Students Staff

Opening a bank account

About UK banks and 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.

What you’ll need to open an account

You’ll need to be in the UK to open a bank account.

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 a vignette (entry clearance sticker) that was valid for 30 days, you must collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) before you can open a bank account.

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 (a bank letter), which must be in exactly the same name as your passport and visa (if applicable).

When you can request a bank letter from us:

  • at the main registration events including during late registration.
  • once you’re registered you can make your request online and pick it up from your Student Services Hub or you can ask for one in person at your Student Services Hub.

What you’ll need:

  • the name and address of the bank and;
  • your registration card to collect your letter

Please note, we will only be able to produce one letter so it’s important you know which bank you want to open your account with.

We can’t produce bank letters for students of the Edge Hotel School or the University of Essex International College, please go to your administration office to make your request.

Banks near your Essex Campus

Colchester Campus

Both Santander and Lloyds have branches located on our Colchester Campus. All major UK banks have branches located in the town centre.

Southend Campus

All the major UK banks have branches located in the town centre.

Loughton Campus

All the major UK banks have branches located in the town centre.

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.

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

  • Can I open a bank account before I register for my course?

    If your bank requires a bank letter from the University you will usually need to register first.

    However, if you are due to be registering in our Autumn term, have firmly accepted your offer and can’t wait until you're registered to open a bank account - you will be able to request a bank letter at the start of Welcome Week. We will not produce a letter any earlier than this or at other times of year if you are not registered.

    You must have firmly accepted our offer and we’ll have to check your identity so make sure you bring your passport and valid visa/BRP, your overseas home address details, proof of your UK address and your offer letter to:

    Colchester Campus - Undergraduate students should go to UG Admissions 5S.7.30. Postgraduate students should go to Graduate Admissions 5N.7.16.

    Southend and Loughton Campus – All students should go to their Student Services Hub.

  • Can I open a bank account before I come to the UK?

    No, you may be able to start the process online but all banks will have to check your identity and documents when you arrive. We will only produce a bank letter if you are in the UK, registered for your course and collect it in person.

  • I am a UK national, can I have a bank letter?

    No, 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.

  • I have lived in the UK for 3 years or more, can I open a UK student account?

    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.

  • My application has been refused what should I do?

    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.

  • My account has been closed

    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.