Open a bank account as soon as possible, as it usually takes a while for cards, PINs, cheque books etc to come through. It’s worth researching the schemes the various banks have to offer students, in particular rates of interest on student loans and pay-back periods.
Having your account registered as a student account usually exempts you from many charges. You need to provide the bank with written documentation to show that you are a student. As the system is mainly set up to deal with undergraduates, this is often not done for graduates. Quite often, the freebies that banks offer to tempt new students are actually only available to first-year undergraduates. You may also want to check which branches have student advisers – not all of the banks have their student advisers working in branches in the city centre, and you may have to go to see these people before you can get an overdraft.
Some banks are more willing to open accounts for, and are more generous with the facilities they provide to, overseas students than others, so it is worth checking out what each bank can offer. International students may find it more difficult to obtain an overdraft, debit card and cheque book than UK students, may be asked to provide a substantial opening or minimum balance, and will usually be required to present more documents when opening the account – remember to take along the following when opening your new account:
- University registration letters
- Accommodation letter from your College, or a tenancy agreement if you are in private-sector accommodation, stating your residential address. (However, it is often advisable to have all your correspondence sent to the College Porters’ Lodge rather than your residential address for security reasons.)
- Confirmation letter about the sources of funding (e.g. letter from your sponsor, award, etc) / Bank Draft.
- A recent bank statement or utilities bill confirming your previous address.
University and college letters should be printed on paper with the official letterhead; some banks insist on a coloured letterhead. Some students have reported that many banks no longer accept college letters at all – the GU does not endorse or recommend any banking services, but you might note that one MCR now recommends international students to open an account with NatWest, as they do accept college letters.
Some of the banks and building societies with branches in Cambridge are listed below (the most central and/or largest personal banking branches are usually listed first). Traditionally building societies only dealt with savings and mortgages, but now many also offer current accounts.
- Alliance & Leicester (49 Sidney Street)
- Abbey (60 St Andrews Street)
- Barclays Loans (35 Sidney Street, 57/58 St Andrews Street, 30 Market Hill, 15 Bene’t Street, 28 Chesterton Road, 76/78 Newmarket Road, Shire Hall Castle Hill)
- Cheltenham & Gloucester (6 St Andrews Street)
- Cooperative Bank (75 Burleigh Street)
- Halifax (32/33 Petty Cury)
- HSBC (32 Market Hill, 62 Hills Road, 62 Cherry Hinton Road, 58 Chesterton Road)
- Lloyds TSB (3 Sidney Street, 95-97 Regent Street, 90a Mill Road, 78-80 Cherry Hinton Road)
- Nationwide (26-27 Petty Cury)
- NatWest (23 Market Street, 56 St Andrews Street, 37 Fitzroy Street)
- Northern Rock (26-27 Sidney Street)
- Royal Bank of Scotland (28 Trinity Street, 82/88 Hills Road)
Given the amount of time that a lot of students spend at their computers, many find online banking to be convenient. Most high street banks have online facilities. However, other banks operate solely through the internet (and call centres); reducing overheads in this way can mean better value for customers. The market for online banking is well developed in the UK and there are many options from which to choose, including:
- Egg (http://www.egg.com/)
- Cahoot (http://www.cahoot.co.uk/)
- First Direct (http://www.firstdirect.com/)
- Smile (http://www.smile.co.uk/)
Most of these online banks offer standard current accounts, savings accounts and credit cards. Smile also offers a student account.