Banking and budgeting

Banking

Most international students find opening a UK bank account a straightforward process, and it is the most efficient way to manage your finances while studying here.

The British Bankers Association has published a very useful leaflet for international students called Opening a UK Bank Account.

Most UK Banks will require you to apply in person to open a new account, and to provide the following documentation:

  • Passport (or national I.D. card may be accepted if you are from an EU country)
  • Visa if you are from a country outside the EEA
  • Confirmation of your UK address (lease agreement, accommodation contract, bills, etc)
  • Confirmation of your home address (unconditional offer letter for your course, bank statements, bills, etc)

You may find that some banks will also ask you for additional documents, such as a letter confirming you have registered as a full-time student or information on your funding arrangements if you are sponsored by your employer or government. If applying to open an account with the Royal Bank of Scotland at the Edinburgh Campus you will be asked to produce your Heriot-Watt University enrolment confirmation letter stamped by the Student Service Centre.   

The most likely bank account you will be offered when you first apply is a basic or cash account. This will allow you to deposit cash, cheques (travellers and personal), banker’s drafts and to arrange credit transfers to your account. If possible, try to open a basic account which has a debit card option as this can be a very convenient feature when shopping or accessing online services. For most banks, deposits and transfers in currency other that UK sterling will have a transaction charge.

Examples of three basic UK bank accounts:

There is a Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) at the Edinburgh campus which is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, from 12pm until 4pm.

Please note that if you are on a short course (six months or less) you may not be able to open a bank account or may find it difficult to do so. We would advise you to check if your bank at home has links with any UK banks that might help you to set up a bank account here.

If you are subject to UK immigration control and self-financing you will have to submit bank documentation if you need to extend you visa. If you are planning on managing your access to banking services online please check that your bank has options for the production of financial documentation acceptable for visa extension should you need these in the future.

Further information and advice on opening a UK bank account is available on the UKCISA website.

Budgeting

This may be the first time you have to manage your finances on your own, so we have created two budgeting guides to help you plan your budget for studying in the UK:

There is also a helpful budgeting video you can view.

For more information about managing your money, check the Managing your money pages.

You can also use the International Student Calculator and plan your own individual student budget.