International Student Support

Banking and money

Opening a UK bank account is by far the safest way of protecting and managing your money during your studies. Most international students should be able to open a basic bank account which will give you access to banking services. Some banks also offer special bank accounts for international students which may give you additional benefits.

Request your Bank Letter here.

We will write the letter and send you an e-mail when it is ready to collect from our office. Please leave two working days for us to prepare the letter for you.

Why open a UK bank account?

We recommend that you open a UK bank account while you are studying at Sussex for a variety of reasons:

  • for reasons of safety and security, it is not a good idea to carry lots of cash with you. It is best to safely deposit this in a bank account.
  • if you are using a non-UK bank card you will be charged every time you withdraw money from cash machines (ATM)

  • if you get a part-time job in the UK your employer will want to pay your money directly into a UK account

  • you cannot set up direct debits from an overseas account for example, to pay for a phone contract, Netflix, Spotify or other household bills

  • if you are applying to extend your Tier 4 visa you may be required to send bank statements to the Home Office. It may be more convenient for these funds to be in pounds sterling (GBP, £), and this may be easier with a UK bank account. 

  • if you are being financially sponsored, it will not be possible to cash a banker’s draft or cheque in the UK unless you have a UK bank account

UKCISA have a helpful banking guide blog for international students, which provides lots of information about why and how to open a UK bank account, as well as information on using your money during your studies. Likewise, you may also want to look over UK Finance's guide on banking for international students.

Beware of scams and fraud

There is a danger that your bank account may be targeted for criminal activity which involves moving money between accounts. The University is encouraging you to watch out for and protect against fraudulent activity. The National Economic Crime Centre suspects that students attending UK universities have been targeted by organised crime groups for money laundering operations.


Guides to banking for international students

Our banking guides below provide information on what type of account to open, what documents are required, and some useful tips. We have two guides: one for opening a bank account if you are studying in the UK for more than 1 year, and another for international students who are stuyding in the UK for less than one year.

               If you are studying for more than one year                                                If you are studying for less than one year 

                                      (PDF 241.25KB)                                                                                      (PDF 483.04KB)                         



Money and travelling

We would recommend that if you are travelling outside of the UK not to carry large amounts of cash and to use travellers cheques or your bank card. 

Travellers Cheques

This is a safe method of bringing funds. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks, shops, hotels and bureaux de change. A commission charge is sometimes made for the service of changing travellers cheques to GBP (£). Please note that some UK banks will not cash American Express Travellers Cheques.  You can purchase travellers cheques on campus at the Post Office. 

Using your UK bank card abroad

You will be able to use most UK bank cards abroad, however it would be advisable to check with your bank about any additional charges and to take into account the cost of currency exchange. Some bank accounts such as Monzo allow charge-free cash withdrawals of up to £200 per month if you are travelling in the EU.  

Exchanging Currency

The Post Office in Bramber House is the only place on campus where you can exchange currency, however you can only exchange US Dollars and Euros. Most banks will provide a currency exchange service however the cost of this may vary between different banks. 

Important: export of currency

In some countries the transfer of funds to another country is illegal without government permission. In these cases, banks in the UK will not accept the funds and the cheques would be returned unpaid at considerable expense to yourself. You should make certain that you are allowed to transfer funds before you come to Britain. If there are restrictions, a copy of the document giving permission for the transfer of funds must be sent to the University. The original should be retained to show immigration officers on entry to the UK.


Transfering money to the UK

It is not advisable to carry large amounts of cash. There are a variety of ways in which you can transfer funds and money to the UK.

If you have a UK bank account:

Electronic transfer - A lot of students choose to electronically transfer money to their UK bank account. It would be best to contact your home bank if you wish to transfer funds electronically. 

International money order/ Bank draft - These are bought before leaving your home country, and on arrival in the UK you can pay it directly into your UK bank account. Ask to have it made out to you in GBP (£) that way you will not have to pay a commission fee when you pay it into your account. 

Personal cheques - Banks will purchase these from you at the current rate of exchange; there will be a commission and additional charges for this service. Please note, there may be a delay while the cheque is returned to your home bank for payment. This method is not recommended because of the possible delays in receiving the money. If you are in any doubt, check with your bank.

If you don't have a UK bank account:

Money transfer services - Such as  Western UnionMoneygramTransferWise, and CurrencyFair; these are money transfer companies in which you can safely transfer your money and collect it at one of the service locations. 

International money order - This is bought before leaving your home country and on arrival in the UK you can take it to a Post Office to exchange for cash. The money order must be in GBP (£) and you will need to show your passport as identification.


Credit agreements

While most students are not eligible for credit facilities while studying in the UK, some high street stores may offer you the chance to buy goods on a fixed-term agreement, whereby you pay them back an amount each month. For example, stores such as Currys provide credit agreements to buy electrical and household goods. While this can appear attractive, you should check the small print carefully as many of these agreements are at a high rate of interest, and sometimes you have to pay back up to a third of the price of the goods in interest. We would advise against entering into these types of arrangements.


Sharia Banking

Some banks in the UK offer Sharia-compliant accounts for those who wish to bank according to Islamic principles. These accounts will not pay or charge any interest or provide any credit or overdraft facilities. Any money held in a Sharia-compliant account will not be used to invest in goods or services prohibited under Islamic law, such as gambling or alcohol. These accounts are available to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Currently only a limited number of banks offer these types of accounts, and none of them have branches in Brighton. 

Al Rayan Bank (formerly the Islamic Bank of Britain)

Al Rayan is the largest wholly Sharia-compliant bank in Britain. The closest branches to Brighton are in London.

London Whitechapel Branch
Al Rayan Bank
97-99 Whitechapel Road
E1 1DT
London Edgware Road Branch
Al Rayan Bank
77-79 Edgware Road
W2 2HZ


International Student Support

T +44 (0)1273 67 8422