditional high street banks have always done things, by offering better deals, clever banking features to help you manage your money, and improved banking services.
International students coming to study in the UK are often sadly not eligible for an overdraft or many of the other benefits available to domestic students. International students might want to consider choosing a digital bank. Digital banks offer super relevant perks that are favourable to students like yourselves, such as free transactions abroad. It’s also often much faster to open an account with a digital bank.
A bank is just a bank right? Not really. But that’s not a bad thing. For those of you on the lookout for a new bank account, digital banks have a whole host of features that might be perfect for your student money management.
Clever Banking Apps
: One of the main benefits of a digital bank is the apps available. They’re super easy to use, well designed, and often worlds apart from traditional banks’ apps. They show you a lot of info about how and where you spend your money, helping guide your spending habits to fit within your savings budgets. You’ll also receive notifications whenever you use your card, just so you can keep tabs on your spending, and are made aware of any curious payments being made.
Budget Friendly Features
: Digital banking apps are filled with budget friendly features. They gather your spending habits into sections, so you can see how much you’re spending on what. This might sound a bit much, but being able to see what you’re spending where, in a clear easily understandable graph, might give you the shock you need to stop buying a new pair of sneakers for every day of the year.
: Digital bank accounts are free in most cases to set up. They’re super quick to set up, and you can often be up and running with your new account in just a few minutes. No visits to a branch, no complicated phone calls. Everything can be done online or through an app.
So you know you can get a free account, super fast, with a snazzy app to carry around with you. And that’s great, but as a student you may have slightly different needs than other people looking for an account.
: A fundamental feature of a student bank account is the ability to take out an interest free overdraft. If you can go with a digital bank that offers overdraft facilities, you can apply for one, inside your banking app, within seconds. It couldn’t be easier. However it is worth mentioning that not all digital challenger banks offer overdraft facilities, so if you think you’ll need one, do your homework before signing up and look at which one’s best for you. Remember, not everybody needs an overdraft. If you think you’ve got a good handle of your finances, you might not even have to worry about taking one out.
Zero Fee Travel Transactions
: Where many digital banks shine above the competition is travel benefits, and you want to spend your money abroad. Many challenger banks don’t charge you to use your card overseas, some even allowing free ATM withdrawals.
Digital banks might be a good choice for international students, as they let you avoid any of the difficulties you might encounter at a traditional bank in the UK. Traditional banks may require you to provide certain details which are difficult to put together, and they might take some time to set up your new account.
Digital bank accounts on the other hand are much quicker to set up, and become much more convenient for people just moving to the UK. What’s more, with fee free international transactions, they might be perfect for those travelling back and forth to a home country from the UK. It can simplify your money management hugely.
This article is updated regularly and we try to keep all information as accurate as possible, if you do notice an error please let us know!
Our Top Picks are based on a combination of price, what’s included in your contract, special offers and bonuses. We receive updates from banks regularly, and based on the current offers available we have made our choices. If you are a mobile provider and would like to offer a better deal than those above, please get in contact with us!