Bank Account for International Master's Student

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rcpearson
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Hello,

I am going to be entering into a year long master's program this fall at Newcastle and I was advised that it would be wise to open a bank account in the UK (I am from America). I was wondering if anyone had any advice or recommendations for a bank. A student I was talking with opened a Starling bank account, which is completely online (no brick and mortar branches). I'm not familiar with this kind of banking, so I'm hesitant to go this route. So far, it seems most of the major branches have similar fees with receiving international money. I also know that some of the student accounts are not going to be available to me because of my short-term residency.

Any advice would be most welcome!
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martin7
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(Original post by rcpearson)
I am going to be entering into a year long master's program this fall at Newcastle and I was advised that it would be wise to open a bank account in the UK (I am from America). I was wondering if anyone had any advice or recommendations for a bank. A student I was talking with opened a Starling bank account, which is completely online (no brick and mortar branches). I'm not familiar with this kind of banking, so I'm hesitant to go this route.
You need to be aware that the banking marketplace in the UK is very different to the US.

In the UK there's probably no more than a dozen or so banks that offer current accounts (what in the US you'd call a "checking account") and have a significant branch network. And as online banking becomes more and more popular/common, those banks are closing those branches due to decreasing use.

There are increasing numbers of "challenger banks" coming into the UK marketplace. These have lower costs because they don't have the branch networks to support, and don't need to support the ageing "legacy systems" that the longer-established banks have.

If you don't think you'll ever need to visit a bank branch for routine banking, then you might want to consider an online-only bank like Starling. The key thing to look for is that the bank is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). The FSCS guarantees deposits of up to £85,000 per bank. (Some organisations that look like banks are actually regulated as "electronic money issuers" -- and they are not covered by FSCS.)

So far, it seems most of the major branches have similar fees with receiving international money. I also know that some of the student accounts are not going to be available to me because of my short-term residency.

Any advice would be most welcome!
It makes sense to look at what charges a bank levies, and how often you'll use those chargeable services. (In your case, for example, you'd be interested in the cost of receiving incoming international payments; but the cost of CHAPS payments (used for high-value transactions like "buying a house") will be completely irrelevant.)
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georgey123
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Starling Bank is a good shout, for 4 straight years they have won the best bank at the Best British Bank Awards. In relation to your friend's comments, they are correct, the bank has no psychical breaches and as a result, handles all customers issues online. As you can probably imagine, it's not ideal- sometimes we just need to speak face to face about a problem we may have with our account. However, challenger banks such as Starling have a boat loads of features for you to take advantage of which more 'traditional' banks disregard. So I guess it really comes down to what you want from your bank, since everyone is different. If you decide to go the challenger bank route, here are a couple of additional options you could look into:
- Revolut
- Monzo
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Nobody2u
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Most of the U.K High Street banks won't allow short term residents to open bank accounts. HSBC do however as do or did ( not sure if it's still the case) Santander. This is probably because they are worldwide institutiond. I got my local French HSBC to open the account in the U.K for my daughter. They provided all the services free of charge for guaranteeing the validity of her passport documents etc and she didn't even have an account with them in France! We do however have a permanent address in the U.K which might be why they were so easy about it, but I'm pretty sure I read on their web site that they accept international students. You can then visit the branch, do internet banking for free, or phone them for help on your account.
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martin7
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(Original post by Nobody2u)
Most of the U.K High Street banks won't allow short term residents to open bank accounts.
I wouldn't classify a student who is in the UK for a year-long master's course as being a "short-term resident".

I would expect most banks to allow an international student to open a UK current account. The bank will need the usual proof of identity and the student is entitled to be in the UK (effectively, produce their passport with a visa in it) and proof of the student's UK address. They'll probably also need to see a letter from the student's university stating that the student is enrolled on a course and its start and end date.

The key thing is that an international student will not generally be able to open a "student current account" with the attendant perks (e.g. interest-free overdraft facility).
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Nobody2u
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If you go onto the HSBC website it specifically talks about international students accounts. If you have an account with them in your home country, you can set it up in the U.K before arriving, if not you have to wait. Credit facilities etc however are not available for reasons that are fairly evident but other student services are. Check it out, you have nothing to lose.
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Mark1234566
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(Original post by rcpearson)
Hello,

I am going to be entering into a year long master's program this fall at Newcastle and I was advised that it would be wise to open a bank account in the UK (I am from America). I was wondering if anyone had any advice or recommendations for a bank. A student I was talking with opened a Starling bank account, which is completely online (no brick and mortar branches). I'm not familiar with this kind of banking, so I'm hesitant to go this route. So far, it seems most of the major branches have similar fees with receiving international money. I also know that some of the student accounts are not going to be available to me because of my short-term residency.

Any advice would be most welcome!
Another online bank is Unizest and they specialise in accounts for international students, it's probably worth checking them out too
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ldn5
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Revoult.
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martin7
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(Original post by Mark1234566)
Another online bank is Unizest and they specialise in accounts for international students, it's probably worth checking them out too
Unizest isn't a bank (they state that on their website): "Unizest is not a bank. The Unizest Account is an electronic money product."

They do seem to be quite expensive, and an account with a normal UK high-street bank (e.g. HSBC, Barclays, NatWest, Lloyds, etc) is likely to be much cheaper. Unizest charge even for routine things like transferring money, direct debits, and standing orders, and that's on top of £4.99 a month for having the account itself. (You can find their Fees Table towards the bottom of https://www.unizest.co.uk/tcs/)
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