Things to know before opening an account
Please read below for important information you should know before opening a bank account in the UK.
Covering initial costs
Opening a UK bank account can at times be a lengthy process. If you are opening an account with a high street bank, you may need to visit the bank branch more than once to set up your bank account, and once you have set up your account you may need to wait approximately 10 days before your bank card arrives in the post.
With this in mind, it is important that you bring sufficient funds to cover initial expenses for your first month in the UK. You may want to consider alternative options such as using travellers cheques or pre-paid cash cards. More information on pre-paid cards can be found on the Money Advice Service webpages.
For safety reasons, it is not a good idea to bring large sums of cash, and there may be restrictions on the amount of cash you can bring with you to the UK. You can read more about the restrictions on taking cash in and out of the UK on the Gov.uk website.
You may also want to consider paying your UCL tuition fees online.
Reasons to open a UK bank account
You may need to use your overseas bank card initially but you should try to open a UK bank account as soon as possible. This is because withdrawing money and using and operating your finances entirely from an overseas account is not really practical for a number of reasons:
- using an overseas card to withdraw money is likely to incur a charge each time
- you will not be able to set up direct debits from an overseas account (often essential when setting up a phone contract or gym membership)
- if you wish to seek part-time employment during your studies, employers will pay your wages directly into a UK bank account
Students on a programme for less than six months
Please note that if you are on a programme of study for 6 months or less (as is the case for many affiliate students), you may not be able to open a bank account with certain banks. Instead, you may wish to look into obtaining a pre-paid cash card instead. This allows you to load money on to it and you use it in a similar way to a debit card. Some cards may charge you - so make sure you check on this to ensure you know if there are any fees. You should also check the limits on the card as some have minimum/maximum limits - so do some research to find the most suitable card for you.
More information on pre-paid cards can be found on the Money Advice Service webpages.
There are a number of things you may want to consider when opening an account:
- if you are expecting to receive money from overseas ask about processing times and any charges that may apply
- some banks may require you to pay a monthly subscription fee, which is something you will need to account for when making a decision
- when you attend the banks in branch you may be offered different or further services, which may depend on the amount of money you will deposit or transfer, and how you plan to use your account
When opening an account, opt for printed statements instead of online statements, as UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will request these if you apply to extend your student visa. You may also need to use them for proof of address during your time in the UK.
More information on UK bank accounts can also be found on the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website.
Documents required to open an account
The documentation you will need to provide varies depending on which bank you select to open an account with. However, as a general rule, you will need to ensure you have the following in place:
- your passport and valid visa (including your BRP) if you are an overseas student
- your passport or National ID card if you are from the European Union
- proof of student status and proof of address in the UK and in your home country (this can only be issued once you have completed in-person enrolment)
- your UCL Student ID card
Proof of student status and proof of address
In most cases to obtain proof of address, you will require a Statement of Student Status from UCL. A standard Statement of Student Status confirms your enrolment status, mode of attendance, programme of study, programme start and end date, and your home and term-time address.
In some cases, banks may also request that you provide a bank letter addressed to them, showing your term-time and home address.
A Statement of Student Status and/or bank letter can be obtained from the Student Enquiries Centre, which is located on the first floor of the Student Centre building on 27-28 Gordon Square. More information can be found on the Student Enquiries Centre webpages.
If you are staying in UCL Accommodation, you can request a letter from your Hall reception confirming your address after you check in. Some banks will accept this letter to open an account. Please ensure you know which bank you would like to open an account with before requesting a letter. The Hall Team will endeavour to produce this letter for you as soon as possible but it may take up to two working days for you to receive it.
If you are planning to open a bank account with a high street bank, you will need to find a permanent place to stay before you can open an account. This is because the bank will need to send you your bank card and pin code to your address in the UK and will not agree to send these to a hotel or hostel. You will also not be able to have these sent to UCL.
When you find permanent accommodation, you will need to update your new address on your Portico account and then request a letter in support of opening a bank account from the UCL Student Enquiries Centre.