Getting an international student bank account

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Prodigy Finance - May, 14 2024

8 min read

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Are you heading overseas for your masters? Expect one of the most incredible experiences of your life. The rewards are huge.

But, don’t expect it to be easy.

You’ll need to put in plenty of effort. There are daily tasks that provide both laughter and exasperation – such as the grocery store. And then, there are parts of ordinary life that you need to take more seriously. That includes setting up an international student bank account in your host country.

Advantages of local bank accounts for international students

There are plenty of reasons you'll want a local bank account as an international student; some are immediately obvious, while others may surprise you.

  • Save on cash conversions: You don't really want to pay all those bank and conversion fees by using an account from home, do you? Typically, you'll save when you transfer larger amounts and work within the local currency as much as possible.
  • Get your living expenses: If you secure loans or scholarships that can be used towards living expenses but are paid directly to the university, the bursar's office will need somewhere to deposit those funds. Almost without exception, they'll transfer your money to a local bank account as soon as you have one.
  • Build a local credit history: If you're keeping your post-graduation employment options open, you may well find yourself living in your host country longer than expected (or you may already hope for a long stay). Either way, opening a local bank account is the first step towards building your credit in a new country.
  • Easier loan repayments: Just as you don't want to use your home account for living expenses, having a bank account in the currency of your student loan can be a big saving.

Can you open a local bank account as an international student?

In most countries, opening a local bank account is doable. But, it’s unlikely to be as easy as you want it to be. And, you’ll need to wait until you arrive in your host country before you can open an international student bank account.

That does put a little pressure on you for the first couple of weeks. You’ll need to use your international accounts and whatever cash you’ve converted to get yourself set up and pay for entertainment during orientation.

But, the sooner you get a bank account, the better it will be for you in the long run.

What you'll need to open an international student bank account

The following can be some of the documents required to open bank account for international students:

  • Your passport, with the relevant student visa,
  • A second form of photo ID - often a driver’s license or your student card,
  • Proof of residence and residential address,
  • Proof of enrollment in your university (which is why the student card works so well), and
  • Some money to deposit (keep in mind that each bank and account will carry its own minimum deposit).

Very few countries require additional information, such as proof of bank accounts in home countries. This is something you need to investigate before leaving home. If you need a certified letter from the bank, for instance, you’ll pay through your teeth to have it couriered to you.

What student bank account options are available?

Every country has a different banking system, and you shouldn't expect it to operate the same way it does in your home country. Your best bet is to do some research before you leave so you know what to expect when you arrive and need to hustle.

North American bank accounts

In the United States there are private banks and not-for-profit credit unions, both of which you'll spot on or near your campus.

There are likely to be differences with US student bank accounts, and flexibility you have in opening them between the two types of banking institutions, but the regulations will be similar for each system.

Also, you don’t need a social security number to open an international student bank account in the US, but you will be issued with one if you secure paid employment off-campus.

In Mexico, on the other hand, you will find big differences between all the banks and will need to shop around before deciding which bank account for students you want to open.

European bank accounts

You’re likely to find more international banks, and you may want to look for one of those as they’ll provide opportunities as you travel around the continent.

Keep in mind that some countries, like France, don’t impose restrictions on non-nationals opening bank accounts. But, you will need to speak French to manage the setup process.

In the UK, you can open and maintain a bank account as long as you’re a legal resident. Once you leave, you may find the banking restrictions force you to close your international student bank account in the UK. There are some banks that still allow non-residents to maintain accounts, and you’ll want to consider one of these if you’re hoping to use it to repay your loan.

Best banks for international students


Banks In the UK for International students

  • Lloyds
  • HSBC
  • Barclays
  • Natwest
  • TSB
  • Santander


Some of the best banks for having bank account for international students in USA

  • Bank of America
  • Wells Fargo
  • U.S. Bank
  • TD Bank
  • Capital One
  • Santander
  • Chase


  • Lydia
  • HSBC
  • Nickel
  • Traditional Banks such as LCL and Société Générale


  • N26
  • Deutsche Bank
  • DKB-Cash
  • Postbank
  • Volkswagen Bank
  • 1822direkt
  • Commerzbank
  • TargoBank
  • ING DiBa
  • Comdirect
  • Netbank
  • Transferwise Borderless


  • CIBC
  • Scotiabank
  • RBC
  • BMO
  • SBI
  • Bank of China
  • ICBC
  • HSBC

You can always talk to a bank consultant to find out how to open an international student bank account.

Bank Account for International Students

You can apply for debit cards or credit cards for international students, but there are a few points to keep in mind before choosing one bank over the other. Here are some factors to consider when opening a bank account as an international student in France, Germany, US, UK, and Canada.

**Things to consider when opening an international student bank account: **

  • Monthly maintenance charges
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Loan interest rates
  • Netbanking facilities
  • Customer service availability
  • Minimum balance limitations
  • Branch availability
  • Quality of official app
  • Availability of funds
  • Security of your funds
  • Ease of deposit
  • International transfer fees
  • Overdraft limit and monthly service fees
  • Transfer fees
  • Currency conversion rates
  • International student debit card or credit card purchase cost
  • Online features and services
  • Rewards on payments

Whether you are choosing a credit or savings account for students, take note of these important details - they could help you save money in the long run.

Using university resources to open your international student bank account

Universities that strive for international diversity are well-equipped to assist the students they admit. And, you may need to get in touch with a couple of departments for assistance:

Assistance for international students for opening a bank account while studying abroad:

  • The registrar's office will provide you with your student ID or confirmation letter which you'll definitely need to open an international student bank account.
  • If you're living on-campus, you may also need to contact the housing department for proof of residence.
  • The international student office is likely to point you towards the most accessible banks and perhaps even assist with opening international student accounts when you need a native speaker (such as in France).

Even though you can’t do much about opening a bank account as a student until you’ve arrived, don’t wait until you leave to consider this crucial step of your education. It could mean the difference between almost immediate access to living funds and a long wait until you can get a hot meal.

Some FAQs how to open a bank account for international students

Can an international student open a bank account in the US without SSN?
Yes, to open an account, banks would usually need your I-20, passport, proof of residence, admission letter, initial deposit amount, etc.

Is opening a bank account as a student difficult?

No, with the required documents at hand, you just need to complete some paperwork and submit the documents.

Can international students open bank accounts online?

There are some banks that may allow you to apply online for a bank account in the US. But that is limited to starting the process, i.e. filling up the application form online, and maybe submitting the soft copies of your documents. However, you will be required to appear at the bank, at some point during the account initiation process.

So, you cannot expect to open a bank account in the US from abroad without having to be present there, in person.

Can international students have two bank accounts in Canada?

Yes, there is no rule specifying that an international student in Canada cannot have more than one bank account.

How to open a bank account as an international student?

Different countries have different requirements. However, banks in most countries will require you to submit an initial deposit to start your account with, your passport, and proof of residence. Other forms of identification like a birth certificate or some other document may also be required depending on the bank and country you are in.

The process will be as simple as making a deposit, filling up the application form and submitting the required documents.

Can international students deposit cash in the bank?

Yes, the deposit facility is available even when you open an account as an international student. But the limit for maximum deposit will depend on the financial regulations of the country in which you have the account.

Need an international student loan that covers living expenses?

Prodigy Finance offers international student loans no co-signer, no collateral. Depending on your programme, location and finances, you could qualify for a loan covering the total cost of attendance (as provided by the school) for tuition and living expenses.

If you want to know how to improve your international student credit score, international students insurance, or if you are at an even earlier stage and simply preparing to be an international student, check out more great articles in our Study Centre.

For any other information about Prodigy Finance, or our student loan process, feel free to check out do browse our site, or register for a webinar to have your questions answered by one of our team.

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