Opening a UK bank account

See the options available for bank accounts in the United Kingdom so you can manage your money effectively and easily transfer funds from home.

Why open a UK bank account?

There are many reasons to open a UK bank account.

  • It is safer not to carry lots of cash with you. It is best to safely deposit this in a bank account.
  • You won’t be paying a currency conversion fee every time you spend money.
  • If you are using a non-UK bank card you will be charged every time you withdraw money from cash machines (also known as ATMs).
  • If you get a part-time job in the UK your employer will want to pay your money directly into a UK account.
  • You cannot set up direct debits from an overseas account. From a UK account you can pay your phone bill, subscriptions such as Netflix or Spotify and even your University fees. If you’re here for less than a year, there may be restrictions.
  • If you are applying to extend your Tier 4 visa you may be required to send bank statements to the Home Office. Having these in pounds sterling from a UK bank account will be easier.
  • If you are being financially sponsored, it will not be possible to cash a banker’s draft or cheque in the UK unless you have a UK bank account.

How to open a UK bank account

You can start the process before you arrive in the UK.

It helps to plan ahead – there are often waiting times of up to six weeks for bank appointments when students arrive in September and October.

Some banks and app-based accounts allow you to complete the process before you arrive (see below).

Other banks, such as Barclays, let you start the process online before you get here.

You may need to request a bank letter from us once you’ve started our online registration process.

Getting set up before leaving home

If you’re studying with us for at least 12 months, and you’re from a country listed by HSBC [PDF 3.5MB], you can open a new bank account with HSBC before you start your journey to Sussex. It will be set up when you arrive and, once you have provided some documents, you can start using it in a few days. Contact the International Banking Centre in your home country on the listing document.

Types of UK bank account

The bank accounts available to you will depend on the length of your course.

  • Less than six months

    These bank accounts are available if you’re studying for fewer than six months.

    HSBC

    You may be able to open an account. Visit a branch to discuss your course and future UK study plans.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter

    You may also need a Tax Identification Number (TIN) or equivalent, such as a social security number.

    Find HSBC branches.


    Lloyds Bank

    Lloyds Bank may allow you to open a Classic Account. Visit a branch to discuss your course and future UK study plans.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: current passport or EU national identity card, and visa if you have one
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Find a Lloyds Bank branch.


    Metro Bank

    This bank offers a Cash Account. You must have at least six months remaining on your visa.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Find a Metro Bank branch.


    Monzo

    The app-based bank Monzo offers the same services to everyone, regardless of your length of stay. However, you must have at least six months remaining on your visa.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card – you’ll take a picture of your ID through the Monzo app
    • Selfie video to confirm your identity
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter – or proof of your UK address.

    Santander

    This bank offers a Basic Account, which you have to apply for in-person at a branch.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card
    • Your Sussex student ID card or a University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Find a Santander branch.

  • Six months to one year

    Look at these bank accounts if you’re at Sussex for between six months and a year.

    Bank of China

    You can open a Student Prime Account from within China or once you’re in the UK.

    Complete the online application form on the bank’s website and collect your debit card from a branch in London once you arrive in the UK.

    You must have at least six months remaining on your visa.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: current passport or EU national identity card, and visa if you have one
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Barclays

    You can open a Basic Current Account. You must start the application online first.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: current passport or EU national identity card, and visa if you have one
    • Your Barclays online application reference number
    • Proof of address – this cannot be a University letter so contact us for alternative acceptable verifications.

    Find a Barclays branch.


    HSBC

    You may be able to open an account. Visit a branch to discuss your course and future UK study plans.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter

    You may also need a Tax Identification Number (TIN) or equivalent, such as a social security number.

    Find HSBC branches.


    Lloyds Bank

    You can open a Classic Account. Start your application online and you’ll be invited to bring your documents to a branch.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: current passport or EU national identity card, and visa if you have one
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Find a Lloyds Bank branch.


    Metro Bank

    This bank offers a Cash Account. You must have at least six months remaining on your visa.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Find a Metro Bank branch.


    Monzo

    The app-based bank Monzo offers the same services to everyone, regardless of your length of stay. However, you must have at least six months remaining on your visa.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card – you’ll take a picture of your ID through the Monzo app
    • Selfie video to confirm your identity
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter – or proof of your UK address.

    Santander

    This bank offers a Basic Account, which you have to apply for in-person at a branch.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card
    • Your Sussex student ID card or a University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Find a Santander branch.

  • One year or longer

    These bank accounts are available if you’re:

    • On a postgraduate course for at least one year
    • An undergraduate studying at Sussex for at least two years.

    Bank of China

    You can open a Student Prime Account from within China or once you’re in the UK.

    Complete the online application form on the bank’s website and collect your debit card from a branch in London once you arrive in the UK.

    You must have at least six months remaining on your visa.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: current passport or EU national identity card, and visa if you have one
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Barclays

    You can open a Student Additions Account or a Basic Current Account. Start the online application first. If you’re a postgraduate student, you must have one whole calendar year remaining on your visa from the date of your in-person appointment with Barclays. If you have less than a year, see the six-months-to-one-year category.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: current passport or EU national identity card, and visa if you have one
    • Your Barclays online application reference number
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    HSBC

    If your home country or territory is included in this list of international banking centres [PDF 3.5MB], you can open a new account before leaving home. It will be set up when you arrive and, once you have provided documents, you can start using it in a few days. Contact your International Banking Centre to get started.

    Alternatively, you can open an account in a branch once you get here.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport or EU national identity card, and visa if you have one
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    You may also need to provide a Tax Identification Number (TIN) or equivalent (for example, social security number).

    Find HSBC branches.


    Lloyds Bank

    You can open a Classic Account. Start your application online and you’ll be invited to bring your documents to a branch.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: current passport or EU national identity card, and visa if you have one
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Find a Lloyds Bank branch.


    Metro Bank

    This bank offers a Cash Account. You must have at least six months remaining on your visa.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

    Find a Metro Bank branch.


    Monzo

    The app-based bank Monzo offers the same services to everyone, regardless of your length of stay. However, you must have at least six months remaining on your visa.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card – you’ll take a picture of your ID through the Monzo app
    • Selfie video to confirm your identity
    • University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter – or proof of your UK address.

    Santander

    You can open an Essentials Current Account. You can do all this online by uploading the required documents.

    Documents you need

    • Proof of identity: passport (with valid visa if applicable) or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU national identity card
    • Your Sussex student ID card or a University letter with your term-time address – see how to request a bank letter.

Sharia banking

Some banks in the UK offer Sharia-compliant accounts for those who wish to bank according to Islamic principles. These accounts will not pay or charge any interest or provide any credit or overdraft facilities. Any money held in a Sharia-compliant account will not be used to invest in goods or services prohibited under Islamic law, such as gambling or alcohol. These accounts are available to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Al Rayan is the largest wholly Sharia-compliant bank in Britain. The closest branches to Brighton are in London.

Getting credit

As an international student, you may not be able to get credit (borrow money) – also known as having an overdraft.

Transferring money to the UK

Read our advice on how to receive money from overseas.

If you expect to regularly receive international transfers, you may wish to consider accounts offered by Santander, which does not charge a fee unlike many other banks.

Spending money abroad

If you’re travelling outside of the UK, don’t carry large amounts of cash. You can use most UK bank cards abroad, but check any additional charges and take into account the cost of currency exchange. Some bank accounts such as Monzo allow charge-free cash withdrawals of up to £200 per month if you are travelling in the EU.

Exchanging currency

The Post Office in Bramber House is the only place on campus where you can exchange currency, however it only accepts US dollars and euros.

Most banks provide a currency exchange service but the commission rate varies.

Frauds and scams

There is a danger that your bank account may be targeted for criminal activity which involves moving money between accounts.

Watch out for fraudulent activity as students have been targeted by organised crime groups for money laundering operations.

Find out more about frauds and scams.

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