Everything you need to know about student bank accounts

Student bank accounts

Got into uni and now need to get your finances in check? Check out our guide for everything you need to know about student bank accounts

Why should you get a student bank account?

If you already have a bank account, you may not think you should bother with a student one. The main difference is the interest-free overdraft. This is probably one of the only times you’ll ever get this so it’s worth taking advantage! As a student, you're probably going to need one, so go large and get the biggest interest-free one you can find – it will give you financial breathing space, which is never a bad thing.

That said, don’t forget that some banks are more likely than others to dish out their maximum overdrafts, so you might want to choose an account where there’s a better chance of getting the full amount even if it’s not the highest advertised on the market.  TSR’s money forum is a good place to do your research into this.

It’s a good idea to open a student account before you start university, especially if you are applying for a student loan as the money will be paid directly into your bank account and it can be a drag to change accounts when you’re juggling your studying with a hangover. Check the small print.  You’re going to want to know about any charges for going over your overdraft limit before it happens.

What banks are offering (2018)

What bank should you go with this year? Take a look at what the major UK banks are offering with their students:

Barclays

  • £500 interest free overdraft upon opening the account
  • Up to £2,000 interest free overdraft by second year
  • Up to £3,000 interest free in third year and beyond
  • Cashback on purchases from Apple, Starbucks, Boots and Nike
  • Add a free photo to your contactless debit card
  • 10% discount on the Samsung Galaxy Book
  • Free, fast and secure payments to friends and family with the Pingit app
  • Unlimited Apple Pay or spend up to £100 with Contactless Mobile

Halifax

  • An interest-free overdraft of up to £1,500 for the length of your course plus an extra year after you graduate, up to a maximum of 6 years. (Note: overdrafts are repayable on demand and subject to status)
  • Contactless payments
  • Manage your money online, by phone or in branch
  • Free SMS text alerts
  • Cashback when you spend once registered for Online Banking and you've activated Cashback Extras
  • Monthly credit interest on any credit balance 0.10% AER (0.10% gross) variable

HSBC

  • £80 Amazon gift card and 12 months of Prime Student when you open a student account before 31 December 2018
  • £1,000 interest-free overdraft with option to increase as studies progress
  • Up to £500 on a student credit card
  • 3% interest rate up to £3000 fixed for 12 months
  • Discounts, tickets and competitions

Lloyds Bank

  • Interest-free overdraft of up to £1,500 in years 1-3 and up to £2,000 in years 4-6
  • Contactless debit card, Apple Pay and Android Pay
  • Mobile banking through their app
  • Online banking
  • Free SMS alerts
  • Free cash withdrawals with Lloyds Bank and other major banks in the UK

NatWest

  • Award-winning mobile banking app
  • Up to £500 overdraft in first term, and up to £2000 after that 
  • Free National Express Young Persons Coachcard, valid for 4 years, giving you 1/3 off coach fares in the UK
  • Contactless debit card
  • 24/7 online and mobile banking
  • Free text and email alerts

RBS

  • Free National Express Young Persons Coachcard valid for 4 years, giving you 1/3 off coach fares in the UK, when you sign up to digital banking and select paperless statements
  • Overdraft up to £500 first term, rising up to £2,000 after that
  • Mobile banking app
  • Contactless debit card
  • 24/7 online and mobile banking
  • Free text and email alerts

Santander

  • Free 4-year 16-25 railcard, saving you 1/3 on rail travel
  • £1,500 interest-free overdraft, increasing to a maximum of £2,000 in year five 
  • 3% interest on balances from £300 up to £2,000
  • Preferential rates and special deals on other Santander products
  • Up to 15% cashback at a range of major retailers
  • A visa debit card

Co-operative bank

  • This account is no longer available to new or existing customers, however if you have an existing student account with Co-op, the benefits still apply.

TSB

  • 5% interest on balances up to £500, paid by the 10th working day of each month
  • Interest-free overdraft of up to £1,510, starting with £500 for the first six months
  • Student credit card
  • Apple Pay and Google Pay

Nationwide

  • Up to £1,000 overdraft in first year, which you can apply to increase in second year to £2000 and to £3000 in third year.
  • 1% interest on balance up to £1,000
  • Cashback offers on big brands with Simply Rewards
  • Mobile payments and contactless
  • Apple and Android contactless payments
  • Free SMS alerts
  • 24/7 UK call centres
  • Graduate account also available

What you need to open an account

So you picked a bank, now all you got to do is remember to take the following to set it up:

  • A copy of your student loan financial assessment form
  • Proof that you are in fact a student (usually the AS12 letter from UCAS)
  • Photographic identification, e.g., passport, full driving license. Overseas students should produce their passport and letter of admission or enrolment from the university
  • Proof of term-time or home address. This should be an official document e.g. bank statement, utility bill.
  • Remember that if you are opening your student account from your uni halls or house, your driving license will not be able to be used as proof of address unless you change the address from your home one.

Things to think about

Overdraft facilities:

  • Find out what happens if you exceed your overdraft limit.
  • Always consult with your bank before going overdrawn outside of any pre-agreed limit, as banks often charge you a lot for unauthorised overdrafts.
  • Remember the bank may describe your overdraft as 'free' but you still have to pay it back so use it carefully. For example, you’re given an agreed overdraft limit of £1,000 in your first year, £1,250 in your second year and £1,500 in your third year, but this does not mean you will be allowed £3,750 in total.

General things to know:

  • If you want to check out the difference between a credit and debit card, check out this link.
  • Check out how far your branch is from your uni/ accommodation
  • Find out where local cash machines are so you can get cash when needed
  • Look into whether your bank has a student advisor you can chat to about your financial situation. You may need to have a meeting with one before your overdraft is arranged.
  • Find out if your branch offers good deals to graduating students, many banks do and these include cheaper overdrafts and possibly loans.
  • Does the bank charge for their services?
  • Will you get interest on credit balances?
  • Does it charge commission on travel money? (several banks do not charge students)

If you get into trouble

Whichever bank you choose, remember that you may need their help if you have money troubles later on, and they’ll likely offer you as much support as they can. If you are ever in financial difficulty it is a good idea to contact the bank and discuss it with them. 

If you are having money problems, remember these steps:

  • Let your bank know as soon as possible. They may be able to help.
  • If you are in severe financial difficulty you can apply for Access Funds and hardship loans. Check with your college for details.
  • You can get free confidential professional money advice from the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 or from the Consumer Credit Counselling Service on 0800 138 1111.
     

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