I wanted to write this post since people moving abroad have so many choices when it comes to banks. It’s difficult enough when you’re opening a new account in your home country, but opening one in a foreign country as a student can be tricky. I hope by sharing my experience, you can avoid some mistakes and ask questions about any hidden fees instead of relying on the advice of your school’s administration. Remember, this is YOUR money!
When moving abroad, one of the first things you should do is open a bank account. Even if you don’t have a job yet, you can still transfer money over from a non-UK bank. When I moved to the UK, I did not close my US bank account since I knew I would eventually move back after graduation. Plus, it makes a lot of sense to keep a bank account in your home country in case family members are feeling generous and offer to transfer some much-needed money to you!
During orientation at my university, they give you some tips on which banks are best for students. They said that banks such as Lloyds charge most students money to open an account if you don’t deposit a minimum every month and suggested that we open an account with Barclays, which had a branch right on campus. Well, this sounded convenient to me so I visited the branch to make an appointment to open an account with them. The process was easy enough, and with the checks I brought over from my US bank I transferred over $1,000. I was given an ATM card and checks, plus lots of reading material in the form of the banks policies and procedures.
The first few months I checked my balance and saw that everything looked fine. After a few months, I noticed that I was being charged £7.50/month after a “grace period” of no monthly fees. I was in disbelief since my university told me that as students we had no monthly fees, but upon further investigating, it looks like Barclays charges this fee to international students!
I visited my local Lloyd’s bank and was told that there was no minimum to open a bank, nor do they charge international students a monthly fee. I quickly closed my Barclays account, which to their credit was stress-free.
Frankly, I should have opened an account with Lloyds bank straight-away. Their local offices in are much more beautiful and impressive than the Barclays office, which was a bit dreary. Lloyds’ website is also more user-friendly and cheery, and they made banking quite easy. I even got a special image on my ATM card because it was around the time of the London Olympics! Most importantly, I never was charged any fees on my account.
While there are many other banks in the US, I hope that this shows that you shouldn’t just rely on the advice of your university. They might have an agreement with a bank, which is why they recommend a certain bank over others, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right bank for you. You could ask current students what they use, but even their experiences might differ from yours. I had actually asked colleagues about opening an account with Lloyds, and they had some problems, which is another reason why I initially decided on Barclays. And that’s a great bank for many people! The most important issue is keeping all the money you earn. Be sure to check your statements every month to catch any new fees that show up before they add up, since you most likely won’t be able to get a refund on them.
I hope this post has been helpful! Best of luck if you are moving abroad and need to open a bank account!