Setting up a UK bank account

Having a bank account here in the United Kingdom (UK) will allow you to manage your money more easily including setting up direct debits for bills and getting paid for any work that you do.

Opening an account can take time so try and do this as soon as you can (and make sure you have access to any money you'll need during this time).

If you’re a home or UK student, you may already have a bank account but may want to switch to a ‘student account’ for additional benefits including freebies and interest-free overdrafts.

If you’re an international student who is studying in the UK for more than six months, then you’ll need to set up a UK based account (you probably won't be able to open accounts packaged as 'student accounts' and should look for basic accounts instead).

Our Student Content Shaper Izzy shares some advice on setting up a UK bank account before or when you arrive at UoB

Which bank shall I open an account with?

Unfortunately, we can’t advise you on which account you should choose but we recommend that you consider your options and shop around to see what the different banks offer before you start. The MoneyHelper website can help you compare bank account fees and charges.

When choosing a bank account, here are some questions to ask:

  • Will I have internet and telephone banking?
  • Does it have standing order and direct debit facilities?
  • What type of savings accounts do I have?
  • Will I be required to maintain a minimum account balance or pay a monthly fee?
  • Is there an overdraft facility?
  • Where’s my nearest branch?

What if I need more guidance?

During our Welcome Week, there’ll be an opportunity to ‘Meet the Banks’ where you can talk to reps from high street banks in Birmingham. So, do come along and ask questions! Look out for more details on our Welcome webpages to find out when and where it is.

Websites such as Save the Student, Money Saving Expert, and the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) also have lots of useful advice, tips, and guidance.

What do I need to open an account?

Before you can open an account, you’ll need a few documents on hand. Depending on if you’re a home or international student, this is usually: 

  • Your passport/photo ID card
  • A Biometric Residence Permit card (if you have one)
  • A bank letter from the University confirming your registration, your address in the UK and your overseas address.

You can download a ‘Proof of Study’ letter (and other letters) once you have completed online registration.

Remember, each bank may have different requirements to open an account, especially for an international student, so always double check. 

I’m an international student, do I really need a UK bank account?

Having a UK bank account is essential if you’re studying in the UK for more than six months. There are many international banks in Birmingham city centre and if you have an account with them in your home country, you may find opening a UK account with them easier than with a new bank.

Some benefits of having a UK bank account include:

  • Accessing money easily and safely.
  • Not being charged transaction fees when withdrawing cash.
  • Avoiding expensive fees.
  • To receive payment for any part-time job in the UK.
  • Being able to use a bank card to make payments, as most places on campus and the UK are now cashless.
  • Being able to visit your local branch if you need any help or advice.

What does it mean?

Direct Debit: this is an instruction from you to your bank, authorising a business or organisation to collect a payment or regular payments from your account. This could be, for example, utility bills or mobile phone contracts. If the fee or payment date changes, the business or organisation need to let you know.

Interest-free overdraft: An interest-free overdraft is where you can borrow money (up to a certain amount) without being charged interest. So, you pay back no more than you borrow. This is unique to student bank accounts.

Standing order: A standing order is a regular payment of the same amount that's paid on a specified date, for example, your rent, through your bank. This isn’t the same as Direct Debits. They pay exactly the amount you choose – not the amount you owe to an organisation or business.

Branch: In this context, a branch is a physical location of a banking corporation. At most branches, you can speak to staff as well as access a range of services including depositing cash, making payments and transfers, withdrawing money, and opening accounts.

Cashless: Cashless payments are made using cards or electronic methods (such as ApplePay) rather than physical money. Many outlets on campus are cashless.