The best UK bank accounts for international students

Gert Svaiko

Heading to the UK to study? If you’ve been offered a place at a UK college or university, you’ll have a number of things to arrange before you arrive. This includes your visa, travel, accommodation, packing and much more.

One of the most important tasks will be to organise your finances. You might want to open a UK bank account, as it’ll come in handy for paying your tuition fees and receiving income to support your studies.

But how easy is it to open an account as an international student, and which one should you choose? Read on, as we’ll cover the best international student bank account in the UK.

And, if you’re juggling multiple currencies and travelling a lot, consider checking out the money services provider Wise and its Wise Account that could be a cost-effective alternative to a bank account. It lets you send, hold and convert money in 40+ currencies, and spend in 150+ countries using your own Wise debit card. For extra convenience, everything is done online, or in the handy Wise app.

Learn more about the Wise Account 💰

Table of contents

Do you need a bank account when studying in the UK?

Opening a UK bank account can be useful for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it makes it much easier to provide the required financial evidence when applying for your UK student visa and can significantly reduce the visa processing time. As part of your application, you’ll need to be able to show that you have enough funds to support yourself during your time in the UK. You can see the full requirements here. A UK bank account allows you to provide this evidence quickly and easily.

Your new UK bank account (or a Wise account) can also be useful if you earn income from a part-time job, or need to access funds from a student loan or grant quickly. You can also use it to pay your regular bills (e.g. mobile phone contract, gym membership etc.), and send and receive money in pounds when needed.

Can you get rejected for a student account?

UK banks carry out credit checks on new applicants, which includes students. This means that there’s always the possibility of being rejected. As a new arrival in the UK, you’re not likely to have a credit score, and you can’t transfer over your credit history from abroad.¹ This means that there is a chance that the bank will see you as high risk, and reject your application.

Some banks may not accept applications from people who haven’t been living in the UK for the three years prior to starting their studies.² If you’ve just arrived, you may need to get hold of some proof of your UK address.

📚 Read more: Best online bank accounts in the UK

Best UK bank accounts for international students

So, which student bank account should you choose? There are a few key things to look for as an international student. Firstly, how easy the account is to open and whether you can do it online.

UK student accounts often come with benefits, such as overdrafts, discounts and cashback. You should think about which would be the most useful for you during your studies.

Most banks will offer a number of easy ways to manage your account, including mobile banking. But it could also be a good idea to choose a bank which has local branches near to your campus. If you need any in-person help, you’ll be able to pop in and speak to someone.

Lastly, you’ll want to check out the fees, particularly for things like international transfers. If you want to send or receive money between the UK and your home country, you’ll want to make sure it won’t be prohibitively expensive.

Now, here’s your at-a-glance guide to the best UK bank accounts for international students, with more detail on each below.

Bank and accountFees for account and cardsKey features
HSBC International Student Bank Account³- £5 for international transfers

- 2.75% for foreign currency card payments³

- Mobile banking

- home&Away offers and discounts

- Instant notifications

Barclays Bank Account- £6 for receiving international payments (over £100)

- 2.99% for foreign currency card payments⁴

- Optional arranged overdraft

- Mobile banking

- Money management tools

Santander Basic Current Account- £25 for international payments

- 2.95% for foreign currency card payments⁵

- Online and mobile banking

- Cashback, vouchers and prizes with Santander Boosts

- Fee-free withdrawals at Santander ATMs worldwide⁵

Lloyds Bank Classic Account- £9.50 for international payments (+ additional fees)

- £2-£7 to receive international payments

- 2.99% + additional fees for foreign currency card payments⁶

- Online and mobile banking

- Earn up to 15% cashback on spending

TSB Spend & Save Account- £10-£17.50 for international payments

- £2-£7 to receive international payments

- 2.99% for foreign currency card payments

- £5 cashback a month (if you meet conditions)

- Up to £2,000 overdraft

- Mobile banking

- Earn up to 2.92% interest in savings pots⁸

Nationwide FlexAccount- £20 for international payments

- 2.99% for foreign currency card payments⁹

- Access to Nationwide savings account

- Mobile banking

Halifax Current Account¹⁰- £9.50 for international payments (+ additional fees)

- £2-£7 to receive international payments

- 2.99% + additional fees for foreign currency card payments¹⁰

- Up to 15% cashback on spending

- Option for arranged overdraft

- Mobile banking

As a student coming from another country, it’s likely that you’ll want access to international payment services. As you can see from the table above, these services tend to be very expensive when you use a bank.

The good news is that there’s a cheaper alternative available – the Wise account. You can open an account online, and send and receive money worldwide, in 40+ currencies, for low fees* and at mid-market exchange rates. You can even get a linked Wise debit card for spending in the local currency in 150+ countries.


HSBC International Student Bank Account

The HSBC Student Bank Account is designed for people who’ve moved to the UK to study. To apply, you must be 18+. You can apply online, but may be asked to visit a branch with proof of your ID.¹¹

The account is a basic current account, offering both mobile and online banking. You’ll get a contactless debit card, which works with mobile wallets such as Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. You won’t have access to any credit, although an arranged overdraft may be possible in certain circumstances.¹¹

Perks include the HSBC International home&Away programme, which gives you access to offers on fashion, food and drink, and more.¹¹

Barclays Bank Account¹²

There is a dedicated Barclays student account, the Barclays Student Additions account. But to be eligible for this, you must have lived in the UK for at least 3 years previously.

So if you’ve only just arrived in the UK to study, you’ll only be able to open a standard Barclays Bank Account. This account is available to UK residents aged 18+, including anyone with a UK biometric residence permit.

This is an everyday current account offering mobile banking in the Barclays app, including features like spending insights, flexible security controls and money management tools. You can even open your account through the app.

This account also offers the option to set up an arranged overdraft if you need it.

Santander Basic Current Account¹³

The only option available for a Santander student accountif you’re an international applicant is the Santander Basic Current Account, as all other accounts require permanent UK residency.

However, this everyday current account still gives you most of what you’ll need. This includes access to mobile banking and a debit card, although unfortunately it’s not contactless.

There’s also Santander Boosts, a rewards scheme offering cashback, vouchers and prizes. What’s more, you can use Santander cash machines in selected countries worldwide for no charge.

Lloyds Bank Classic Account¹⁴

The only option available for international students is the Lloyds Classic Account. This is because the standard Lloyds student account is only for people who’ve lived in the UK for 3+ years.

This offers free everyday banking, although you’ll need to watch out for fees when making/receiving international payments.

You can manage your money using mobile banking, via the highly-rated Lloyds Bank app. And as an extra perk, you can get up to 15% cashback on everyday spending with selected retailers using your Visa debit card.

To apply for the Lloyds Classic Account online, you’ll need to be 18+ and resident in the UK, and provide proof of ID.

TSB Spend & Save Account⁸

The TSB Spend & Save Account is available to UK residents aged 18+. You can apply using the TSB mobile app or you can apply online.

There is a dedicated TSB student account, but this isn’t available to international applicants.

The account is bursting with great features, including the chance to set up savings pots and earn up to 2.92% interest on your money. You can earn £5 cashback a month for the first 6 months, as long as you make 20+ card payments a month. And there’s the option for an overdraft up to £2,000, subject to approval.

You can manage your money on the go with the TSB mobile banking app.

Nationwide FlexAccount¹⁵

Like some of the other banks on our list, the Nationwide student account is only for applicants who’ve been living in the UK for 3+ years. But its everyday current account is ideal for international students, and you can apply online if you’re 18+ and already living in the UK.

The Nationwide FlexAccount is a fee-free everyday current account, although it does charge some high fees for international and foreign currency payments.⁹ You can also get access to other Nationwide products such as savings accounts.

You can manage your money via mobile and online banking.

Halifax Current Account¹⁶

The Halifax Current Account is open to all UK residents aged 18+, so it’s suitable for international students.

Although it’s not a dedicated Halifax student account, it offers all the everyday banking services a student may need. This includes a contactless debit card and mobile banking.

It also comes with benefits such as 15% cashback on spending at selected retailers and merchants. Plus, the option to get an arranged overdraft if you need it.

📚 Read more: Best debit card to use abroad: Top 6 UK picks

Can you have multiple UK accounts as an international student?

There’s nothing to stop you from having more than one UK bank account as an international student. However, you’ll need to check which accounts you’re eligible for, and make sure you can meet the minimum requirements.

For example, some accounts may require a minimum number of monthly payments, so this could be hard to meet if you have more than one account.

Also, if you plan on sending or receiving money in currencies other than British pounds, get a Wise account for transparent fees* and mid-market exchange rates on currency conversions.

Sign up with Wise today 🚀

After reading this, you should have a good idea of what types of UK bank accounts are available for international students. We’ve included many different options, including info on features and fees. So you should be all set to choose the right UK account for your needs.

Sources used:

  1. Equifax - Moving To The UK And Your Credit Score
  2. Times Higher Education - Guide to international student bank accounts in the UK
  3. HSBC - Fee Information Document
  4. Barclays - Fee Information Document
  5. Santander - Fee Information Document
  6. Lloyds - Fee Information Document
  7. TSB - Spend & Save Fee Information Document
  8. TSB - Spend & Save Account
  9. Nationwide - FlexAccount Fee Information Document
  10. Halifax - Current Account Fee Information Document
  11. HSBC - International Student Account
  12. Barclays - Barclays Bank Account
  13. Santander - Basic Current Account
  14. Lloyds Bank - Classic Account
  15. Nationwide - FlexAccount
  16. Halifax - Current Account

Sources last checked on date: 30-Jan-2024

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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