Opening a UK bank account

If you're moving to Leeds from outside the UK you'll need access to your money and the easiest way is to open a UK bank account.

To open a bank account you'll need:

  • Proof of your identity: this could be your passport or EU national identity card.
  • Proof that you are a student: this could be your offer letter or a bank letter from the University.
  • Proof of your address: some banks will require proof of your UK address and/or your overseas address. This could be your contract, a utility bill or a bank letter from the University. If you provide a tenancy agreement for private sector accommodation, it should be signed by the landlord.

Requirements for opening a bank account in the UK

Many banks require you to be in the UK for at least six months and many require you 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. Make sure you check the account requirements before applying to open an account with a specific bank.

How to get a bank letter

The University will send a bank letter to all students and postgraduate researchers arriving in Leeds for the first time who have a permanent home address outside of the UK and a term time address in the UK. This bank letter will be sent to your University email address. You can use the letter to open an account at most banks. 

If your chosen bank requires the letter to be addressed specifically to the bank manager, you can request a bank letter online. Before you can get your bank letter, you need to:

  • complete the first three steps of the online registration process via (make sure you include your term time and home addresses)
  • decide which bank account you wish to open

If you are going to live in University accommodation, the University will email your bank letter to you after your accommodation contract has started. You should receive your bank letter within 2 working days after your contract start date. 

If you are moving into private accommodation, the University will email your bank letter within 2 working days after you have completed the first three steps of online registration. 

If you make any changes to your address or your name, the University will email you a revised letter within 2 working days.   

If you have not received your letter after 2 working days, please check your address is correct on your online registration, and then email

Choosing a bank

We can't recommend any particular bank accounts to students. Some things to consider when choosing your bank are:

  • account fees and charges
  • the kind of card you get (visa debit, maestro debit, cash card)
  • whether the bank will stamp printed internet banking statements for use in visa applications
  • how long it takes to open an account.

Bank account comparison

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. Here are some examples of accounts that may be suitable.  

Bank of China Student Prime Account 

Barclays International Student Additions Account 

HSBC Basic Bank Account 

Lloyds Classic Account

NatWest International Student Account 

Santander Essentials Current Account (age 18+)

Santander Current Account (age 16+)

Applying for a bank account

Currently most banks have limited opening hours. Many banks are now starting applications for new accounts online and may require you to book an appointment to visit the branch. Check the website of the bank for information about how to open an account before you visit a branch.

Many banks require you to be in the UK to complete the process of opening your account. If you live in China, Bank of China can help you to open a UK account before coming to the UK. Customers who have a relationship with HSBC in their home country can use HSBC’s International Banking Centre (IBC) network to open a UK account before they arrive. This is available to customers in 29 countries, and the average time required to process this before you come to the UK is two weeks.

Access to money and making payments before you open a UK bank account

Most shops and online food deliveries now require payment by credit or debit card and won’t accept cash. Under the current circumstances, we recommend that you only bring a small amount of cash and bring a pre-arranged bank card (e.g. Visa or Mastercard) that you can use in the UK to make card or online payments. This card should include enough funds to cover your first few weeks while you are waiting open a UK bank account.
You can speak to your local bank before you travel to the UK to see if they can offer any services that meet your needs. 
There are also some organisations that provide digital services that enable you to transfer and receive money and make online payments. Some examples are:   

Please note the University is unable to recommend or endorse these companies or their services. You must make your own decision whether to use them. 

Keeping your money safe

  • Do not bring large amounts of cash to the UK
  • Only use a bank account that has your name on it
  • Don't let other people use your account to do their banking
  • Keep your personal details and account details secret to protect yourself from fraud. For more information visit:

 Bills, payments and statements

  • If you pay bills by Direct Debit you must have the money in your account the day before the Direct Debit is due to go out of your account. If not, you will be charged penalty fees by the bank and often also by the organisation that is expecting to receive the Direct Debit payment.
  • Avoid going into debt unless you have a pre-agreed, interest-free overdraft facility.
  • Sign up for online banking when you open your account, so you are able to access bank statements and request documents online.
  • Keep your bank statements. You might need these original statements if you have to extend your visa in the UK. Most banks charge for duplicate statements and it may take them several weeks to produce them.
  • The University is only able to make maintenance payments into UK based accounts.

Banks advertising Sharia-compliant services

It is possible to open bank accounts in the UK which are Sharia-compliant. For further information, please contact the banks directly or visit their website.