As we approach the start of a new academic year, lots of students will be moving to the UK from overseas. Getting a bank account as a non-permanent but long-term resident can sometimes be tricky, but it’s definitely achievable.
This advice could also be helpful for people who are in the UK for an extended vacation or to work, or if you’re returning here after living abroad for a while.
Getting a Bank Account
Having a bank account in the UK is desirable if you’re going to be here for several months, as it gives you an easy way to store and access your money without fees or hassle.
However, there are a couple of barriers you might run into when opening a bank account as an international student or someone new to the UK.
🏠 Proof of address
If you are really new to the UK, you may find it hard to prove your address. Specific requirements and the documents you can use to prove your address vary from bank to bank, but generally include things like:
- Utility bill (eg electric, water, gas)
- Council tax bill
- UK driving license
- Credit card or bank statement
- Tenancy agreement
Depending on the bank you apply to, you might find they accept a letter from a UK university or a contract from your halls of residence.
🕒 Credit history
If you’ve never lived in the UK before that means banking services that use a UK credit reference agency are likely to show up a lack of credit history for you.
This might mean you won’t be accepted by some banks, however there are some banks that may still provide you with an account – so don’t despair!
Getting a bank account with an overdraft facility (or loans) will be unlikely if you have no credit history, but you may be able to get a bank account.
App-based Bank Accounts
There are various app-based banking services that have become available in the last few years, which can be a great way of getting a bank account if you are new to the UK.
Check out our full list of app-based banking services below.
Our Top App-based Bank Accounts Compared
|Service||Good For||Savings Interest||FCFS Protected||More|
|Starling||Budgeting, Saving||0.25% – 0.5%||✅||More|
|Atom Bank||Saving, Mortgages||0.8% – 1.8%||✅||More|
|Tandem||Saving||1.6% – 2%||✅||More|
|Chip||Saving||0% – 5%||No||More|
Monese is the most popular app-based banking provider for international students in the UK.
You can see the main prices and features of Monese below.
Monese have three different pricing levels: Simple, Classic, and Premium – priced at free, £4.95 and £14.95 per month respectively (at the time of writing).
With the Revolut app you get a UK sort-code and account number, a contactless card you can use in the UK and around the world, and the ability to send and receive payments in dozens of currencies at market rates.
You can view Revolut’s pricing and features below.
Many of the main high street banks also offer dedicated international student accounts with their own unique features. Some of these accounts will charge you a small monthly fee, but there are plenty of free options so be sure to check before deciding on an account to open.
One of the main differences between these accounts and those for UK students is the fact that you’re less likely to be offered an overdraft.
If you decide to get an account from a high-street bank you’ll most likely need to visit the bank in person at a branch that’s near where you’re staying.
When you go, expect them to ask for some ID (you’ll need your passport and UCAS or university acceptance letter, as well as an EU ID card if you’re from the EU, or a student VISA and biometric resident permit if you’re from elsewhere).
If you are unable to provide proof of address but you’re not a student, then you may be eligible for what’s usually called a basic account.
These are no-frills accounts offered by most banks that give you the bare minimum in terms of bells and whistles, but still allow you safe storage and easy access to your cash.
There are specific types of ID that can be accepted depending on your circumstances:
- A passport or national identity card if you are a foreign national here on a temporary work VISA
- A letter from the warden of a homeless shelter if you are currently homeless. You may also be able to provide a letter from your employer if you are homeless and in work.
- An entitlement letter issued by HMRC, DWP or your local authority if you are claiming benefits.
Any bank that offers a basic account will be able to offer a far more extensive list of acceptable forms of ID, so speak to them directly if you are unsure.
Using a prepaid card instead of a bank account
If you are still struggling to open an account, or you’re not satisfied with any of the options available to you, then you could also consider a pre-paid card.
These allow you to load up a payment card with your money and then spend or withdraw it as needed, just as you would with a bank account.
However, unlike a bank account, they may charge fees for withdrawals above a certain amount so take care not to get caught out.