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Banking cards

There are different types of bank card that international students can use for payments in the UK in place of cash.

Debit cards – Visa Debit and Maestro

Visa Debit and Maestro cards can be used to pay instead of cash in most shops. The money goes directly out of your account electronically.

Your cash card will usually have a symbol on it which says either Visa Debit or Maestro. Many shops display symbols of the cards they accept, but if you are unsure whether your card will be accepted you should ask.

Credit cards

It can be quite difficult for international students to get credit or store cards. However, it is possible you will be offered one, especially if you are staying here for more than 12 months.

If you have a Visa or Mastercard credit card from your own country, you will be able to use it at most shops and restaurants in the UK. American Express is commonly accepted but not at all shops. If you are in doubt, ask the shop assistant.

Banks and other companies may offer you a credit card. You make purchases using your credit card and receive a monthly bill. If you make purchases on your credit card, you should ensure that you have enough money to pay the bill. If you do not pay the bill, you will incur interest and charges, and you credit rating may suffer, making it harder for you to borrow money in future.

A credit card can come with special offers and advantages, so it is always worth researching the best deal.

Store cards

Many large department stores, including Debenhams, Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser, offer a store-card account. They usually work like credit cards but offer you special discounts in the store.

Loyalty cards

Most supermarkets and some shops may offer you a loyalty card. Popular loyalty cards include:

  • Nectar
  • Boots Advantage
  • Tesco Clubcard

You cannot pay with these cards but if you hand them to the cashier at the time of payment you will collect points depending on how much you have spent. These points can be redeemed for money-off vouchers or may entitle you to special offers.