Why do I need a bank account?
Almost everyone in the UK needs a bank account to receive and spend money. Most of the things you need to pay for such as rent, utility bills and tuition fee instalments are set up through your bank account. If you are an international student using an account from your own country, it’s a good idea to get a UK bank account as transactions on an international account in another currency will usually carry a transaction fee.
How do I open a bank account?
The exact documents you need to provide will vary from bank to bank but the minimum requirement is usually your passport or Biometric Residence Permit, and some proof of your student status. You will also need to provide proof of address, if you are staying in temporary accommodation and have updated your MyEd account with this address then you can open a bank account by printing of a bank introduction letter.
Bank Introduction Letter
A bank introduction letter is accepted by some banks as proof of your student status and address. Financial law in the UK means they must be satisfied that they have confirmed your identity, including where you live.
If you are in University Accommodation and have arrived
- Log into your MyEd account
- Click the Services Tab and then Accommodation Services
- Select 2019/2020 Term Time
- Check in (if you haven’t already)
- Select Print Bank Letter
If you are not in University Accommodation
You should be able to print this once you have met with your personal tutor (which is usually the last step in being fully matriculated).
- Log into your MyEd account
- Click on My Student Record
- Select Documents on the Left hand panel
If you have completed registration but you are not yet fully matriculated then you can obtain a letter from the Student Information Point at Old College. You will need to update your semester address in MyEd before you print this letter, to reflect your address while you are studying.
Types of bank account
Student Account In most cases this would be the best account to have as a student because they will offer an interest-free overdraft (this is a buffer that means if you spend more money than you have, then the bank will allow you to go into a negative balance). Some will also not charge fees if you don’t have enough money to pay for direct debits. Make sure you check what happens when you are no longer a student, most will charge interest on a negative balance and if you don’t pay in a regular amount of money into the account (like a wage) they may take away your overdraft facility and ask for the money back.
Current Account This is the account most working people in the UK have. Most current accounts will charge a fee for having an overdraft and for exceeding any agreed overdraft limit. You normally have to have some level of credit history in the UK to access these. They normally require you to pay in a minimum amount of money per month into the account.
Basic Bank Account If you are turned down for a student or current account (because you don’t have a regular income or have a poor credit history) then as long as you can prove your identity then you should be able to open a basic fee free bank account. They won’t give you an overdraft or any type of credit, but it will give you access to basic banking facilities.
Who should I bank with?
If you are a UK Student you are likely to be offered a student account with an overdraft facility. If you have a student overdraft you will be tied to that bank account until your overdraft is paid off – so choose for the longer term and not for a free gimmick.
Whilst we can’t recommend a particular account, Save the Student regularly carries out student reviews of bank accounts. They also list their key points and eligibility.
International and EU students may have some restrictions on the types of account they can open. The University has produced some information and may have to produce more documentation in order to prove their identity. The University has produced a bank comparison table with details which banks have an agreement to accept the Bank Introduction Letter as proof of address and student status.
AlRayan banking offers bank accounts compliant with Sharia law. Ethical banking, as they are known, are banks whose business model is designed around making sure they have no negative impact on the environment or on society. They will usually provide information on the type of companies they will or will not invest in. Triodos Bank and Co-operative Bank are the largest in the UK but are not able to offer student accounts.
Some of the smaller or digital banks won’t have a branch in Edinburgh, you may have to send original documents to open an account. We would recommend not sending an original passport or residence permit through the post, instead ask if they will accept a certified copy.
Branches Closest to the University
These branches are familiar with opening student accounts, but they can be very busy during Welcome Week and the start of term. If you have a long wait to open an account try going to a branch further away from the University. If you open an account in one branch, you can still use the facilities of any of their branches.
Once you have opened an account it will take a few days to receive a card and pin number to use in an ATM machine, but you should be able withdraw cash from a branch with identification, or to use the pay facilities through your mobile phone.
What is my residence for tax purposes?
If you are not a UK citizen you may be asked by your bank for confirmation of your country of residence for tax purposes.
This is because you may need to pay UK income tax on income you have earned abroad like wages, income from foreign investments or renting property overseas.
Your residence for tax purposes will determine whether or not you need to pay UK income tax. You can work out what your tax residence is by using HMRC's online guide here. There is further information on Tax Guide for Students' website here.
Never disclose your passwords or pin numbers to anyone. Even to your own bank. All of this information is collected automatically and you should never need to disclose it.
Only use the trusted app on your phone to bank and never click a link in an e-mail which asks you to enter your password, go directly to the website itself. Check the address of the website in the browser bar to make sure you haven’t been directed to another site.
When using a cash machine, look for anything that looks out of place. Sometimes thieves will attach a plastic trim over the slot where you normally insert you card to read its details, and a camera over the keypad to see capture your pin number. Always cover your hand when entering your pin number and report anything suspicious to your bank or the Police.
Check your statements and query any transactions that you don’t recognise, however small. Some thieves take small amounts, hoping you won’t notice.
Update the software on your phone, tablet or PC/MAC when asked. Hackers find it easier to access earlier versions of software.
Never use your bank account to hold money that isn’t yours, particularly if they offer you some money to do so. A job might be advertised as a "financial manager" or "UK representative", and a UK bank account will be a requirement. This is money-laundering and is a criminal offence, even if you weren’t aware that what you were doing was wrong.
Money Advice Service - Guide to Online Banking
BBC News - "I was a Teenage Money Mule"
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