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Money Matters: Bank Accounts for International Students

22nd September 2016 Posted by: Tom Hagues

YOU need to get your finances in order if you’re going to be living abroad for a while, but doing so can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to open a UK account with no proof of address. Although this particular problem is easily rectified by using your university accommodation documents, there is still the matter of choosing a bank, deciding what kind of account to open and ensuring your money is safe and easily accessibly for the duration of your time living in the UK.


Choosing an Account

First thing’s first: make the right choice. Some banks offer specific international student accounts provided you’re studying full-time for at least two years, are a full-time postgraduate student for at least a year or are studying to be a nurse, but you should read everything properly before opening one as there are often restrictions on what you can and can’t do. For instance, Natwest offer an international student account that doesn’t allow you to arrange an overdraft on the account, but you still get all the usual student account benefits like online and mobile banking, a debit card and the ability to transfer money. Plus, with Natwest, you get 1/3 off coach travel, so there’s no excuse not to travel around the UK while you’re visiting. Barclays, meanwhile, also requires that you use your international student account as your main account, but that shouldn’t prove to be much of a problem.

Opening It

It’s all very well choosing where you want to stash your cash, but opening it is another matter. The general consensus, and the advice given by most banking authorities, that you need to visit a local branch of a bank in order to open an account. This isn’t too much of a problem because they can open one there and then, but it will mean doing it as soon as you arrive in the UK. You’ll need to take a passport, along with either a student visa or a national photo ID card if you’ve come from the EU. You should also take along a letter from your university or college with your study details on it. Your university will be able to provide appropriate documentation for you to take if you ask them.

Bringing Money With You

If you want to immediately have money in your new UK account, there are a couple of ways to do so, but keep in mind that you’ll almost always need a deposit to open it with (it’s usually a minimum of £1). Firstly, you can get your bank at home to write you a cheque, which can be cashed into your new account when you open it. Alternatively, once it has been opened, you can transfer money online, which is more or less an instant transaction. Your account will also let you transfer money out of the account and set up standing orders to pay rent and bills.

What Will I Get?

Depending on the bank, you’ll be issued with a card, a PIN and the opportunity to set up online banking. Online banking saves a lot of time and is perfect for quickly moving money around or making payments. Nearly all UK banks have smartphone apps, meaning you can access your money and view your balance wherever you are.

Tax and Interest

Ensure that you read the account terms and conditions and know exactly what you will be paying, or what you might be able to get in terms of rewards. UK bank account holders are usually obligated to pay tax on the interest they’re paid on their account balance, but as a foreign national, you may be exempt to paying this. You’ll need to ask for an R105 form when you open your account, which will give you in-depth information and the opportunity to make yourself tax-free.

For more information, visit the Money Advice Service website, which has everything you need to know about your money in the UK.


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