How to Set Up a Bank Account in the UK

How to Set Up a Bank Account in the UK

If you’ve made the decision to study in the study in the UK you’re in great company because over 500,000 international students study here every year. I’ve chatted extensively with overseas students about their experiences of setting up their new life when they first arrive, and one difficulty that crops up in conversation a lot is how to set up a bank account in the UK. Read on to find out why this is and how to avoid having the same problem yourself.

Most of the big UK banks offer accounts for students and international students. However, the UK has extremely tight regulations around setting up a new bank account. The main part that newly arrived students struggle with is providing the required proof of address documents. There’s a set list of acceptable documents including things like a utility bill (gas/electricity etc.) or a council tax bill. It can be extremely difficult for a student who’s newly arrived as they may be renting a room in a house, or staying with family or friends, but have no bills or documents in their name at that address. Also, it’s worth knowing that banks don’t usually accept mobile phone bills as proof of address. Many said they felt like they were going around in circles as it’s hard to set up bills without a UK bank account, and starting on the job hunt becomes difficult because most employers want to pay into a UK account. Click here to see the sort of documents you’ll need to provide to open student accounts with Natwest and Barclays.

What if I Don’t Have the Required Documents?

What can you do if you don’t have the required documents to set up an account with a traditional UK bank? Don’t despair! Here come app-based banks to the rescue. These banks operate completely online and you manage your account on an app on your smartphone. Some popular ones in the UK are Monzo, Starling and N26. I have personally used Monzo, so I’ll explain more about the set-up process. Opening the account is done in minutes on their website and your identity is verified with your date of birth rather than proof of address. You take a picture of your ID (passport, driver’s license etc.) and a short video of yourself so you can be matched to your ID. Once you’ve been approved, you can start using your account straight away on the app.

You can use Apple Pay or Google Pay on your phone to pay for things using contactless. If you want a physical card for your account, simply get it sent to a UK address of your choice and it will arrive in a few working days. Additionally, Monzo has some great features like real-time spending notifications, spending alerts and savings ‘pots’. They’ve also teamed up with TransferWise to provide international money transfers from within the Monzo app, which makes it quick and easy if you need to move money over from your account at home.

So if you find yourself pulling out your hair with the question of how to set up a bank account in the UK, it’s definitely worth considering going app-based. Happy banking!

Using the Oyster Card for Student Travel in London

Using the Oyster Card for Student Travel in London

Now you’ve enrolled in your course in London, it’s time to think about how you’re going to travel around. The three most common types of transport in London are the bus, underground trains (the tube) and overground trains. As you’re a student, a good option would be to get an 18+ Student Oyster Card.

How do I apply?

You apply online and will need the following things for your application. Firstly, you’ll need a colour, digital photo to upload and this is the photo that will be on your oyster card. Click here to see the photo guidelines. You’ll also need your course enrolment number as well as your course start and end dates. You’ll need to provide your email address and pay the £20 administration fee on either a credit or debit card. Once you have those things, click here to apply.

What now?

Once you have your card, you can get 30% off daily or weekly travelcards (unlimited travel throughout the city for a fixed price) or top up your card with money to pay as you go (this option is not discounted, but is still cheaper than getting a regular paper ticket). You can do this online or else at any Oyster ticket stops, which include train/tube stations and places like newsagents. To find your nearest Oyster ticket stop, click here.

Now your card is loaded up with money, you simply need to use it to tap on & off by holding your card over the yellow card reader. The yellow card readers are on the barriers at tube/train stations as you enter. On a bus, the yellow card reader will be just inside the door of the bus and you don’t need to tap off on buses.

Bear in mind, the 18+ Student Oyster Card is best for students who’ll be traveling frequently across zones. London’s tube/train network is divided into travel zones; the more zones you travel across, the more expensive your journey will be. If you’re going to be living close to your place of study or won’t be traveling a lot, a regular Oyster card or contactless may be better options as you won’t have to pay a £20 fee. Keep reading for more details on these.

What if I’m not eligible for an 18+ Student Oyster card?

Let’s say you’re studying at a private language college which isn’t on the list of approved institutions for an 18+ Student Oyster card, you can still get a regular Oyster card. This means you won’t be able to get 30% off travelcards, but it’s much cheaper than buying paper tickets at the station. You’ll need to pay a £5 deposit which you can get back if you decide you no longer want to use the card. Click here for info. on where to purchase an Oyster card. Buses do not accept cash, so you’ll need to use an Oyster card or else contactless.

What do you mean by ‘contactless’?

Contactless is the UK name for using your bank card (or phone if your bank card is attached e.g. on ApplePay) to instantly pay for items without having to insert your card. You use this function in the same way as you would your Oyster card; simply hold your card or phone over the yellow card reader.

All the best traveling around; London really is your oyster!