Banking

Opening a bank account

One of the most important things for you to do once you arrive in the UK is to set up a bank account. For most international students, it can take up to 3-4 weeks to open an account, so you should do it as soon as you can.

Once you have enrolled you can request a letter from the University that will confirm your UK address (if you are in University accommodation). If you live in private accommodation, then you will need the tenancy agreement from your landlord. 

The documents you need to open a bank account are:

  • University letter (to be obtained from the Information Points one week after you enrol)
  • Passport

You might also be asked for:

  • Confirmation of your UK address
  • Confirmation of your overseas address

There are many different banks in the area and it is entirely up to you which bank you choose. However, from student feedback, it seems that Barclays and LloydsTSB are the most helpful to international students.

Remember to keep all your bank statements safe – if you need to apply for further leave to remain or to travel to another country you will need to show your most recent 3 months of bank statements.

If you lost your bank card or it is stolen then you must inform your bank immediately. Banks will usually have a 24-hr service for this. It is very important that you inform the bank as soon as you notice the card is missing – you will also be asked when the last time was that you had it. The bank will then stop your card – this means it cannot be used in shops or cash machines. The bank will send you a new card and usually a new PIN.

Banking terms

Banks tend to talk in their own language – don’t be put off or confused about it! Here are some common terms you might hear and what they mean.

  • Basic Account   This is a bank account with the minimum facilities. You will usually be able to deposit and withdraw money over the counter. It will also come with a cash card that you can use to withdraw money from cash machines (ATMs)
  • Cash Card  This is a card that can withdraw money from a cash machine. It can NOT be used in shops. You will usually have a limit on how much money you can withdraw in one day – this is often around £200.
  • Cash Machine  There are cash machines all over town and usually at supermarkets. They are built into a wall and will allow you to check your balance and withdraw money. You can use them at any time of the day or night. In Stoke, there is a cash machine by the Students’ Union shop (this is in a glass booth) and in the Flaxman building. In Stafford, the cash machine is by the entrance to Beacon building, block C (by the Dolche Vita). Most cash machines are free to use HOWEVER some cash machines charge you each time you take money out. This is often £2-£3. The cash machine will very clearly tell you if there is a charge and you will either agree and pay it or you can say no and your card will be returned.
  • Debit Card  This card can be used to withdraw money from cash machines and can also be used to buy items in shops. When you want to buy something, you simply hand over your card instead of cash. Debit cards will say on the card either “Visa Debit”, “Switch/Maestro” or “Solo”. You can ask staff in the shops if they will accept your card to pay for items.
  • PIN    This stands for Personal Identification Number. This is a secure way for you to use your card. When you first open an account, you will be sent a card (either debit or cash) and then a PIN. These usually come 1 week apart for security purposes. Very carefully reveal your pin – memorise this number and then destroy the paper it was written on. You can usually change your PIN – go to a cash machine (preferably one at your own bank). Insert your card and type in the PIN. It will then give you a menu – one of the options is “Pin services” or “change your pin”. Click on this and then you will be asked to type your old PIN, then your new PIN twice. Don’t pick an obvious combination (like 1234 or 1111).

General advice

  • Remember to keep all your bank statements safe – if you need to apply for further leave to remain or to travel to another country you will need to show your most recent 3 months of bank statements.
  • If you lost your bank card or it is stolen then you must inform your bank immediately. Banks will usually have a 24-hr service for this. It is very important that you inform the bank as soon as you notice the card is missing – you will also be asked when the last time was that you had it. The bank will then stop your card – this means it cannot be used in shops or cash machines. The bank will send you a new card and usually a new PIN.
  • ALWAYS check your bank statements. If you notice that there are payments or deposits that you did not make then go to your bank immediately and take your card and bank statements.
  • If you receive a bank or credit card statement that you do not have (but it is in your name with the same address and date of birth) then you should inform the police immediately – it is possible someone has stolen your identity.

British currency

British currency – known as sterling – is made up of pounds and pence (£ and p). one pound is made up of 100 pence. All coins have the queen’s head on one side and varying images on the other. The coins are: £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p and 2p, 1p (often called coppers).

The UK also has paper bank notes in £5, £10, £20 and £50. The £5 is green, the £10 is orange, the £20 is purple and the £50 is red. £50 notes are quite rare and many small shops will not accept them. Try to use currency in £20 or less.

Managing money

You might find it useful to attend a “managing money” session during the first few weeks of arrival. This is a talk given by an advisor from the Students’ Union who specialises in finance. If this is your first time away from home then it is very strongly recommended that you go to this talk.

If you find that you are experiencing financial problems then it is important to seek help immediately. It’s an uncomfortable situation but you must not try to ignore it or pretend it isn’t there. Make an appointment or drop in at the Students’ Union Advice Centre. It is very important that you do not let yourself fall into debt – it is University policy that tuition fee debtors cannot have their results which can prevent you from progressing to the next year or can stop you graduating.

If you have financial problems because of political situations in your home country then you should contact your Embassy or High Commission for their advice.

Your identity

Your identity and personal information are valuable. Criminals can find out your personal details and use them to open bank accounts and get credit cards, loans, state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licenses in your name. The Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee has produced a website to give you advice on how to protect yourself,  what to do if it happens to you and suggests where to get further help.