Student bank accounts: Student account reviews
Student accounts and interest-free overdrafts
If your outgoings are liable to exceed your income while at university, it's well worth going for the biggest interest-free overdraft possible. The cost of rent, food, books and leisure means the ability to call on extra cash without paying interest can be hugely valuable.
We compared 13 undergraduate accounts - all offer a free overdraft, though we found big variations in the size of the overdrafts each bank offered. The most common free overdraft offered in the first year of study is £1,500. Banks offering this level of overdraft include Bank of Ireland, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Bank and TSB.
The biggest interest-free overdrafts
Banks offering bigger student overdrafts include Halifax (£3,000), HSBC (£3,000), Barclays (£2,000), NatWest (£2,000) and The Royal Bank of Scotland (£2,000).
Other banks aren't so generous - Ulster Bank (NI) offers just a £1,000 first year free student overdraft, while The Co-operative Bank offers £1,400.
Our table shows student accounts ranked in order of the maximum free overdraft they allow.
|Provider||Max free overdraft year onea||Max free overdraft year threea||Additional authorised overdraft rate||Access Access help||Customer score Customer score help|
|Royal Bank of Scotland||£2,000||£2,000||n/a||52%|
|First Trust Bank||£1,850||£1,850||0.00%||53%|
|Bank of Ireland||£1,500||£1,500||0.00%||64%|
|Bank of Scotland||£1,500||£1,500||8.21%||53%|
|The Co-operative Bank||£1,400||£2,000||9.90%||62%|
- a) Depends on your credit scoring
- b) Calculated as 3% above Bank of England base rate
Correct at September 2016
Customer scores are based on a survey of respondents from the general public, who were invited to take part in the bank account customer satisfaction survey - during August 2014. The final sample size was 5,002.
Wherever we display an “APPLY NOW” button in the above table, that company pays us a small fee each time someone clicks on the button. These payments do not influence whether a product is in the table, where it appears, or whether it continues to do so. Our Best Rates tables are compiled by our independent researchers. All revenue raised from these tables is reinvested in our research and campaigning work on behalf of all UK consumers.
Student account charges and fees
If you exceed your free limit, the bank will normally charge interest and/or fees. You'll pay much less (usually up to 9.9%) if you contact the bank and formally arrange for the limit to be increased rather than go over it without telling them. Some banks may allow an extension to your free limit.
If you go over your student overdraft limit without authorisation, interest can rise to almost 30%. Some banks also charge penalty fees - see the table for full details of extra charges.
How we choose our Best Rate bank accounts
Which? Best Rate current accounts offer the best rates on the market for the scenarios we've used. They also have to meet the following conditions:
- The accounts must be available nationally
- The account provider must be fully covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme
We analyse the whole market and calculate the cost of the account so you can see how much you're likely to pay or how much interest you'll earn if you choose that account.
Which? Recommended Providers
Which? Recommended Providers are companies that are both rated highly and have products that meet the high standards of our researchers. Which? closely monitors the products and practices of all Recommended Providers and reserves the right to exclude any company that does not treat its customers fairly. Follow the link for a full list of WRPs.
Which? Warning Poor Satisfaction
We also understand that for many people, finding products with the best rate is a priority. But where a product from a provider with a poor customer score appears in our Best Rate tables, we'll highlight this with the warning logo. Our customer satisfaction surveys measure overall satisfaction with the provider in relation to bank accounts, not individual bank accounts offered by the brand. The customer score should therefore not be associated specifically with any individual bank accounts. Only customer scores that are significantly below average and fall into our bottom statistical tier receive our warning. Our customer scores are updated every six months.
By naming and shaming providers which customers judge to offer poor satisfaction in these tables, we hope that companies improve their standards.
- For everything you need to know about going to university, check out our expert guide
- Preparing to leave home? Take a look at our guide on getting discounts on products
- Or read our guide on how to find the best laptop
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