International Students - Mixing up the status quo

So forgive me if this is a duplicate, I’ve searched international students and not found anything relevant…

I was considering my postgrad student days the other day when my flatmates from Canada and the USA asked me about getting a bank account.

So when international students come to the UK they typically don’t have a UK bank account that can be used to direct debit or whatever but on the other side they probably don’t need some of the branch features like paying in cash and cheques…

As I understand it from my past experience and checked here, International students have to show their passport/visa and get a letter of introduction to UK banking which they take to whichever bank lures them in. How About Monzo?

With relatively few changes to its systems (limited probably to verifying the foreign ID and looking at the letters of introduction), it would be a great way to get new and unbiased customers. Campus marketing could also target these customers specifically before they come over, perhaps allowing a certain amount of pre-registration and partnering with organisations such as student unions or unis to market monzo as a thing for international students.

Just thought of this as a new and untapped source of customers who don’t already have allegiance to any UK bank, they get a card ASAP and might even show it off to some of their british student friends. Also couldn’t hurt to spread the word if monzo does want to go international :slight_smile:.

Thoughts? Obviously, this might best be implemented next academic year with the new influx of students and once current accounts are working for all existing customers.

Update: Just to clarify, my reasoning is that in general its hard to compete for UK students who get a massive free overdraft and a free railcard. On the flipside, as international students would probably be less likely to be so set on the massive free overdraft (or even be eligible anyway), they might be a good source of new signups.


Not wishing to sound callous but what benefit would they bring to Monzo, given that they’re in the UK on a temporary basis?

The international students I’ve hosted in the past seemed to manage with a basic bank account and ATM card. Banks seem rather reluctant to offer full current accounts with debit cards to international students.

Arguably three years for undergraduate students isn’t really a temporary basis with many continuing on to a postgraduate or staying in the UK.

Arguably many of the foreign students have large amounts of cash and may need some of the partnership services such as the recent bulb energy/gas signups. And if we are talking about value then surely many would be better than the hundreds if not thousands who have signed up here for a “currency card” then have never used monzo again.

Basic bank accounts now offer debit cards (MSE List of basic accounts) I’d like to see anyone try to live without one these days, ultimately If there were no profit to be made then the big banks wouldn’t offer them accounts either.

As I said earlier, its also not just about making profit from a single individual but also it helps spread brand awareness with other students and assists any future moves into other countries.


And why should they have to have a rubbish legacy bank account whilst in the UK?! :stuck_out_tongue:


Exactly, do we want the impression that we give them of not just Monzo but the country to be inclusive, or do we want to make them feel like second class citizens for absolutely no reason. There is no actual reason why they shouldn’t be allowed access to a decent bank account as they are here legally.

I do realise that with phrases like second class citizens I’m skirting dangerously close to certain “hot” issues in this country as a whole at the moment, I hope this doesnt turn into a discussion about those.


Tangenitally related I guess, but is there anything to stop me signing up with Santander for this alongside the Monzo account? The terms don’t suggest you have to return the railcard if you close the account…

I guess the other option is to transfer back and forth from it every term

I don’t think so but I’d check the t’s & c’s properly. You might find for example that they wouldn’t replace the railcard if you lost it.

Bearing in mind that opening and closing current accounts repeatedly might affect your credit record.

Update: checking the terms and conditions of the railcard I found this “The
Railcard isn’t your property and must be handed in to a representative of any train company”, and that benefits may be withdrawn if you close your account so technically they would be within their rights to ask for it back.

Also Santander require you to pay your student loan into their account

Update 2: I don’t know if anyone keeps up to date with the railways but they are launching a railcard app link, this would also make it super easy to withdraw a railcard.

I wish I could have opened a bank account with Monzo when I first got here! Most international students in Manchester end up with the Santander international account (which the uni tells them to get), which doesn’t have the free railcard benefit, no overdrafts (not a huge issue for me but probably useful if you needed to dip in for a bit), and you pay £5 a month. It’s not free like the 123 student acc. Plus, you can only earn interest off £500, so even if you have more you can’t get any more.

It’s not a horrible experience entirely and the times I’ve called up they have tried to make it as pain-free as possible, but the wait to get my account (one month!!) was ridiculous. I couldn’t pay my school fees off it, buy anything online, etc. and as you know there is a late payment charge if you don’t pay by the end of Sept so you have to write in to the school and request an extension and it’s such a faff :roll_eyes:

I tried transferring to a standard current acc with Lloyds, but they closed it down randomly after making me wait a month to get it :woman_shrugging:t2: I think students don’t really know what their rights are or how to sort things, so I think it would help immensely if they could get a decent bank like Monzo right from the start. Like you said, money is probably not an issue for them and convenience/ ability to be used overseas/ services available will win out. Only problem is you’d need a branch or something for students to deposit cash. And I don’t know how sustainable it’ll be- if they’re not taking out overdrafts, I don’t know how Monzo will earn? You don’t really want these users going home and using it to take large amounts of cash out, but I guess when ATM charges are introduced this will help ease the burden.


Horrible experience for me as well as a foreigner, most banks required proof like utility bills but at the same time you’d already need a bank account to be able to have those bills in the first place! Personally I ended up with Nationwide but I would’ve loved if :monzo: current accounts were around at that time

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I got a letter from the university to open one in lieu of a utilities bill, but they insisted on having my name exactly like my passport in the letter so I waited 6 weeks for my university to change my name around (my family name goes first in my passport, the university puts my first name first). Lloyds told me having my family name in front was fine if the order was family name, first name, middle name (which makes no sense at all). I told them it was just the first and last name that had swapped places because of how it’s presented in different cultures and there was no reason why my middle name would be at the back :woman_facepalming:t2: after 3 months of faffing about it got closed anyway so I gave up. Common sense seems to be absent in some of these official procedures.


Yes indeed, their procedures are awful. Some people are complaining about Monzo’s requirement of a passport/ID card but if only they’ve seen what the other banks request.

Before succeeding with Nationwide I’ve tried HSBC - had to make appointments for an hour (are they gonna pay for my time?), then they weren’t happy with my passport alone so they needed another appointment (another hour wasted) as well as a reference letter from my employer, and even then the reference letter didn’t look “official” enough (no idea what “official” means, but apparently a printed PDF from someone at my then-employer’s HQ didn’t count). The worst is that every attempt was actually a “hard pull” on my credit file which completely ruined my credit score right off the start.


I also moved to the UK as an international student and opening a bank account here was one of the most exhausting experiences. Firstly you had to be present in the country because you can’t open an account online. Which makes it difficult to sort accommodation because you can’t pay a landlord if you don’t have a bank account to pay out of. I had to do an international transfer from my US Citibank account to the landlord’s account days before I left the states. The money wasn’t in their account when I arrived and for a few hours I was worried I would have to sleep rough. The money did arrive by the end of the day.

The only account I could open was a Barclay’s iBank student account which is under their Premier banner so I had to go through extra clearances to set up the account and every time I called for no extra benefit as a ‘Premier’ customer. They wouldn’t open the account until I transferred money into it which meant for several days my money was just in limbo. The money I did leave behind in my US bank account I was getting a terrible exchange rate on every time I had to use my Citibank debit card.

I think Monzo could actually be extremely useful for international students. The set up is simple, the card arrives quickly, and when things like TransferWise integration come in it will be excellent for receiving money from family back home.


You’d think by now people understand the conventions of Asian names. Especially in Manchester where we have so many international students.

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Oh, are you in Manchester too? The international community is huge! The University is generally quite accommodating if you explain needing an extension but it’s things like rent, online purchases that I can see people struggling with.
I also assumed £50 was commonly used and when I came over with a thick wad of cash (all £50 notes from the money changer) I spent a month having to go into big shops to get change. Everyone gave me the stink eye. I felt awful holding up queues. I felt like a criminal :joy: felt so good depositing everything when I got my bank account after a month!
I’ve said it before but if Monzo is trying to target the university population anyway it would be so helpful to international students who might not have any bill slips to get an account open immediately.


You were lucky they were only 50s! In Scotland they have £100 notes and going to buy a newspaper just to get some change you are likely to learn some new rather spicy vocabulary

To be honest it’s quite sad that you still need any bills or any kind of papers to open an account or do administrative stuff. Everything should be electronic in this day and age.

I wish the UK would have something like Estonia’s ID card which is basically a PKI card, it includes a certificate that allows you to cryptographically sign and log into online services remotely. That would make all the administrative bullshit so much better, just put your card in the reader and you’ve proven your identity and everything is sorted. And no more usernames/passwords for online services.


buy a newspaper just to get some change you are likely to learn some new rather spicy vocabulary

I’m always up for improving my knowledge of English so that’s an excellent idea! :joy:

That would be useful indeed! Wonder if we could prove our address or right to stay etc. with the biometric residence permit we get? I’m not sure why monzo, starling, revolut can verify us based off our passport but we can’t do the same for legacy banks

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It is funny when you compare Estonia’s ID Card with the UK one I used to have. The Estonian one has a chip and two PINs one a 4 digit for non essential stuff and one a 5 digit for more important stuff like entering into legal contracts. The UK one had a chip and when I got my UK ID card I asked if they would send me the PIN and the lady looked puzzled, it turned out the UK may do something like that in a decade or so :wink: then unfortunately they scrapped it but did not refund our money.

Most of these electronic/biometric (whatever that means) documents are more of a gimmick than anything else, and even if that’s not the case they rely on obscure and most likely flawed (security by obscurity never works) protocols that are never documented nor opened to third-parties.

The Estonian system is quite unique as it’s based on open and standard protocols (in fact, the little padlock you see in your browser’s address bar uses this exact same technology, and the server could theoretically use one of these cards to store its certificate & private key) that allows existing software to interact with them and allow any third-party site to register & log-in an user securely (via their card, no phishing nor password cracking possible) as well as confirm their identity (the user’s certificate says that their name is John Doe, and that certificate has itself been signed by the root certificate the government provides - this cryptographically proves that the person is indeed John Doe, without requiring photos of ID or videos like Monzo does). This also excludes issues with people having the same names as their certificates will still have a different serial number (kind of an unique ID for certs), and one John Doe wouldn’t be able to impersonate another John Doe unless they actually steal the other’s card and coerce them into typing their PIN.

As far as why the challenger banks can verify IDs more efficiently is because they embrace new technologies where as a legacy bank will need hundreds of meetings and tons of paper before any change can be made to their processes, and because at the end of the day it isn’t a big deal yet as they still get lots of business from people putting up with this nonsense so no reason to change. Sadly some people actually enjoy this for whatever reason - I’m still trying to get my best friend onto Monzo (from Nationwide) and so far it’s been several months and she’s still not giving in.