High street banks

There are a range of banks and accounts available to you. Look carefully into the details and conditions of each to compare what they offer and decide which one best suits your needs.  

It can take several weeks to open a bank account. Be prepared and check what you can do to arrange temporary solutions for you to access your funds while you wait. 

High street banks 

The term high street bank refers to a large retail bank that has many branch locations. Unlike digital banks, high street banks are major, widespread institutions such as those found in the city.  

These banks will normally offer you a basic current account as a start, offering more specialised services after you have banked with them for a while. With a basic current account you can withdraw cash for free from most ATMs, set up recurrent payments (for example to pay your bills), and use online banking. 

In order to open a bank account, many banks require you: 

  • to be in the UK for at least six months  
  • to be over 18.  

However, there are some accounts you can open if you are here for fewer than six months or if you are under 18. If you’re in the UK for less than six months, consider opening an account with a digital bank.

Always check the account requirements before applying to open an account with a specific bank. 

Choosing a bank

The University of Leeds cannot recommend any particular banks to students, however here are some examples of accounts that you may choose to use:   

HSBC Bank Account for international students

Lloyds Classic Account 

Santander Essentials Current Account (age 18+) 

Santander Current Account (age 16+) 

Bank of China Student Prime Account  

NatWest Select Account  

Barclays Bank Account

It is possible to open bank accounts in the UK which are Sharia-compliant. You can find more information on Sharia-compliant banks under the ‘types of accounts’ section on the UKCISA website.

Questions and considerations to help you find your best match

Use the questions below to help you narrow down your choices of banks. Consider your needs and services provided by each bank before making a decision.

  • Are there any fees for receiving money or sending money to an overseas bank account?
  • Will the type of account allow me to make recurrent payments for subscriptions or for paying my bills?
  • Is there a minimum course length requirement? 
  • Are there any fees for opening the account? If there is a fee for opening the account, are there any extra benefits (for example, lower fees for overseas payments?)
  • Will I be provided with regular bank statements, which meet the Home Office requirements for a visa application? If not, can the bank stamp any printed statements to support a visa application? You’ll be asked for this if you need to apply to extend your visa from inside the UK.
  • Will I be able to have an overdraft? Will it be a credit or a debit account? 
  • Some banks offer additional benefits for opening an account with them. Ask the bank of your choice what other benefits you can get access to and carefully consider whether they are useful for you.

Check common banking terms to help you understand banking services offered. 

Applying for a bank account

Many banks are now starting applications for new accounts online and could ask you to book an appointment to visit the branch. As part of your application, you’ll be asked to submit documentation. Check what documents are required to open a bank account and obtain them before visiting the branch of your choice.