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Student bank accounts

Best student bank accounts

By Chiara Cavaglieri

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Best student bank accounts

Compare student accounts to see which banks offer the largest 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 14 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, Santander and TSB.

The biggest interest-free overdrafts

Banks offering bigger student overdrafts include Halifax (£3,000), Barclays (£3,000), HSBC (£3,000), Nationwide (£3,000), NatWest (£2,000) and Royal Bank of Scotland (£2,000).

Others 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.

Student accounts

Our table shows student accounts ranked in order of the maximum free overdraft they allow.

Table notes:
Correct at September 2016

a Depends on your credit scoring
b Calculated as 3% above Bank of England base rate




  • Branch
  • Internet
  • Postal
  • Telephone

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Customer score

Which? customer score based on customer satisfaction and likelihood of recommending company to friend/family member.

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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.

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. 

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 that customers judge to offer poor satisfaction in these tables, we hope that companies improve their standards.

  • Last updated: July 2016
  • Updated by: Chiara Cavaglieri

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