UK currency and banking 

Managing your money in the UK

You’ll find that managing your money well will make your experience of studying abroad much more enjoyable. Managing your budget is part of becoming independent. It will also help you get used to the currency and local shops.

UK currency

You’ll use pound sterling (£GBP) while you’re here. One pound is divided into one hundred pence (100p). Notes are issued to the value of £50, £20, £10, and £5. Coins to the value of £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p and 1p. Scotland has its own bank notes, which are legal tender across the UK.

Bringing enough cash

Bring enough cash for the first couple of weeks while we help you open a bank account - no more than about £250. It’s best not to carry around large amounts of cash. It’s much safer to use a debit, credit or cash card, with a four-digit PIN (personal identification number).

You’ll find that credit and debit cards are widely accepted in the UK, particularly MasterCard (Access) and Visa. Diners Club and American Express are less commonly accepted.

You can withdraw money from a cash machine (also known as an 'ATM' or cash point) if you have a PIN for that card. Carrying smaller notes will make it easier to pay shops, restaurants, hotels and taxis.

The cost of living in the UK

You’ll need to plan for the cost of living in the UK before you arrive. On average, a student needs about £800 per month to cover their basic living expenses. But, that can vary a lot depending on where you live in the UK and your spending habits. Start planning your finances using the International Student Calculator.

Opening a bank account

We recommend having a bank account to manage your money in the UK. Especially if you are staying here longer than six months.

Many UK banks offer bank accounts for international students, but they can sometimes take a few weeks to set up. You may want to find a bank in your home country that has branches in the UK, such as HSBC or Barclays.

We’ll help you open a bank account in your first week. You’ll need this to store and access your money safely. Don’t forget to bring documents with you - usually two types of picture ID (passport and student ID card), proof of your UK mailing address and money to open the account.

Once your bank account is setup, you’ll be able to withdraw cash from 24-hour ATMs (cash machines) around campus and the city.

Some countries have strict rules about transferring money to UK bank accounts. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your government’s policies.

It’s not easy for international students to get a credit card in the UK so we recommend applying for a credit card in your home country. VISA and MasterCard are the most widely accepted.

UKCISA offer further advice on opening bank accounts in the UK.

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