Opening a bank account in the UK can prove challenging for internationals. You will probably be wanting to enroll in a basic checking account (what the UK calls a current account). Just like in the States, different banks have different requirements for opening an account in terms of documentation, opening deposit, debit cards, etc. By recommendation of some friends, I opened our account with Lloyds TSB. Lloyds seems to be the most “international friendly” bank and you may notice their lobbies are busy with other internationals just like yourself before term begins (so, the rumors must be true). The following are the requirements for opening an account with Lloyds as an international but hopefully the information will also be transferrable to other banks.
The two items you will need to take with you to the bank to open your account are your:
- Official letter from your university. The letter should be an official document from your uni stating:
- Your Name
- Length or your program
- Your UK address
Edinburgh was proactive by sending out an email where I could request a “bank letter” that contains all the above information to take with me to the bank. I’m sure the other universities do the same for their internationals but in case they do not, take with you an official letter that contains the above information. If you have these documents, opening an account is rather painless.
A couple of further notes: Firstly, the letter has to be an official letter. It cannot be a print out or scanned copy–it has to be the real deal. Make sure you obtain this from the uni. I know in the digital age where we apply online, receive our acceptance letter online, and even receive bank statements online–the bank wants an official letter. Someone, in the registry department of your uni should be able to get this for you.
Second, your UK address. If you are living in university accommodation you probably have an address to where you will be living before you move. So, securing a letter with all the information you need shouldn’t be difficult. However, if you have chosen private accommodation (like, myself) you can get caught in a Catch 22. To open a banking account the bank will want your UK address, but to secure housing in the UK they will want your UK bank account information. The chicken or the egg? I was fortunate that I was staying with a friend who is at Edinburgh. I listed his address and had the letter sent to his home. If you will not be staying with anyone living in your new city, you can list the address of the hostel, hotel, or B&B that you are staying at.
Thirdly, it can be difficult to get your spouse on the bank account with you. This can be annoying because your spouse would probably like to have his or her own debit card. Otherwise, you will constantly be withdrawing money from the ATM. It’s not the most convenient situation to be in. So, a couple of ways to get your spouse on the account is when he or she gains employment (could take a while) to bring in their paycheck that is addressed to your UK address; or get their name on the lease. Getting Aubree’s name on the lease was easy and then requested a letter from our letting agent stating both of our names, and the address in the UK.
Last, presently Barclays and Bank of America have an agreement where account holders can withdraw from each other’s ATMs without an additional charge. This is a great benefit because of international charges and ATM fees can add up quickly. You can withdraw up to £300/day at a Barclays ATM which is a great alternative if you need cash (notes, if you like) and would like to avoid fees. If you are moving to the UK, I would recommend opening an account with Bank of America before coming just for this benefit.
Here are a couple of other helpful links about banking in the UK. Here (about halfway down the page) and here.