Information about money, finances and opening a bank account in the UK

Bike Bois

We know thinking about finances, exchange rates and opening bank accounts can cause some to worry, so we compiled some useful information that we hope will help you with these aspects of living in the UK.

We cannot tell you what to do with your money, or which banking option is best for you. We have provided details of some banks below – but please note we do not recommend any particular provider. Information provided is for guidance, and we recommend you do research from home to find which banking choice is best for you.

Important Information for International Students

We have compiled the following advice based on the experiences of other students – please read and make sure you understand this information.

Do not travel with large sums of cash
While it may seem convenient, carrying large sums of money – whether cash or Traveller’s Cheques – can be extremely risky. We have seen many cases where these have been lost or stolen during travel, leaving the student with little or no funds. Additionally, there are rules on the amount of cash you may carry when travelling to and from Great Britain, and you may need to make a declaration before you travel. You can find more information at the UK Government Website.

Never transfer money to someone you don’t know
You should never transfer money to someone that you do not know, or who only know a little bit, who is already in the UK. It can be tempting as an ‘easy route’, or if the person is receiving the money promises you a good exchange rate. This is a well-known scam and several students have lost huge sums of money and jeopardised their studies. Bad money exchange agents may approach you via social media (WeeChat/Weibo) and this should make you instantly wary!

Even if you are confident that this will not happen to you, banks are suspicious of large international transfers and may investigate and restrict or close accounts with this type of activity. 

Always use a bank or reputable currency exchange company to convert or transfer your money. You may think you are saving money but it is not a saving if you are left with nothing!

The UK is becoming Cashless
In recent years the UK has seen a massive uptake in cashless transactions. It is now most common to complete transactions using a credit or debit card, or a digital payment service such as Apple or Google Pay. Cash accounted for less than 16% of all UK transactions in 2021. Many new retailers and hospitality establishments - like bars and restaurants - no longer accept cash payments. We strongly encourage you to ensure you are not reliant on cash for your finances - this may cause difficulties when making purchases or payments.

Make sure, if possible, that you bring a credit or debit card from home which you can use to in the UK (even having just as an emergency backup). Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Maestro are all popular providers that can be used at UK cash machines (ATM's). If you will need access for a large sum of money, to pay for private accommodation fees for example, you may need to bring a Traveller's Cheque with you.

Budgeting, Money Management, Scams and Help

In this section you’ll find information, and links to resources, that can help you to manage your money and ensure you have a realistic understanding of how much it costs to live in the UK.  Sometimes people over- or under-estimate how far their money will go, so it is always a good idea to plan your finances in advance.

We’ve also put together some resources relating to scams and fraud – international students may be more at risk of being affected by these, so we recommend you never give your financial details to anyone unless you are 100% confident they are genuine.