Opening a bank account

Cash on arrival

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 therefore important to have access to funds during this time, eg, through your home country credit and debit cards and travellers cheques.

Opening a bank account

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. The bank will tell you which documentation they will require you to bring to the appointment. 

It is likely that your bank will ask you to provide the following documents:

  • your passport (or national ID card etc) - to prove your identity, nationality and right to work and / or live in the UK
  • proof of employment (for example, your employment contract)
  • evidence of your UK address (for example, your tenancy agreement or a utility bill with your address on it)

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.

High Street banks

High Street banks are major retail banks that offer banking services (for example, current accounts, credit cards and loans) to individuals, not just businesses, and which have a national presence. 

High Street 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.

Cash point cards and cheque books

Once you open your bank account, your bank will normally issue a combined cash and debit card and a cheque book to you.

The debit card allows you to withdraw money from Automated Teller Machines or 'ATM's', also known as cash points or cash machines. You will often be able to use any bank’s cash machine free of charge, however, some machines, usually those not associated with a high street bank, will charge a fee. Please read the instructions on ATM's carefully to check for this, as they will mention this before the transaction is complete.

The debit card allows you to spend money from your current account without having to use cash or write a cheque. This is sometimes also referred to as a ‘Maestro card’. If you make a purchase with your debit card you will often be asked whether you want any ‘cash back’ or ‘extra cash’. You can then ask to receive some cash which will be debited to your card. Sometimes there is a charge for this 'cash back' service but you will be told beforehand.

The cheques in your cheque book allow you to pay without the use of cash. You can also use a cheque to take money out of your bank account at your local branch.

Credit cards

You will need to apply for a credit card with your bank separately. Depending on how much you earn and whether your earnings will be deposited monthly into your new bank account, you may be issued a credit card in as little as 2 - 3 weeks. Some banks, however, will require you to have a credit history of 3 - 4 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. Credit limits will vary depending on your salary.