Banking terminology for international students

Cash Card/ATM Card

Card that allows you to take money out of your account using a bank machine, referred to as a ‘cash machine’, ‘cashpoint’, ‘hole-in-the-wall’ or ATM.  You will be given a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to withdraw money.   Do not allow anyone else to see your PIN number.   You can normally use your cash card at several different banks, without a charge, but in sometimes there may be a charge if you use it in a different ‘system’ The machine will tell you if there is going to be a charge before you withdraw the money. Cards can also be used in other countries to withdraw money from your UK bank account but you will pay extra bank charges.

Debit Card/Chip and Pin

Issued by your bank (combined cash/debit card) that you use to pay for your shopping. The money is usually taken from your account immediately so you must have the money available in your bank account when you make purchases.

Cash Back

Some supermarkets or shops allow you to ask for cash-back when you are shopping. They will give you cash by adding the amount to your total shopping bill paid by debit card.

Contactless Card

A number of banks now offer contactless cards which allow you to pay for small purchases (usually up to £45) by tapping the machine in the shop without needing to enter a PIN number or sign for the purchase.

Cheque Books

Cheques are a less common method of payment and nearly all shops have stopped accepting them.  If you want a cheque books you should discuss this with your Bank.

Depositing Money

Most banks do not make a charge for depositing money or making payments but some may charge a monthly fee.

Direct Debit or Standing Order

This is a method for of paying bills from your bank account. You sign a form allowing the company you are paying to take the money directly from your account each month. If you go over your agreed limit, there are usually penalties.


A facility allowing you to spend more money from your account than you have in it. The bank will usually charge you interest if this happens, and other fees.


Fraud is a worldwide problem but as an international student there are certain kinds of scams that you're especially vulnerable to so we want you to be well-informed and as prepared as you can be to keep you and your money safe.

The most important piece of information you need is that the UK Police, the Home Office, your bank, Border Force or any other official organisation will never ask, demand or require you to move your money into another account or give them your personal bank details over the phone, by email or online.

If someone is claiming to be from one of these organisations and telling you to do one of these things then you can hang up or not reply because it must be a fraud.

Another way of spotting a fraud is when the other person tries to hurry, pressure or threaten you. No legitimate organisation or business will do that so again, hang up, block the number or the email address.

If you're worried about a call, text message, or email you've received, you should log an enquiry with the IST. There are a number of quite sophisticated scams circulating by email and text and sometimes on the phone. You should never confirm your password, or account details, by email or text message. If you receive a suspicious message either visit your bank in person or use the telephone number from their website or printed on your bank statement/card to call them to check if it is genuine.

Visit the UKCISA for more information on fraud and scams. 

COVID-19 changes

As of July 2021, it is no longer required by law to wear face coverings, however individual businesses can still require customers to wear face coverings, and may request to take your temperature.

Most banks now prefer for you to sign up via their apps, but do offer a mix of telephone and face-to-face appointments (pre-booking required).


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