Guide to student bank accounts in the UK

Submitted by seeta.bhardwa@… on Wed, 08/11/2021 - 11:53

Studying in the UK is expensive for both domestic and international students, so it is important that you choose a good student bank account that can help you to maximise your money. 

Most major banks (and some online banks) will offer a specific student bank account that will come with perks that will help you to budget and manage your money. 

1. Choose a bank

There are many banks in the UK, so the best way to narrow it down is to look at what the different banks are offering students (see our handy table below).

The other thing that is always worth looking at is which bank is available in your university campus or in your university town. That way if you run into any issues with your account, you won't have to go far to get it sorted. 

One of the biggest ways that can help you differentiate between banks is how much interest free overdraft the bank is offering. This is something that is unique to student bank accounts. It essentially means that the overdraft limit is the maximum you can spend outside of your own money, without paying interest. 

In many cases international students may not be eligible for an overdraft or may only be able to secure a small overdraft, but this is always worth discussing with your bank and exploring what your options are. 

Another important factor for international students to take into account is the international transfer fees. 

Some banks will also charge for paper statements, so make sure you are aware of this cost when applying for your account. 

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2. Choose an account

There are two different types of bank accounts in the UK: a current account and a savings account. 

Current account: a current account allows you to deposit and withdraw money as often as you like. Usually when you open a current account you receive a chequebook and a debit card. Most international students will only need to open a current account when studying in the UK. 

Savings accounts: a savings account is a place to collect money over a longer term. Some students may consider opening one of these, if they are working or want to save money for travel or emergencies. 

3. Breakdown of bank accounts

There are many banks across the UK, so it is worth doing some of your own research into the most suitable bank account for you. Here at THE Student, I've had a look around some of the major banks to see what they are offering students.

Bank Account name 0 per cent overdraft For international students Extras
HSBC HSBC Student Bank Account up to £1,000 (going up to £2,000 in Year 2 and £3,000 in Year 3). £4 to transfer money abroad, (free if in Euros) fee of 2.75 per cent on any transactions abroad £80 on sign up and either an Uber Eats voucher or Asos Premier for a year, theft protection and finance guides
Barclays Barclays Student Additions Starting at £500 and can increase to up to £1,500 after Year 2 £2.99 withdrawal fee if using card abroad, 12 month free subscription to Perlego (online learning library) and mobile banking app which tracks spending
Lloyds Lloyds Student Account up to £1,500 for Years1-3 and up to £2,000 for Years 4-5 (international students who have lived in the UK for less than three years are not eligible for an overdraft)  £9.50 to transfer money abroad (free for EU students), a transaction fee of £2.99 when withdrawing money abroad Free TOTUM card for discounts, mobile banking, cashback with certain purchases, purchases rounded up to nearest pound and transferred to savings account
Natwest Natwest Student Account or International Student bank account up to £2,000 Same bank account but with a £10 monthly fee. Must have been living in the UK for last than three years, free international transfers £50 sign on fee, free Tastecard,   mobile banking
Santander Santander 123 Student Account Up to £1,500 in the first three years, £1,800 in Year 4 and £2,000 in Year 5 £25 to transfer money abroad (free for EU students) Free to receive money Free four-year 16-25 railcard, cashback at major retailers, 123 world offers, cashback of up to 15 per cent at major retailers, paper free 
Nationwide Nationwide FlexStudent up to £1,000 (going up to £2,000 in Year 2 and £3,000 in Year 3).  £20 to transfer money abroad (free for EU students). Free to receive. Free to use abroad One per cent interest on balances up to £1,000, mobile banking
RBS RBS Student Account Up to £2,000 Same account with £10 monthly fee £50 sign on fee, Free Tastecard mobile banking
Halifax Halifax Student Current Account Up to £1,500 Transaction fee of £2.99 when using abroad 15 per cent cashback at certain retailers, purchases rounded up to nearest pound and transferred to savings account
TSB TSB Student Account Up to £1,500 Transaction fee of £2.99 when using abroad Five per cent interest up to £500 balance

There are also banks that offer online banks accounts (not necessarily student specific) such as Monzo, Revolut or Starling, which are quite good at helping you to track spending and set budgets. 

4. How to open a bank account

Although it is possible to open a bank account over the phone or online, if you are an international student it might be easier to open your account in person in case there are any complications. When you go to the bank to open your account you will need:

  • Your full name, home address, home telephone number, your campus telephone number and your college address
  • Your passport
  • Any secondary form of identification (such as your student ID card, birth certificate, driver’s license, or a letter from the international students and scholars office at your university)
  • A letter of acceptance from your university 
  • An amount of money to deposit into the account (this will vary between banks)

These requirements may be slightly different across banks, so make sure you check what your bank requires before heading over. 

Read more: Top five apps for managing student finance



Which is the best student bank account in the UK? Compare what each bank is offering with this comprehensive table