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!

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