If you’re coming to New College Manchester to study one of our foundation courses or one of our English languages courses, such as IELTS Preparation or Cambridge First Certificate Preparation, then you’ll probably be looking to set up a bank account that will allow you access to your funds without charge while you’re in the UK.
There are some great UK bank accounts tailored for international students and we’ll highlight some of the best right here on the blog, but we also understand that if you’re only with us for 2 weeks, you may wish to simply exchange currency while you’re in Manchester. As most of us have experienced, if you’re new to a foreign city sometimes you’ll opt for the first currency exchange bureau you pass. However, you’ll often find the rates can be quite inflated leading to a lot less GBP(£) than you expected.
With this is mind we’ve highlighted the trusted providers offering the best rates around and within easy walking distance of New College Manchester. Of course, it’s never a good idea to carry large amounts of cash around, so ensure if you are exchanging currency you don’t change too much at any one time.
It’s also worth checking if traveller’s checks and cash cards are available to you before you leave home. Cash cards basically work like debit cards so they are very secure and although traveller’s checks seem to be becoming less popular, they’re insured and can be exchanged at currency bureaus.
Student bank accounts are well worth exploring before you start your course as they’re designed to give you a range of benefits to help fund your new student lifestyle! Some of the student accounts popular with UK students are off limits to international students, but most of these banks offer a similar scheme for overseas students with perks tailored for you.
Bear in mind that before you open a bank account you will need your passport, proof that you are a student (a confirmation letter from your college) and a document confirming your address (for example an accommodation contract).
The Santander account is a great choice for international students as it offers all the great benefits you would expect from a student account (such as a debit card and a high-interest rate on balances up to £500) and additionally allows you free deposit of one foreign check per month (great if your family and friends are helping you out). There is a charge of £5 per month however and you can only open your account in a branch which may not be ideal if you were hoping to have your account up and running before you left for the UK.
Again, the RBS and Natwest account can only be applied for in branch and comes at a charge – £8 per month – but the benefits include free European travel insurance and mobile phone insurance. Of course, if you’re not planning on travelling to Europe then this might not be of benefit to you, really it’s all about shopping around when it comes to student accounts.
The M&S Bureau de Change is a popular choice for converting money in the UK as the exchange rates are often very competitive, the service is quick and professional and there are high street branches dotted around major towns and cities. In Manchester, we have a large M&S on Market Street (the main shopping district) which is only a 5-10 minute walk (practically in a straight line!) from New College Manchester. Simply pass underneath the Market Street concourse and you’ll come out at a crossroads, M&S looms on your right.
Another popular choice for its great rates but the service isn’t always so good! The Post Office in Manchester city centre is large (it’s located just down past Tesco Metro on Market Street) but it’s often understaffed with long waiting times. The Post Office does offer a useful money card however so if you’re looking for a secure way to carry your money and make withdrawals from cash points then this is a good choice. In some European cities ATMs (cash machines) can be a little sparse, but in Manchester, they’re dotted absolutely everywhere so you never need to worry about finding a place to withdraw your money.
If your parents need to send you money over, Western Union is a popular choice which allows you to send money all over the world securely. You can send money online, by phone or in an approved branch, however, these are limited. You can set up an account before you come to Manchester too so you don’t need to worry about running out of funds!
We hope that’s eased some of your money worries and shown you what options are available to you. Organising your finances can be one of the most stressful aspects of starting a new course so feel free to talk to our friendly staff about any financial queries you might have. We’re always happy to help!