Banking for international students

Advice for international students on choosing a bank account, opening a bank account and managing student finances.

Why open a UK bank account?

It is essential to have a bank, building society or post office account to help you manage your finances whilst you are a student.

Many international students choose to open a UK bank account to:

  • access money more easily and securely while in the UK
  • avoid high fees and poor exchange rates when withdrawing money from their home country
  • set up recurring payments (direct debits and standing orders) for paying rent, mobile phone contracts, gym membership etc
  • receive wages for part-time work.

We strongly recommend you do not carry large amounts of cash with you or store it in your accommodation.

The University is impartial and cannot advise students which is the best bank to open an account with but the following information will help you choose.

When to open an account

You will need a bank letter from UWE Bristol to open a UK bank account. You must begin the UWE Bristol registration process before you can obtain this letter.

You can start getting ready to open an account before you register at UWE Bristol by:

  • researching bank accounts
  • collecting necessary documents – for example passport and/or BRP card
  • making an appointment at a bank (if required) – some banks allow you to open an account online.

Ask the bank to explain the services available and how they work – they may be different from what is offered in your home country.

Make sure your bank sends paper bank statements to you, as these will be important if you need to renew your visa. See UKCISA’s advice on opening an account.

If you experience problems opening an account or are unhappy with the service you receive, you can contact the bank to make a complaint. You can also seek advice from a UWE Bristol student money adviser.

How long does it take to open an account?

Opening an account can take time and you may have to wait a couple of weeks for the bank to set up your account, particularly during busy periods such as September.

Ensure that you have enough funds available to support yourself for your first two-to-four weeks in the UK (in a form such as travellers' cheques or bankers' drafts). Do not bring lots of cash with you, as there is a risk it could be lost or stolen.

Some banks will provide your account details (sort code and account number) before they send you your bank card. Your account is active as soon as you receive your account details.

Choosing your bank account

There are many different banks in the UK, each offering a range of bank accounts. Many banks offer accounts designed for students. with offers to encourage you to sign up. Find out more about student bank accounts on Save the Student.

  • Some accounts require a minimum deposit to open accounts or charge a monthly fee. They may also require you to maintain a minimum balance in your account. It is your responsibility to check these fees and requirements before opening an account.
  • Each bank offers different services, with various incentives and overdraft limits. Make sure you choose an account without a monthly fee, and don’t be enticed by offers if they are not something you will actually use.
  • A bank account overdraft can be a useful buffer when money is stretched but make sure you clear the overdraft as soon as possible to avoid charges.
  • If you will be studying for less than six months, your choice of accounts may be limited.
  • pre-paid cash card, which lets you load money on to it and you use it in a similar way to a debit card can be a useful option. Some cards may charge you and have minimum/maximum limits. 
  • Most major banks will offer bank accounts for under 18s but they may require your parent or guardian to act as a guarantor (UWE Bristol cannot be a guarantor).

What documents do you need?

Different banks may require different documents for opening an account but they will all need to verify who you are and where you live.

They will ask for:

  • proof of identity – a passport or EU national identity card
  • visa – if you have a visa, you must present this or BRP card when opening an account.

They will also ask for information provided on your UWE Bristol bank letter:

  • confirmation of your student status
  • proof of your UK term time address and your residential address in your home country.

For Study Abroad students, banks may accept a standard student status letter, which is available in MYUWE. Please check with your chosen bank.

How to get a bank letter

Register at UWE Bristol

  • Complete online registration as a UWE Bristol student. Register online in MYUWE.

Check your details are correct

Please check your name and address details are accurate in MYUWE, as this information will show on your UWE Bristol bank letter:

  • Name – as it appears in your passport or ID card including exact spelling and name order
  • UK term time address – including your flat/house/room name or number
  • International residential address (NOT your college or agent’s address) – check it is up to date, spelt correctly and matches your passport or ID card

Please note: if you are staying in temporary accommodation, for example a hotel or hostel until you find more permanent accommodation, a bank will not accept this as your UK term time address.

If there is information missing or if something is wrong or spelt incorrectly in MYUWE, and you are unable to change it yourself, please contact Information Point.

Get your bank letter

  • Download your UWE Bristol bank letter from MYUWE. For information about how to do this, take a look at the MYUWE guidance.
  • Give the letter to your bank.

Further information and advice

At university

Useful links

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