Best Banks for International Students in the UK

payment credit card for international students
June 2021 by


You have to think about a million things before coming to the UK being an international student. One of those things is which UK bank to use. Pretty much all big UK banks offer an account for international students, each with different perks. It can be challenging to choose which bank to go for, but hopefully, this guide will help you! We’ve listed all the best banks to use in 2021 as international student.

Why open a UK account?

You might be wondering why you need a UK bank account. Unfortunately, to get money from your home country to here there is sometimes conversation fees. Some of these banks have fees for converting money, but they’re usually pretty low, and they’re also different depending on the bank. You might find one to be cheaper than the other, so it’s good to look at them all. They also come with benefits from time to time that might interest you!

There are also other issues such as accommodation and also if you’re planning to get a part-time job (they prefer to put the money into a UK account). Besides these, it’ll just make things a lot easier for you with tasks such as paying back friends once you’re here.

How do you open an account?

Most banks need you to come to their local branch to set your account up. The closest one to either your university or your accommodation works perfectly depending on the bank you choose. That being said, some banks will still let you set your account up while you’re abroad. Get in touch with the banks and see what they offer. When you set the account up, you will also need a few pieces of essential documentation:

  • Your student ID/acceptance letter
  • Your passport
  • Your visa (if you’re outside of the EU)
  • Proof of address
  • Bank statements addressed to your home in the last three months

So which bank is for you? We’ve included the benefits as well as all the info you’ll need to form your decision.

Barclays – Barclays Student Additions

Starting with the best for transfer fee’s is Barclays. Barclays lets you send money in all currencies free, so it doesn’t matter where you are from; it won’t cost you anything. It’s mainly free to receive too! Receiving money is entirely free in euros and free in any other currencies unless the amount is over £100. Then the charge is £6. So cheap!

To be eligible for this account, you have to be:

  • Over the age of 18
  • Studying an undergraduate degree that lasts two years and is full time or a postgraduate degree that is also full time and lasts at least one year.
  • This account also has to be planned to use as your main account.

If money is a priority, this might be the best account for you!

NatWest – NatWest International Student

Speaking of affordability, NatWest is another bank to offer low transfer fees (and we mean low). However, there is one downfall to this account. There is a £10 a month fee that comes with it. That being said, with the transfer fee’s so low, this might not concern you. If you’re from Europe, there is no change for you with this account. Both sending money and receiving money in euros are entirely free. As for those outside of Europe, it’s not all bad! You have a small fee of £1 for sending money and £6 for receiving it abroad. The good thing about this account? You will get a choice of three options for a reward that comes with it! Your choices are:

  • 50% off food in UK restaurants, cinemas and also hostels with a tastecard. This lasts four years.
  • Amazon Prime student membership for one year as well as a £10 Amazon gift card.
  • National Express Coachcard that gives you 1/3 off coach travel for four years.

Not bad, right? All you need to be eligible for this account is:

  • Studying a full-time undergraduate course that lasts at least two years
  • Studying a full-time postgraduate course
  • Or a nurse training course at either university or college in the UK.

You also don’t need to go into NatWest to set this one up! You can do this from the comfort of your own home. But, of course, this account is all about the freebies, so if they’re enough to reel you in, make sure to get it set up.


This account isn’t one for international students specifically, but it is available to anyone with an address in a European Union country. To send money in Euros is entirely free but costs a small £4 to send money abroad in other currencies. You can also receive money for free in Euros, but as for other currencies, it’s free under £100 and then an £8 fee for anything over that amount. A little extra with this account is that it’s free to send money to other people with HSBC accounts. This could be an advantage for you depending on who you know!

As mentioned, you can only have this account if you’re from the UK or have an EU address. Besides that, you’re also eligible if:

  • You are 16 or over
  • You close any other UK bank accounts you have before signing up.

There’s nothing too crazy with this option, but it still might appeal to you, especially if you have friends with other HSBC accounts. You can also open it from home, which is always a bonus!

Lloyds Bank – Lloyds Classic

One thing that sets this account from the rest is its overdraft. An overdraft can be pretty helpful at university, but you should also use it carefully. They also usually come with a fee, much like this one does. This one is a bit more expensive for those not in the EU. It’s free to send money in euros but £9.50 in any other currencies. To receive its free in euros but £2 in other currencies for under £100 and then £7 for receiving over £100.

To be eligible for this bank account, you have to be:

  • Over 18
  • Have a UK address
  • Have the right to stay in the UK for at least one year.

Unfortunately, this is one you must open in the UK, but you can always do so once you get here if you’re interested. If you’re looking for an overdraft, you may have found the perfect account.

Santander – Santander Basic

Sadly, for students outside the EU, options are a bit more limited. This is another account open to those who originally live in the UK or the EU, so it’s not for everyone. It is a good account for those from the EU, though the fees rarely apply to you. It’s free to send money in euros, but there is a £25 fee for sending money in other currencies. However, it’s free to receive in all currencies, so that’s not too bad either!

You’re eligible if:

  • You don’t already have any accounts with Santander
  • You’re over 18
  • You live in the UK.

The £25 fee for sending money abroad is the most expensive on this list, but it shouldn’t affect you too much as you need to be an EU citizen. Other than that, it’s a simple account, but sometimes that’s all you need!

TSB – TSB Spend and Save

Another account with an extra perk! If you make 30 or more payments every month within the first six months of owning this account, you can receive £5 cashback for those payments. It’s a small benefit that could make all the difference! As with many of these accounts, it’s free to receive and send money in euros. For money in other currencies, it’s a £10 to send less than £5,000 and a £17.50 fee for anything over that amount. As for receiving, it’s £2 to receive under £100 and £7 to receive anything over.

A little more expensive but still a good option! If you’re interested in this account, you just need:

  • To be over 18
  • Have a UK address (essentially, you will have to open the account once you’re here)

And that’s all! As with some of these accounts, you have to be committed to a certain number of years in your degree, but this isn’t one of them. It could be a deciding factor for you, so it’s good to know!

These are just some of the top accounts that are available in the UK as an international student. They all have their pros, so choosing can be difficult, but hopefully, you’re now well informed and confident in making that choice. Good luck!



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