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Banking

Opening a bank account in the UK as an international student can take some time so it is essential that you have an alternative means of accessing cash for at least the first month of your stay in the UK.

Please read below for guidance about opening a bank account in the UK.

Should I open a bank account in the UK?

That depends on your individual circumstances and your plans for during and after your studies. If your home bank allows you to make payments and withdraw cash in the UK without charging international transaction fees, you may feel that opening a UK bank account is not necessary. However, having a bank account in the UK might be a more practical option or might even be required if, for example, you intend to work part time during your studies and receive an income paid into your account.

Below are some reasons why you may want to open a bank account in the UK:

  • Your home bank may charge you for using your home bank card in the UK
  • Fluctuations in currency exchange rates may impact your budget
  • Receiving income from paid work or scholarships in the UK (most employers and some scholarship providers will only pay into a UK bank account)
  • Paying bills - some companies may require that you set up a Direct Debit or standing order, which may be difficult to do from an overseas account
What do I need to open a bank account?

Banks in the UK will normally require certain documentation in order to open an account:

  • Personal identification (usually passport) plus valid Student Visa if applicable
  • Proof of student status (e.g. student ID, student visa/BRP, or 'bank letter' issued by the School confirming your UK study details. It is worth checking with the bank beforehand exactly what the letter needs to include)
  • Proof of current UK address* (e.g. tenancy agreement, Council Tax letter or exemption certificate, a bill from a utility company, or a letter/statement from your home bank sent to your UK address)
  • Some banks may also require proof of your home address*. It is advisable to bring recent bank statements (for the last 3 months) or utility bills (gas/water/electricity) showing your home address for this purpose.

*Some banks will accept the 'bank letter' issued by Registry confirming your term-time and permanent addresses as proof of address.

Please check with the bank exactly what you need to apply and what documents they consider acceptable. Many banks will require that you visit a local branch to complete the account opening process.

Online banks are becoming an increasingly popular choice for international students as proof of address is not always required and accounts can be fully opened online (though you still need to provide a UK address, even if not a permanent one, and have a UK mobile number).

When can I open a bank account?

This depends on what documentation is required in order to open the bank account.

If the bank you have chosen requires a letter from the School confirming your student status and proof of current UK address, then you will need to have fully registered at LSHTM (during Welcome Week) and have found long-term accommodation before you can open the account. As this can take some time, it is essential that you have an alternative means of accessing cash for at least the first few weeks of your stay in the UK.

If your chosen bank allows you to open a current (as opposed to 'student') account and does not require proof of address, then you should be able to open an account sooner. But you will still need to be based in the UK, have a UK mobile number and provide a UK address to which the bank can post your debit card.

How do I get a 'bank letter' from LSHTM?

Please check what proof of student status your bank requires, as some banks will accept your student ID or student visa/BRP as evidence. Some banks, however, will require a letter from the School confirming your student status or a 'Letter of Introduction for UK Banking Facilities'. It is important to check with the bank exactly what information must be included in the letter. Usually this will include your name and study details, as well as your UK and home addresses, and may need to be addressed to a specific bank branch. As such, please ensure that your UK and overseas addresses are up-to-date in your Student Records and that your name appears exactly as it does on your passport. You will also need to tell Registry the bank and the branch address.

Bank letters can be requested from the Student Hub or Registry office once you are fully registered on your programme, from the latter half of Welcome Week. Letters will usually be issued there and then. Please note that Registry will not be able to issue bank letters before you are fully registered on your programme.

Which bank or account should I choose?

We cannot advise you on which bank and account you should choose. LSHTM does not have a relationship with any particular bank; we recommend that you choose the bank which best suits your needs. Each bank will offer different types of accounts with their own features, so it's important that you do your own research.

Please note that general publicity about 'student bank accounts' is probably not available to international students. Most banks will offer the option to open a 'basic account' or will offer an account specifically designed for international students.

All the banks listed below have branches on Tottenham Court Road (the nearest main road to the School) and other locations near LSHTM. Bank branches around LSHTM and the Bloomsbury area will be used to dealing with students.

Barclays

15-17 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 1BJ

HSBC

39 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 2AR

Lloyds

88 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4TH

Metro

227 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 7QF

NatWest

45 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 2EA

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)

127-128 High Holborn, London WC1V 6PQ

Santander

164-167 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 7JE

Halifax

118-132 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1HL

Helpful resources

UKCISA – the UK Council for International Student Affairs – has provided guidance notes on opening and running a bank account in the UK.

The British Bankers' Association produced a leaflet for international students with guidance on opening and running a bank account in the UK.