Opening a UK Bank Account: A PhD Student Guide

Have you just arrived as a new PhD student in the UK? Settling in can be tough when you have left your family and friends at home, and there are so many things to sort out before you can really get down to work. Practical things like opening a UK bank account which needs a substantial amount of documentation is one of them.

In the UK, international students are allowed to open a bank account to ease the imbursement of their bursaries. Although, the process of opening a UK bank account can be tiresome if you lack patience;

However, do not fear about this particular task. This post is more of a Guide to opening a UK bank account 101. We will make it as simple as possible to specifically ease the process of opening a bank account for brand-new overseas PhD students in the UK. There will be less hassle, less pain, and less time spent in several bank branches filling up several forms.

Why Should I Open a UK Bank Account?

But why open a UK bank account? At first glance, this may seem unnecessary, but there are many advantages to opening a student bank account in the UK. You avoid constantly incurring additional bank charges and poor exchange rates every time you deposit a sterling cheque in a foreign bank account.

One of the most important reasons for gaining a UK bank account is to provide an efficient means of accessing funds from home. Well, these are just a few reasons, let us have a comprehensive overview of why you need a UK bank account as an international student,

  1. No Currency Conversion Charges

When you use your home bank account and card to obtain cash or pay for purchases in the UK, you will almost certainly be charged foreign currency conversion fees on each transaction, but by opening a UK bank account, you can avoid incurring all of these charges and end up with more money in your pocket as a result.

  1. Easy Banking ServicesYou Get a Personal Debit Card

Opening a UK bank account automatically qualifies you to own a debit card for our transactions and this can save you the hassle of frequently going to a local ATM to withdraw cash.

  1. Easy Banking Services

With a UK bank account as a PhD student, you can enjoy easy and seamless banking right from the comfort of your home. You can carry out transactions with your mobile app linked to your account thereby setting up direct debits, standing orders, or even transferring money from your account to another person’s.

  1. Access to a Local Bank

This is a major reason to open a student account wherever you visit, not just in the UK. Opening a bank account gives you the leverage to access local banks when you need to. For example, walking into the bank to resolve issues without having to travel home.

  1. You Can Get Paid Directly

It’s common practice for employers in the UK to pay their employees via bank transfer. When you open your account, your employer can pay you directly making it easy for you.

  1. Proof of Address from Bank Statement

Another advantage of opening a UK bank account is that it provides you with good proof of a local address, which is something you will often need as a student in the UK.

See Also: Top 10 Menial Jobs For PhD Students in the UK

How To open A UK Student Bank AccountStep-by-Step Guide to Open a UK Bank Account

Step 1: Research Different Banks and Account Options

Before you get to the UK for your doctoral studies, research the different banks and the types of accounts available for international PhD students in the UK. There are Basic Bank Account options available for international students that come with features like mobile or online banking, no monthly fees, and credit card facilities.

You can use the various banks’ official websites available on the internet to look for information regarding opening a UK bank account for PhD students.

Although the websites may not be updated with the particular information that you seek, in this case, look for the “Contact Us” page and chat with the customer care rep directly. You can also check if your school or college has a partnership with a specific bank, they might be able to offer extra help and guidance for opening a new account.

Step 2: Choose an Account Type

When selecting a bank account, it is crucial to choose the one that suits your specific needs. It is worth noting that banks offer different types of accounts. In the United Kingdom, there are various account options available, such as current accounts, instant access savings accounts, fixed-term savings accounts, and student accounts, among others.

As an international student, it may be wise to opt for a student account (for individuals over 18) when opening a new bank account. This type of account not only provides a higher interest rate for your savings but also eliminates any charges for debit card transactions, which may apply to regular current accounts.

Top UK Banks with International Students Account Offering

To simplify the process for international students who are considering opening a bank account in the UK, it is advisable to explore the offerings of the major UK banks specifically tailored for international students. Here is a list of the primary banks in the UK that provide bank accounts designed specifically to meet the needs of international students.

  1. HSBC Bank plc.

Incorporated in the UK, HSBC offers international students a specially designed HSBC Bank Account for International Students providing a global ATM card, online banking services, and 24X7 phone banking.

  1. Barclays Bank plc.

Barclays offers International Student Accounts, known as “Student Additions Accountavailable at any branch. Most students enjoy zero fees if an application is made online. The account package comes with a Visa debit card and allows borrowing of up to £1500 interest-free (overdraft) for the last term.

  1. Lloyds TSB Bank plc.

Lloyds TSB’s International Student “Classic Account” provides online banking, mobile phone banking, and a Visa debit card with a 15% cashback when using your Visa Debit Card at selected retailers. Students are allowed to retain the account as long as they wish and would not be transferred to a higher-cost current account.

  1. Santander UK plc.

The Santander bank offers a “Santander Edge Student Current Account” for international students with An interest-free arranged overdraft of £1,500 in years 1-3, £1,800 in year 4 and £2,000 if you stay on to year 5. This will help you out if you ever need extra money to help pay any tuition or accommodation fees. Finally, you also have the option to apply for a credit card with a limit of your choice, helping you to build a credit rating in the UK.

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Other Banks in the UK offering International Students Account include:

  1. Trustee Savings Bank (TSB)
  2. Halifax
  3. Nationwide
  4. Co-operative Bank

Step 3: Documents and Information For UK Student Account

To open a bank account in the UK, you will need to show the bank certain documents to prove both your identity and your UK address. Usually, this will involve showing your passport and a letter you received from the university.

If you are an international student, often you will need to also show the bank your visa. You should check what documents are required before you visit the bank. While there are general document requirements for opening a UK bank account, different banks have different requirements. Here are some documents and information you may require for a UK PhD student account.

  1. Your Passport

You must provide your passport in order to open a student bank account. Your passport will not only provide identification of you being an international student but, it also verifies your signature and a photograph. If you apply by post, the passport will need to be posted to the address given, but most banks allow you to only send the passport, relieving you of the stress of coming to the bank.

  1. Evidence of UK Address

This one is quite simple, and it is a massive failing of many UK banks/account providers that they don’t make quite clear to the student what is required as evidence of a valid UK address. However, the most suitable documents to bring are a letter from your university’s admissions office verifying your address or your tenancy agreement.

  1. A Valid PhD Student Visa

If you’re visiting a branch to open an account, it may be easier to bring evidence of the visa letter provided by the UK consulate, as this is a familiar official way for the visa to be shown. However, this letter is only used by visa nationals who require a vignette to enter the UK, and for many others, the visa will simply be a sticker in the passport, and so in this case the passport itself would be sufficient.

Read: Your Ultimate Guide to Student Visas for PhD Study

  1. Proof of Acceptance by the University

This is a crucial document that banks normally require when you apply to open a bank account. You must carry the original document with you. You can get a printout from the UKVI decision letter if you are admitted as a student and then download an official letter of acceptance from the university’s applicant portal, which should be sufficient for your bank.

Step 4: Visiting the Bank and Opening an Account

To open a bank account, visiting any local bank branch in person is necessary. You must ensure that you bring your acceptance letter from the university as evidence that you are an international student and your passport. Inform the bank representative that you want to open an account at the bank.

As stated in steps 1 and 2 above, request detailed information from a few banks and compare their services and charges. Then select a bank where you would like to open an account and tell their representative that you want to open an account with them. The rest of the procedure will involve submitting an application and presenting your identification documents.

Suppose you have all the required documents and information. In that case, the process of opening a UK bank account as an international student can be completed efficiently, typically within a timeframe of approximately two weeks.

Summary of Steps to Open a UK Bank Account

You should first decide which bank you are going to use and find the branch in the city where you are going to live. Once you have found the bank, check with the bank what documentation they will require to open an account with them. As a minimum, you will need:

  • A passport
  • Proof of your UK address and/or an offer of study in the UK.
  • Your visa and/or evidence of fee payment, to ensure you are not subject to paying tax on the interest of your accounts or escape liability on any loan repayments.

Once you know what documents are required, find out how you can obtain these documents. For example, if you require a letter from your institution as proof of study, find out who can provide this letter and when, as well as how long it will take you to receive it or if you need a UK driving license as proof of UK address, find out how this can be applied for.

When you have gathered all the required documents, take these with you to the bank. Ensure to pick a non-busy time to visit the bank, as queuing time at lunch hours can be up to 30 minutes or more.

At the branch, you will be assisted by a cashier or banking advisor who will talk you through the process to open the account, help you complete any forms, and confirm the documentation you are required to present. On doing so, an account with the bank will be opened or (more likely) an appointment will be arranged for you to return and/or visit a different branch to open the account.


What is next after Opening a UK Bank Account?

Once you have opened your account, you may want to transfer money into it from your home country. To do this, you might want to use a money-sending agency or consult a bank in your home country about the best way to send money to the UK. You can use your checkbook to pay for goods and services, and the card can be used to make purchases or withdraw money.

Do I need a UK Bank account for My PhD Studies in the UK?

The answer to this question is No! It is not necessarily required to have a UK bank account to apply for or start a PhD program in the UK. But it may make your life as a PhD student there much easier; it provides a simple and effective method for handling your money.

Can I Receive Money from Home with my UK Account?

Yes! A useful way of ensuring money sent from home is received into a UK account is to open an account in the same currency as the one back at home. This will also save you conversion charges.

How Much Does it Cost To Open a UK Bank Account as an International Student?

It doesn’t cost a penny to open a UK bank account as an international student. Many banks offer free student bank accounts with no fees for transactions or activities. This allows students to manage their finances and allocate funds towards education or necessary expenses. It provides financial security and peace of mind during their academic journey.

Do I need to Bring Cash to the Bank?

The answer is no! Nevertheless, it is important to communicate with the bank and deposit a small amount of money, such as £10, to secure the account after it has been opened but before the card is given. This step is vital and can prevent potential complications.

Do UK Banks offer Exclusive Accounts to International Students?

Yes! Many UK banks offer special accounts for international students, with features such as interest-free overdraft facilities or international money transfer services. It is usually easier for students to open a student account than a standard UK account, as banks are well set up to cater to students.

Do UK Banks Accept Online/Telephone Banking?

Yes! Most major banks now offer online banking services and you will find them available with most student accounts.


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