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Opening a bank account - International and EU students

Orientation Week is an extremely busy time for the banks in St Andrews as all the new students increase the population by another 2,500 people, with many of the new students needing to open a bank account.  If you are one of these students, be prepared - you may have to queue in the bank and, in some cases, it may not be possible to complete the opening of the account on the same day.  Some of the banks may take longer than other to open a bank account and you may be given an appointment several days later. The University is working closely with the banks to try to make the system as seamless as possible but please be prepared to exercise a little patience and shop around.

Most banks will issue you with a basic account for the first period of time you are in the UK.  However, if you are here for 6 months or less, then they may not allow you to open an account. Please do not open an account at the first bank you visit but, rather, investigate which bank offers you the best account(s) to suit your needs.

If you can open a basic bank account, you will be able to:

  • access cash via a cash machine
  • set up direct debits and/or standing orders

You should choose a bank which has a branch in St Andrews which can be more convenient for certain transactions, i.e. transferring funds.  

There are seven banks in St Andrews:-

All of these banks have arrangements with both English and overseas banks.

How to apply

You need to be resident in the UK and you need to visit the branch in person to provide the various forms of identification as follows:

  • Passport
  • Appropriate Visa or Biometric Card (the latter is only issued to students that have made a visa application from within the UK)
  • Letter from the University – this can be downloaded via the Student Portal (MySaint) once you have arrived in St Andrews. 

The downloaded bank letter can only be used at the following seven local bank branches in St Andrews as they have signed up to this system:

  • Santander
  • TSB
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Clydesdale Bank
  • Barclays
  • Nationwide

Please note:-

If you are opening a bank account with the Royal Bank of Scotland and you are not living in University accommodation, you do not require the above letter from the University but you do require a copy of your tenancy agreement.

If your term-time address is not within the University Residence system, you may be required to provide a copy of your lease or tenancy agreement as confirmation of your term-time address. 

All banks are required to check the identity of anyone opening a bank account as part of the Government strategy to combat organised crime with anti-fraud legislation.  This involves rigorous checks for all individuals who may wish to open bank accounts.  This may therefore delay the opening of the bank account so please be patient.

Making a deposit

Take cash and/or cheques into your bank, complete a pay-in slip and hand it over to the cashier.  Cash will be in your account on the same day as you deposit it at your branch.  Cheques can take up to five working days to clear if the cheque is drawn on another UK bank account.  If someone else is paying into your bank account, he or she will need to know your account number, sort code, account name, the name, address and post code of your bank,  and, if it is an international transfer,  the bank’s IBAN number.

If you are bringing your family with you to the UK, it is advisable for your spouse to have an account in their own name in the UK.  During the visa application stage, any adult dependents of students need to show that they have their own money in an account in their own name, unless they are named as a joint account holder in the UK.  Opening a joint account in the UK can be difficult as the banks will need proof of address for your spouse, and accommodation contracts, issued by the University, are only in the student’s name

Please remember you will need available funds initially for transport, meals and general living costs.

Credit cards

Most banks will accept Mastercard, American Express, Eurocard and Visa.  These can be used to withdraw cash from cash machines provided, of course, you have the correct PIN.  Please check if you are thinking about bringing another credit card or a prepaid credit card as not all banks or businesses will accept them.

Transfer of funds

This is the quickest way to transfer funds directly into your UK bank account from your home bank. Please note that there will probably be a charge for this service and that it must be organised with your bank at home either by yourself in person, on the phone, by fax or from your parents at home.  Because of this, it is very useful to bring your home bank’s details with you, including telephone number and fax number.   Check with your home bank what the charges will be and what information they will require.  Normally this type of transfer takes two to three working days for the funds to be deposited into your account in the UK.

Travellers’ cheques

Travellers’ cheques are very useful.  They can be cashed at either a bureau de change or a bank, and travellers cheques can be paid into your UK bank account.  However, deposits/transfers, including travellers’ cheques, in other than sterling will be liable to charges.  Please check with your bank the amount of such a charge.

Opening a bank account - the process

  1. Present your documentation to the member of staff in the bank who will assist you in completing the appropriate application form.
  2. The application will normally be approved and the number of your bank account will be allocated within one to two days.  Only at this point will the bank be able to start processing deposits/withdrawals.

Until you have received your card(s) from the bank, you can complete transactions at the branch where you opened your account, using your passport.

  1. Within 5-10 working days, you should receive your bank card. This is normally sent to your St Andrews address, or you can pick this up at the branch.  Once you have this card, you can then make deposits and withdrawals in other branches of your bank.

Within another five working days, you should receive your security number (PIN).  This too is normally mailed to your St Andrews address or you can pick it up from the branch. Once you have your PIN, you can now complete transactions using the cash machines around the UK.  Please remember:- never tell anyone else your PIN.

Bringing money into the UK

Some countries restrict the amount of cash that you can take out of your home country.  Please check if your country has such a restriction.  In any event, it is recommended, for security purposes, that you only bring a small amount of cash with you.  Bringing travellers’ cheques with you is a far safer way of carrying money.  Pleasedo not bring a cheque drawn on an overseas bank as this can take up to six to eight weeks for the funds to become available in your bank account.  If you do wish to bring this type of cheque, please note the timeline before you can access these funds, and you should bring enough funds by alternative means, like travellers’ cheques, to cover this length of time.

If you experience any difficulties opening your bank account, please contact the Money Adviser at Student Services, or call in at the Advice & Support Centre, 79 North Street.

Useful websites



(The Advice & Support Centre)
79 North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

Tel: 01334 462020
Fax: 01334 461716


You can also use the ask a question pages to help answer any queries.