SOAS University of London

Student Advice and Wellbeing


We have asked banks in the SOAS area what current account they can offer to students who are new to the UK.  We have prepared a detailed comparison of all the local banks and what they offer international students, which you can download from this page.


Banks offer a "student account" to UK undergraduate students.  This is a special type of current account with many features, gifts and offers.  However there is normally a requirement to have lived in the UK for 3 years, and most international students cannot open a full "student account" but they can open a basic current account.  

You can normally open a current account with a single visit or appointment to the bank, if you have the required documents and information, which is normally just a SOAS bank letter and your passport.  

Student Advice and Wellbeing does not issue bank letters.  Please contact our colleagues in the Registry for a bank letter. Registry forms

Your ATM/debit card will arrive by post 4 or 5 days later.  However, at the start of term, there is sometimes a delay before you can get an appointment, or long queues of students opening accounts, so make sure that you have enough cash to pay for essentials before you can access your account.

Your bank card is normaly a combined debit card and ATM card.  A debit card allows you to pay by card in shops – the amount is debited automatically from your account. it is not a credit card. An ATM card allows you to make cash withdrawals from cash machines, usually located in or outside banks. 

Transferring money

Before transferring any money ask what the charges will be and how long the transfer will take. Try to plan your finances so that you can use the cheapest and most convenient form of transfer to get money from home. If someone transfers money into your account they should keep copies of all the relevant documents in case there is any dispute with the bank in the future.

These are the main methods of transferring money but they may vary in different banks so check carefully before you arrange to make a transfer.

Electronic Transfers are the easiest way to transfer money from your home country. The money is transferred directly from a bank in your home country to your bank in the UK.

Bankers Drafts are slower than electronic transfers, but cheaper. The bank in your home country draws up a draft which is sent to you by post and which you then present to your bank in the UK.

Getting money quickly. If you need to get money quickly there are several reliable and established companies that provide a very quick money transfer service. Transfer time can be as little as 10-15 minutes. However, be careful as the transfer charges may be high.

Changing cash. If you have foreign currency, change it at a bank or the Post Office where the charges will be less than in a Bureau de Change.