Banking in the UK | University of Oxford
Girl using a cash point
Students using a cash point in the city.
(Credit: Oxford University Images / Rob Judges Photography)

Banking in the UK

You'll need a bank account when you come to the UK to allow you to participate in daily life. These can be administered in a bank branch on the high street but people are increasingly doing their banking online, by telephone or via their mobile phones.

Most people open a current account, into which their salary is paid and from which they pay bills and buy everyday goods.

You may find that banking in the UK is different from the way you bank in your home country. So you can manage your money most efficiently, it’s helpful to understand the main differences, for example:

Banking terms

Automated credit transfer: a direct payment into your bank account, instead of by cash or cheque to you.

Basic Bank Account: An account that allows you to pay in and withdraw money, but that does not have an overdraft attached.

Direct debit: a payment out of a bank account which is arranged by the organisation which receives the money with the agreement of the account holder.

ID: identity.

Standing order: an instruction by a bank’s customer to the bank, to pay an amount of money regularly to another account.

Opening a bank account before you move to the UK

Opening a bank account in the UK from abroad can be difficult unless you choose to use  some of the major UK banks, such as HSBC, NatWest and Santander, which provide global services which enable you to open a UK bank account before arriving in the UK.

A basic bank account is likely to be the best option for most visitors, and will allow you to:

  • Have money paid directly into your account.
  • Take your money out at a cash machine.
  • Take your money out and/or pay money in at a Post Office.
  • Pay bills by standing order or direct debit.
  • You may be able to make purchases online or in shops (check with the bank).
  • You cannot get credit or an overdraft.

A standard current account will allow you to:

  • Have money paid directly into your account.
  • Take your money out at a cash machine.
  • Pay bills by standing order or direct debit.
  • Make purchases online or in shops.

Opening a UK bank account

To open a bank account in the UK, you will need to take the following documents (at a minimum), and you should check exactly what documents your chosen bank will need when you make an appointment to open an account:

  • Your passport with visa, OR your national photo ID card, if you are from an EU country.


  • A letter from your host department in Oxford confirming your Academic Visitor status
  • Proof of your address in the UK (e.g. a rental contract)

Bringing money into the UK

If you want to bring money into the UK with you, you can ask your bank in your home country to give you a cheque in sterling (UK pounds) drawn on a London bank. Alternatively, you can transfer money from home after opening the account.

Once you have paid in a cheque, the clearing process takes six working days as follows:

  • Day 0 – When your bank or building society receives the cheque from you.
  • Day 2 – You start to earn interest on the money paid in
  • Day 4 – You can withdraw the money but this does not mean that the cheque has cleared for sure.
  • Day 6 – You can be sure that the money is yours by the end of day 6 and that it will not be reclaimed from your bank account.

Further information and bank branches in Oxford

Our guide to banking for international students also has information that will be useful to Academic Visitors, including information on bank locations and opening hours in Oxford.

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