Student bank accounts: How to get free money
Learn the basics of student banking, and find out what freebies you can blag along the way! Also find out why switching banks might be the way forward.
As if freshers' isn’t daunting enough, you’re then told you also need to choose a bank account too?! And they said first year would be easy…
As boring as they are, banks are pretty important for us cash-strapped students, so it’s vital that you know what you’re doing. Whilst choosing a bank can seem complicated with all this jibber jabber about overdrafts and the like, studentbeans.com is here to ease your minds.
But if you're not a first year don't go thinking you need to stop worrying about it - there are some great deals to be had if you switch your student account.
We’ll break down each of the main UK banks and their student accounts so you can see which one works best for you. Yes, we know we're too good to you.
Free money, wooo! Okay… not quite, you do actually have to pay this back, but if you go a bit overboard during freshers' your overdraft will become your new parents - helping you out in times of need. This should be your number one priority when choosing an account... the bigger the overdraft the better, you never know when you may run low on funds.
BUT be warned, if you spot the sneaky words ‘up to’, i.e. 'up to £3000 overdraft', don’t assume you’ll automatically get this, often this is only accessible in your final year and even then is subject to your credit rating (an assessment of your banking habits). So if you’ve spend the whole year in the red, you might be kissing goodbye to that generous overdraft.
Kind of a given for most student accounts, but just to clear up what this means - interest is a charge for borrowing, or a reward for saving (but let’s be honest, with all those take aways and drink deals the latter is unlikely).
So interest free means you can borrow money through your overdraft without being charged. RESULT! Just don’t go over your overdraft limit, the banks may seem friendly but they can be your worst enemy if you break the rules. You've been warned...
Like overdrafts they offer ‘free money’, but they DO charge interest if you don't make your payments within a certain amount of time - and when they do the rates are MUCH higher.
They can, however, be useful. As long as you keep on top of your minimum repayments they are harmless. And if you do meet all your repayments then credit cards will help your credit rating, making it much easier for you to get loans or mortgages later in life.
There are downsides though - if you’re struggling financially credit cards should not be used as a quick fix as they will only leave you in more trouble in the long run. Check ucas.com and studentcalculator.org.uk for budgeting advice.
Switching student accounts
It's never too late. If you're already a student and have a student account set up you aren't stuck with it until you graduate. If you stumble across a better offer in the table below then there's nothing stopping you from switching banks - though (unfortunately) you are not allowed to two student accounts at once.
Some will even reward you for switching - for example Santander will give you £50 in cash! See the table below for more details...
|Bank Account||Interest free overdraft||Freebies||PROS/CONS|
|Barclays||Up to £2000||10% discount on student possessions & travel insurance||PROS: Insurance always useful CONS: Only ‘up to’ £2000 and no increase across the years|
|The Co-operative Bank||£1400 overdraft, increasing to £2000 by year 3||None||PROS: Highest guaranteed overdraft & good customer service CONS: No graduate bank account, but you can keep 0% student overdraft one year after graduation|
|Halifax||Up to £3000||Commission free foreign currency & traveller’s cheques||PROS: Potentially a generous overdraft CONS: Only entitled to £1000 to begin with, you need to apply & be approved to get the max|
|HSBC||Up to £3000 *initially only given £500||25% off Lonely Planet guides||PROS: 2% interest on deposits over £1000 in first year (if you do manage to save!) CONS: Again, applications must be made to access the £3000 – and only £500 to begin with, it’s a long way to the top|
|Lloyds TSB||Up to £1500 Years 1-3, increasing to £2000 years 4-6 (tiered)||Free NUS Extra Card for 3 years and £75 off bookings with STA Travel||PROS: Tempting freebies CONS: Considering the overdraft isn’t guaranteed, it’s ‘up to’ amount is low compared to other competitors, with only £500 for first 6 months|
|NatWest & RBS||Up to £1500 years 1-3, increasing to £2000 by year 5 (tiered)||Free 16-25 Railcard (for existing customers only)||PROS: Worth it if you bank with NatWest, as railcard will save you hundreds. CONS: Same as Lloyds TSB – low ‘up to’ overdraft|
|Santander||£1500 (after £500 deposit) increasing to £2000 by year 5||£50 free cash (if you open an account or switch by 30/11/2012)||PROS: Highest guaranteed overdraft and free cash CONS: Customer service rates poorly in polls|
Have you visited the world's first ever online Freshers' Fair yet (all years)? It has loads of freebies and discounts and it’s free to get in.