Opening a bank account

Cash on arrival

It is important to have access to money for your first few weeks in the UK, either as cash or through your home country credit and debit cards or travellers cheques. Some shops and businesses in Oxford accept payment in Euros, or you can exchange currency at the Tourist Information Centre on Broad Street, Post Office counters, travel agents, or in Debenhams, M&S or John Lewis.

Opening a bank account

You will need to open a UK bank account to allow you to manage your money and pay for goods and services. You can service your account by visiting a branch, or via the internet or your telephone/mobile. 

UK law requires banks to carry out identity verification and background checks on new customers opening bank accounts. As a result, it can take up to two weeks before a new bank account can be opened. It is likely that your bank will ask you to provide the following documents:

  • photographic identification (passport/national ID card and visa/biometric residence permit if applicable)
  • evidence of your UK address (tenancy agreement, or most recent council tax bill or utility bill showing your name and address)
  • a letter from the University/college confirming your status (e.g. employee, student, academic visitor)

Staff

Your monthly salary from the University of Oxford and/or your college will be transferred into a UK current account. A current account is a private bank account for all everyday banking services that individuals need. To open a current account, make an appointment with your preferred bank as soon as you arrive, and check which documents you will need to take with you. 

If you are arriving with a partner, you may wish to consider opening a joint account in both your names. This will allow your partner to more easily obtain their own debit and credit cards in future as well as begin to establish their own credit history in the UK. Banks will generally require you and your partner to show proof of address, which can be both of your names on a council tax bill.  

The University has a special agreement in place with some banks to help new staff obtain a bank account in the event that they are unable to show evidence of UK address upon arrival. This process can only be initiated by your department and you will need to follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Once you have an offer or are an employee, you can ask your department to write to the University's Head of Treasury Department using the relevant template on the Finance website (you will need your Single Sign-On to view the content on this page) and request an appointment with a banker. Treasury will be able to tell your department which banks are participating in this scheme. Please do not contact the Treasury Department directly.
  2. The Treasury Department arranges an appointment for you, issues a letter of confirmation to the bank and advises your department accordingly.
  3. You receive confirmation from your department and then attend the appointment with the bank with the required documents for identification.

Once you have opened your account, you may need to retain your bank statements for immigration or other purposes. 

Please note: If you have an employment contract with a college only, the process outlined here will not apply and you will need to check with your college if a similar process exists.

Students

Many banks offer accounts designed specifically for students. Once you have completed your University registration, you can use Student Self Service to download an Enrolment Certificate which provides evidence of your student status. The Student Information Team produce an annual guide to opening a student bank account (see 'Managing your Finances' section for the link to the current version) which is made available to all new international students during the orientation week.

Academic Visitors

Depending on how long you will be staying in Oxford, you can open either a basic bank account, which allows you to deposit and withdraw money and set up direct debits to pay bills, or a current account which offers additional services such as a debit card, overdraft and access to credit. Your department will be able to provide a letter confirming your academic visitor status. 

High Street banks

'High Street banks' is the collective term for retail banks and building societies that offer banking services (for example, current accounts, credit cards and loans) to individuals and businesses. As the name suggests, they have branches in city centres across the UK. Banks with branches in Oxford include:

Some of these banks will attend University orientation events at the beginning of the academic year so you can open your account with them straight away. Most will have dedicated sessions or extended opening hours in the first few weeks of term, and may have special offers for new customers. It is advisable to make an appointment in advance.

Debit cards, cheque books and telephone/internet banking

Once you open your bank account, your bank will normally issue a debit card.

The debit card allows you to withdraw money from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), also known as cash points or cash machines. Most ATMs allow you to withdraw cash without paying a fee, but some machines operated by private retailers may charge. You can use your debit card to pay for goods from your current account without having to use cash or write a cheque. Your debit card may be enabled to make 'contactless' payment for purchases up to a set limit, and some retailers offer a 'cash back' service.

You may also receive a cheque book, which allows you to pay for services without the use of cash or to draw money from your bank account at your local branch. Banks and building societies usually offer secure access to your accounts via telephone, internet or mobile apps. 

Credit cards

You will need to apply for a credit card separately. Credit limits will vary depending on your income. If your salary is paid directly into your bank account each month, you may be able to set up a credit card account in as little as 2-3 weeks. Some banks, however, will require you to have a credit history of at least 3 months. You can start a credit history in the UK by taking out a mobile phone contract rather than a pay-as-you-go mobile phone, since the mobile phone operator will register your contract with the three main credit reference agencies in the UK.