Welcome new students

Opening a bank account

About UK bank accounts

Banks in the UK are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and must operate in accordance with their requirements and those of the Joint Money Laundering Steering Group. They also have their own policies and procedures to follow and will carry out relevant checks to decide what account you may be eligible to open. If you are not able to open an account with your first choice of bank, we recommend you try elsewhere. Unfortunately, our University does not have any influence over a bank’s decision.

The FCA have some useful information for consumers about opening a bank account in the UK. UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) also produce helpful information for students about opening a bank account including a student blog addressing some common queries.

Opening your UK bank account

What you'll need to open a UK bank account

Some banks and app-based accounts will allow you to complete the application process before you arrive. Whilst other banks will let you start the application online, you will then need to complete the process in-person when you are in Essex. It’s a good idea to check the website of each bank for information before you start applying.

There are several online banks that offer the facility to open a UK bank account from overseas without proof of residency. Monito have an article detailing the differences and benefits of both traditional and non-traditional bank accounts which we would encourage you to read. Please be aware that some of these may not be available if you live outside the EU or EEA.

Proof of your identity:

  • your passport or;
  • if you are from the EEA. your national identity card (please be aware that some ID cards are not acceptable).

Non-EEA students – proof of your UK immigration status

  • a valid visa/immigration document – vignette* in your passport or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)

*Please note, if you were issued with entry clearance overseas and have a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) to collect when you arrive, you’ll need to do so before you can open a bank account. If you chose the University of Essex, Colchester Campus as your collection location our International Services team will email you to let you know when they have it and how you can collect it. Read our immigration pages for more information.

You may not be able to open a UK bank account if your visa is valid for less than 6 months, unless you are going onto further study in the UK.

Bank Letter (Letter of introduction for banking facilities) - for international students only

Most banks will also require a letter of introduction from our University (certificate of registration), which must be in exactly the same name as your passport and visa (if applicable).

In order to view your document, you will need to access your Gradintelligence account. Your official Gradintelligence account is created automatically when you complete the Essex online registration for your programme (from September). You will have received an email from Gradintelligence to your University email address asking you to ‘activate’ your account. Here you will find your Certificate of Registration which you can use to open a bank account.

If you have previously accessed your HEAR or the Big Essex Award you will have already created a username and password for your account. If you are yet to log in, you will need to create a username and password.

You can log in to your account on the GradIntelligence website.

Banks near to your University of Essex Campus

All the major UK banks have branches located in the town centre of all our campuses.

Money you'll need while waiting for your account

You should bring an easily accessible source of money for your day-to-day living expenses whilst your account is being opened. A sum of £400 should be enough for the first couple of weeks.

Please do not bring sizeable amounts of cash as you won’t have anywhere to safely secure it until you can open a bank account. Please note that some banks will not accept €500 notes. If you bring a large amount of cash into the UK you may need to declare it at the border, see the UK Government website for more information.

Please note that you will not be able to pay your tuition or accommodation fees by cash. In addition, contactless payment methods are accepted across the whole campus and contactless is our preferred payment method

Credit cards

There are two major types of credit cards widely accepted in the UK, Visa and Mastercard. You may wish to check with your home bank if your current credit card can be used in the UK.

Frequent questions

Opening a bank account before registering for a course

If your bank requires a certificate of registration from the University you will need to register first.

Once you are registered, your certificate of registration will be available electronically for you to access at any time and share with third parties. This document can be used to confirm that you are registered student, to register for council tax exemption or reduction, to open a bank account or to confirm your current status as a student.

In order to view your document, you will need to access your Gradintelligence account.

See information here on how to access your certificate of registration and accessing your Gradintelligence account.

Opening a bank account before coming to the UK

Some banks may allow you to open a bank account, or start the process, before you arrive in the UK, but others will want you to wait until you arrive in Essex, and your registration is complete. We recommend that you check with the bank as to what their policy is.

It is possible to arrange a digital banking solution depending on the bank. Some global banks offer international bank accounts including HSBC and Bank of China.

Please note that other banks are available, and the University of Essex does not recommend any particular bank account.

You will find some useful tips on opening a UK bank account for international students in this Save the Student article.

Bank letters for UK nationals

Bank letters are for students who don’t live in the UK. You will be able to provide evidence of your UK address using other documents such as utility bills.

Undergraduate students can provide your UCAS AS12 letter to open a UK student account. Postgraduate students can provide their letter of confirmation from the University, available to download on your MyEssex portal.

Opening a UK student account after living in the UK for 3 years or more

You may be able to, you’ll need to ask the bank you want to open an account with and provide them proof of where you’ve lived.

What to do if an application is refused

Firstly, you could try another bank, if you haven’t already done so. It is possible that another bank will open an account for you.

Read the Financial Conduct Authority website for information about your rights including how to make a complaint.

If you’ve been refused due to your immigration status read the government guidance and leaflet. If you believe that you have a valid visa/immigration status and you are a registered University of Essex student contact our International Service team for advice.

What to do if a bank account is closed down

Firstly, contact the bank to ask why and if you can re-open the account, if you haven’t already done so.

Read the Financial Conduct Authority website for information about your rights including how to make a complaint.

If your account has been closed due to your immigration status read the government guidance and leaflet. If you believe that you have a valid visa/immigration status and you are a registered University of Essex student contact our International Service team for advice.