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International Students



There is a wide choice of banks in the UK and many have branches in Cambridge. Most international students are only eligible to open a basic or current account depending on the bank (and terminology will vary between banks). This provides a visa debit card and is usually combined with an online banking service. Banks do not normally charge for this type of account. Additional fees will apply for one-off services or additional benefits.

How to open a bank account

In order to open an account, you will usually need:

  • your passport;
  • evidence of your UK address. For most banks, a letter from your College confirming your address can be used for this purpose;
  • you may also need to show evidence of your immigration permission. Where this is required, most banks will accept the entry vignette in your passport if you have not yet collected your BRP, or the online verification status if you have an eVisa.

Typically, the application for a new account starts online, but if you’re unsure and you’re opening an account with a bank that has a branch in Cambridge, you can visit in person for assistance. Some of the online-only banks will require an application via a phone app.

Whilst the vast majority of students do not have any issues opening bank accounts in the UK, each prospective account holder is assessed by the individual bank on their application and being able to open an account is not guaranteed.

Further considerations

It is advisable to ensure you have access to funds you can use for your initial expenses during the first few weeks in the UK as it may take some time to make all the arrangements for your new bank account, particularly if you are starting at the beginning of the academic year. Read our information on costs associated with arrival

It may be useful to seek advice from your bank where you currently live before coming to the UK. If your bank has branches in the UK, you might be able to start the process before arriving. You may also wish to notify your bank that you will be spending time abroad if you intend to continue using your current bank account whilst in the UK. Note that foreign transaction fees may apply.

After you have opened a bank account

Once you have opened an account, you will be sent your debit card and your PIN number separately.

The debit card will enable you to use contactless payments in shops, currently up to £100 though you will need to use your card with your PIN number the first time to activate it. Once activated, this will mean you do not need to enter your PIN or hand over your card for payments up to £100. You simply hold your card over the screen of the card payment machine. Alternatively, it is usually possible to set up your card on your mobile phone using the wallet function enabling contactless payments up to £100. For payments over £100, or if the contactless payment doesn’t work, you will need to insert your card into the machine and use your PIN. You will also need your PIN to withdraw money from cashpoints/ATMs.

Internet banking is common in the UK, and many, if not most, banks will offer an online banking option that is included with your account. With online banking you will often be able to use an app that will allow you manage money and payments all through an app. If this is unfamiliar to you, your chosen bank is likely to have information on their website about internet/online banking.

If you are under the age of 18

If you are under 18, you may need to follow a different process, and for certain banks, you may need to visit the branch in-person. You may also find that the type of account you can open will be different to students who are aged 18 or older.

Bank directory

The University provides information on the comparative features of different banks in the UK. This is not an exhaustive list of options that may be available to you but is intended to be used as a guide to help you consider and compare some of the main banks students use to open bank accounts. This information serves as guidance and is not a recommendation or endorsement of any particular bank. While the comparison chart provides answers to some questions, if you have any specific queries regarding your personal circumstances and needs, contact the bank directly, either by phone or by visiting the branch in person, where possible.