Exploring the best UK bank accounts for international students

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Bryan Smith - September, 21 2022

7 min read

About the author

Content Manager at Prodigy Finance, helping international students gear up to study abroad

When you’re getting ready to begin your study abroad journey in the United Kingdom, you’ll need to meet certain financial requirements if you plan to apply for a student visa. These financial requirements are designed to ensure that you will have enough money to support yourself while studying abroad.

Typically, you’ll need to have varying levels of funds available to support yourself for the duration of your chosen course. While you can provide bank statements from any account opened in your home country to satisfy these requirements, you will likely want to open a UK bank account for the period of your studies or if you plan to continue working in the UK once you have completed your degree.

Why do I need an international student account?

Setting up an international student bank account in the UK can enable you to transact with greater ease, and far less expense, during your studies.

Should you choose to use your bank account registered in your home country, you may be subject to currency conversion fees each time you use your debit card or withdraw cash in the UK. Additionally, these rates fluctuate - meaning that it can be difficult to maintain an effective budget and financial plan.

Further, if you plan to work part-time, your employer will typically prefer to pay your wages into a UK bank account - and any accommodation you occupy will traditionally expect rent payments from a UK bank account as well.

Getting a debit card for students

A major advantage of opening an international student account in the UK is that you will be provided with a local debit card, which will allow you to make payments at merchants with greater ease and less expense.

Certain debit cards may also come with account privileges - such as complimentary subscriptions to certain services, cashback or reward programmes, or other incentives you may miss out on without a debit card available.

What will I need to open an international student bank account in the UK?

To open a bank account in the UK, you will typically be asked to provide:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid visa
  • A 3 month bank statement from your bank account from your home country
  • Proof of address in the UK (or abroad in certain cases)
  • A student ID or acceptance letter from your school

TIP: You may be able to open an international UK bank account from your home country in some cases. Check with your desired bank if this is possible!

The best bank accounts for international students in the UK

There are many different international banks that offer student accounts for study purposes in the UK. Some of the most popular choices among international students are:

HSBC International Student Bank Account

HSBC offers a bank account designed for international students, and does not further offer access to any credit facilities. HSBC customers abroad can open this account before their arrival in the UK.

Key features of the HSBC Bank Account for International Students include:

  • Free money transfers to international HSBC accounts
  • Free money transfers to non-HSBC accounts in EEA countries in euros
  • A £5 charge to transfer money to non-HSBC accounts in all other countries and currencies
  • No charges due when receiving money from EEA countries in euros
  • A £5 charge when receiving money from countries outside the UK in pounds
  • A £5 charge when receiving money from all other countries in all currencies

Eligibility criteria for an HSBC student bank account:

  • You will have to be 18 years of age or older
  • You will need to have a proof of address in the UK

Barclays International Account

Barclays offers a Student Additions Account designed for international students arriving to study in the UK. Notably, this account comes with an interest-free overdraft. While the amount you qualify for will be based on your application and supporting documents, you may qualify for up to a maximum of a £1,500 overdraft in your third year of study.

Key features of the Barclays Student Additions Account include:

  • Free money transfers to international accounts in all currencies
  • No charge when sending money abroad to all other countries in euros
  • No charges when receiving money from abroad in all other currencies under a value of £100
  • A £6 charge when receiving money from abroad in all other currencies over a value of £100
  • Eligibility to apply for up to a £1 500 overdraft by your third year of study

Eligibility criteria for a Barclays Student Additions Account:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Proof of address in the UK
  • A valid photo ID
  • A UK mobile phone number
  • Be enrolled in full-time higher education with proof of enrollment
  • Halifax International Student Account

Halifax’s Student Current Account is designed for international students studying in the UK, and is only available for applicants studying a degree course or full-time education.

Key features of the Halifax Student Current Account include:

  • Free money transfers to accounts in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)
  • A £25 charge when sending money abroad to all other countries
  • No charges due when receiving money from all other countries
  • No account charges
  • Save the Change® - when you pay with your Halifax debit card, they will round up the amount to the nearest pound and deposit the difference into your savings - a clever feature to increase your savings.
  • Interest-free arranged overdraft up to £1 500 for the length of your course plus 3 years after your graduation

Eligibility criteria for a Halifax Student Current Account

  • You will have to be 18 years of age or older
  • You will need to have a proof of address in the UK

Santander International Student Account

Santander offers a Basic Current Account, which is designed for travellers who have arrived in the UK to either study or work.

Santander’s Basic Current Account does not offer credit facilities but does enable account holders to build a UK credit history. Further, the account’s debit card enables account holders to earn up to 15% cashback when making purchases at certain UK merchants.

Key features of the Santander Basic Account include:

  • Free money transfers to accounts in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)
  • A £25 charge when sending money abroad to all other countries
  • No charges due when receiving money from all other countries
  • Up to 15% cashback on certain purchases

Eligibility criteria for a Santander Basic Account:

  • You will have to be 18 years of age or older
  • You will need to have a proof of address in the UK

Lloyds Bank International Student Account

Lloyds Bank offers a Classic Account, which can be opened by students who haven’t resided in the UK for longer than the past three years.

Key features of the Lloyds Classic Account include:

  • Free money transfers to international accounts in eEuros
  • A £9.50 charge to transfer money to non-Lloyds accounts in all other countries and currencies
  • No charges due when receiving money from all other countries in euros
  • A £2 charge when receiving money from international accounts under £100 in value
  • A £7 charge when receiving money from international accounts over £100 in value

Eligibility criteria for a Lloyds Classic Account:

  • You will have to be 18 years of age or older
  • You will need to have a proof of address in the UK
  • You must not have resided in the UK for longer than the past 3 years.

What should I consider when choosing an international bank account?

When opening a UK internet banking account for your study abroad journey, there are three essential factors to consider when determining if an account is right for you.

Transfer fees

If you plan to transfer money frequently to recipients either in the UK or abroad, consider and budget for charges that your bank may issue. Notably, different banks charge varying fee levels for transfers - and selecting the most appropriate option for you can help you save money and budget effectively.

Account costs and charges

Different banks charge varying account fees and charges for various activities - and depending on your use and future plans, it can be helpful to review the most affordable account available to you, and budget effectively to accommodate any account charges you may incur over time.

Credit history

If you plan to continue working in the UK once your studies have concluded, pursuing an account which will enable you to build a local credit history can enable you to seek out additional finance options in the future - which may be an account overdraft or a student credit card. Choosing the right bank can enable you to build financial stability more quickly, and ease your transition to working in the UK.

Disclaimer: The contents of this guide are intended as an overview for illustrative and educational purposes and do not constitute an endorsement of any international bank, nor international bank account, mentioned.

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