Banking and budgeting

You’re going to need a bank account when you move to the UK, to pay your living costs and rent, tuition fees, or receive money from home.

You can make preparations for banking before you arrive in the UK:

  • Does a multinational bank in your home country have an online account you could open before coming to the UK?
  • Seek advice on opening a bank account in the UK - a bank in your home country may be associated with a bank in the UK, which could make it easier to open an account.
  • Check whether you can use a cash card from your existing home country bank in UK ATM bank machines and if there’s a charge for doing so.

Why open a bank account?

  • Safety and security of your money – you can keep your money safe, as it’s not a good idea to carry a lot of cash with you.
  • If you take a part-time job in the UK - generally businesses pay salaries directly into a bank account.
  • Allows you to pay your tuition and accommodation fees by direct debit.
  • For visas – to extend your visa in the UK, you’ll need to show financial evidence that you have enough money to live in the UK.
  • To have money transferred from overseas – some banks charge for this, others don’t. So this may be a consideration when you’re deciding which bank to use.

What bank should I choose?

There are a number of considerations you should bear in mind when deciding which bank you should open an account with:

  • Compare several different banks to make sure you open the correct account for your needs. You could use comparison websites like Save The Student: Top international bank accounts or Money Saving Expert: Student bank accounts. They list the top international student bank accounts, along with reviews of each provider and are also a good source of information for other student finance matters.
  • Make sure you ask about bank charges.
  • Request monthly postal bank statements (student visa extension).
  • It may take up to approximately two weeks to open an account. To be able to access your money on arrival, it would be worth opening a prepaid debit card before entering the UK and transferring at least two weeks (four weeks if you are having you are having to self-isolate) of living costs into this account. You can compare the best student prepaid card for you on Save The Student and Money Saving Expert websites.
  • Keep it safe – don’t carry lots of cash on you.

Opening an account

It can take time for a bank to open an account for you, so make sure you have enough money to cover your first few weeks in the UK and be patient.

Due to UK banks tight security measures, it can take about two to three weeks to open an account. While you’re waiting for your bank account to open, use a credit card or travellers’ cheques if you can, rather than cash.

If you are unable to open a UK bank account before entering the UK, look at obtaining a pre-paid debit card and have at least two weeks of general living cost funds in the account, especially if you have to self-isolate for 14 days. This will enable you to pay for items such as online shopping.

You'll need:

  • Your passport (original, not photocopy) or a photo ID card for identification.
  • Evidence of your student status (confirmation of enrolment letter).
  • Your original unconditional offer letter/ letter of acceptance offer.

The bank will need:

  • Your full name, date of birth and nationality.
  • Your home address and country of residence.
  • Evidence of where you’ll be living in the UK, such as your University accommodation agreement.

Don’t have these?

If you don’t have these, don’t worry. If required, we can issue you with a document confirming your details to a bank.

Once your account is set up, you’ll find it’s the best and most secure way to manage your money.

Budgeting and cost of living

Stirling is in the top 5 of the UK’s most affordable cities (Lloyds Bank, 2021).

In addition to your tuition fees, you’ll also need to put together a budget for your living costs over the course of your studies. The cost of living can vary greatly depending on your lifestyle and spending habits.

Which? have put together an estimated breakdown of student costs to help you work out your budget.

Get further information about the cost of living while at university.