If you’re about to become an international student in London for the first time- this is such an exciting time for you! London has so much to offer, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything that you can do in see in London alongside your studies.
But before all of that, you need to prioritise all of the admin to make your transition into London life as smooth as possible.
One key piece of admin is to open a UK bank account. Opening a UK bank account is an easy enough process in itself, but you’ll want to read up on the best student bank accounts around before making your decision. With a little help from this article, you’ll find the best bank in London for international students- by finding the international student bank account that is right for you.
Why Do You Need To Open A UK Bank Account?
Put simply, opening a UK bank account will make life easier. If you run into any problems with your card or pin code, you can sort it out quickly by popping into a branch. It’s not so easy to pop home and go into your local bank branch if you’re an international student!
I came to the UK as an international student back in 2011, and although I banked with a Lloyds International Account, I didn’t opt to open a UK bank account. Let’s just say that made things pretty difficult when I forgot my pin code one day.
If you bank with a provider that doesn’t have branches in the UK, once you’re in London you’ll be charged currency conversion fees each time you use a cashpoint or pay with your card.
Direct debits and making payments can be a little tricky- you’ll need these to make payments for your accommodation, phone bills, and any other subscription services.
Another important thing to consider is that if you want to get a part time job, you will again need a UK bank account so that your employer can pay your wages.
What documents do you need to open a UK bank account?
To open a student bank account as an international student, you will need your current passport, a visa (if required), bank statement dated within the last 3 months, proof of address, and student ID or acceptance letter from your university.
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Things To Consider Before Opening A UK Bank Account
How much are the international transfer fees?
If you are planning on sending money home or receiving money from home, you’ll want to consider which bank has the best international transfer fees. Banks will charge you to send money, on top of their currency conversion fees.
Do you need an overdraft?
Many student bank accounts provide a fee-free overdraft over a fixed period of time. However, many of these overdraft facilities are not provided to international students because the bank makes the assumption that you will not be a long-term customer of theirs.
Where is the bank branch located?
You can make things a LOT easier for yourself by making sure that you opt to bank with a provider that has a branch in your area. Sure, London has branches of most major banks, but it’s much easier if there is a branch on your local high street rather than having to travel to get to the bank.
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What Is The Best Bank In London For International Students?
So without further ado, let’s go through some options to find the best bank in London for international students…
To be eligible for this fee free bank account you must be studying full time as an undergraduate for at least two academic years (1 academic year if you’re a post-graduate). You also must be over 18 years of age to apply for this account.
You can apply to this account online, and then pop into a branch with the relevant documents to complete your application.
Barclays offer online banking, and you can use their app to manage your bank account from your smartphone.
A great bonus of this account is that you can instantly send money overseas to friends and families using the Pingit app- it’s free to use and you can send money to over 30 different countries. All you need is their phone number.
Remember, if you are an undergraduate planning to study in the UK for less than 2 years, this account isn’t for you.
This international student bank account comes with a £10 per month account fee which is automatically deducted from your bank account each month.
Just like with the other NatWest student accounts, you can choose one of three freebies when you sign up to the account. You have the choice of an Amazon Prime Student membership, National Express Coachcard or tastecard.
You can apply for this bank account from the age of 17, but must be an undergraduate studying full time for 2 academic years or more (or 1 academic year if you are a post-grad).
Like with many bank accounts, you can do online banking through the mobile app and you can also use Apple Pay with this account.
At NatWest you will pay a fee to send money abroad, and this will vary depending on where you are sending the money to, and the amount of money that you are sending. Find out more about sending money on their website.
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If you live outside of the UK, but in a country that is part of the European Union, you can apply for this bank account.
The great news is, with this account, there is no monthly fee to pay. You can also use your debit card both in the UK and outside of the UK to make transactions and withdraw cash (however transaction fees will still apply).
As with most banks, you can also access your account online, and through a dedicated banking app.
This Lloyds account is fee-free, but you must be aged 18 or over and already be living in the UK to apply for this bank account. However, if you use your debit card outside of the UK, fees will apply.
Like the other options listed, you can bank online and use the Lloyds banking app to manage your money from your phone. You will even get up to 15% cash back from retailers such as Co-Op, Costa and Sky when you use your debit card.
It is possible to get an overdraft with this account, you may be eligible for one after an assessment, but this is not guaranteed. The overdraft also comes with fees when you start using it.
It is free to receive money from abroad, however sending money abroad does come with a correspondent bank fee which can be pretty pricey.
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The TSB Classic Account is available to anyone who is a non-UK, EU resident- over the age of 18. Unfortunately if you are from a non-EU country, you will not be eligible for this bank account.
This account has the added bonus of a £35 fee-free overdraft, however if you go over this there is a monthly fee of £6 and a high interest rate charge of 19.84%.
There are charges for sending and receiving money abroad with this account. It will cost you £2 to receive money from abroad (up to £100), and £7 for amounts over £100. To send money abroad it will cost £10 for payments less than £5,000, plus a correspondent bank fee of £6 may be applied.
The HSBC Basic Account is again a fee-free banking option for international students. To open this account, you must be aged 16 or over, and living in an EU country.
Like with many other accounts, you can use the HSBC online banking facility, and also manage your account through their app on your smartphone.
Transfer fees are free when sending to another HSBC account, but otherwise it costs £4 to send money overseas (plus any correspondent banking fees). It costs nothing to receive money from abroad up to £100, but will set you back £8 for amounts over £100.
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This fee-free account is open to anyone over the age of 16, and if you’re an EU resident, you could even open this account before you arrive in the UK.
There are no overdraft facilities on this account, however you can get up to 15% cashback at retailers such as Vue, Morrisons and Subway when you pay with your debit card.
It’s completely free to receive money from abroad, however if you would like to send money abroad, it comes with a large fee of £15 for transfers within the EU, and £25 outside of the EU.
Hopefully you now have a better idea of what bank accounts are on offer in London to international students- perhaps you’ve even found the best bank in London for international students? Let me know in the comments which one you’re going to go for. In the meantime, check out the best budgeting apps for students to manage your money alongside your new bank account.
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